In 2001, Cartoon Network released a cartoon called Samurai Jack, telling the story of a samurai warrior who gets sent in a time portal into the future, trapped by Aku, the antagonist. Stuck in time, he now has to go back to the past to undo the villain’s actions that negatively affected the future.
Samurai Jack had a big fan base and rightfully so; it was unlike any other cartoon at the time. While cartoons of the 2000s opted for characters that were funny, and were very “in your face” with their shows, Samurai Jack was different. Samurai Jack was a character who barely said anything; at times the show would go on minutes without one piece of dialogue. Instead, the show told with beautiful art and action scenes.
Samurai Jack’s adventure did not have a proper ending, however, because the show was canceled after four seasons in 2004. Fans were really missing the show as a result. According to a statement by Genndy Tartakovsky, the producer of the show, “In America, or abroad, everywhere I’ve gone in the last decade, people just grab me and demand to know if I’m going to finish Jack’s story and if it’s going to be a movie.”
At Comic Con 2016, Tartakovsky pitched his idea for the first episode of season five to an audience by showing them storyboards and sketches he had done. After the announcement, fans were excited because they would be getting more Samurai Jack; they were even more excited when they heard that it would be airing on Adult Swim (the cooler older brother of Cartoon Network). Airing on Adult Swim meant that the show would have more artistic freedom because it would be geared towards an older audience.
Although it is a mini-series, the fifth season of Samurai Jack, after airing on March 11, 2017 hasn’t been pulling any punches. With only four episodes in the show, it has already proven itself to be the best thing currently on television.
The visuals of the original Samurai Jack stood the test of time still through today, and when it comes to that aspect, the current Samurai Jack is nothing but phenomenal, with each episode being well-produced and every frame being a display of the talent of the director and the artists. Colors are vibrant and also serve as symbols to further the storytelling.
The current season maintains the zen state that the old seasons were praised for, but does it even better. Scenes often last around two or three minutes with no dialogue, no music, no action and nothing but beautiful scenery while Samurai Jack contemplates the solution to his problems.
These long, quiet scenes allow the audience to get closer to Jack better than any other fictional character. Jack’s speechless, calm and weary state displays a lot of humanity in the character. Just like the audience (ordinary people), Jack is lost in his own story, and he does not know whether or not he will get to succeed in his adventures. He does not know what the future holds for him, and that makes him easier to connect with.
Just like its predecessors, this season’s action scenes are top notch. On television and even movies, fight scenes are often not fight scenes as much as they are a series of taunts being exchanged by the protagonist and antagonist. Samurai Jack has really long, well-choreographed fight scenes and action scenes. Every frame is a masterpiece.
Overall the new season of Samurai Jack is well-directed, beautiful and very well-paced, it is a definite must-watch for anyone who appreciates art. The show airs every Saturday at 11 p.m. and is definitely worth the time. Episodes are also streamable on Adult Swim’s website, with episode one and two being free.