Samurai Jack is an American adult animated action-fantasy television series created by Genndy Tartakovsky for Cartoon Network. The series follows Jack, a time-displaced samurai, in his singular quest to travel back in time and defeat the tyrannical Aku. The series premiered on August 10, 2001, with a TV movie called The Premiere Movie. The series originally ended on September 25, 2004, without concluding the story. Samurai Jack has since garnered high critical acclaim. It won 4 Primetime Emmy Awards, 6 Annie Awards and 1 OIAF Award, as well as eight additional nominations. All four seasons have been released on DVD by Warner Home Video. After 13 years, the show aired its fifth and final season starting March 11, 2017 on Adult Swim's Toonami programming block, with Tartakovsky returning as executive producer. The fifth season has darker and more gritty tone to concludes Jack's journey. The series officially ended on May 20, 2017.
Samurai Jack tells the story of a young prince from feudal Japan, whose father acquired a magical katana that he used to defeat and seal the shape-shifting demonic wizard named Aku. Having foreseen that Aku would eventually break free, the Emperor sent his son to travel the world and train his mind and body before returning years later to Japan as an adult. After taking his father's katana, the prince challenges Aku to a duel and defeats him. But Aku creates a time portal before the prince can deal the final blow, sending his opponent into the distant future with anticipation that he would be able to amass sufficient power to deal with the samurai by that time.
The prince arrives in a dystopian, retro-futuristic Earth ruled by Aku and filled with his robot minions and a large number of alien immigrant races of various appearances; fortunately, his world travel and training allow him to adapt to his new environment with relatively little trauma. The first people he encounters in the future call him "Jack" as a form of slang, which he adopts as his name (his true given name is never mentioned in the series). Standard episodes follow Jack's search for a way to travel back to his own time, where he hopes to stop Aku before these events come to pass. The cartoon depicts Jack's quest to find a time portal, while constantly facing obstacles set by Aku in a classic battle of good vs. evil. Typically, each time Jack believes he has reached the end of his quest, something causes him to miss his chance.
In one attempt, Jack locates a stable portal to the past, but the guardian of the portal defeats him after a long but noticeably mismatched battle. The guardian is about to crush Jack when the portal starts to flicker and glow, seemingly giving the guardian a message: the guardian has a giant pterodactyl take the unconscious Jack away. After Jack leaves, the guardian states that it is not yet time for him to return to the past and an image of what is implied to be an older Jack is seen in the portal, indicating that Jack is predestined to succeed, but it will take years for him to do so.
Episodes range from dark and epic to light-hearted and comical, and often contain little dialogue. Stories instead rely on the series' highly detailed, outline-free, masking-based animation, as well as its cinematic style and pacing. Many battle scenes in the series are reminiscent of samurai films, and since Jack's robot enemies bleed out oil or electricity and his monster and alien foes bleed out slime or goo, the action of these films can be exhibited while avoiding censorship for blood and violence.
Samurai Jack takes place in a future Earth where science and technology have developed far beyond what is available in the present day, and in some ways resembles magic on its own. However, despite scientific advances, the future is decidedly dystopian — for example, in one episode, the mafia profits greatly from the sale of simple water. The distribution of technology is also very uneven, with some areas having advanced megacities while others resemble ancient to industrial conditions such as Ancient Greece, medieval Europe, the Middle East, Victorian-era England, 1920s Chicago, and more. Aliens, bounty hunters, and robots as well are plentiful and always ready for a fight. The leader of this society is Aku, who has held the world in a grip of terror for countless years. Aku often confronts Jack in various disguises in efforts to either kill Jack or at the very least prevent him from being able to return to the past. While he fails to kill Jack on these occasions, his attempts to thwart Jack's attempts to return to his original time are successful either through his direct actions or by causing some peril that forces Jack to give up his chance at returning home, thus allowing the series to continue. It is shown that the current generation of children in the world which Aku rules over is slowly losing their fear of the demon due to the exploits of Jack, who has become a symbol of hope to them. There is also a wandering Scotsman who also wields a magical sword that opposes Aku and he and Jack have formed a friendship, though the Scotsman is shown to be more boisterous than Jack is usually comfortable with despite the respect the two men have for one another. The origins of the Scotsman are unknown, however he has been shown to have similar skill with his blade as Jack does, making the pair a formidable duo when pitted against whatever enemy the episodes they are in feature.
While the setting is distinctly retro-futuristic and technological, instances of mythology and supernatural events do occur. Mythologies, like Valhalla, as well as even supernatural forces, such as demonic enemies, make regular appearances, yet do not seem to stand out among the technologically-advanced inhabitants. Aku himself is supernatural, as is Jack's sword.
Stories take place in a variety of locations. Ranging from beautiful wilderness to futuristic or even dystopian cities, there is often a stark contrast made between the industrial world and the natural world.
Why It Rocks
- Epic story.
- Awesome fight scenes in every episode.
- Jack, the titular protagonist of the television series, is overwhelmingly likable because of his awesome appearance and actions.
- Aku is a great villain.
- Beautiful animation.
- The graphical designs of this show are visually colorful, comparable to a painting.
- Absolutely interesting characters.
- Many have praised the involvement of Genndy Tartakovsky, who was also behind Dexter's Laboratory.
- Beautiful and nice setting.
- After 13 years, Cartoon Network announced that the fifth and final season will be made, featuring a much darker tone and set 50 years after the fourth season (although the violence was not too much since it has to stay true to the source material of the last seasons) courtesy of Adult Swim (similar to the premise of the 2017 Post-Apocalyptic Superhero Drama Logan).
- Focused mainly on visual story telling per Tartavosky's style which had little to no dialogue especially in the noir theme episode.
- Very catchy intro.
- Satisfying finale.
- The near end of the finale feels kinda forced and rushed.
- The series' first four seasons might be too intense and too gritty for younger kids.