Set in a Schizo Tech version of something that may or may not be feudal Japan, the story revolves around the titular character (played by Samuel L. Jackson) and his quest to defeat the strongest warrior in the world. The idea goes that whoever wears the "Number One Headband" is the unquestioned biggest Bad Ass on Earth, but he or she can only be challenged by the person with the Number Two band — which is, at the moment, Afro. Making Afro's life a lot more complicated is the fact that any regular schlub can challenge for the Number Two and with it, the right to try for the big prize.The first movie was shown as a five-episode-long series that ended February 1, 2007, and the second movie, titled "Afro Samurai: Resurrection", premiered on January 25, 2009. Tired of all the killing, Afro has retreated away from the world. Unfortunately, Kuma and his sister, Sio, find him and take the Number One Headband. Sio plans to resurrect Afro's father, and force Afro to fight him to atone for all the lives he's ended. Afro must once again find the Number Two Headband, to earn the right to challenge her before she's able to do so.There's also a manga version, currently in its second volume. It uses elements, characters, and events from both movies, while changing many things. According to the creator, it's the closest to the original doujinshi the series is based on.A video game adaptation of the first season was released in February of 2009.Not to be confused with flash game developer Afro Ninja.For a lighter take on the same stylistic blend of feudal Japan and hip hop, see Samurai Champloo.
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Adaptation Distillation - The anime, manga and game are all slightly different, intentionally so. The manga is a mix between the first anime season with a few specific parts of Resurrection thrown in.
A God Am I - Anyone who gets the Number 1 Headband can make this claim.
Anti-Hero - The Unfettered. Revenge is pretty much all that on Afro's mind. Especially evident in the manga version of the series in which a story features Afro using two innocent bystanders (a boy and his handicapped sister later on) as shields to avoid attacks, showing no remorse in causing their deaths. That he killed his master to reclaim the No. 2 further establishes him as one.
Art Major Physics - Two monks jump out of a backpack, a huge RPG fits inside a back pack, bullets are cut in half by swords, Wire Fu style jumps and more artistic breaks from real physics happen regularly.
Back from the Dead - Afro's father, the entire point of Resurrection. In addition, Afro himself near the end.
Happens to Jinno and Justice in the first season.
Badass - Afro Samurai, played by Samuel L. Jackson to boot.
Berserker Tears - Due to injuries, emotional trauma, or both, Jinno never stopped crying after the battle under the Bodhi tree. They briefly turn to Tears of Blood during a flashback.
Best Served Cold - Afro has spent his life since childhood getting revenge on the man that killed his father for the Number One headband.
You mean this isn't about "Lemonade, ice cold."
Justice even lampshaded this trope.
Justice (To Young Afro): "It's unfortunate you had to see this, boy. This moment'll always haunt you. You will be consumed by hatred for me. Challenge me...when you're ready to duel a god! *cue Evil Laugh* , YEE-HAW!!"
Broad Strokes - All three versions of the story have a few differences, but the general plot is the same— Justice kills Afro's father, Afro becomes the Number Two to kill Justice and avenge his father's death, battling the Empty Seven and Kuma before he gets to him, and so on.
Cycle of Revenge - In his quest to kill Justice, who killed his father, Afro kills The Swordmaster to get the #2 headband. This causes Jinno to attempt to kill Afro.
Resurrection continues this theme. Not only are all of Sio's actions based on revenge, but in the second major battle, all Afro's opponents have lost a loved one due to Afro's actions.
And then there's the hinted-at future of Kotaro, who saw his adoptive father killed by Afro. At the end of Resurrection, Afro, accepting how destiny is going for him, drops the #2 headband in Kotaro's hands and tells him, "Anytime you're ready."
Kotaro's case goes further in the manga, near the end of the second volume Kotaro, now an adult, blasts at The Number One's (Afro) fortress and openly states that he is the little boy who saw his father getting killed in front of him, the enraged current Number Two takes on a seemly crazed Afro, it was to no avail as even in a depressive state Afro managed to kill Kotaro, apparently even if Afro didn't really want to fight anymore his skills were still sharp enough that he countered the offender with muscle memory alone.
Decapitation Presentation: Justice does this with Afro's father in the first episode. In Resurrection, Sio does this in reverse, bringing the newly-regenerated head to show Afro that she means business.
Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: We never find out if "Afro" is his real name or simply what everyone calls him because of his hair. Ninja Ninja lampshades it by saying "Who names their kid Afro Samurai anyway?", but a boss video games state's the name is "what they are calling him now", saying it's "uninspired, but accurate."
Hercules Dub: Generally, the timing of the Mouth Flaps matches the voices, but the mouths themselves move like puppet jaws; O sounds aren't accompanied by O-shaped mouths, and so on.
Failure-to-Save Murder - When Kuma calls out Afro for what happened the night their True Companions were slaughtered, he says that Afro is the one who killed them. Though he does this in both the show and the books, Afro didn't actually kill anyone that night except the Sword master.
In fact, he wasn't even so much as indirectly responsible for their deaths.
Foreshadowing - In a flashback in the first movie, Jinno explains to Osturu why he uses two swords rather than one. At one point, he says "...and even if I got one of my arms cut off, I'd still be able to fight..." At first, this seems like a Fauxshadow, as he makes it through all of the first movie with both arms. Late in Resurrection, however, he does get one arm cut off, and is in fact able to continue fighting.
Grey and Gray Morality: So many people are motivated by revenge (especially in Resurrection) that no one's actions could be considered pure good or pure evil. Even Justice had a good reason for killing Afro's father to take the Number One— He wanted to use the headbands' ultimate power for ultimate peace.
Hachimaki - The series' plot revolves around attempting to get one of these.
Harmful to Minors - The child who would grow up to be Afro Samurai saw his father, at the time the Number One, get decapitated by Justice. The head was then tossed to the ground at his feet and tried to speak. It didn't get much better for him afterward.
In Resurrection, Afro cuts down Kotaro's adoptive father right in front of him, with scenes of Justice killing Afro's father flashing as he does so. In his defense, he didn't know the kid was there.
Hero Antagonist - Several of the "villains" are at least as sympathetic, if not more so, than Afro.
He Who Fights Monsters - Afro is reminded of this often, by good and bad guys alike. This doesn't stop him from continuing on his path, however. If Afro struggles with becoming the monster, he does it quietly.
Headphones Equal Isolation - Brother Three of the Empty Seven wears headphones throughout the entire series, and sits with his back to the rest of the group when they're all shown together. He serves Afro food and tea when he arrives at their lair, and is the only one to survive, possibly implying he knew they'd fail and wanted no part of it.
In addition, while serving the tea, he simply says "Headband, please," in Japanese, rather than fight him. During the game, he appears in one scene, kisses his hand, thumps his chest, and gives Afro the peace sign while walking out.
Highly Visible Ninja - Ninja Ninja is loud-mouthed and ridiculously visible (although he's somewhat stealthy in the second episode of Season One, hiding in the rafters of a house), especially considering that he's hanging out with a samurai who kills everyone he meets. But then, he's a hallucination anyway. The manga version hints that he may be something more, as there is a similar character who only Ninja Ninja can see or be seen by.
Human Shield - In the manga, the boy and his sister in the Anti-Hero example— In Resurrection, he uses the DJ for the same effect.
Meaningful Echo - In Afro Samurai, Afro's father tells him "Fear not, it will all be over soon," before getting his head chopped off. In Resurrection, Afro says "Shut up. It'll soon be over[...]Fear not... Father." before trying to kill his freshly-resurrected dad.
Off with His Head! - Afro's father, and eventually, Justice, who did the honors for Afro's father. Eventually, they both get better.
The Only One Allowed to Defeat You - It's actually the rule of the headbands: The only one allowed to fight the Number One is the Number Two. Anybody can fight the Number Two, though.
In Resurrection, this rule was subverted when Sio could take the Number One headband from Afro at the start because he wasn't wearing it at the time, even though she didn't have the Number Two required to formally challenge him.
Talking to Himself - Afro and Ninja Ninja are both played by Samuel L. Jackson. And Ninja Ninja is Afro's imaginary buddy. Interestingly, while Jackson spoke with two separate voices for the two, during Ninja Ninja's dying scene in the first series, he reveals Ninja Ninja's imaginary nature by slowly changing his voice to sound more like Afro's.
Furthermore, Ninja Ninja introduces himself whenever Afro feels truly alone and with doubt (first time being after the fight with his master and him deciding whether or not to continue on with his revenge). However, he repeatedly interacts with the environment and has been noticed before.
Trademark Favorite Food - Afro has a preference for lemonade. His first drink of it was a high point in his generally crappy childhood.
True Companions - Young Afro has these at the dojo, until nearly all of them are killed at the battle under the Bodhi tree. In Resurrection, Sio's vassals function as a set.
Two Guys and a Girl - Afro, Jinno, and Otsuru, especially in the manga, though Jinno mentions that even if Otsuru asked to marry him, he'd turn her down.
Unwanted Revival - The creator commentary mentions that Jinno would have rather died than come back as a cyborg.
"This pissed you off so much that you gon' hit the road again, to find the Number Two Headband again, just so you can kill the Number One, again."
We Can Rebuild Him- Jinno was nearly killed the night of the battle at the Bodhi tree. After he stumbled backwards and fell off the cliff, he was found by the Empty Seven, and brought to Dharman to be made into a cyborg.
A bit worse in the manga - He still nearly got killed in the fight, but instead got caught in the burning dojo while trying to rescue Afro and the Swordmaster.
Color-Coded Characters - Afro wears a white shirt, while the AfroDroid wears black. All of the silver accents on Afro's clothes are gold accents on the AfroDroid equivalents. As well, Afro's sword and scabbard are red; the Droid's are gold.
Cyborg: Jinno, or at least when he is reintroduced in episodes 3-4. He has certain human parts, like his head, arms, and legs, but has to rely entirely on a mechanical body for his strength, breathing, and possibly his vision. Oh, and it completely erases any sense of morality he had as a human.
Does This Remind You of Anything? - One of the Afro Droid's weapons is a very... suggestively-shaped laser cannon. As it charges, Ninja Ninja states "we came all this way just to stare down the barrel of that thing?" After he fires it, he states ecstatically: "That felt good." And then it goes flaccid, and then Ninja Ninja states "I think he blew his load".
Hypocritical Humor: During their showdown, Jinno mocks Afro's passive resistance before saying that he can't even take him seriously because of his ridiculous hair. Jinno seems unaware of the hypocrisy of saying this while wearing a big, silly looking teddy bear helmet.
Meaningful Name - Kuma means bear in Japanese and refers to a type of African ceremonial mask representing symbols of great wisdom and danger. So, it only makes sense that the guardian of the current Number One's throne room read: Jinno wears a giant teddy bear mask that doubles as a life support system.
My Sensors Indicate You Want to Tap That - Ninja Ninja pulls this on Afro in regards to Okiku. In frustration, Afro swings at a laughing Ninja Ninja. Afro and Okiku eventually do have sex, but things go downhill from there.
Offhand Backhand - Done in the first episode, causing the recipient to go flying through a wall.
Trash Talk - Jinno provides this. When Afro refuses to fight him, Jinno starts questioning the stories about his badassery, and then remarks that he can't even take Afro seriously because of his stupid hair.
Evil Is Sexy - Sio is acknowledged as such in-universe. Ninja Ninja actually describes her as a "crazy, sexy, bitch"
The Faceless - Tomoe - Her real, pre-cyborg face is never seen - In all the flashbacks and the Sio's photograph, it's always either hidden by her hat or a glare on the screen.
Almost. We do get an unobstructed view of her face when Afro has his series of still-image flashbacks before taking her and the rest of Sio's Quirky Miniboss Squad on at the ruins of the swordsmen's school—she's the woman with the shamisen and green kimono. However, we never, ever see her open eyes at any point.
A Friend in Need - Twice. Once when Afro cuts down a kidnapper on a bridge (though, the guy pointed a gun at him first,) later when Jinno protects his "brother," Afro
Good Costume Switch - Kuma. During the fight between Afro and his father, half his teddy bear mask is knocked off, and he begins struggling with his conscience. When he decides to protect Afro, he tears the other half off.
I Will Fight No More Forever - At the beginning, Afro has given up being the Number One, sitting in a hut, carving statues of those he killed in the first movie. Then he get the crap stomped out of him...
Kill Us Both - Used by Tomoe towards the end. Unfortunately, Michael hesitates long enough for Afro to turn the tables and make a Human Shield.
Lightning Can Do Anything - After Afro, Jinno, and Sio are killed by Afro's resurrected father, the electricity from Jinno's cyborg parts brings Afro back to life.
Machine Monotone - Averted. Bin's voice is dry and raspy, and Tomoe's is coarse, but despite having only a small amount of their old bodies left (excluding their necks), they still speak in relatively human voices and show emotion. Michael's the only one whose vocal chords have been destroyed entirely, but even then his vocalizations are simply the whine of a speaker.
Motive Decay: How exactly Sio plans to avenge herself on Afro changes throughout the movie, alluding to her not fully being as evil as she thought she was when she started her revenge plot.
Remember the New Guy - Sio is Jinno's sister, though there was no reason to mention her in the first movie, Afro'd met her before...
Removed From The Picture - Sio has a photo of herself, her vassals, Jinno, someone else, and Afro, with Afro's face burned out entirely.
Sequel Hook: One ending has Justice apparently coming Back from the Dead, and Takimoto makes his appearance. Only time will tell if there will be a sequel or not.
Sequel Reset - Afro is back to self-doubting his actions even though he made peace with them at the end of the first series, Jinno now has a previously unexplained sister plotting revenge against Afro Samurai, and Ninja Ninja returns even though his entire purpose in the first movie was to be Afro's repressed emotions and his death symbolized Afro finally making peace himself.
Heavily lampshaded by Ninja Ninja, who has a hard time believing all of the above and repeatedly mocks Afro over it.
The Stinger - "I been waiting a long time for him" followed by a swift shot of Justice.
Time Skip - One of unknown length has happened between this and the first movie. One background character remarks that Afro hasn't held his blade in years, and Ninja-Ninja says that Afro's starting to look old, but exactly how many years is never stated.
Anticlimax - In volume two of the manga, Afro finally makes it to the top of the mountain, ready to confront Justice. When he finally makes it to him, he attacks and Justice turns to dust and falls apart - Apparently, he'd been dead for quite awhile. Ninja Ninja even remarks that "Afro finally got his revenge, even if it doesn't feel like it."
The Messiah - At the end of the second volume the world has turned into a endless warring chaos as Afro didn't rule as Justice did, meaning he spent years in a depressive state instead of being a great figure of worship and respect like Justice, but at the very end Afro managed to pull himself back together and as Ninja Ninja and Takimoto suggested he must begin his journey to put the world back in order.
Breaking the Fourth Wall - Ninja Ninja does some serious tapping on the fourth wall during the game - among them, calling the player a "Button mashin' motherfucker", and suggesting that just because you watched the TV show doesn't mean you know what's going to happen here.
Boss Banter: Every boss talks to Afro as they fight. Interestingly, instead of just taunts and the occasional threat, the bosses go on speeches about how Afro's obsession is self-destructive, how many people he hurt, how he's wasting his life in something meaningless and etc.
Ninja-Ninja: You thought I was yo' friend!? Man, you ain't got none! They're all dead, and because of you...
Justice: You think I'm the one who made you, boy?! Oh, no... All the people you killed, all the lives you ruined. That was all you, I just lit the way...
Enemy Within - Ninja Ninja discusses with Afro what he represents, and forces Afro to fight him to take on the burden again.
"My desire was to become a god. In the pursuit of revenge, you made me yours. Searching for me. Obsessing over me. Killing for me.[...]Each life you took was a tribute to me. Your actions gave me substance, let me live. You've been doing my good work."
Revised Ending: Much like the Manga, Justice is already dead by time Afro meets him. Instead of going into despair though, Afro is instead forced to deal with his mental demons, facing Justice in his mind. After defeating him, Afro finally comes at peace with himself and his past, and decides to throw both the #1 and #2 headbands away.
Walk It Off - Afro heals by killing people. In Number One Headband, though, he has to pick up Otsuru's bears in order to get his health back - making it much more difficult. It's still possible to heal by killing enemies, but only if you can pull off a perfect decapitation.