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So begins the introductory sequence to Samurai Jack, an animated series created by Genndy Tartakovsky (Dexter's Laboratory).As a young boy, the titular samurai watches as the demon Aku destroys his entire kingdom; he escapes, however, and trains with warriors from around the globe for years. He returns to his kingdom as an adult to defeat Aku, but as the opening monologue above indicates, Aku flings the samurai thousands of years into the future — where, thanks to the absence of the samurai, Aku has control over the entire world (and possibly others). Inspired by jive-talking locals to adopt the alias "Jack," the samurai wanders the world, fights the machinations of Aku (and other evildoers), and searches for a way back to his own time so he can defeat Aku for good and prevent this future from ever happening.Genndy supposedly intended to finish off the story with a movie, but Cartoon Network ended the series after fifty-two episodes (and no Grand Finale).Fans remember the show chiefly for its outline-free art style, impressive action sequences, and long stretches of animation without dialogue. The show took numerous stylistic risks (especially in the final season), such as the episode where Jack fights a ninja entirely in light and shadow.Since the show's end, rumors have swirled around Tartakovsky's desire to conclude the story with a film. Though the film supposedly entered pre-production at Frederator Studios and Bad Robot, no real news on it has come to light. As it stands now, if the film does have a chance of happening, it'll have to escape Development Hell first. Tartakovsky himself has said that the series is not dead. Information releasedin 2010 said J.J. Abrams would produce the film, which would have an estimated twenty-million-dollar budget.Comics publisher IDW kicked off an official comic book based on the show in October 2013. Jack and Aku are set to appear in the IDW Crisis Crossover comic book event Cartoon Network Super Secret Crisis War in June 2014.Cartoon Network's original Toonami block aired reruns of Samurai Jack during the block's third and fourth incarnations; the show even ran as part of Toonami's final pre-cancellation block. The revived [adult swim] version of Toonami brought back Jack in February 2014, and a re-release of the series on DVD began in the same year.
Samurai Jack contains examples of the following tropes:
0% Approval Rating: In a notable subversion, "Aku's Fairy Tales" shows Aku as aware of how his subjects view him, which leads to a clumsy attempt to persuade children to like him. Outside of that instance, Aku seems not to care (since nothing his subjects could do can hurt him). The only reason his approval rating hits zero percent, however, was Jack — he showed people that a world without Aku could possibly exist.
Absurdly Sharp Blade: Most of the swords and other bladed weapons are capable of cutting through robots made of metal easily. Of course Jack's blade is supernatural in origin, able to cut through anything. In one episode, he found that his strength wasn't enough to defeat a series of Elite Mooks but all he needed was a Powered Armor arm to give his sword the needed cutting power.
Not all of them. The gauntlet ran out of power before Jack could destroy the sword-wielding leader. Only by calling upon the spirits of his ancestors for help in making his Absurdly Sharp Blade go Up to Eleven was Jack able to beat it.
Action Cartoon, Quiet Drama Scene: all over the place, it would probably be more effective to list scenes where he isn't brooding and staring down his enemies for long stretches of time.
Action Girl: The Scotsman's wife; she single-handedly beats an army both her husband and Jack — two of the greatest warriors ever — had trouble fighting, and starts off said fight by punching a god in the gut. Just because said god called her fat. Did I mention that she was entirely unarmed?
She is also one of few people Jack, without question, ran away from a fight with. And this was after the Scotsman gave him some friendly advice, warning him it was a battle he would never win.
Affectionate Parody: The Duck Dodgers episode Samurai Quack. Not only did Genndy himself have a hand in writing it, he actually shows up for a brief live action cameo!
Ambiguous Robots: Any time Jack slices someone/something up, it's usually mechanical. Word of God is that it was intentional so he could get a lot of gore in a children's cartoon just like in old samurai movies that inspired it without falling foul of censors. Where things aren't mechanical but bad, it's likely to be something Made of Evil like Aku himself or his demon minions. Though many of his enemies are just clear-cut robots, others don't show any signs of being mechanical until we see the stumps of their dismembered limbs crackling and spewing oil.
Anachronism Stew: Jack's own time period: the equivalent of Feudal/Edo Japan seems to co-exist with cultures based on the Vikings, Classical Greece, Medieval England, and even Ancient Egypt, for a range that spans thousands of years in the real world.
Aku's 'dark future' is a stew as well - much of the Earth is primitive to various degrees, so that stories involving gangsters, cowboys, stone age primitives or robots can coexist. The occasional piece of Schizo Tech also appears.
Used to great effect to make the visions Jack experiences (and the episode as a whole) in "Jack and the Haunted House" more terrifying.
In "The Princess and the Bounty Hunters", when each bounty hunter tells his or her plans for defeating Jack, the animation is rendered to closely represent the art styles of each bounty hunter's homeworld: traditional Oriental brushstrokes for the Hive Mind cat hunters, a filter to give the effect of a black-and-white movie for the gentleman hunter, childish animation for the rather simple Russian bounty hunter, traditional Aborigine art for the Aborigine hunter, and blue with white outlines for Princess Mira, giving it a science-fiction feel.
Not to mention the 4th season episode "Samurai Vs Ninja" where the entire scene changes to purely silhouettes of black and white for both the fighters and the environment.
Demongo:"I am the dealer of destruction, the merchant of doom... and I seek you, Samurai Jack."
Bad Future: The setting of the series; one where Aku has ruled the world for thousands of years.
Bad-Guy Bar: Jack frequently drinks water or tea at these places, and they're always filled with bounty hunters wanting to collect on his bounty.
Baleful Polymorph: One episode saw Jack transformed into a chicken after accidentally bumping into a foul-tempered wizard on the street. He was then swept up and placed into a cockfighting match, but proceeded to kick all kinds of (chicken-sized) robot nonetheless.
The Scotsman's wife: Do not, under any circumstances, insult her weight.
The wizard from "Chicken Jack" does not like being jostled in a crowd, and will respond with a Baleful Polymorph.
Big No: In episode 23 Demongo uses one after Jack defeats him.
Jack does this in the Pyramid Heist episode when it looks like The Suit has abandoned him to be killed by the pyramids guards in a sealed room.
Jack's father in "Birth of Evil", when Aku restrains and forces him to watch as he lays siege to his village.
Big Brother Is Watching: Aku has a system of automated spies that let him track Jack's movements almost constantly, no matter where he is, though this mostly adds up to him complaining about his minions failing to kill him.
In "Jack and the Gangsters", the gangsters give Jack a job to deliver a package with a bomb in it, but Jack seeing the sorry state of the victim, helps him escape, which is imposed over him telling gangsters that he did everything as planned.
In the episode where Jack and Aku agree to a duel, Aku agrees to several conditions which he will honor for the duel. He's a terrible liar. (See I Know You Know I Know.)
Bullying The Dragon: One would think that Jack's annihilation of entire armies would be enough for every bounty hunter in the world to understand that going after him is a death sentence, but there is still no shortage of them ready to try.
Da Samurai from "Samurai Vs Samurai" is worthy of special mention. He knows Jack's story and watches him easily dispatch three robotic assassins sent by Aku in a matter of moments, and still decides to antagonize Jack into giving him a fight.
Captain Ersatz: The wolf in Aku's version of Little Red Riding Hood is basically Yogi Bear, but as a wolf.
Zeke and Josephine Clench (from the Western-themed Episode XXIX). It is implied they love each other, but are so obsessed with money that they regularly betray each other, especially Josephine. Zeke even has a restraining order on his wife, but he forgets it when she sweet talks him. They actually manage to capture Jack, but Josephine is unable to resist trying to cut Zeke out of the profits by shoving him off the moving train - unaware that Jack has just tied her to Zeke. They're left dangling comically in their own chains as the train disappears up the track, with Jack still aboard. Josephine then says that she didn't mean to betray Zeke...
Cliffhanger Copout: Episode XIV begins with Jack about to enter a Time Portal, when Aku shows up and puts it out of Jack's reach. During the episode Jack learns how to "Jump Good", and the episode ends with Jack leaping up to attack Aku and reach the Portal. The next episode begins like any other, and doesn't even mention the events of the previous episode. Strangely, Jack's ability to "Jump Good" is mentioned in a later episode, so clearly something happened, we're just not shown what.
Except for the episode where he fights the stone viking.
Jack: Surely he takes me for a fool to follow deeper into his trap. [Spiked ceiling starts to lower] Jack: A fool I be!
Or in "The Scotsman Saves Jack, Part 2." After Jack's memories are restored following his Surfer Dude amnesia:
Jack: I am forever in your debt. Scotsman: Ah, don't mention it. So, how ya been? Jack:(in surfer voice) Like totally cool. Scotsman: What?! (they laugh)
Or in "Jack vs Mad Jack", Jack delivers a deadpan line after being attacked by a cross between Chewbacca and Domo-Kun in such a manner, it's almost impossible to think how he could have said it with such a straight face.
Alien: Googolplex... (he falls unconscious) Jack:(he stands over him) Looks like there will be no money for you, crazy round man.
In "Samurai vs. Samurai", Jack completely ignores Da Samurai's bragging.
Da Samurai: Didn't you hear who I am? Jack: I believe everyone heard who you are.
Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: The Scotsman's wife is quite... abrasive... when Jack and her husband come to rescue her. She spends nearly the whole time yelling at them, forcing them to carry her and calling them sissies, and then ends the whole thing by knocking them out of the way and beating up the entire evil army that kidnapped her single handedly.
"THIS RESCUE STINKS!"
Granted she calms down considerably after being insulted and defeating the army with her bare hands so she probably just had a lot of pent-up annoyance which turned into anger.
Special mention to an episode where Jack takes down five legendary bounty hunters at once before a drop of water from a nearby low-hanging icicle can hit the ground.
Damsel out of Distress: The Scotsman's wife. Presumably they managed to catch her without enraging her enough to set her off on one of her destructive rampages. She does not even need a sword to take down an army of robots right after being rescued by Jack and The Scotsman.
Dangerously Genre Savvy: Although hero and villain alike ordinarily suffered from Contractual Genre Blindness, "Jack vs. Aku" started with a hilarious subversion - Aku confronts Jack, and then explains exactly how this confrontation is going to play out. Then he suggests that they end the endless cycle with a final duel. Of course, it's a trap. Less predictably, Jack knows it's a trap. However, Aku knows Jack knows it's a trap... but he doesn't know that Jack knows that Aku knows that Jack knows that it's a trap. Or... something like that.
A Day in the Limelight: The Scotsman gets some focus in XLV and XLVI ("Scotsman Saves Jack"). X9 in "Tale of X9".
Days of Future Past: Aku's world is one where robot Vikings exist side-by-side with cyber-bayous, hidden Spartan villages, futuristic versions of 1930s Chicago and a lot of other distorted fragments from our history.
Deadpan Snarker: This is Jack's usual coping mechanism for the absurdities of the world.
Death Seeker: The Norse warrior cursed with immortality by Aku. As a follower of the Norse religion, he needs to die in glorious battle to join his people in the afterlife, something forever denied to him. Being placed in a nigh-unbreakable crystal prison, from which he cannot attack or be harmed, really makes it hard to die in combat.
Divine Intervention: Happened literally in "Birth of Evil", the origin of Aku. The sword that Jack would later use was forged by the gods Odin, Ra, and Rama, using part of the Emperor's (Jack's father's) soul, to grant him a weapon that could defeat Aku.
A very direct example in "Jack In Egypt", Jack gathers three pieces to build a tiny scarab which flies off... and summons the Egyptian god Ra, who eradicates the Minions of Set that were pursuing Jack.
The Drifter: Jack. He once came across the lands he called home as a child; he was nostalgic for awhile... then moved on.
Evil Is Not a Toy: Oddly subverted in "Jack and the Minions of Set". Aku releases the titular monsters, an evil far more powerful than even him, and while they slaughter the robots he brought with him, they don't lay a finger on him. Possibly prohibited by some sort of Literal Genie rule.
The lion-like hunters in one episode evoke the Predators.
Eye Beams: Aku seems to have a whole range of abilities stemming from those awesome peepers; thus far, abilities include force blasts, incendiary force blasts, alchemy, summoning, teleportation, transformation, necromancy, and general spellcasting. Basically, whenever Aku's feeling lazy, he'll just use his eyes.
There's also the giant sun guardian dude (presumably the Egyptian god Ra or Horus), who zaps away the three minions of Set with no trouble.
Failure Is the Only Option: Jack's attempts to return to the past. They always fail for whatever reason, the means to return gets destroyed, or he blows his chance due to his Chronic Hero Syndrome. Likewise, his and Aku's attempts at killing each other never work, which Aku even lampshaded in "Jack versus Aku".
Fairy in a Bottle: In one episode we hear a legend of a fairy can grant any wish, but only one on her entire life. When Jack tries to acquire her so he can go back to the past, his hand ends up trapped in the magic sphere where she was captured and the key to open it was destroyed on the fight with the fairy's captor. Jack uses the wish to set them both free.
Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Since it's set in the distant future, there's the expected sci-fi fare of aliens and robots (lots and lots of robots), but the world is also filled to the brim with zombies, elementals, demons, mystical guardians, and at least three pantheons of air. Hell, half the episodes revolve around trying to reach some magical artifact to achieve the Series Goal.
Fire-Forged Friends: Jack and the Scotsman initially mock and fight each other, but after beating down some bounty hunters together, they become fast friends.
Fish People: The Triceraquins from "Jack Under the Sea".
Forged by the Gods: Jack's sword was forged by the chief deities of multiple religions using the pure spirit of his father, making it the only weapon able to kill Aku.
Jack gets an upgrade in "Jack vs The Ultra-Robots" when his sword doesn't prove powerful enough to defeat the last bot. He actually prays to the gods to help him out and they respond with a brief power upgrade to the sword.
For Science!: X9 gives this as the reason to why his Mad Scientist creator installed an experimental emotion chip in his hardware
X9 He was.... funny like that.
The Future Is Shocking: Jack is transported into a big city in the future and the first place he goes in is a nightclub with a rave going on inside. However, Jack is more disturbed by the fact there are aliens there than anything else, so it might not count.
Gate Guardian: One episode has Jack discovering a working time portal, and a guardian who is sworn to not allow anyone other than the one prophesied to defeat him to use it. Jack's repeated pleas that he needs to use the time portal to defeat Aku are met with indifference. Jack finally decides to take the portal by force, and battles it out with the guardian. Jack is completely outclassed in every way, and after being given several chances to leave unharmed, the guardian loses his patience and Jack is brutally beaten unconscious and almost killed before the portal sends a vision to the guardian. The guardian looks into the portal and sees an older Jack leading an army against Aku. He then loads Jack onto a bird creature to be carried off, muttering: Not yet, Samurai Jack... Just not yet...
Gosh Dang It to Heck!: The word "damn" apparently slips by the censors in the Mondo-bot episode, according to the DVD captions. It's muttered in a robotic voice and hard to catch, which is probably why.
High PressureOil: Not only do the robots Jack regularly obliterates have oil come out of them, they have oil come out of them very profusely.
Honor Before Reason: One of the more prominent examples of this is in "Jack, the Monks, and the Ancient Master's Son" where he chooses to save the lives of two monks instead of entering the portal to the past and preventing thousands of years of Aku's rule.
Inertial Impalement: Several enemies are defeated this way, notably in "Jack and the Spartans" and one where a charging elephant robot keeps going after running over Jack holding his sword in the air and its guts spill out from its belly.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The Scotsman is hilariously unpleasant, but a steadfast friend. Da Samurai, who is largely a Jerkass, shows at least a trace of a better nature.
Jerkass: Lots of characters, most notably Aku himself. It actually cost him victory at least twice (most notably when he pulled the standard "Agree not to harm someone/thing if you do X for me, then do it anyway" with the scientist who made his assassin robots, who then gave Jack the means to destroy them.)
Jerkass Genie: The spirit of the magic well in "Jack and the Blind Archers". The three archers told Jack that when they wished to be the "greatest of warriors", it did fulfill that part, but also blinded and enslaved them. Jack promptly destroy it in response rather than use it return to the past.
Jive Turkey: 'Da Samurai' is an unabashed parody of this trope.
The Juggernaut: The Minions of Set. They're fast and strong enough that Jack struggles to land even a single blow on them... and when he did manage to hit one it recovered from the damage almost instantly. He spends the rest of the episode running from while desperately trying to find a way to stop them.
Karma Houdini: Of a sort - the series' abrupt cancellation left Aku undefeated, although the episode where Jack fights the Guardian for the time portal at the end shows a future version of Jack and implies he has been victorious.
Large Ham: Aku (just listen to the opening monologue). The late voice actor Mako makes this a crowning example of Large Ham done right. Said monologue is actually what an opening to a traditional Japanese Kabuki piece would be like if it were translated into English. The Scotsman, the other character Jack plays off of regularly, is also hammy.
Some one-shot characters are hams as well, such as the SAH-MUH-RHAI and Gordo the Cruel.
Laughably Evil: Aku, also Faux Affably Evil. He's one of the few genuinely, irredeemably evil villains who can come across as funny while simultaneously being threatening.
Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: "Jack Remembers The Past" has a scene where Ogami Itto, the protagonist of Lone Wolf and Cub and his son appear, and in fact inspire Jack to take up swordplay. They're never named, but it's apparent who they are.
Aku: ...I'll fly off saying something like "We'll meet again, samurai!"... and then we won't see each other for about a week. And then we'll go through the whole thing all over again.
Light Is Good: Almost entirely played straight. Jack, the biggest paragon of virtue in the desolate future is almost always dressed in white, and can also use the light like a ninja would use the shadow.. There's also the peaceful white-furred ape tribe from Jack Learns to 'Jump Good'.
In commentaries Genndy has said that the art theme of Samurai Jack is simple: 'white against black over red [background].'
Magitek: The robots in "Jack and the Ultra-Bots", which Aku used his own power to bring to life.
The Magnificent Seven Samurai: Jack does this one solo in a jungle-set episode. Jack meets a friendly bunch of high-jumping simians who share food with him, and are then attacked by a rival group of apes. Jack drives them off, and teaches the friendly apes to defend themselves with bamboo staves, in exchange for lessons on how to "jump good."
More Hero Than Thou: A variation demonstrating heroic courtesy. The last ten minutes of "Scotsman Saves Jack Part II" is devoted to Jack and the Scotsman going through a bunch of contests to see who rows off the island in a two-man rowboat. But it isn't the loser who rows. Probably not a big surprise, but Jack wins.
Mundane Made Awesome: Jack and the Scotman's thumb-wrestling match at the end of "Scotsman Saves Jack Part II".
Necromancer: Demongo the Soul Stealer, supposedly Aku's most powerful minion.
Although thanks to Never Say "Die", the words "soul" is only used once, at the very beginning, and afterwards replaced with the slightly less sinister word "essence".
Never Tell Me the Odds: When told a unit of Aku's robots have a 1 in 325 chance of hitting their target with their only shot, Jack immediately bails out to destroy the robots.
Justified from his perspective: the exact same statistician told him the odds of "defeating three Mantoids using only a sword" — a feat he pulled off perfectly — was 1 in 6923. So Jack's probably wasn't inclined to trust the "math" during that episode. Notably they did seem fairly close to hitting the rocket.
Nice to the Waiter: Jack is respectful toward all. (In the episode with Da Samurai, he's literally nice to the waiter.)
Outfit Decoy: In ''Jack and the Three Blind Archers", Jack figures out the eponymous archers' blindness by waving his hat in front of them without it getting shot, and then dropping it on the ground to see it immediately hit with arrows when the archers heard it hit the snow.
Outlaw Couple: Josephine and Ezekiel Clench of "The Good, The Bad and the Beautiful."
Pre-Explosion Glow: In episode 23 this happens to Demongo after Jack releases the spirits trapped inside him, leaving him a burned out husk.
Really 700 Years Old: Jack and Aku have been going at it since the days of medieval Japan, after all. Meanwhile, Aku is a tiny piece of a larger Eldritch Abomination killed by the gods Odin, Ra, and Vishnu before human history began.
Ridiculous Future Inflation: It's not mentioned what currency Aku's empire uses, but any future economy where the bounty on a fugitive's head can be measured in googolplexes (go ahead, look it up) has to fall into this trope.
Rock of Limitless Water: A MacGuffin of an episode. Created by a water deity and guarded by deities of wind, earth and fire, Aku would try and fail repeatedly to get his hands on it. Jack has to steal it for The Mafia for a chance to kill Aku. The Mafia end up with it, and are selling water it produces at the end of the episode.
Rule of Cool: Why are there demonic Celtic robots, high-tech pyramid vaults, cowboys riding jet-propelled horsebots, volcanoes possessed by Viking princes, boisterous highlanders with machine-gun legs, 'unlimited' class cockfights, bayou cyborgs, immortal monks, carelessly scattered time portals, etc.? Because awesome.
Samurai: Obviously, but also a very specific example. In the third episode, Jack takes on the full samurai mantle against an oncoming horde: longbow, spears, katana, and full "splint" armor, riding atop the closest thing to a warsteed available. As the episode's battle progresses, he slowly gets pared down to the essentials: a katana, some skills for wielding it, and lots and lots of oil.
Jack: "No. There is no escape."
Samus is a Girl: Princess Mira. Her true gender is not revealed until she takes her helmet off.
Small Name, Big Ego: Da Samurai. His brief encounter with Jack sets him down the right path though.
Space Jews: In one episode Jack encounters an alien race with large noses who wear what look suspiciously like yarmulkes, and are being mistreated in horrible conditions by cold, uncaring oppressors who believe they are naturally superior to other races. Remind you of anything?
The Corruption: Allowing even a sliver of Aku's evil mass into your body will rapidly destroy both your body and your spirit, turning you into something soulless and evil just like Aku. Even Jack was almost helpless in the face of the infection, stealing precious gems from a group of miners, demanding cash payment in exchange for rescuing a stranded mountaineer, and killing an innocent robot in cold blood just for bumping into him on the street. And this was before the infection really set in.
The Unintelligible: Seems to be a staple of Genndy's, but specifically in "Jack and the Scotsman", we have the redneck boss pig, "BLA-BABADUGORBLUBURDEERBLAGOLBADU!!!" Brilliantly performed by the VA in that it almost sounds like he's actually saying something, as opposed to just speaking gibberish.
Later on though, as his mercenary army of soldiers, tanks, and walking artillery guns are approaching the heroes, "BANGBANGBANGITYBANGBANGBANG!"
This Cannot Be!: When Jack takes on a series of super-robots that can only be defeated by a specialized cybernetic arm, he manages to destroy the last one, despite said arm being disabled, with the power of the Japanese Gods.
Violence against Mechanical Lifeforms is shown in full detail, violence against organic enemies is always obscured in some way. This is due to Cartoon Network's censorship rules, which don't allow any blood to be shown. Tartakovsky still got away with a lot of Symbolic Blood with the robots, though.
World of Badass: Given the number of supervillains and monsters that roam the planet, you have to be rough and tough to avoid just ending up as a victim. Still won't always save you though.
Wretched Hive: In "The Samurai Called Jack", Jack finds himself in one that's a futuristic cross between this and Coolest Club Ever. Many episodes later, the Scotsman brings his amnesiac buddy to the seaport of Heck's Bucket and uses those exact words (yet another Shout-Out).
The Scotsman: Ye will never find a more wreched hive of scum an' villainy! An' the crab cakes aren't too bad either!