Reviews: Samurai Jack

Season 5 - Decent, but could have been better.

I was particularly excited when I heard that Samurai Jack is going get another season after the series being so long on hiatus, so you can imagine my excitement when the first episode of Season 5 aired. The episode delivered everything I've ever wanted from the series. Amazing visuals, a more mature story, and interesting new characters. Episodes 2-3 upped the ante and offered us one of the most well choreographed fight scenes in animation. But then the latter half of the season happened.

The last few episodes felt rushed and rather unsatisfying. I don't mind all the cameos by other characters, I just felt like they're only there just to service viewers. The Demongo cameo is a blatant example. Why brought him back at all if they're not going to do anything with him? Speaking of which, I cheered when Scaramouche is revealed to be alive, then I was left disappointed when all he does after his survival is to be a comic relief character who exists solely to get punished by Aku. The Scotsman himself is better than most, though he's still underused in my opinion. The Omen himself is also another letdown. You could remove him from the story and it wouldn't even make that much difference.

And don't even get me started on The Guardian. It might just be the most disappointing element of Season 5 by far. A lot of fans were looking forward to his arc's closure and his rematch with Jack, and all we got is that he got killed offscreen by Aku instead. WHAT? I mean, I'm fine with retconning story elements introduced in past episodes, but at least do it with a little more effort. You could have Jack fight The Guardian again and wins, but before Jack can use the portal, Aku appears and destroys it, killing The Guardian in the process. Now THAT I would be okay with, not just killing him offscreen like that.

I'm fine with Ashi and Jack romance, I just wished it was developed better. Don't get me wrong, Genndy makes their love story as good as he could within the ten episodes time limit, but there's only so much he could do to make the romance convincing. It's not 'Anakin and Padme Star Wars prequel' quality (which is kinda weird considering that Genndy handled that rather well when he helmed the first Clone Wars animated series), but you can't deny that it could've been better. And the ending of their story is emotional, yes, but it didn't impact me as much as, say, Lord of the Rings' ending.

All in all, what I'm trying to say is, Samurai Jack Season 5 could have, and really should have, been longer than ten episodes. In my honest opinion, ten episodes just isn't long enough to provide a closure to everything in a good fashion, but Genndy made the most out of it as much as he could. That doesn't change the fact that I'm left somewhat disappointed by it. They did really, really good with the first few episodes, which left me with high expectations that the later episodes just couldn't meet. I just wished it could have been better.

Season 5 Review

Ahh, Samurai Jack, where do I start? Since the day this show first graced Cartoon Network, I was hooked. Samurai Jack was a show that seemed to have it all: Unforgettable characters, beautiful animation, intense action scenes, moving drama, and hilarious comedy. So what more could a fan like me ask for? Well how about a fifth season? When it was announced that Samurai Jack was getting a fifth season on Toonami, my heart soared. Combine that with Dragon Ball Super and Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters also being aired on Toonami, 2017 was looking to be quite the interesting year. After watching all ten episodes, I can describe the season in one word: Badass.

Pros:
  • Phil LaMarr as always, really gives it his all in his voicing of Jack. And while he is certainly no Mako (nor was I ever expecting him to be), Greg Baldwin does a pretty good job as Aku.
  • The action scenes are as intense as ever. The first fight between Jack and the Daughters of Aku is my personal favorite due to how well choreographed the fight was and the Awesome Music that accompanied it.
  • So many awesome call backs and nods to the first four seasons. "Episode XCV" and "Episode CI" in particular are practically love letters to the first four seasons of the series.
  • Despite the Darker and Edgier tone, the series still retains its sense of humor, showing that Darker and Edgier doesn't have to be Gloomier and Drearier.

Cons:
  • Because of the season's short length, the pacing of the show feels rushed at times. Because of this, Ashi's Character Development felt rushed and a bit forced.
    • Likewise, the romance between her and Jack was clumsily handled. Don't get me wrong, I like Ashi, and she and Jack are a great couple, but there could've been more of a build up to it.
  • The cursing in "Episode XCVI" was unnecessary in my opinion, especially since they don't curse in later episodes of the season. Though Scaramouche's "talking penis" joke made me laugh, mostly because it was so unexpected.
  • The final battle with Jack and Aku wasn't as climatic as I hoped. While I'm glad Jack finally got back to the past, I was expecting one last showdown between the two foes beforehand.

Conclusion: While it does make a few mistakes along the way, Samurai Jack's final season manages to combine its story arcs into one epic finale. God bless you, Genndy, and God bless you Toonami for giving this show the epic send off it so rightly deserved! To quote Olivia's song:

We Will Never Forget You, Samurai Jack!

A work of visual brilliance, Tartakosvky style

If you are expecting massive amounts of world building, character development and and over arching plot that reaches a climactic confrontation for a grand finale, Samurai Jack isn't exactly the place to go. On it's core it's an episodic series. Why is worth watching then? Because it's GREAT at that.

Samurai Jack is built upon a premise where everything is possible. A samurai wanderer unexpectedly is sent through time to the future and is trying to get back to his time to confront the evil that sent him there. All this in order to fix the sci-fi bad future he's now trapped on.

This allows to such a variety of possible foes and also allies it gets crazy, and the show takes full advantage of this. It doesn't hurt that, in spite of every episode being pretty much self contained, each one is given as much polish as possible, focusing heavily on atmosphere(emphasized in the clever use of cinematography, visual design and color) and visual storytelling(where this show becomes an epitome of "show, don't tell". The episodes manage to tell a big deal of info with little to no dialogue).

The action, which plays a big role in this series, is wonderfully executed as well. It borrows heavily from old samurai movies and manga/anime series too, yet has the sharpness of western animation, specially the Gendy Tartakovsky's stylized character designs. It also helps matters the amounts of thinly veiled violence and subtle(and times not so much) humor that each fight carries, as the show while intense has no hesitation in poking fun of itself. That isn't to say it's all battle and laughs, as each new character has clever backstories that can manage to pull one heart's strings more than one time.

Overall, Samurai jack isn't a work where you expect the story to advance. It's not in the vein of more recent cartoons like Gravity Falls or Steven Universe where the series are building something bigger than each contained episode, and has no merit from a serial perspective. But from an audiovisual stand point, even narratively speaking, it's pretty much a masterpiece. Each episode isn't a shakesperian experience but still a wild ride with it's own satisfactory deliveries.

If you like cartoons and want to learn about visual language, it definitely is a must watch.
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