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Recap / Samurai Jack - S1 E1: "The Beginning"

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In a barren landscape, there is but a single, blackened tree. An eclipse occurs, and the tree transforms into a terrifying shadow being with a green face and flaming eyebrows. The demon declares that he will now smite the world as he did in days long past...

In ancient Japan, the emperor tells his son of the demon Aku, a monstrous shapeshifter who terrorized the land. No normal weapon could harm Aku, so the Emperor journeyed into the mountains and received a sword imbued with divine power from three monks. With the blade in hand, the Emperor defeated Aku and sealed him away.

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However, not long after this tale is told, Aku attacks. Not wanting to give his old enemy a chance to fight back, Aku captures the Emperor before he can reach the mystic sword. Knowing that the battle is already lost, the Emperor calls to his wife to act on the plan. The Empress, taking their son and the sword, flees Japan and into the sea. She passes the son along to some sailors before drifting off on her own...

The Son grows up traveling the world, learning multiple disciplines from masters around the globe. As a young man, the son reaches a Tibetan monastery where he reunites with his mother, and begins to train with the sword.

Time passes. the people of Japan are now enslaved by Aku, toiling away in mines while supervised by the demon's guards. The Emperor, now a withered old man, is particularly mistreated. However, one day a mysterious hero shows up and vanquishes the guards. It is the Emperor's Son, now a full-fledged Samurai! The Samurai swears that with the Sword he will slay Aku, but the Emperor warns that the Sword is just a tool, and a demon's greatest tool is deception.

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The Samurai journeys into Aku's lair, and engages the demon. Despite taking numerous, monstrous forms, Aku is beaten. As the Samurai prepares to strike the killing blow, Aku swears that they will fight again in the future. The Samurai declares that Aku has no future, but the demon disagrees, screaming open a white portal that sucks up the Samurai. As the Samurai tumbles down a tunnel of black and white, Aku states, "Do not worry, Samurai. You will see me again. But next time, you will not be so fortunate..."


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Tropes:

  • A Minor Kidroduction: Jack is a little boy in the prologue. After his exile, he gradually grows up into a young man.
  • Anachronism Stew: Jack's Training Montage shows him training with Ottoman Turks, Ancient Egyptians, Ancient Greeks, Robin Hood and his Merry Men, Vikings, and Russians with Saint Basil's Cathedral in the background.
  • As You Know: After Aku's escape, Jack's father recounts his son with the story of the battle the two shared, wherein he imprisoned Aku using the sword. In true ironic fashion, Aku arrives to capture The Emperor and raze Jack's homeland to the ground almost immediately after he finishes recounting his story.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: The episode begins with Aku successfully conquering Japan, and he even manages to capture the same hero who had previously defeated him years before. Later, Aku banishes Jack to the future in order to achieve victory at the end of their fight.
  • Cliffhanger: The episode ends while Jack is still falling through the time portal, screaming in confused terror.
  • Clothing Damage: Implied over the passage of time, when Jack wears a gi that slowly falls apart into tatters as he ages, until finally, the only thing left of it is the family crest. He's given a new one upon reuniting with his mother, but it will be the first of many times his clothes will be ruined.
  • Crazy-Prepared: The Emperor predicted that Aku would eventually return and he would fail to stop him, so he orders his wife to send their son off for his training.
  • Creepy Monotone: Aku speaks like this throughout the entire episode.
  • Curb-Stomp Cushion: In his first form during their battle, Aku manages to get in a painful looking slash at Jack's side. He spends the majority of the fight after getting sliced up by Jack's sword.
  • Downer Beginning: The opening of the episode shows Aku being released from his imprisonment, wherein he arrives in Jack's city, captures his father, and razes his whole kingdom to the ground.
  • Downer Ending: And the entire episode is quite a downer overall, considering the fact it ends with Aku flinging Jack into the future before he can deliver the final blow.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: As this is the first episode...
    • Jack is not only frequently Off-Model, but his voice sounds awfully American.
    • Aku is set up as the serious, sinister threat he is, with none of his trademark humor which would later subvert this.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Done masterfully well with Aku, who says it all in the opening line of the series itself in a very calm and sinister tone:
    Aku: Once again, I am free to smite the world as I did in days long passed.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Considering this is the first episode of the show, and that the entire synopsis of the series revolves around Jack being hurled into the future, it's pretty obvious that Jack's first attempt to finish Aku wouldn't be successful.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Aku is potrayed at his most evil and terrifying, having absolutely none of the humor that would later characterize him.
  • No Name Given: The titular Samurai is never officially named. He's only ever referred to as "my son" by his father and "samurai" by Aku. He doesn't even get the nickname of "Samurai Jack" until the next episode.
  • Off-Model: Upon revisiting this pilot episode and the subsequent two episodes to follow, one can see that in certain moments the character designs feel really misshapen before the official series refined everyone's appearances.
    • Aku has flames encircling his eyes instead of just resting atop his eyes as flaming eyebrows, and his Eye Beams are yellow with a sparking effect to them as opposed to the plain white lasers they become (until Season 5, when the starts using red lasers.) His Shoulders of Doom are also a little bit gangly at times.
    • During a pan-up of Samurai Jack in the crystal caves, Jack's sandals are all black and his facial features appear to be crammed awkwardly onto his head.
    • Jack's father does not have a big red nose yet, nor does his mother (which won't happen until much later).
    • A couple of times the animators dip into four-fingered digits on Jack's fingers and toes instead of five.
    • There is a moment when Aku grabs Jack's ankle and part of his wooden geta blends into the background.
  • Say My Name: Jack bellows Aku's name to get his attention in his tower of doom. And it's just the beginning of many instances where Jack will yell his adversary's name in a full-throated roar.
    Jack: AKUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Jack's father trapped the demon Aku inside a black tree several years ago. Unfortunately, it can't hold him forever.
  • Silence Is Golden: The entire montage of Jack training from childhood to adulthood, about one third of the episode, has no dialogue whatsoever, just music and visuals.
  • Time Travel: Aku tears open a portal through time, which causes Jack to be flung countless years into the distant future...
  • Total Eclipse of the Plot: A solar eclipse causes a bolt of energy to hit the tree that Aku was trapped in, allowing him to escape.
  • Training Montage: A large section of the episodes middle revolves around Jack's traveling all across the world as he grows up, learning various different fighting styles, before his first true confrontation with Aku.
  • We Will Meet Again: Just when Jack is about to land the final killing blow on a weakened Aku, Aku vows that they will see each other again in the future. Jack scoffs at this, but only for Aku to fulfill his promise...

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