Easily the best animated series to hit the airwaves over the past decade, Gennedy Tartovsky’s Samurai Jack has developed a devoted following owing to it’s superior storytelling and cinematography (if you can call it cinematography when it’s on TV).
It follows the story of Samurai Jack – a time displaced samurai looking to restore order to the planet by destroying the demon responsible for his, and the earth’s predicament. Aku, a powerful demon attacked Jack’s village destroying his home and family. Jack sw…ars revenge and tracks down Aku. Following a vicious battle, Jack uses his magical sword to strike his nemesis down. But before he can deliver the killing blow, Aku flings Jack into the far future. Jack arrives disoriented only to find to his horror that Aku is now the absolute ruler of the planet. Jack’s mission is clear – to destroy Aku at any cost while sticking to his samurai code of conduct.
Jack meets all sorts of adversaries that range from killer robots to demons to aliens, all in Aku’s employ. He is not alone in his quests however, he meets many comrades – the best of which include a hilarious highlander, a roman like emperor, and shao-lin monks.
The story telling is more apt for an epic movie rather than an animated television show (which along with the Sopranos and Buffy The Vampire Slayer would fit into the category of “TV too good for TV”). The use of widescreen effects for the battle scenes gives the story a very cinematic feel which reflects the grand nature of the stories. The writing is on par with some of the best scripts that Hollywood has to offer. The mix of action, drama and humor has something for everyone.
The animation style is unique – it almost has a “Ren and Stimpy” style with simple character designs without a lot of detail, which takes a little getting used to in today’s environment of Japanese animation with the higher level of detail and big eyes. The actual animation is excellent with fluid movements and motions taken directly from samurai movies of the past.
Samurai Jack is presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen as it was originally broadcast. During battle scenes the black bars will appear above and below the picture to give the sense of fullscreen viewing which is one of the most unique aspects of this series. The colors are solid and vibrant with numerous changes from dark environments to bright without any loss of picture integrity. There was no bleeding or loss of image sharpness.
The disc is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. The sound is solid with the dialogue coming through quite clearly from the centre speaker. The musical soundtrack is fantastic with great use of the bass, as there is often a drum driven score devoted to the battle scenes, of which there are many. There is a wide dynamic range of sound that make the most of the right and left speakers.
This is where the disc set falls a little short. The extras consist of 3 featurettes – “a making of” with interviews of Gennedy, a few of the artists and Phil Lemar – the voice of Jack, an animation test and sketches that show the evolution of Jack and Aku. The first featurette focuses a little on the origin of Jack and Aku but could have been fleshed out more. It is quite short and hopefully will be expanded for the second set to complete the first season.
Samurai Jack is cutting edge when it comes to story telling and animation techniques. This is why of all of the animation companies out there; George Lucas himself personally chose Gennedy and his team to produce the highly acclaimed Clone Wars series. Obviously they are doing something right. This set gets my highest recommendation for storytelling and cinematography – pick this one up!
Special Features List
- “The Making of Samuari Jack”
- Original animation test
- Original artwork