“The legend began hundreds of years ago when the fierce warriors known as the Samurai served the warlords of Japan with absolute loyalty. The most fearsome of all were the ronin, the samurai who had lost his master, set adrift like a wave on the open sea. One ronin sought out the master swordmaker, Masermune. The legendary master agreed to forge the samurai a sword of great mystical power. But, it would take an entire year to complete the work. The master’s evil-minded apprentice, Masamas, offered to forge another sword, but in only half the time.”
Scooby Doo has spanned generations and over 40 years. Since the 1960’s the name and conventions have become a part of the pop culture. The original cartoon series had a series of conventions. The Scooby Gang would drive around in their green Mystery Machine van and solve ghostly mysteries. Fans of the show quickly grew to learn that these spirits and goblins were usually just normal people using scare tactics to get revenge or make a profit. The cartoon classic spawned music albums, live action movies, and several new shows and animated features. The very latest of these direct to video animated features is Scooby Doo And The Samurai Sword.
“The samurai returned and upon drawing the blade, felt a surge of uncontrollable dark power. The evil spirit of the apprentice had passed into the blade itself. It was a sword of hatred. A sword of darkness. A sword of doom. And in that moment was born The Dark Samurai.”
In a Tokyo museum, the Black Samurai display appears to have come alive after centuries of sleep. The Ghost of the Black Samurai flies off much to the fright of the museum’s curator and his young janitor. No one believes their story. It sounds like a job for Scooby Doo and the Scooby Gang. They’re all here: Daphne, Freddie, Velma, Shaggy, and, of course, Scooby Doo himself. They’re in Japan for a university martial arts competition. It seems that Daphne has some mad Kung Fu Panda skills. But, before the event can get started, the gathering is besieged by Ninjas sans turtle shells. But, these guys were just the opening act. The main event? The Black Samurai, and now he’s after The Scroll Of Destiny, which will lead him to The Sword Of Doom and escape from his eternal prison. The Scooby Gang springs into action and must follow the clues to beat the Black Samurai to the sword. That’s just business as usual for this gang.
“Finally the master’s blade was complete. He named it The Sword Of Fate and entrusted its mystical powers to the fearsome Green Dragon. Heaven and Earth trembled as the two great swords clashed. Until, using his sacred magic, the Green Dragon defeated the Dark Samurai, imprisoning him forever within The Sword Of Doom. Centuries passed and the story turned into legend.”
This is not your old classic Scooby Doo. This gang gets text messages on their cell phones. They research over the internet via a wifi laptop. The jokes haven’t changed much, even if the voices have. Frank Welker, who voiced Freddie briefly in 1970, returns as Freddie and Scooby Doo. Unfortunately Don Messick died in 1997 and Welker has been voicing the pup since that time and before. Mindy Cohn has been voicing Velma since 2004, replacing a line of actors starting with Nicole Jaffe. What’s important is that Casey Kasem returns as Shaggy, a part he’s played since 1969. The story differs from the traditional Scooby tale in other ways as well. The quarry here really is a mystical entity. It’s also a rare trans global story for the gang. Part of me is very glad to see that Scooby and the gang are still out there working for Scooby Snax. The charm remains, even if the jokes don’t appear quite as funny anymore. You’ll likely pick this up as much for yourself as your kids. Just don’t be too disappointed if it doesn’t seem quite the same.
Scooby Doo is presented in its original full frame broadcast aspect ratio. The colors are actually pretty good here. The entire image is very bright and sharp. Black levels are above average. The animation is clean and smooth. Certainly, Scooby didn’t look this good back in the day. The print is clean, and I saw no real compression problems.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track does exactly what it was originally intended to do. It delivers dialog and some mid-range music. Nothing to write home about, but nothing to distract. A perfectly average presentation.
Scooby Doo Dojo: (10:18) A real martial arts trainer offers some history of the art and finally some simple moves.
There’s plenty of Scooby out there, and he’s been in some kind of production more or less for over 40 years. Kasem sounds a bit old now as Shaggy, but I’m still glad he has the part. I’d rather watch the older versions, but I’ll cop to the fact that I’ve a certain nostalgic bias for the old shows. So, I’d pick this one up only if I had young children, while older cartoons I’d buy for myself. Are you going to watch this latest Scooby mystery? “Would you do it for a Scooby Snack? Would you do it for two Scooby Snacks? Would you do it for three Scooby Snacks?…”