*Editors note. Post was erroneously titled “Samurai Jack, Season 1, Episode 5” at initial date of publication, but was updated to the correct title of “Season 5, Episode 1” on March 19, 2017.
Jack is back! One of the best, most underappreciated cartoons of the early 2000s, has finally returned to television to give Samurai Jack a proper conclusion to his journey after a not-quite-a-cliffhanger ending from Season 4 all the way back in 2004! Series creator Genndy Tartakovsky (Dexter’s Lab, Hotel Transylvania) was called off the series by Cartoon Network to animate, direct, and write the 2D animated microseries Star Wars: Clone Wars, made to bridge the gap between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. As a result, Samurai Jack was effectively cancelled after its fourth season because by the time Tartakovsky had finished Clone Wars, Cartoon Network had changed its timeslot and there was practically no room for Samurai Jack.
For years Tartakovsky had been trying to create a movie to conclude the series but the project never fell through. After Tartakovsky’s success with Hotel Transylvania and its sequel however, fan interest was renewed in Tartakovsky’s masterpiece inspired by the works of Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai, Kagemusha) and David Lean (The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia). Finally Tartakovsky pitched his idea to Adult Swim, Cartoon Network’s evening programming block, and the idea was finally approved to bring Jack back for a limited series run of 10 episodes for everyone’s favorite time-traveling Samurai.
Samurai Jack did have an overarching plot to tell, but each episode was almost disconnected from it in favor of telling a series of loosely connected vignettes. I will now let Mako Iwamatsu (Conan the Barbarian, Avatar: The Last Airbender), describe the plot.
Source: YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e51hgWIsY4M
Amazing is it not? Having the villain introduce us to the show! Also, Aku is one of my favorite villains ever! Watch the show and you will know why. Samurai Jack then had a Y-7 rating. In order to not incur the wrath of the censors, Tartakovsky had Jack fight robots, using oil as a stand-in for blood. Jack would talk very little, allowing the visuals of Tartakosky’s animation to move the plot along and show us Jack’s state of mind.
Now the rules have changed. The game has changed. The show has changed for the better! Adult Swim allows the show to have a Y-14 rating, which now allows Tartakovsky to show blood, among other graphic violence. More stunning kinds of visuals he was not allowed before. (For our non-American viewers, if you want an explanation as to the differences between the American television and movie rating systems and how they work, trust me folks, we Americans would very much like an explanation as well.)
Just look at the new introduction for this limited series! Now narrated by Jack (Phil LaMarr)!
Source: YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fKE0WUKcOc
The show is much more somber than before. Much darker. 50 years have passed since Jack was flown into the future. He has lost his sword. He has become more brutal, having lost his magic sword, the only weapon capable of hurting Aku. Now relying on technology and more “advanced” weapons, he has essentially become a Ronin. A samurai without a mission. Jack has become more like Aku (voiced by the late Mako’s understudy Greg Baldwin [Assassin’s Creed 2, Fallout 4], who performed a similar task in voicing Iroh from Avatar: The Last Airbender, after Mako died before the conclusion of the series.)
The toll of these 50 years has not come without consequence. Jack has PTSD. Visions of his family and village from the past. Nightmares of abandoning the ones he loves. Leaving them to suffer under the grasp of Aku.
We are also introduced to the Daughters of Aku (their leader voiced by Grey DeLisle). They appear to be a cult dedicated to Aku, the leader making her disciples give birth to more daughters to be trained as assassins to kill Jack. The Daughters worship a statue of Aku and we do not see them actually interact with Aku, in spite of the leader saying “as you once graced us with your presence”. We know Aku is still around, his voice is later heard, but is it possible that Aku is simply unaware of the existence of the daughters and the leader is lying to maintain a charade?
This is an episode, and clearly a whole series, you must experience for yourselves! It has been over a decade now. But the wait has been more than worth it! Samurai Jack is back!