Samurai Jack is back! The long awaited return of Genndy Tartakovsky’s classic animated TV show from the early 2000’s is finally here. Now having watched the first episode of the new season, I am desperate for more.
Samurai Jack was one of the last great television shows to appear on Cartoon Network. Years after classics like Dexter’s Laboratory, Johnny Bravo and Ed, Edd n Eddy had first premiered, we got introduced to this new series rife with it’s own unique animated style. It’s one of my favourite cartoons ever and in my eyes as a massive fan, this is a flawless revival of the show.
First things first, let me make it very clear that this season opener retains the classic art style that is synonymous with the show. Even in 2017 the art style looks gorgeous and feels fresh and unique. Remember those moments in the original four seasons of the show where during the action, you’d suddenly get the cinematic borders on the screen? That still occurs and it still creates the same amount of momentum and energy through out the scenes as it always did. If you had any doubt that the animation and artistic imagery you love from the original show, would get altered and lost due to it being over a decade later, end your fears here. There is nothing to worry about in that regard.
The episode has somewhat of a surprise opening, that briefly touches upon the fact that it’s 50 years on from the last time we’ve seen Jack. Aku essentially has a firm grip on the past, present and future. Now Jack needs to become his former self again to set things right. That’s not the surprise though, the true surprise is Jack’s introductory scene in the episode, it’s the type of moment that makes you want to cheer. It was handled brilliantly, it’s a fantastic way to reintroduce the character back to auidiences 13 years after the previous season.
Like I previously mentioned it’s 50 years later and Jack is different now. Backing that up is the different yet very welcome feel this first episode has. It certainly has a Western style influence, Jack feels like that legendary gunslinger, who has to take it upon himself to get the job done, one final time. The fastest way to summarise it is by saying it’s Samurai Jack crossed with Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven. During this episode we also see that he is clearly tormented by what has occurred since Season 4. I won’t go into detail about what that is, but it creates an interesting element to the story and his character, that I hope they continue to develop as the season continues.
Sprinkled throughout the episode we get some scenes showcasing Aku’s lineage preparing themselves to confront Jack. I’m curious as to whether their inclusion will last throughout the whole series, or whether they’re merely secondary villains only set to last for the next couple of episodes, before making way for Aku himself. Either way the stage is set for an intriguing confrontation further down the line between them and Jack.
Towards the episodes climax, Jack does come face to face with a new adversary, who goes by the name of Scaramouch. By design his character reminds me of X9, the android assassin sent by Aku to destroy Jack in season 4. Considering the limited amount of screen time we get with Scaramouch, he did manage to leave a major impression on me. Both himself and his battle with Jack turned out to be a very memorable encounter, and the way in which he plays the flute in order to attack gives him yet another unique characteristic, alongside his voice and menacing smile. I was really drawn to the character design here, just like Jack in this episode, he reminds me of a gunslinger. The fact that he is an android too, just instantly makes my mind think about Yul Brynner in the 1973 film, Westworld.
As this episode was coming to an end, I was thrilled with what I had just witnessed in the previous half an hour. This right here is exactly how you revive a fan favourite TV show. You remind everyone why they loved the show in the first place, then you feed them what they love whilst also sprinkling in some new elelments, that take the narrative into fresh and exciting new territory.
(5 Stars out of 5)
Samurai Jack; Starring the voices of Phil LaMarr, Greg Baldwin, Grey Griffin, Sab Shimono and Tom Kenny.
Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky. Now airing on TV in the UK & US.