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TV review: Samurai Jack – Episodes XCII & XCIII

February 28th, 2017 by Dave Bowling Comments

Got to get back. Back to the past. Samurai Jack.

16 years ago, a Cartoon Network producer by the name of Genndy Tartakovsky, producer and writer of The Powerpuff Girls and creator of Dexter’s Laboratory, pitched a new series by asking executives if they remembered the 70s TV series Kung-Fu. This simple pitch grew into Samurai Jack, one of the best animated shows of the last decade.

The show saw the titular Samurai, originally a man with no name, cast into the far future by evil shape-shifting sorcerer Aku. Nicknamed Jack by the first people he comes across, our hero tries to find his way back to the past and prevent Aku from taking over the world. Unfortunately, as is their won’t, Cartoon Network dropped the show after four seasons. But now, only twelve years after the end of season 4, Jack’s back. Tartakovsky got the opportunity from Cartoon Network to produce a fifth season to wrap up the series as a whole, and he seized it with both hands, both feet and possibly his teeth.

The question is, after such a long layoff, does Tartakovsky still have the goods? Can he deliver what many of us have been waiting for for absolutely ages?

Yes. In spades.

As anyone who’s seen the trailer (If you haven’t then click here to see it) over the last few weeks already knows, the new series takes place fifty years after the first season. Jack’s time travel has somehow stopped him ageing, much to the annoyance of Aku who has destroyed every time portal on Earth and is just waiting for Jack to die of old age.

Our hero is jaded, burnt out and becoming increasingly haunted by the spectres of all the people he has failed to save. So when a team of assassins trained from birth to hunt him down are dispatched by some weird, Aku-worshipping cult, he is forced to try and fight them off while fighting his own demons.

The animation is freakin’ beautiful!

Just like the first four seasons, the new episodes are truly gorgeous with minimal use of black border lines. The direction is like a cross between Tarantino and Kurosawa, with dramatic cuts to extreme widescreen, minimal dialogue and epic sound. The fact that this season is being produced explicitly for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim bloc, rather than for Cartoon Network proper, really shows. The action is far more brutal than before and, while there are still ridiculous robot bounty hunters and insect-shaped drones hunting Jack down, the arrival of a human hit team trained specifically to combat Jack’s fighting style cranks the action up to an even greater level. Greg Baldwin manages to pull off a good impression of the late Mako Iwamatsu as Aku. Hell, even Will.i.am’s theme tune still sounds fantastic.

Downside? Well, it’s difficult to say after only seeing two episodes. But the more serious tone of the season does seem to preclude any of the more light-hearted/bat’s-arse surreal episodes like Chicken Jack, Jack and the Farting Dragon and anything involving the mad Scotsman with a machine gun for a leg. But the omens are good for this being a finale worth waiting for.

Well, if it hadn’t been 12 bloody years’ wait that is. And you thought Family Guy had a long wait to come back from cancellation…

5 out of 5 Nerds

Samurai Jack Season 5 will begin screening on 11 March 2017 on Cartoon Network at 11pm EST

Watch the trailer here:

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Dave was born at an early age to parents of both sexes. He has been a self-confessed geek for as long as he can remember, having been raised through the 80s on a steady diet of Doctor Who, Star Trek, Red Dwarf and (sigh) Knight Rider. Throw the usual assortment of Saturday morning cartoons into the mix and we have something quite exceptional: someone with an encyclopaedic knowledge of utter tosh; a love of giant robots and spaceships fighting; and the strange desire to leap tall buildings in a single bound while wearing his underpants over his trousers. The death ray is currently in the works and one day you shall all bow to him, his giant space station and fleet of funky orange space shuttles...

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