Samurai Jack Is Still Sharper Than Most Cartoons

by Tito W. James

Samurai Jack is an action adventure cartoon that lasted from 2001-2004. After taking a long hiatus, the show was brought back for its fifth and final season on Adult Swim in 2017.

Jack is a samurai who has been transported post-apocalyptic future ruled by his arch-nemesis the shape-shifting demon Aku. The show follows Jack’s adventures has he slays robots and searches for a time portal to return home.

While the show is critically well-reviewed and revered in art circles, there are many audiences who have never heard of it, and plenty of Samurai Jack fans that haven’t seen the new season.

So if you’re wondering what all the hype is about– here are three reasons why Samurai Jack is an innovative cartoon that still merits attention today.

It was a brutal action show

Though the fight scenes in Samurai Jack may not be more violent than certain Anime, it was pretty brutal for a Saturday morning cartoon. The show’s schedule was pushed later and later into the evening before finally getting pushed to Adult Swim. It is even harder now to find serious action cartoons.

The action speaks louder than words

In many cartoons that claim to be action shows, most of the running time is taken up with characters just talking to each other. This is especially true in superhero shows where it is very common for characters to exchange more banter than blows.

Samurai Jack dispenses with unnecessary dialogue and lets the music, art direction, and sound effects tell the story.

This type of storytelling made Samurai Jack unique when it first came out, and it still unusual in animated programs. Even cartoons I enjoy like Ducktales, have this tendency to try and cram in as many jokes (as dialogue) as possible. While you can look at Bloody Bunny or the Gobelins animation and you barely notice that there isn’t any dialogue.

The beauty and simplicity of the art style

Samurai Jack derives it’s art direction as a remix of works of early Disney Artists like Eyvind Earle and Mary Blair as well as characters influenced by Hanna Barbera.

Samurai Jack was the first show at the time to have characters and world without outlines. The clean design of the world aligned perfectly with the straightforward plots of the episodes.The art seldom repeated itself–with each new episode in a new location with new enemies and new music. This was also a show that was designed to look beautiful when many other cartoons were designed to look ugly or silly.

I’ve made of list of recommended episodes for new audiences so you can get an abridged version of Jack’s story, while still highlighting the show’s finest moments.

Season 1

EP 1-3 “Samurai Jack: The Premiere Movie”

S1 Ep 7 “Jack and the Three Blind Archers”

S1 Ep 11″Jack and the Scotsman”

Season 2

Ep 5 “Jack and the Ultra-robots”

Ep 9 “Jack vs. the Five Hunters”

Ep 10 “Jack vs. Demongo, the Soul Collector”

Season 3

Ep 3 “Couple on a Train”

Ep 4 “Jack and the Zombies”

Ep 5 “Jack and the Scarab”

Ep 6 “Jack and the Traveling Creatures”

Ep 8 “Jack and the Swamp Wizard”

Ep 11-12 “Birth of Evil”

Ep 13 “Jack and the Labyrinth”

Season 4

Ep 1 “Jack vs. the Ninja”

Ep 2 “Samurai vs. Samurai”

Ep 3″The Scotsman Saves Jack”

Season 5

All episodes and the series finale

 

Tito W. James

Tito W. James writes action adventure comics for all ages that juxtapose creepy content with beautiful imagery. He is the mastermind behind CROSSBONE JONES and GANGSTERS VS GATORS.

Tito’s goal is to create comics that capture the bombastic fun of old comics with the emotional resonance of new ones.