After nearly a 13 year hiatus, the legendary adventure series “Samurai Jack” has made it’s long awaited return. The series was first teased in September of 2015 and since then has been the subject of anticipation, speculation, and adoration as the return of our childhood sci-fi samurai.
A critically acclaimed series during its original run, Samurai Jack was widely praised for its art style, camera angles, use of silence, and cinematography highly influenced by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. Like most series of its time in the early 2000’s, it faced the chopping block to pave the way for newer — and not necessarily better — series. This left a bitter taste in the mouths of its dedicated fan base.
The show’s creator, Russian-born Genndy Tartakovsky of “Dexter’s Laboratory” fame, has returned for the new episodes, making this a reboot not for the sake of rebooting but for closure, as the series never had a proper finale during its original run.
Originally the reboot was set to premiere in 2016, but production took longer than expected as Tartakovsky wanted to do it right. The various delays in production were a good decision, as the first episode of the reboot felt as if the series had never ended in the first place.
The opening shot of the episode immediately featured Tartakovsky’s signature art style and dramatic camera angles. The series’ animation and action sequences were fresh and smoother, showing that Cartoon Network Studios gave the final season of the show a higher budget, allowing for higher quality animation.
However, as intense and beautiful as the sequences were, a few times the action scenes verged on being cheesy. While the series does take influence from comic books, like many sci-fi productions, “Samurai Jack’s” use of shots with visual illustrations of the show’s sound effects almost made the episode comical, though Tartakovsky said that the reboot would be a darker turn for the series.
In the second half of the first episode and the entire second episode, it’s apparent that maybe the “cheesy scene” in the first episode may have been a lapse in judgement when it came to storyboarding. The reboot, while retaining its villain Aku, introduces two new villains for Samurai Jack: The Daughters of Aku (seven assassins sent to kill Jack) and Jack’s own mind, which has turned against him in the 50 years that have passed between season four and season five.
Samurai Jack has not only changed its tone but its visual iconography to suit its more adult-oriented audience. The series now includes blood and more violence than it did previously. Most series would have gone bananas with this freedom and made it a gore-fest, but Samurai Jack uses its new creative freedom tastefully, never having too much or too little gore and violence.
In addition, the series has introduced a long-form style of storytelling, a change from the previous standalone episodic stories of the first four seasons. It suits the tone of season five as it’s darker and the final season of the series which, in my opinion, merits a long-form storytelling style that would give the series a good ending.
Samurai Jack will be airing each Saturday at 11:30 p.m. on Adult Swim and can be viewed online or on the Cartoon Network. With more freedom and a desire for proper closure, this final ark for a legendary series is one no Samurai Jack fan should miss.
Fin Martinez is the culture editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @FinMartinez.