Plot: What’s it about?
A demon has tortured the world for centuries, an evil spirit known as Aku, who has no mercy on those he savages. In order to preserve peace, the Emperor brandished a mystical katana and went to battle with Aku. A wicked clash ensued, but the Emperor was able to strike Aku and capture the demon. As time passed, the land was rich and times were quite good, but Aku’s evil lurked and prepared to return. The demon busted loose from its holdings, letting loose its vicious wrath on the lands once again. Aku was always a sadistic, ruthless demon, but now revenge pushes it beyond its former level of evil. As Aku reigns down terror, the Emperor’s wife flees from the land with their young son in tow. The child was schooled in countless areas, learning about swordplay from the best samurais, archery from Sherwood’s finest, and other lessons from the best in the fields, thanks to extensive travels. As the child grows, he is known as Jack and his mind is always on Aku, as in when he can be defeated again. When Jack returns home, he sees that Aku’s wrath has demolished the land and the residents live as slaves. The battle soon begins and just like his father, Jack is able to lay down the law. But just as he goes for the final strike, Aku manipulates a time portal and sends Jack into the distant future. In this strange new world, can Jack figure how to go back and also fend off Aku’s henchmen?
A little Kurosawa, a dash of sci/fi, and a pinch of spaghetti western, all thrown into an animated series on Cartoon Network. The result is Samurai Jack, one kick ass series that never fails to be a blast to watch. There is ample action, with swords drawn and fists curled, but then again, this show is about a samurai, after all. The actions do speaker louder than words here too, as there isn’t much dialogue to mention. No worries though, as the lessened vocals allow the visuals and storyline to bear the burden. I love the character designs and animation style of Samurai Jack, but this is not all style and no substance. The plots have more depth than most cartoons, which means more complex twists and turns. I don’t mean to say this is high art, but for what it is, Samurai Jack boasts depth that puts most of its animated rivals to shame. Not all the episodes are top flight, but most are quite good and even the runts of the litter have moments. All thirteen episodes of Samurai Jack’s debut season, packed inside a two disc collection with some basic supplements. After the release of the first three episodes, issued as if a feature length Samurai Jack, I had little hope for complete seasons. So I am thrilled to own Season 1 on DVD and of course, I look forward to more seasons sets from Cartoon Network shows.
Video: How does it look?
The episodes are presented in full frame, as intended. This series has an overload of colors, but this disc never slips, not even for a second. The hues look as vibrant as humanly possible, but never smear or oversaturate, which is highly impressive work. The black levels are rich and never obscure detail in the least. I also saw no evidence of edge enhancement or compression flaws, these all look terrific. I simply love the visual look of the series and this treatment more than does the show justice, so no real complaints.
Audio: How does it sound?
The exciting sounds of Samurai Jack’s world are in full force here, from the quirky musical score to the infrequent vocals. Of course, this sounds much like the series does on television, so don’t expect much in terms of dynamic presence. I found the audio to be a little sharper here however, so this disc is an improvement, to an extent. The elements all sound terrific here, with booming music, clean sound effects, and well presented dialogue. This release also includes Spanish and French language tracks, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, and French, in case you might need those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The promised creator commentary is a tad lame, as it covers only one episode, though I suppose one is better than none. The show’s creator sits down with the storyboard artist to discuss Samurai Jack. The topics range from visual approach to influences to the show’s lack of dialogue, all worthwhile subjects. This release also includes a reel of original artwork, an animation test, and a brief behind the scenes featurette.