by Michael Welch ’17
“Fifty years have passed…but I do not age.”
Samurai Jack is back and he’s aged like a fine wine. After 13-year hiatus, Jack has returned to screens, this time on the Adult Swim Channel. The classic cartoon aired 13 years ago, but never had its well-deserved finale after five seasons.
Creator Genndy Tartakovsky has fulfilled the childhood dreams of his now grown-up fans by giving the Samurai a chance to finish off Aku and get back to the past. However, there have been a few changes made since the show’s reboot.
One major difference is that there is blood now. Not a whole lot of it, but with Samurai Jack airing on Adult Swim instead of Cartoon Network, Tartakovsky can show Jack bleed and cause the bleeding of others. Originally, the reason Samurai Jack was always fighting robots in the original show was because Cartoon Network did not allow blood. Tartakovsky turned this restriction into a core plot point by having Jack always slicing up robots instead of humans.
Now, with the threatening and exciting new villains, the Daughters of Aku, Jack is finally confronted with the idea of killing humans, at least in self-defense. Samurai Jack rarely faces such lethal enemies and, without his sword, Jack has been forced to act defensively in a rare moment for the overpowered character.
Jack also has lost his sword—we don’t know how long ago, but it was sometime in the last 50 years because he’s been “doing fine without it.” In the 50 years since the fifth season finale, Jack has changed—but not in ways one would hope. He has not aged since the fifth season finale, a side-effect of Aku sending him into the future.
He may not be older, but he did grow a beard so he looks more grizzly and mature. He traded his Aku-killing sword for every other weapon he can get his callused hands on. He starts the first episode riding a black motorcycle in heavy black armor, wielding guns and more guns. It sounds edgy, but it works!
The new season does a terrific job of advancing the original Samurai Jack story to a satisfying conclusion. It also raises the stakes by stripping Jack of the only thing that can defeat Aku, therefore also stripping him of all hope. However, the best improvement this new season has accomplished is the animation quality and background art. The new season keeps Samurai Jack’s recognizable and gorgeous animation while drastically improving its quality.
Thirteen years have really advanced the abilities of animation studios, and the new Samurai Jack reflects how far animation has come. Each action-packed, thought-provoking episode bounces from one stunning set-piece to another. Jack battles the Daughters of Aku in a decaying temple one episode and a snow-covered forest the next. The new season of Samurai Jack is spectacular, improving on everything that made the original a classic while also advancing the narrative.