“Gotta get back. Back to the past. Samurai Jack. Watch out!” In 2001, these lyrics were a part of the opening to a brand new animated show that combined classic samurai films with science fiction, mythology, and pop culture. It was called Samurai Jack and it starred the titular character as a warrior whose mission was to go back in time to defeat the manifestation of evil, Aku. The show was created by Gennedy Tartakovsky who was already famous for his previous work Dexter’s Laboratory. Samurai Jack was a huge hit on Cartoon Network and was met with critical and financial success. The show was known for its superb art style, dynamic action scenes, and film-quality storytelling.
Every episode felt like its own short film and would feature various themes and references. There was a humorous episode that was dedicated to classic gangster films and there was somber one dedicated to Lone Wolf and Cub. There was even one episode that was an obvious reference to My Neighbor Totoro by having Jack accompany a creature that looked and mildly acted like the title character of that movie.
While it was fun to pick out the references, the true visceral enjoyment came from the action scenes. One of my favorite episodes was when Jack fought a ninja and they used lightness and darkness to combat one another. That action scene emphasized lighting which I had never seen in a cartoon before. The show had a pretty good run with fifty-two episodes but it ended without a resolution. A film was in talks but it never came to fruition. There was a comic series that took place directly after the series but it was not considered a true resolution. (The comics are great by the way.)
Now, we have finally gotten what we have been waiting for with the fifth and final season of Samurai Jack. The final season will be on Adult Swim and will have a much more mature tone.
Looking at the trailer, it is apparent that the action and art style that Genndy Tartovsky established in the previous seasons will be brought back but with more blood and gore. There are scenes of graphic violence and at one point we see Jack get severely wounded. He also looks more world-weary having lived fifty years in that world and not succeeding in his quest. There are also moments of mental anguish as we see Jack struggling with himself internally over his purpose. It would be interesting to see if they have decided to erode some his honor code and stoicism; like performing a morally ambiguous act to fulfill a goal. In a way, it’s a good thing that it took so long to create this series. Fans, including myself, are old enough to appreciate the mature tone that was needed to evolve this story. Samurai Jack finally has the restrictions taken off that the previous seasons had and now we can finally see what Genndy Tartakovsky can really do.
The final season will air Saturday, March, 11th at 11:00 pm ET/PT on Adult Swim.