40: Samurai versus Ninja!
I had to tell you about my all time favorite animated series – Samurai Jack! It originally aired from 2001 to 2004 on Cartoon Network. In England I watched it on Toonami. (I’d rather not mention that the series was never finished and Cartoon Network unceremoniously pulled it of air!!!! )
It was epic, in every sense of the word. Genndy Tartakovsky and his team did an amazing job! The plot was very simple, an unnamed Samurai Warrior whose mission it was to defeat Aku – a shape shifting master of darkness, hell bent on taking over the place, gets thrown into the future just as he is about make the final blow. In this future Aku’s evil is law and this Samurai has a price on his head so he must keep himself alive and try and get back to the past to stop this from ever happening!
Here’s the informative and catchy intro/theme song
What I love about this charming, lighthearted awesome action series is its simplicity and sophistication. Each episode consistently has a minimal amount of dialogue, (which just doesn’t happen nowadays!) which means the visual and musical elements have to compensate…and boy do they!
Each of its outline free, artistic, clutter free and well-composed frames are paced to perfection, its split screen framing detailing each slice, blow, kick and punch, with the soundtrack, using all manner of eastern sounds mixed with western electronic influences, exploding and silencing to heighten each moment.
The look and feel of the series has influences of the styles of the Avant Garde, Akira Kurosawa and Fritz Lang to name a few. Eastern philosophy and the way of the Samurai definitely are a running theme throughout.
I have many favorite episodes, some which are 8: Jack verse Mad Jack, 11: Jack and the Scotsman…actually I’d rather not go down this path because I will be here all night…the episode that I want to share with you is 40: Samurai verse Ninja. In this episode Aku sends a Ninja after Jack hoping his mastery of stealth will get the better of him.
This marvelous sequence is of the battle between them both. It shows everything I love about Samurai Jack – a great environment to stage the battle, wonderful angles in the backgrounds and action sequences, beautifully minimal colour work highlighting the Shinobi’s control over the dark and Jack’s control of the light as well as the whole good versus evil metaphor, the time frame of the sun setting creating tension and the amazing music and expertly used silence…oh and the miniscule dialogue! This episode alone is worth the 4 Emmys that this series won!