|Number of episodes||10 (Episodes 53 – 63)|
* Note: This review is actively being updated as more episodes premiere. A final verdict won’t happen until the final episode comes.
Man oh man oh man oh man OH MAN OH MAN OH MAAAAAAN!
Samurai Jack, Season 5. Holy shit. When I first saw the trailer, my inner child shat bricks.
Samurai Jack began airing in late 2001 on Cartoon Network, after creator Genndy Tartakovsky had himself well established with Dexter’s Laboratory. It ran for four seasons up until late 2004, where the series ended on an anti-climactic note. And mysteriously, we got no more new episodes.
In 2002, we were promised a whole Samurai Jack movie after Cartoon Network tried to give its most popular series at the time their own feature-length movies. But because The Powerpuff Girls Movie barely got its money back from the box office during the same year (despite the TV show’s popularity), the movie didn’t get the greenlight. But eventually, the greenlight did happen in 2006. So we waited and waited and waited and waited…
Sadly, the movie never came. We got comics as a continuation (which are now considered non-canon) and Tartakovsky finally confirmed that the movie didn’t make it. But then… that trailer happened with the tagline:
Jack is Back.
I… AGGGGGHHHHHHHHH! MYYYY HEEAAAAAAAARRRRRTTT!!!!!!
Season 5. Not just a return of a great series back on Cartoon Network, but a transition to an older audience. That’s right, the kid’s gloves are off now. We’re viewing Samurai Jack on [adult swim]. Bloodier, darker, badass… er… This was one of my favorite cartoons of my childhood, so I am really happy to see it’s finally getting a true conclusion.
Okay, I am writing this portion while Genndy and his wife Dawn were performing their live Q&A. I could have sworn the first caller just said, “GTFO,” with a crappy microphone as a salty response. And I heard another girl say, “Aku spinoff when?” Do people English anymore?
And so comes 9:30 PM of 3/11/17, where [adult swim] livestreams a marathon of the season premiere. And so, I shall do my duty as an “unprofessional” to review Season 5. And my reviewing style: FULL of spoilers. So if you haven’t seen the episodes yet, get the hell out of here and WATCH THEM. Or if you don’t care or have already watched them, keep reading.
For those who have already seen the teaser footage of Season 5, you will be seeing some familiar stuff. A family of aliens was attacked by Aku’s beetle drones until a masked badass with a motorcycle comes charging in and wrecks their shit. This segment is well animated and the masked warrior demonstrates some really impressive choreography, until the final reveal that he is a much older Samurai Jack. But not exactly the Jack we knew, but a much more tech savvy and discouraged Jack who can now use modern weaponry. For fifty years, he had been stuck in Aku’s futuristic world.
So Jack saves the alien family and goes on his merry way. Then we get a series of sub-plots: Jack losing his sanity due to his strong guilt in failing his destiny (possibly caused by a third party), a cultist band of seven women assassins being raised specifically to kill Jack, Jack having lost his trusty Infinity -1 sword, and a battle between Jack and “Aku’s most favorite assassin, babe.”
There is certainly a lot going on. But strangely enough, the minimal exposition and brilliant visual storytelling make it pretty easy to gain context from what is going on, even if you haven’t watched the previous episodes of the series.
The imagery in this episode is noticeably darker than we’ve seen in typical past Samurai Jack episodes. There’s a sequence where a woman gives birth to SEVEN babies while she screams bloody murder. Multiple sequences where Jack is haunted by the ghosts of his parents, children and villagers from his homeland. A series of child abuse scenes where young girls are being beaten by this gigantic masked woman. Even scenes where women were impaled in the head by arrows.
Okay, my final thoughts: HOLY FUCKING SHIT THAT WAS SO HARDCORE!
Jack’s emotional turmoil is real here. Those hallucinations are some top notch grim dark stuff.
Furthermore, the action sequences and fighting choreography are noticeably more creative this time around. There was the beginning fight sequence with the beetle drones and the battle between Jack and that Swedish/Danish/some-sort-of-Scandinavian robot assassin named Scaramouche the Merciless. Though it’s unfortunate he doesn’t last long, Scaramouche is quite an entertaining villain and a welcome throwback to past hammy villains in the series.
And of course, we got the subplot of the women cult worshiping Aku as a god, simply known as the Cult of Aku. And the cult raised seven nearly identical women to become assassins specifically trained to kill Samurai Jack, given the name of the Daughters of Aku. It’s definitely some creepy stuff and it builds up interest for the following episodes to come.
However, I am rather confused by one thing. If the lives of those women assassins occurred for the entirety of the episode, that would mean some super-aging process is going on. They literally began as babies at the beginning of the episode and ended as fully grown adults at the end. I am rather curious to what this all means.
Overall, Season 5 is off to a great start and I can’t wait to see what happens next. So sing this with me…
JACK IS BACK! JACK IS BACK! JACK IS BACK!
The episode begins with the big bad Aku waking up from his sleep. Literally, he had an alarm clock set up. He even had to take out his GREAT, FLAMING EYEBROWS and put them on like a pair of glasses. I guess even the Shogun of Sorrow would get back problems eventually from years of resting in a pit.
It’s definitely one of the most mundane and surreal scenes we’ve seen from Aku yet. Through talking (to himself), we learned that Aku had personally destroyed all of the time portals in the world to seal off Jack’s fate. Despite that, Aku knew the Samurai was still wandering the earth, which still bothers him. Through some temporal anomaly, Jack doesn’t age normally, which is why he still remained in peak fighting condition after fifty years.
Meanwhile, Jack is out having a drive and ends up getting ambushed by the largest beetle drone yet. Which he kills in seconds. Really comes to show how incompetent those things are.
But Jack has bigger fish to fry. He walks into another ambush, this time set by the seven Daughters of Aku. Clearly, their training had paid off as they managed to destroy Jack’s armor and weapons with superhuman precision.
While Jack goes into hiding, he has a debate with his past self, who is fed up with staying in the future timeline. Yes, even Jack is talking to himself like Aku did earlier—though we were already convinced that Jack is “not all there” from the last episode. The older Jack tries to convince himself that his opponents are “just nuts and bolts,” so he moves out of his hiding place to confront his assassins.
So through an extended chase sequence, Jack flees to a temple during a stormy day. The Daughters of Aku spread out to try and find him. This is easily one of the most intense sequences in the show yet. His assassins were so close in nabbing him, yet barely missing him.
And holy shit! He actually killed one of them, by slicing her throat! Up until this point, Jack killed off robots and supernatural beings with extreme prejudice, and only managed to injure organic beings.
Jack, using Scaramouche’s explosive dagger from the last episode, manages to cover his own escape. But the Daughter he killed managed to stick a dagger into his stomach, and Jack floats away on a river while his blood spreads out.
There was also a subplot of a white wolf (who most likely represents Jack himself) fighting off a pack of large alien beasts (possibly the Daughters of Aku). By the end of the episode, the wolf and the beasts are lying on the ground, drenched in a puddle of blood.
Man. Talk about a shift in tone. It’s really weird seeing Aku not being in the antagonistic spotlight, being reduced a downtrodden spectator who hadn’t met his arch-nemesis for a long time. At this point in the series, the Cult of Aku seems to be the more antagonistic force out there. A group of female worshipers who probably don’t receive any direct acknowledgement from Aku himself. And they weren’t alien or machine either. They’re human.
And just for the fact that they were human and never took orders from Aku himself, as well as brainwashing several women that Jack is pure evil since their childhood, the twisted nature speaks for itself.
That whole chase sequence was beautifully animated and well paced. It’s actually quite rare to see Jack being on the run rather than being on the battlefield. If his allies were in trouble, he would stay behind and help them. If his enemies were giving him trouble, he would usually stand his ground and pull off a miracle to win his battles. He rarely enters a full retreat.
But this time, Jack’s life was in serious danger and he did whatever he could to survive. Even though he’s ageless, he is still mortal. It’s to the point where he ended up killing another human, which he never did in the past seasons. After all, he was specifically raised to be the hope for mankind and to be the one to purge the ultimate evil. In any other circumstance, he would never take a life of another human being.
So yes, this episode is phenomenal. It’s one of the few times where Jack meets his match to the point where he doesn’t really “win,” but just leave within an inch of his life. And again, that whole temple sequence was just fun to watch.
There are only eight episodes left of this? Damn it. I have a feeling that I’m going to be wanting more after we’re through with this season.