Afro Samurai

Alright. I'm gonna say it. I don't get why this is so damn popular. It's interesting, and it looks cool; I'm not saying it's bad at all. But the blood and gore has been done before in things like Blood and Ninja Scroll. And the hip hop samurai stuff has also been done, and done better in my opinion, in Samurai Champloo. So all Afro Samurai really has going for it is Samuel L. Jackson, a so-so plot full of holes, and it's unique animation style.

Afro Samurai follows a samurai called the Afro Samurai (bet you didn't see that one coming) on his journey to avenge the death of his father. In this futuristic (with feudal elements) view of Japan, there exists a person known as Number One, the best fighter in the land. Once Number One claims his title and near god like status, he waits until the day the Number Two comes to take the title away. Only the Number Two has the right to challenge the Number One, so the Number Two's journey is filled with fighters attempting to take the title so they can challenge Number One. These titles are represented by sacred headbands depicting the warrior's number.

In this story, Afro is the Number Two. The Number One is a gunman named Justice who killed the previous Number One, Afro's father, when Afro was a small child. Afro devotes the rest of his life to training with his father's sword in order to find the Number Two headband so that he can go after Number One (Justice). And that's basically the whole story. A good chunk of the 5 episode series is made up of flash backs of Afro as a child training in a dojo. It is in this dojo that he meets the young girl Otsuru, the Sword Master, and the young man Jinno. They all have roles in his future life. The Sword Master trains him, and both Otsuru and Jinno reappear (as opposition) during his journey to defeat Justice. As Justice makes very few appearances, most of Afro's trouble comes from a group of monks called the Empty 7 - six monks who are trying to defeat Afro so they can kill Number One and have the power of both headbands. Keeping Afro company and offering him tactical advice is Ninja Ninja, an enigmatic character who seems to be some sort of spirit, or possibly a figment of Afro's imagination.

It's not a bad show, but I don't really get why it's such a pop culture phenomenom. I'm sure Sammy L. (who does an excellent job voicing both Afro and Ninja Ninja) helps; after all he's a culture phenomenom all on his own. I certainly don't feel like I would be missing out if I hadn't seen it. Which, if you haven't noticed, is my way of saying "It's a decent watch, but nothing to get uppity about." The RZA (Kill Bill) did the music. It IS really well animated, and has a very distinct and unique style. Though it strikes me as odd that casual fans (or people who aren't anime fans at all) enjoy the artsy look of the show. Though I'm sure the rather graphic and completely unnecessary sex scene helps.

FUNimation has released two versions of the show on DVD. A "Spike TV" cut, which I guess is the edited for TV version, though I'm unsure why anyone would want that. And the "director's cut" which is unedited. There's also a recent sequel called Afro Samurai: Ressurection, in which some people who died are ressurected so that they can die again. Hooray.
There's also a video game.


Justin Atkinson said...

I didn't like it either. You actually mentioned some positives that I wouldn't agree with. The typical "BMF" Sam Jackson voice acting was boring, and sometimes even obnoxious.

Kris said...

Well, to be perfectly honest, I did think there was too much "black" in it. Like all the members of the Empty 7 had "black" voices...but they all looked white to me, lol.

Afro barely has any lines at all, but I thought Sam's voice worked just fine for Ninja Ninja. Although a lot of the series was too reminiscent of The Boondocks cartoon for me, which I hated.

Anyway, I'm really glad I'm not the only one who doesn't understand all the hype.

unit-1978 said...

Hey Kris, I think the fascination of this is yeah you have Afro who is a black samurai being the "hero". I thought it was ok, not the greatest but not bad either. I look at it more kinda like an action movie. You dont watch it for the acting or story you just watch it to see people die and stuff blow up. On the whole urban side of things I think nothing will ever touch Samurai Champloo.

I liked Afro Samurai but I wouldnt consider it some kind of classic or anything, I think its just more of an acquired taste type anime. Im not a huge Boondocks fan either but I think thats the market they were going for. Personally I think they could have put any black guy voice in there, but seeing the market they were gearing it for Samuel's voice and all that stuff hits its mark.

xJAYMANx said...

@Kris-chan: Heyyy! I finally made it! (Well, after replying to your Toybox comments, lol.) But you're right, similar to the "K-On!" phenomenon, there isn't really anything mind-shatteringly new with "Afro". But like u said, it's stylish. And has Samuel L. Jackson. Who always brings something interesting into any project he chooses. Since my tastes are super-broad anyway, it's a plus in my book... I'll just have to overlook your teeny-tiny "Resurrection" mini-spoiler, hahaha. ^_^

P.S. So, finished "BSG" yet? Because after u do, you'll have to catch the new "Caprica" prequel pilot. Most impressive!

Kris said...

The Boondocks market? Probably. It seems like it would fit in with the same group of people.

I like "mind-shattering new" anime. :) If something doesn't impress me, it just kind of feels like a waste of time. Or, like I said, worth a watch, but not really worth discussing, watching again, or ever spending money on.

Noooo I haven't finished BSG. And I thought the Caprica thing was going straight to DVD. I keep seeing DVD commercials for it anyway.

xJAYMANx said...

@Kris-chan: Haha, just because it's going straight to DVD, doesn't mean it isn't already downloadable from the web!... But yeah, if u want "impressive", check out the first episode of "Dennou Coil". Could fit the bill, lol.

Anonymous said...

Just 5 episodes? Well I guess I could give it a try then- it can't be as bad as Animatrix... hopefully=.=;

Kris said...

Yeah. It's presented sort of as a film. It's just a film that happens to be broken up with 4-5 credit sequences.