It’s been over 10 years since Samurai Jack ruled the TV screens of Cartoon Network and then left without a conclusion. Fans never thought they’d get to see the what happened to the badass sword wielding Samurai lost in the dystopic future created by Genndy Tartakovsky.
If you think you’re going to get the same Samurai Jack you did about a decade ago, you’re in for quite the surprise. The move to Adult Swim immediately tipped me off that this season will be a change from the usual Jack adventure. The first episode, “XCII,’” sets the tone of the whole season of Samurai Jack and I am so excited for it.
Part of the point of Samurai Jack was always that Jack was something a clean slate. While he goes through a huge character development and has an insane competence, and above all, his silence, made it hard to latch on to him as something deeper or more complex than a cool, occasionally troubled hero. Now, though, 50 years after he was sent to the future, Samurai Jack’s dedication is wearing thin. Even though it happened thousands of years ago, the suffering of Jack’s ancestors has finally caught up to him.
Jack is a hero by destiny, but that doesn’t stop him from going through all of the sufferings. Still, he is capable of saving individuals singled out by Aku’s forces, here he’s confronted with countless pained souls screaming in agony as the direct result of the demon reign. It’s a powerful critique of the concept of the show. Jack’s resilience is what keeps him moving, but it also kept him single-mindedly focused on his goal, without spending much time contemplating the disastrous consequences of Aku’s initial victory voice on the phone. “Everything is burning,” the specter of Jack’s father tells him.
The most noticeable change in this season is the treatment of Aku. He is nowhere to be seen in episode 1. Instead, we meet a group of seven women warriors, painfully, ritualistically born to hunt down Jack, have seemingly replaced him as the primary antagonists. The scene of their birth, surrounded by nebulas of light and shrouded in screams, is something a bit more horrifying than the show has been in the past.
The fight with Scaramouche, a ridiculous villain who nevertheless manages to be pretty imposing, is by far the closest “XCII” gets to classic Jack. And it’s a delight to watch, especially when the robot starts using a sword that essentially works like a tuning fork, blowing up anything it touches after a few seconds. In the middle of the fight we start to notice that Jack is all tired and having some mental difficulties. I love Samurai Jack’s action sequences, but something tells me this season will spend a bit more time on character development.
Final score – 10 out of 10
PS: Thank you Adultswim for giving Samurai Jack back to the fans