I watched Samurai Jack when I was a kid and absolutely adored it. In fact, my family watched it together for at least the first season. But after that, sports and other things caught up to me and, like many kids, I couldn’t keep track of when a show was supposed to be on, so I didn’t watch all of it. Then, I later found out it never truly finished and was sad. But after that, they came back and finished off the series with a 5th season, and I was all in on watching it all. I used some Christmas money a year or two ago to grab the complete series and have been watching it while working out. I just finished Season 1 and wanted to share my thoughts and hopefully hear your own on this great series. There will be SPOILERS for season 1 in this post.
Samurai Jack watched his country get destroyed by the evil Aku, an extremely powerful sorceror who had been banished for many years. This time around, after much training, Samurai Jack brings Aku to the brink of defeat, only to be tricked by the wicked creature and sent far into the future–a future in which Aku rules everything with an iron fist. The question in the show is–can Jack get back to the past and stop Aku’s evil before it happens?
Review of Season 1
Season 1 is filled with fantastic episodes and absolutely stunning beauty. The first episode, “The Beginning” has a lengthy montage of scenes showing Samurai Jack training with many different traditions around the world. There is no dialogue, just beautiful scenery and music. It’s stunning.
The fourth episode is another major highlight. In “Jack, the Woolies, and the Chritchellites,” Jack is welcomed by the Chritchellites, who appear to be a somewhat rude but otherwise harmless species. They use creatures called the Woolies to get around and do basically all of the work. But one of the Woolies reaches out to Jack in its pain and fear, seeing someone who might help their plight. It turns out the Critchellites have been using the achievements of the Woolies, and they have been oppressing the Woolies ever since. Jack joins forces with the Woolies to free them from the wicked Critchellites and send them away.
The very next episode, “Jack in Space,” has a delightfully retro feel. It’s like Jack meets the Jetsons, and he trains as an astronaut to defend a group of renegade spacers who promise to help him shift back in time. Unfortunately, Jack gets to a point where he must choose between their escape and his own ends, and Jack chooses to save his newfound friends. He watches his hope for going back to the past fly away, but he has accomplished another good in the here and now. Frankly, this is a recurring theme of the whole series so far–Jack is forced to choose between his own fight with Aku and saving or helping people now. Time and again, he chooses to help those in need now. But is that the best choice? Should he instead commit everything to going back to the past and stopping all the evil before it gets the chance to begin? The show is short on dialogue so it, at least in this season, doesn’t tell us much about what will happen. But it’s interesting to wonder about the ethical situation Jack is in.
“Jack and the Warrior Woman” is another fantastic episode with great music, wonderful art, and a predictable but fun plot twist. Jack appears to be falling for the Warrior Woman on their quest together to claim a jewel, but it turns out the woman is in fact Aku, who has manipulated Jack in aiding him in his nefarious gains. In “Jack and the Three Blind Archers,” Jack faces a formidable, seemingly impossible foe, but he manages to defeat them only to discover they’ve been cursed by the very wishing well Jack sought to use to get back home. Instead of using a wish to get back to the past, he defeats the well itself, breaking the curse. “Jack Under the Sea” has stunning vistas of the underwater realms, and features more moral dilemmas both for Jack and the people of the ocean. “Jack and the Lava Monster” sees Jack’s inner peace tested like never before (okay, well maybe in “Jack vs. Mad Jack”) as he is forced to battle a Viking Warrior’s trapped soul. The scene of release for the warrior is emotionally impactful in ways you would not expect from a cartoon. “Jack and the Gangsters” is a funny take on a kind of mob scene with Jack.
The other episodes I haven’t mentioned are good as well, though maybe not quite as good. Overall, Season 1 is stunning viewing, though occasionally repetitive. The art blew me away time and again, but there were a few other times where it felt like the same background rehashed with robots getting slashed to bits. Nevertheless, I would rate this season very highly. It’s fantastic viewing, and great for working out to!
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