Sixteen years ago, a surreal little animated show known as ‘Samurai Jack’ graced our television screens and immediately differentiated itself from many of its contemporaries by boasting stylized animation, great storytelling, memorable characters, weird yet wonderfully crafted locales, a noble protagonist with ever so few words and a threatening yet oddly fun antagonist. This show went on for four seasons, during which it garnered favorable reception from critics and fans alike and then it came to an end. Jack’s journey was left incomplete and many people wondered for years whether he would ever come to realize his goal, however those doubts were finally put to rest as after almost thirteen years since the show last aired, Jack is back for one last season to close the tale on his epic journey.
Fifty years have passed in the show’s world since we last saw Jack and the long period of time has taken a toll on our hero. Broken, without hope and no sword, he’s in a rough spot (to say the least) as the first episode opens up but over the course of the season, he is propelled to regain what he had once lost and his final quest provides an incredible tale for us to witness. This season is the first and only of ‘Samurai Jack’ to abandon its episodic format and follow through with a season long arc. Though only ten episodes in length, the writers manage to weave together a strong and compelling narrative and though the pacing (mostly towards the latter half of the season) and story beats may falter at times, the overall quality and execution of its story-line remains topnotch and consistent all through its run.
Jack has suffered a lot during these fifty years which has caused him to lose faith in himself and his way. He is in far more pain and anguish than he had ever been before but this Jack is still the Jack we once knew and as such even with all that’s happened he still retains a lot of the qualities that made him such an endearing character during previous seasons. This season sees him try to get back not just his sword but also the man he once was and reaffirm his mission. But though the show may be called ‘Samurai Jack’, this time we have another person in the central role, one of the ‘Daughters of Aku’, Ashi.
Ashi was only introduced this season but has nonetheless steadily climbed her way up as one of the best characters in the show. A fierce fighter with a strong willed persona, she starts off her journey on a misguided path but as the season progresses, she is able to see the light through her encounter with the samurai which leads her down a path of self-realization and a strengthened confidence in who she is. Both of them have wonderfully executed character arcs and their chemistry and bond with each other make up the heart of this season.
Due to Ashi’s introduction and the overall plot of the season, Aku, the shape-shifting master of darkness, doesn’t really get much screen-time this go around but is absolutely wonderful (and often hilarious) in each of the scenes that he’s in. The season also bring back many of the characters Jack had aided throughout his journey thus far and also introduces us to ‘Best villain of 2017’, Scaramouche (BABE!).To put it simply, the show’s grasp of its characters and narrative is as strong as it always has been.
Samurai Jack is a show that has always been praised for its beautiful artwork and slick animation and as such its move to HD has only served to highlight these qualities. The soundtrack this season has has also been on point throughout with ‘Episode 2’ being a particular peak in this area. The voice acting is similarly splendid with Phil LaMarr, reprising is role as Jack, and Tara Strong as Ashi both delivering strong performances as the season’s main duo. Mako Iwamatsu, the voice of Aku in the previous seasons has sadly, passed away but his replacement, Greg Baldwin does a fantastic job in the role, managing to perfectly capture Aku’s malicious yet entertaining demeanor.
Fifty years have passed in Jack’s world and thirteen in ours, yet nothing has really changed. ‘Samurai Jack’ proved itself to be an incredible piece of animated television when it first came to be and now it has finally come to a heartfelt conclusion, holding strong to all the things that have made it great through the years. This final season was a testament to the show’s strengths and whether you’ve never heard of Jack’s tale or are filled with countless wonderful memories of its stellar episodes from your childhood (like me), this is a show worthy of your time and I wholeheartedly recommend it to all who read this piece.