Thoughts on "Afro Samurai"

Is this post hypocritical, given that just a few days ago I was extolling the virtues of not watching TV?


I caught the 12:30am showing at the behest of a friend who saw it earlier and told me it was cool. I muted the television and walked away during most commercials. Watching what looked like a full trailer for a new Mark Wahlberg/Danny Glover action movie while muted was absolutely riveting. Actually, it was just kind of weird.

The show. Let me tell you what I know about it. We'll start with the stuff I learned from Wikipedia!

Luckily, it's only five episodes long, so if I do get into it, I'll only be watching it for a short while. Shows that don't run indefinitely are a great thing, in my opinion. It's sad to see a show that is "milked" long after all of the creative ideas are gone, just because people have grown to like the characters and it makes a lot of money.

This show is based on a Japanese manga of the same name. The animation is being done by a Japanese animation studio called GONZO. The actual script of the show appears to be done specifically for an American audience, which makes sense given the high-profile American voice actors like Ron Perlman (Hellboy; I didn't see this, but I read a lot of the comics recently and it's a great comic if you like the occult or any kind of world mythology. He's done a LOT of voice acting work, though.) and Samuel L. Jackson (are you joking?) that were cast for the show. More on that later. It's good that Americans didn't try and fuck with Japanese-style animation, because that usually ends very poorly. The show uses low levels of light and a drab color scheme that includes many shades of gray. These...effects are used to evoke the feeling that Afro walks around in a cold and unfriendly world, and that he is totally disaffected and numb. This isn't to say that the show is entirely devoid of humor. I laughed heartily a few times. More on that later.

The action sequences in the first episode were very well done. Lots of stylized violence, which is typical of the genre. For example, in the process of dispatching twenty heavily-armed men who have surrounded him, Afro slices a bullet that was fired at him, and the shrapnel kills four of the men. What more is there to say? The action was just straight up entertaining to watch, and I have a feeling that it's the action that's going to keep people from picking up their remotes and changing the channel.

In the first episode, the show has set up some really good stuff that will come into play in later episodes. There were some mysterious and intriguing characters introduced, most of whom, I would guess, are potential villains. I'm guessing that they're villains based on how they were sitting in a circle in almost complete darkness and plotting shit, and they each of them looked like they had some kind of weird and unique power.

Oh, and then there's Afro's sidekick.

Both Afro and his sidekick are voiced by Samuel L. Jackson. This is just fucking great. These characters each display one of the two main things Jackson is known for. For the majority of this first episode, the only character who seems important is Afro, who is totally serious about everything, speaks very curtly, and cuts things. Five minutes before the end of the episode, we're abruptly introduced to his sidekick, Ninja Ninja. This guy embodies the hilarious, loudmouthed qualities of Jackson. "Afro! Don't fight this fucker! He's got arrows and grenades and shit!" (Quote taken from the Afro Samurai homepage). This was great for me, because I enjoy few things more than hearing Samuel L. Jackson go off about something at length. Just really excellent color-commentary juxtaposed with the serious side of him, but two totally different characters are used to display the two sides of the actor.

It's a good show, and I'd recommend it if you have ever liked Anime or Samuel L. Jackson at any point. It takes the really entertaining parts of both of these entities, and centers around them. And remember, it's only five episodes long, for crying out loud.


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