You don’t know Samurai Jack

Samurai Jack Model Sheet


Cartoon Network’s newest animated series
brings a new look to action-adventure shows

“Samurai Jack,” a new cartoon from Genndy Tartakovsky, the same mind that created “Powerpuff Girls” and “Dexter’s Laboratory”, will have its Cartoon Network debut on Aug. 10, 2001, at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Lucky for me, I got to see the first episode a little early, thanks to the AOL Time-Warner marketing juggernaut.

The series is the story of a samurai from ancient times who’s been flung along with his magical sword into a “Bladerunner”-styled future where flying cars and giant robot bugs are commonplace. (And what kind of world would this be if it weren’t a lot like “Bladerunner?” Wouldn’t it be funny if the world was like the future depicted in something like “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century?” You know, a world where all the robots were voiced by recordings of Mel Blanc?)

Samurai Jack Villain

Samurai Jack

Our hero, Jack, arrives in a world that’s still lorded over by his enemy from the past, Aku (Voiced by the great Asian-American actor Mako), a shape-shifting sorcerer who’s the embodiment of every funky supervillain from the comic industry’s Golden Age. That is he does bad things just because he can and he has all sorts of nebulous powers that let him do every thing from growing forty-stories-tall to shooting fire from his eyes.

Jack (voiced by Phil La Marr) on the other hand is your atypical stoic hero. He hardly says a word through the first episode, but his diamond-shaped eyes and actions tell you what he’s thinking. He’s a samurai that’s ready for anything, because he’s been trained in practically every discipline there is — astronomy, horsemanship, archery, martial arts, sailing and even a little math, philosophy and history.

You don’t know “Samurai Jack”

The most interesting thing about this series is that it was created by Tartakovsky, and you can see his unique animation style shining through on this series, which is primarly an action-adventure story. His characters have a look that’s faintly reminds me of Dexter and his other creations, but he’s still quite clearly the badass of the bunch. This may mean that we’ve finally moved the need for action heroes to be so anatomically correct (as in toons like “Spider-man” and “G.I. Joe”) and even DC comics “animated” style. Heck, he isn’t even the least bit barrel-chested. This hero is distinctly different in the way he’s built. Granted he has a touch of all these styles, and even an Anime feel, but its still a unique look.

On top of the slightly askew character style is an even stranger look for the backgrounds,. Designed by Dan Krall, trees aren’t just trees any more. Now they have branches that do loopity-loops. Mountains aren’t just mounds of dirt and rocks. Instead, they shoot like daggers into the sky.

Samurai Jack sketch

Samurai Jack

Then, add all that into a funky soundtrack that’s full of ancient Asian themes and modern techno-inspired grooves and you’ve really got a cartoon that’s set out to be something different.

Probably the thing I enjoyed most of all was the pacing of “Samurai Jack”. The cartoon has dramatic pauses, long looks and minutes upon minutes without any dialogue whatsoever. It lets the viewer tell the story inside his own head. It lets you feel the emotion, without anyone saying “Gosh, I feel happy” or “Owww, that hurt.”

Its an accomplishment like that that proves that “Samurai Jack” is a cut above the rest.

After it’s 90-minute-long Friday, Aug. 10 debut, “Samurai Jack” switches over to Monday nights at 8 p.m.




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