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In a strange world of swords, guns and kimonos, cell phones and cybernetic body parts - a black samurai, Afro Samurai, seeks revenge from a man named Justice who killed his father and also happens to be the #1 fighter in the world. After Afro earns the rank of #2 fighter needed to challenge the #1, he starts his lonely walk to revenge. He faces bounty hunters, bar thugs and fanatical monks - all of whom seem to have clues to the whereabouts of Justice and all of whom covet the position of #2 for themselves. Also along the way we are introduced to Afro's chatty companion - the light hearted Ninja Ninja. Written by
Afro Samurai started as life as manga before animation studio GONZO adapted the story into a five episode series that premiered online January 1 2007.
Like most contemporary anime, Afro Samurai is another exercise in culture jamming, straddling genres as diverse as Blaxploitation, kung-fu cinema, splatter flicks, western and, of course, Japanese animation. Samuel L. Jackson lends his talents in the voice department, and is also credited as one of the shows producers.
The plot revolves around Afro - nicknamed after his hairstyle - a perpetually silent and bloodthirsty master swordsman, whose quest involves exacting bloody revenge on the man who killed his father, and claiming the title of 'Number One'; a warrior whose powers are comparable to those of a god. Given only five episodes to work with, structure is pretty tight here, so there are no filler episodes or meandering off-sides or tangents to distract from the narrative's focus. Although the series seems to lack that 'epic' journey feel, episodes are never anti-climactic; this is a relief to the casual anime viewer who just wants to get to the carnage.
And carnage there is a-plenty. The plot of Afro Samurai is really just an after thought; it's the fight scenes that are really the star of the show here. A word to the squeamish: Afro Samurai is one of the bloodiest, goriest and most anatomically detailed anime series on the market, so if you've got stomach issues with splatter flicks, avoid this one like syphilis. If, however, high-definition animated gore-porn is your thing, Afro Samurai will not disappoint. Each fight scene is beautifully choreographed and fluidly animated to deliver some truly jaw-dropping, gut-wrenching, wince "oh man, that's gotta hurt"-inducing scenes of unadulterated devastation on the human body. Be-heading, disemboweling and eye-stabbing are just an entrée.
The only thing wrong with Afro Samurai is that it's all over too soon. Most anime fans are used to more meat on the bones, so for many the narrative will feel underdone and the characters under-developed. This is probably a side-effect of the show's creators attempting to cross anime over to a mainstream Western audience, but, in doing so, seem to have sacrificed content for carnage. And while carnage seems to be the whole point of Afro Samurai, five episodes is still remarkably short. Although the series swiftly resolves itself in a fairly predictable way, there is an immense potential for spin-off projects (there's a movie rumor already doing the rounds in cyberspace) and the show itself is re-watchable many times over, if only to sample the audacious ultra-violence again and again. For those of you with an unquenchable blood-lust, Afro Samurai will have you screaming with delight.
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