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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
alright, so i've real a lot of negative reviews of this show on here. Well kids, i'm going to defend this show, because there's a lot too it you guys are missing out on.
Afro Samurai is the new anime produced by and starring Mr. Samuel L. Jackson, as well as high end voice talent like Phil LaMarr of Samurai Jack fame, and Ron Perlman, the man who is and will always be Hellboy.
Like the great works of Shinichiro Watanabe, this work employs heavily the influence of western culture, specifically black western culture, which i suppose makes sense considering our stoic protagonist. now when i say black western culture, i'm not just talking about hip-hop music, i'm talking about Blaxploitation as well.
for those of you who don't know, Blaxploitation was a sub-genre of the 70's Exploitation films that dominated the drive-in scene during that period of American cinema history. the most famous and accessible Blaxploitation films these days are probably the Dolemite series of films, the Shaft series, or the classic Sweet Sweetback's Badass Song. these films were, for the most part terrible, but they influenced a generation of post-civil rights urban youth struggling to find an identity into action. they were stylish, fun, and gave an overall message of standing up for yourself and being proud of who you are, despite their inherent sexism, these films were the Noir flicks of their day, gritty and edgy and bleeding style. theaters in the 70's that would carry Exploitation and Blaxploitation films also carried many Kung Fu and Samurai films, so when 70's funk culture evolved into hip hop culture, it wasn't so shocking that the children who idolized Sweet Sweetback, also pulled influence from Yojimbo and Zoatichi, in fact, one of those children of influence even did the score for Afro Samurai - The RZA of The Wu Tang Clan, a seminal rap group that not only incorporated samurai and kung fu films into their lyrics, but into the music itself as well.
Okay, History lesson over, the reason i wanted to make you read all that is so that you have a better idea of where Afro Samurai is coming from, it is, for all intents and purposes, the coming together of cultures that are not, and have never been so far apart as you may think. a lot of people are also calling Afro-Samurai a child of the spaghetti western genre, which i suppose is true, but it must also be understood that the spaghetti western was heavily influenced by samurai films before them. Sergio Leone probably wouldn't even have a career if it wasn't for Akira Kurosowa's films.
Now, onto the show itself. Afro Samurai is incredibly simple, but i say that in the most endearing way possible. being convoluted is not a prerequisite of having substance or being artistic. Samurai Jack, a long running and long praised show has proved this time and again. great stories like the Hellboy series of comics or the popular Battlestar Galactica show, are great because they manage to turn schlocky cheese into high art, by giving it a modern overhaul. Afro Samurai takes it one step further, to the point where the schlock IS the art. Anime is very much like our version of the Exploitation genre of yesteryear, it's very underground, but still holds popularity and knowledge in the mainstream, it's filled with shitty crap, but the good stuff is worth watching, and it has it's own very unique style that has influenced generations of artists who've been exposed to it.
the story of Afro Samurai is very very basic, it's a revenge story because it needn't be anything more than a revenge story. it's intent isn't to change your life or make you weep for it's tragic hero, it's intent is to make your eyes melt and your heart pump, and maybe throw in a laugh or two. there's a saying: You Don't watch Kill Bill the same way you watch Shindler's List. that applies.
shows like Afro Samurai and the vampire miniseries Hellsing are fantastic shows because they take from the well of culture not everybody likes to admit is there, and shows you something that takes it one step further, shows you what those film makers of yesteryear could have done with the technology at our disposal today. they work on a storytelling level because the stories are simple and have been told many times. they are human stories.
the idea of Afro Samurai, i can say with some confidence, was never to get you thinking about our society like Ghost in the Shell or Neon Genesis, it's not that horse. Afro Samurai is meant to appeal to something deeper than your ego or your intellect, it appeals to your instinct. that's why it's so stylish. it's pleasure is purely aesthetic, and that is not at all a bad thing. Anime has a long history of taking from western culture and vice-versa, i like to think of Afro Samurai less as a corny bloodbath, and more a celebration of the corny bloodbaths we all know and love. western stories like Fist Full o' Dollars, The Good The Bad and The Ugly, and eastern stories like Ninja Scroll and Yojimbo. the standard for art these days is too narrow and too pretentious considering our history. i love Afro Samurai because it's not trying to deny all the things we hate to love, blood, gore, revenge, and i'm not saying that to be nihilistic or cynical. i'm saying that because it's true, it's just easier to justify revenge and blood and gore when we can come up with some over-convoluted plot to fit it into. well screw that.
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