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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.
Can you dig it?
This is what you get when you mix Japanese samurai flicks, ultra-savvy blaxploitation attitude, future-tense technology, and hip-hop into one energetic camp hybrid that takes NO prisoners.
The pseudo-Anime' "Afro Samurai" is set in a futuristic feudal Japan, in which all the swordsmen in the world are in a murderous pursuit of the #1 Headband, which once obtained, would allow its wearer to call himself a god and master of all that he surveys. So when #1 is killed in a battle with gun-totting madman and #2 Headband Justice (Ron Perlman), #1's son Afro (Samuel L. Jackson) swears an oath of vengeance against now-#1 Justice. Undergoing conventional samurai training by a renowned master, young Afro grows up, receives the #2 Headband, sets out on his mission of revenge and attempts to obtain the #1 Headband, cutting down every single man who challenges him. Bearing witness to it all is Afro's loyal sidekick and only friend, Ninja Ninja (also voiced by Jackson), who provides much of the show's comic relief.
In many ways, at least to me, "Afro Samurai" was a long time coming. Ever since first getting wind of it in late 2006 and catching a few episodes during its short, five-episode run on Spike TV earlier this year, I've become an "Afro Samurai" fanatic. As a longtime fan of Japanese animation and Manga (Japanese comics), "Afro Samurai" cut and slashed its way into my heart from its earliest moments when Afro's father is challenged and defeated by the maniacal Justice. I've waited a long time for something to come along that fused hip-hop and Japanese animation into a relentless action feast and when it finally came along, I was not the slightest bit displeased. The animated show "The Boondocks" is another example of this Anime'/hip-hop trend done right.
But first and foremost, "Afro Samurai" is only concerned with one thing: style over substance, that means excessive sword-play and violence over anything even remotely resembling a discernible plot. Make no mistake, though, while this is a visually arresting feast for the eyes, it is definitely not for the squeamish, much less anyone under the tender age of 17. The brain-child of creator Takashi Okazaki, director Fuminori Kizaki and co-writers Tomohiro Yamashita and Yasuyuki Muto, "Afro Samurai" lets the blood flow (but really, more like spray) in fountains and geysers. The blood flows in copious amounts in the various martial arts sword-fighting sequences, which are excellently and stylishly executed much like Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" movies or your favorite samurai blood-letters. The dynamic and surreal score by Wu-Tang Clan co-founder and "Afro Samurai" soundtrack producer The RZA is quite a stand-out, and blares up during the most intense action. Any soundtrack that features hip-hop legends such as Big Daddy Kane, Wu-Tang Clan co-founder GZA, Q-Tip (formerly of A Tribe Called Quest), and Talib Kweli - you can bet I'm picking it up.
So as you can see, I've said nothing but good things thus far. Many have maligned the fact that since Afro speaks so little in this series, his character comes to be defined by the way he viciously cuts down his adversaries in the many battle sequences. Probably like your favorite swordsman who speaks little but carries a big sword, Afro is really nothing new. In fact, if you look deeper, his comic foil Ninja Ninja could also be considered Afro's wild, fun-loving, and talkative alter-ego (since there were a few times when I felt Ninja Ninja wasn't even real).
"Afro Samurai" also has one of the most memorable casts of bad guys ever assembled for animation outside of Japan. I already mentioned Justice, but there's also the monk/assassin collective, the Empty 7, the teddy bear-headed Kuma, and assorted heavy artillery-totting hired killers and disposable bandits and hoodlums. Although I was a little disappointed that babe Kelly Hu as Okiku didn't have a bigger role, she only seemed to be in it for the sex appeal (and as the director's cut proves, to give a little something for the guys who may be watching). Although an odd choice for a role such as this, Samuel L. Jackson is a thorough double-edged sword as both Afro and Ninja Ninja. (It's hard to believe this is the same man who once played the Bible-quoting hit-man Jules Winnfield in 1994's "Pulp Fiction.")
With "Afro Samurai," an Anime' fan gets something that he's always wanted and more: a piece of animation that blends so many distant genres and fuses them into one hell of an eye-popping action experience. Now, if only he can convince his other Anime'- and "Kenshin"-loving friends to watch the one and only dude wit' a head full of hair, "Afro Samurai."
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.
In a sci-fi feudal japan world there's 2 titles for the strongest,
Number 2 & Number 1. When you're #2, you're only semi-strongest, when
you're #1 you're on the top of success. One day a black boy experienced
the sight of his dad(the original #1) being killed by Justice(a corpse
gun slinger) who gained the title of #1. Several years later that same
boy now holds the #2 title. And seeks for vengeance over his father's
death by reclaiming the number 1 title.
Afro Samurai is different from the other samurai anime in so many ways. Including the idea of having a black samurai instead of an Asian samurai as the main character. As well the use of hip hop for the background music. And it's one of the fewest anime to include this kind of theme.
For a mini-series, it's already considered a cult anime to many Anime fans and non-anime fans alike. The dub for it is one of a kind with THE Samual L. Jackson as the voice of Afro Samurai and everyone's favorite Ninja Ninja. The action is very intense and gory at the same time. In other words it's not an anime for those who have weak stomaches.
Besides that it does have an interesting plot to it. And feels more like watching a movie rather than watching TV episodes. It's available on DVD in both edit and uncut form(which is suppose to be longer and more violent than the TV viewing).
So, I was on the phone channel surfing last night and I almost missed the premiere of this show I've been waiting on for months! I told the person I was talking to that I had to go and I strapped in for the most exciting, action-packed and engrossing anime since Ninja Scroll. A few years ago, SAMURAI CHAMPLOO officially set the bar for innovative feudal-era anime in America. Well, after watching this, AFRO SAMURAI will have you saying "Samurai champ-wha?" The setup is straight out of an Albert Pyun flick: Young boy sees father slain by big baddie. Young boy then grows into badass man and proceeds to challenge big baddie. But the things that GONZO adds to the anime make it more than just your average chop and dice. The mish-mash of ancient Japan and present day also add an interesting visual style to it, kind of like Yûji Shimomura's DEATH TRANCE. In addition, Spike TV did not skimp out on the violence. There's decapitations, impalements, limbs being chopped off, blood spirts like out of KILL BILL; and this was supposed to be the edited-for-TV version!! And let's not forget Samuel L. Jackson, who voices Afro and his sidekick Ninja Ninja. He manages to do both voices completely different (cool, calm and few words with Afro; energetic banter by Ninja Ninja), and of course it's SAMUEL-FRICKING-L. JACKSON!!! The man is just too cool for description! He was the absolutely perfect choice for this project!! I can't wait until the next episode, and please believe I will be copping this bad boy when it debuts on DVD. Until then, Spike TV bitches!!!!
Seeking to avenge his father's death, the Afro Samurai sets out to kill
the #1 fighter in all the land, a man called Justice. After earning
himself the title of #2, which is required for him to be able to
challenge Justice, Afro Samurai sets out on his journey to revenge. His
road is a dangerous one as he must first find out the location of
Justice from his foes all of whom would seek to protect Justice and
also win the title of #2 for themselves. His task is a lonely and dark
one, but like it or not he has a companion in the constantly b1tching
Although it will not be to everyone's taste, Afro Samurai is a perfect example of something being pitched right at the target audience it is intended for. adult swim is the perfect home for it because it is very much targeted at young males who like their hip hop, Anime and traditions of feudal Japan. It mixes these in a great series of animations that some audiences will claim is very high on style at the expense of content. Now I appreciate that most reviews here are gushing in their praise of this series and not keen on anyone criticising it but, the thing is, those saying it lacks substance do have a point. Like I said before though, it is target audience stuff and for those into it, there will be plenty of content to support the style those looking to be intellectually stimulated by the themes and ideals behind the characters will not get what they are looking for (but why were you looking here for those things). However for target audience the emotional core and the narrative twists will be more than enough to fill the running times of each episode and expand across the season.
What the series delivers in spades though is the cool world of the samurai crossed with the violent and stylish world of Anime with a big dollop of urban culture thrown in there too. It is no surprise to find The Rza involved because again it brings it back to a product that knows what its audience. So those coming to it will be looking for certain things and it delivers it well visually. The Anime animation is slick and cool and moves with all the conventions you will be used to from the genre. The soundtrack compliments it really well because, as other things (eg Boondocks, Wu-Tang etc) have shown, the mix of ninja/samurai (yes, I know they are very different) cultures and modern hip hop seems to be an easy fit. Performance wise you gotta say that Jackson is perfect for the role and again shows that he )or his agent) can pick the roles that bring him heat from his base fans. He is really good in his dual roles and brings the dialogue alive. Of course he is well supported by a famous cast even if they are not all given roles that are that big. Perlman has a great voice and uses it well, but while I think Hu is again a good example of targeting your audience's tastes, her voice is not her strongest feature. Generally though all voice work is good because they are matching the style of the series rather than giving performances per se.
Overall then, not for everyone's tastes but in targeting its audience it is as ruthlessly efficient as Afro Samurai himself. Stylish, bloody, brooding and with an overall air of effortless cool, it is a fine series that I enjoyed. Put it this way, if you like the sound of it then you will almost certainly like it it is that good at what it does.
Afro Samurai will stay in my collection as a pure guilty pleasure, a
black samurai saga that has more than a touch of being made just right
for die-hard fans of blood-drenched anime (or, for that matter, members
of the Wu-Tang Clan, for which RZA did the music, and is an asset via
groovy beats and is an occasional deterrent with rap going on during a
big battle). At the same time it's also got a little tongue pressed
into cheek, as the usual clichés in a revenge saga get just the right
touches of harsh comedy (the side character Samuel L. Jackson mostly
voices, Ninja Ninja as the fool of the series, gives some of it, and
some of it just comes through the wild ways that the other samurais
send out their forms of slaughter to Afro) and rapid stylization, with
not just one specific style, though it is mostly indebted to recent
ultra-violent anime. Through first-time director Kizaki and the writers
who are also working mostly as their first efforts, experiment with its
"ghetto" influence with it looking as much like an exploitation flick
from the 70s as much as a sword-revenge story (many of those out for
Afro's head could be compared to those out for Grier or Williamson's
heads in the classic films).
But it's also science fiction to a degree, or at least futuristic in scope, mixing feudal Japan with crafty cyborgs and robots and other technology thrown in (including a robot clone of Afro who mimics his moves but not his subconscious). It's not anything exactly masterpiece-like, and after a few episodes it does come close to being a little tiresome in seeing Afro, who has little-to-no personality and just a straightforward bad motherf***er attitude, on his quest to achieve something higher than his simple 2-level. But it's downright exhilarating, as far as today's anime can get, in seeing the extremely bloody swordplay and other violent bits that come quick but with a lasting after effect, and in seeing how the conventions inherent in the supporting characters, be they in flashbacks to Afro's training or in the present as the ones out for Afro's head on a stick. It might actually be too based on the action for some, and it is a little light on story as it goes along past the flashback episode. Yet with people like Jackson and Perlman as the voices behind the figures, and in such a distinctive blend of the usual and unusual in the genre, it's worth a look for fans, and maybe even as a curiosity to those who dug Chapter 3 in Kill Bill 1.
Afro Samurai came out of left field from me. Totally unexpected, I saw
the tile pop up somewhere and sounded cool enough for me to give it a
go. And even though I'm not an anime fan, I found lots to appreciate in
this mini series of blood and mayhem.
The main appeal for me was the combination of blaxploitation culture and samurai swordfighting (chambara). Samuel Jackson doing the voice-overs for both Afro Samurai (Clint Eastwood style, few words, calm and badass) and his sidekick Ninja Ninja (wisecracking non-stop banter) was another major plus. The third advantage is the simple story that takes its cue from a long line of revenge movies: this is a simple revenge story and that's why it works so well.
In a futuristic world, young kid watches his father get cut down by baddie who is after his father's Headband #1. Headband #1 allows its bearer to be like a god. The only one who can challenge him is the one who wears Headband #2. Anyone can challenge Headband #2. As one could expect, Headband #2's path is littered with corpses as everyone and their dog want their chance to challenge Headband #1. Young kid grows up and becomes Afro Samurai and walks the path of revenge against Headband #1. A colourful ensemble of baddies will stand in his way, from a neo-Buddhist cult of assassin monks, to cyborgs to teddy-bear faced guys with a grudge to common crooks. Through flashbacks we come to find out how Afro Samurai became who he is and how he obtained Headband #2. Simple yet effective.
The main appeal here is the visual aspect. Being a fan of 60's and 70's chambaras and jidai-gekis I find the swordfights a tad too hyperkinetic for my taste, but that's anime for you I guess. However everything has a smoother, more westernized approach perhaps to the rapid, eyesore that often is the genre which I took to with pleasant surprise and relief. The graphics and design tend to be great (especially Afro Samurai's) although they can settle for just good or serviceable at times. The blood geysers and slashing, taking their cue from stuff like Lone Wolf and Cub and Lady Snowblood (copious amounts of glorious arterial sprayings) will please every fan of the red stuff although it's not particularly gruesome. Good, clean, family fun.
The soundtrack is done by usual suspect RZA. I have to say that the whole combo of hip-hop/anime/exploitation works particularly well even though I'm only a fan of the latter third. If you wanna get a picture of what Afro Samurai is, think of the animated sequence in Kill Bill vol. 1.
I first heard about this a little after the e3 convention 2006. And was
amazed by the sound of the title "Afro Samurai" Right then in there i
had a vision of this character looking like Jim Kelly from enter the
Needless to say he reminds me of him in some way's. Anyhow i had awaited the premiere of this show.
And It's awesome in all aspects of the word. It has great voice overs, Scene's, and blood.
If you are into arse kicking samurai's and Samuel L. Jackson. Afro Samurai is the show for you! I highly recommend watching it.
Im not sure when the DVD comes out.
But i will be on the look out.
Hip-hop in feudal japan? Guy on a quest to become "number one"? My
first impressions of this anime, based on promotional material back in
2007, were not too good. I'm not a big fan of hip-hop for one thing,
and neither do I dig the overused plot device of a lone warrior
traveling the country to seek vengeance, which was handled so much
better by Yoshiaki Kawajiri in Ninja Scroll or Highlander. Dismissed it
It is 2009 now and I discovered Afro Samurai: Director's Cut in the discount bin at the DVD store. Bought it, watched it, and GOT HOOKED by it.
The first thing that struck me was the whole "attitude" of the show. Science fiction, fantasy, samurai films, blaxploitation, all blended together into one tasty soup. If shows like Ghost in the Shell appeals to the higher reasoning and logical portions of the brain and Grave of the Fireflies appeal to the emotional centers, Afro Samurai would be a show that appeals to the most basic drives of human cognition.
It is pure "Id" given form, striving to do no more than to satisfy the instinctual needs for pleasure. In the same way the ancient Romans loved their gladiatorial combat and their lions vs prisoners shows, this anime digs deep into the dark recesses of the human mind which hides that aggressive streak and answers its denied cravings by delivers non-stop violence with a whole new attitude. The highly stylized art works well for such a show, containing an exceptionally high level of detail more common in feature film animation than in a direct-to-DVD miniseries. The animation is fluid, smooth and conveys a sense of "free flow", like watching a professional break-dancer; everything is constantly in flux. Like the "Id", the action is excessive and illogically over-the-top: A testament to the limitless potential of animation and the illogical and almost random nature of our basic human instincts.
Even the slightly disjointed and simplistic story reflects the properties of the "Id". In keeping with the "style over substance" the creative team did not even try to make an original narrative. The story presented here is an extremely simple one, stocked to the brim with clichés. As a kid, young Afro watched his dad die at the hands of an evil gunman(played by Ron "Hellboy" Perlman), and vowed to spend the rest of his life training in the samurai way to take down his father's killer and become "Number One." Along the way, he meets old friends, new enemies and host of quirky characters in a stylish world where ancient feudal japan meets post-modern science fiction and fantasy.
Clichés also extend to the many characters in this show. Stoic silent wanderer with comic relief sidekick (sounds like Vampire Hunter D and his left hand), femme fatale who falls for our hero, mysterious mafia-like villains, etc. What lends new life to these tired old clichés is the fresh new attitude and style that Afro Samurai brings with it. It is like an all new liquor cocktail which uses existing ingredients, but what sets it apart from other cocktails is how everything is mixed together.
Special mention goes to Samuel L Jackson who plays both the stoic Afro and his loud mouthed trash talking sidekick, Ninja-ninja. His acting, as with every other member of the cast is spot on, and I love how he can play the two characters so differently with the same level of professionalism. Honestly if I never looked at the cast list, I would have never thought he voiced those two characters at the same time.
Afro Samurai is to this new century what Ninja Scroll was to the 90s: A bloody, violent, fresh, unabashed display of excessiveness that delivers what it promises. A highly original concept recommended for fans who are bored with your typical shonen anime and looking for something new, refreshing and just oozing with ATTITUDE.
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