After a young boy named Afro witnesses Justice kill his father and claim the number one headband, Afro begins his quest to avenge his father's death. As he travels toward Justice, he is challenged by...
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
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 immediately.
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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