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
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.
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