Blast from the past: Samurai Jack returns

Jack Johnson is a columnist for the College Heights Herald.

Jack Johnson

“Samurai Jack,” the critically-acclaimed animation series from Genndy Tartakovsky, has been revived by Adult Swim, a programming block for Cartoon Network, for a fifth and final season.

The series debuted on Cartoon Network on Aug. 10, 2001 and ran for four seasons, with the last episode broadcast on Sept. 25, 2004. “Samurai Jack” gained popularity and recognition for its use of visual design, storytelling style and aesthetic. The show follows the eponymous samurai, Jack, who is in search of a way to return to his time after the evil shapeshifter, Aku, sends him to a dystopian future where Aku’s reign is unparalleled.

The original run of the show was an instant classic. Though I have not seen every episode of “Samurai Jack,” I remember fondly the times where it came on TV, even if the episodes were already reruns. Tartakovsky’s narrative style is expressed predominantly through visual storytelling, through the art and movement of the animation itself. The show incorporated very little dialogue, instead focusing on plot progression through action scenes and atmospheric setting. Not even mentioning the prowess of Tartakovsky’s artwork or the intrigue of the character design, “Samurai Jack” was a jewel in an already-gleaming collection of cartoons for a child to watch after a long day at school.

Advertisement

The new season takes place 50 years after the last episode; the aging effects of time have been lost on Jack, and Aku’s power is at its peak. Jack seems to have cast away the title of samurai, instead adorning the mantle of the ronin, a rogue warrior. The season will likely follow Jack’s redemption and subsequent defeat of Aku in classic hero’s journey fashion.

However, fans may harbor a bit of worry at the inevitable re-casting of Aku, who was voiced by Mako Iwamatsu, an actor remembered for his unique, raspy voice. Tartakovsky likely landed Greg Baldwin, a student of Iwamatsu, who acted as his replacement on many characters the late actor had worked on, to provide a voice for Aku. Voice actress Grey DeLisle is also lending voiceover talent for the fifth season, and has worked with Baldwin previously as Princess Azula on the Nickelodeon show, “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”

The finale season of “Samurai Jack” will premiere on Adult Swim on March 11. All in all, fans of the series should be excited for the series’ conclusion. “Samurai Jack” was a landmark show that never had the opportunity to finish its story.

Now, Tartakovsky can conclude the series with a more serious, nuanced tone on Adult Swim. It’s a cool time we live in, when you consider a show –- a cartoon targeted towards children, no less, which ended production in 2004, can be revived for a final outing in 2017, 13 years after the fact. With, like, blood and real guns and stuff. Radical.