Samurai Jack: Wikis

  
  

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Samurai Jack
SamuraiJack.jpg
Title card
Genre Animated Series, Action, Adventure, Science fantasy
Created by Genndy Tartakovsky
Voices of Phil LaMarr
Mako
Theme music composer James L. Venable
Opening theme will.i.am - "Samurai Jack"
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 52 (List of episodes)
Production
Running time 22 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel Cartoon Network
Original run August 10, 2001 (2001-08-10) – September 25, 2004 (2004-09-25)

Samurai Jack is an American animated television series created by animator Genndy Tartakovsky that aired on Cartoon Network from 2001 until 2004. It is noted for its highly detailed, outline-free, masking-based animation, as well as for its cinematic style and pacing.

The plots of individual episodes range from dark and epic to light-hearted and comic, but typically follow Jack in his singular quest to find a method of traveling back in time. Many of the battle scenes in the series are reminiscent of samurai films, and since Jack's robotic enemies "bleed" oil or electricity and monsters/aliens bleed slime or goo, the series is able to exhibit the action of these films while avoiding censorship for violence.

Samurai Jack was available to be viewed by American residents via the Toonami Jetstream website,[1] Production on the show was halted in 2004, but it was never officially canceled. In return, Tartakovsky has announced plans to direct a theatrical film, but whether or not this will be used to resolve the series has yet to be announced.

The feature film is currently in pre-production, and is being produced by J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot Productions and Frederator Films.[2][3][4]

Contents

Background

Development

Samurai Jack was created by Genndy Tartakovsky for the Cartoon Network. As a follow-up to his very successful series Dexter's Laboratory, Tartakovsky intended to create a series "that is cinematic in scope and that incorporates action, humor and intricate artistry".[5] Samurai Jack began airing on August 10, 2001 and ran for four seasons.

Cartoon Network ordered fifty-two episodes of Samurai Jack, which were aired as four seasons as a prime time member of the Cartoon Cartoon block of programming. Despite its Emmy nominations and wins the show was taken off of the air before the fourth season could complete its initial run. The unaired episodes were later shown as a Toonami special, on Toonami Jetstream (on Cartoon Network.com), and in re-runs. While airing, the series spawned a comic book and several video game tie-ins. The show made a reappearance on Cartoon Network's adult swim, based on results from a successful user poll, noted in bumps during programming on February 22, 2008. The first episode of the series was broadcast during the network's Toonami block on March 29, 2008, and continued airing the episodes in order each week until Toonami ceased broadcasting on September 20, 2008. In August 2009, Samurai Jack began airing on Cartoon Network's sister channel Boomerang at 11:00 P.M in place of Justice League Unlimited.

There had been plans for a Samurai Jack feature film in 2002 with New Line Cinema, but this project was canceled after the lackluster performance of The Powerpuff Girls Movie.[3] In an interview, Tartakovsky confirmed that "Jack will come back" and that "we will finish the story, and there will be an animated film." [6][7] Newly formed production company Frederator Films has announced in Variety that one of their first projects will be a feature film adaptation of Samurai Jack, written and directed by Genndy Tartakovsky.[2][8] As of September 2009, the film is in the writing stage of pre-production to be distributed by Paramount Pictures and co-produced by J.J Abrams alongside Fred Seibert of Frederator Films.[3][4]

Plot

Long ago in a distant land, I, Aku, the shape-shifting Master of Darkness, unleashed an unspeakable evil! But a foolish Samurai warrior wielding a magic sword stepped forth to oppose me. Before the final blow was struck, I tore open a portal in time and flung him into the future, where my evil is law! Now the fool seeks to return to the past, and undo the future that is Aku!

This quotation begins each episode of Samurai Jack, which tells the story of a young prince (Jack) from Feudal Japan whose father's empire is destroyed by the demon Aku. The child Jack escapes destruction and travels the world training his mind and his body for years until he reaches adulthood, becoming a legendary samurai. Then, taking his father's magic katana, he challenges Aku to a duel and defeats the demon. However, before Jack can deal the killing blow, Aku creates a time portal and sends his opponent into the distant future, anticipating that he would be able to amass sufficient power to deal with the Samurai later. The protagonist arrives in a hostile, futuristic Earth ruled by Aku and filled with his robot minions and a large number of alien immigrant races of various appearances. The first people he encounters in the future call him "Jack" as a form of slang, which he adopts as his name - his true given name is never mentioned in the series.

Standard episodes follow Jack's search for a way to travel back to his own time, where he hopes to stop Aku before these events come to pass. The cartoon depicts Jack's quest to find a time portal, while constantly facing obstacles set by Aku in a classic battle of Good versus Evil. Typically each time Jack believes he has reached the end of his quest, a deus ex machina causes him to dramatically miss his chance. In one attempt Jack locates a stable portal to the past, but the guardian of the portal defeats him after a long but noticably mismatched battle. The guardian is about to crush him when the portal starts to flicker and glow, apparently giving the guardian a message; the guardian has a giant pterodactyl take the unconscious Jack away. After Jack leaves, the guardian states that it is not yet time for him to return to the past, and an image of what seems to be an older Jack is then seen in the portal; this seems to indicate that Jack is predestined to succeed, but it will take many years for him to do so.[9]

Setting

Samurai Jack takes place in a world where science and technology has developed far beyond what we have available to us today, and in some ways resembles magic on its own. However, despite scientific advances, the future is decidedly dystopian - in one episode the mafia has profited greatly from the sale of simple water.[10] Aliens, bounty hunters, and robots are plentiful, and always ready for a fight. Above all of this stands Aku, which is evident as the shape of most buildings in urban settings resemble the shape of his head.

While the setting is distinctly futuristic and technological, several instances of mythology and supernatural events do occur. Mythologies, like Valhalla, and even supernatural forces, such as demonic enemies, make regular appearances, yet do not seem to stand out amongst the technologically advanced inhabitants. Aku himself is obviously supernatural, as is Jack's Sword.

Stories take place in a variety of locations. Ranging from beautiful wilderness and to futuristic or even dystopic cities, the stark contrast in these can be extremely rigid. Regardless of the setting, the simple, minimalistic art style employed resembles ukiyo-e paintings.

Characters

Samurai Jack

Samurai Jack (voiced by Phil LaMarr) is the son of the Japanese Emperor who ruled the area where Aku originally appeared on Earth, and is banished to the future by Aku during their first battle, where he is left in every episode to search for a way home. He was born on the day that his father defeated Aku and he seems to be the only mortal (aside from his father) to be a match to Aku.

As a boy, after his father was captured by Aku, Jack traveled around the world to prepare both physically and mentally for his confrontation with Aku. He studied under various scholars, such as Egyptian thinkers, and attempted to master each art of combat from the cultures he met, training with African warriors, Viking sailors, Robin Hood, Mongolian warriors, Shaolin monks, Greek Olympic contestants, Russian Cossacks, and several others.

Later, after being sent into the future, he is taught the ability to jump hundreds of feet into the air by a species of blue gorilla and a jungle man, thus allowing him to reach vast areas he previously could not reach while also giving the impression that he can fly. Jack's magic sword was forged by the gods Odin, Ra, and Rama through three mortal avatars. The sword was forged from the righteous energy within Jack's father; it is unable to harm beings that are pure of heart, as seen in one episode where Aku steals the sword and attempts to kill Jack with it, but fails even to cut him.

Jack strongly exhibits the characteristics of a stoic hero. He is unfailingly polite and humble despite the completely alien nature of the futuristic world and never scoffs at or disparages the customs of the people he encounters (as unpleasant as they seem to him at times). Despite his almost hopeless situation, he does not bewail his destiny, instead exhibiting a strong amor fati. Jack consistently shows an uncommon moral strength of character by helping the poor and defenseless along the way, in one instance even helping talking dogs that worked for Aku, another he released the souls of a family in a haunted mansion. Occasionally, he faces great physical pain, or has to forget his own goals in order to help someone in need.

In the first episode, his name was never mentioned. In the second episode however, he began using the name Jack when three teenage aliens, after witnessing Jack survive a huge fall by jumping onto cars, referred to him as Jack while praising him when he landed - in this case, more of a generic term, à la "dude" or "guy." Later, when asked to identify himself, he replied "They call me Jack." His real name has never been revealed.

Aku

Aku (voiced by Mako) is Samurai Jack's main enemy. His name means "evil" in Japanese. He is similar to Akuma, the evil demon with burning eyes from Japanese mythology (which may also be another source for his name). He is an extremely powerful demonic wizard whose primary ability is shapeshifting like the god of evil Amatsu-Mikaboshi, though he possesses many other powers. He requires no food, water, or air and is capable of interstellar travel. He also has the ability to spy on Jack and others from a large sphere he can summon at will in his tower. A significant aspect of the series is that Aku is immortal, and Jack's samurai sword is the only weapon capable of harming and finally defeating him; even the slightest physical contact with the sword's blade causes Aku severe pain, and wounds inflicted by it take much longer to heal from. Because of this, Aku does not like to fight Jack himself (only doing so when Jack is incapacitated or without the sword), preferring to let his minions do it for him. Aku is also vulnerable to varying degrees to other forms of magical or divine attacks (such as the powers and artifacts of gods).

Aku constantly antagonizes Jack, often attacking him while he is weak, and other times defending himself from Jack's own gambits. The two seem doomed never to defeat each other, for though Jack has bested Aku on numerous occasions, Aku merely transforms into a small creature and escapes, usually calling out a taunt over his shoulder as he flees, a fact that he himself is aware of and even makes a reference to in one episode.

The episode The Birth of Evil reveals Aku's origin. Long ago in the vastness of space, a great formless evil appeared. Before the darkness could do harm to the universe, it was set upon by the kings of three religions: Odin, the one-eyed king of Asgard and the Norse Gods; Ra, the sun god and king of the Gods of Egypt; and Rama, the seventh avatar of Vishnu, the supreme being in Hindu mythology. So fierce was their attack on the shadow, that it was completely destroyed, save for a small fragment that was flung aside in the heat of battle. For ages the fragment drifted through the cosmos and eventually fell to Earth, and caused the impact event that wiped out the dinosaurs when it landed. The land around its impact site eventually formed into the islands of Japan, where it slowly grew and spread like poison over the course of eons, creating an ever-spreading forest of black spikes that devoured any who entered. Eventually the forest grew so large that the Daimyo of the land (Jack's father), decided to kill the evil at its source. Armed with a magic oil given to him by Buddhist monks, the Lord and his cavalry rode into the heart of the forest, the Lord himself the only one to survive. Once at the black lake at the forest's center, the Samurai Lord doused an arrow into the oil he was given, lit it with a green flame, and shot it into the lake. Instead of destroying the evil however, the magic arrow gave it both a will and consciousness, thus the demon Aku was born. Aku proved to be unstoppable, so with the help of the three gods, Jack's father forged a sword capable of harming him. With it, he was able to defeat Aku and somehow turn the demon into a black tree. This imprisonment lasted less than a decade however, as a solar eclipse released Aku upon the world once more.

While he is usually presented as a serious and threatening foe (as well as being pure evil), Aku is also a source of comedy due to his outrageous design and sometimes wise-guy behavior, supported by Mako's over-the-top voice acting.

Secondary characters

When Jack arrives in the future, he finds that Aku has conquered the world and rules the populace with an iron fist. Jack finds that there are still warriors in this age, and occasionally meets both those fighting for and those siding against the side of good. Samurai Jack's universe is populated by a diverse cast of characters who often appear for single episodes with only two notable exceptions.

The Scotsman: Like Jack himself, he is only known as the "Scotsman" (voiced by John DiMaggio) rather than a real name, and he is one of only two characters to appear in three episodes - "Jack and the Scotsman", "Jack and the Scotsman II", and "The Scotsman saves Jack" (a two-part episode). When he first meets Jack ("Jack and the Scotsman"), he makes fun of Jack, calling him various names and insults (such as calling him "a sissy in a nightgown"). He even derides Jack's sword, calling it a butter knife, though Jack has impressed him by the end of the episode. He even gets Jack to help him rescue his dainty, beautiful wife from a demon (this is an understatement by the Scotsman as she is, ironically, larger and more terrifying than the Scotsman himself, and stronger than Jack and the Scotsman combined). He often goes on long winded tangents about how beautiful his wife is, often painting her as a figure of beauty. In "The Scotsman Saves Jack" he does however make a crack about her weight. In the same episode he seems to have gotten Jack's name at some point calling him Samurai Jack, instead of 'friend' or 'stranger' like he did in previous episodes. When he meets him in a tavern in "Jack and The Scotsman II" he asks "Remember me?". The Scotsman even saves Jack when Jack loses his memory due to the Sirens (whose songs have no effect on the Scotsman, as he compares their singing to "someone stepping on a lot o' cats". In a running gag with The Scotsman, he compares their singing to his wife's, which, according to him, is beyond perfection.) His notable features include his legs, one of them is normal, if disproportionately small, and the other is a fully functional machine gun, which he wields in combat along with several explosives contained in his kilt. He also carries a shield on his back (which he rarely uses), and uses a six foot long Scottish Claymore (sword) inscribed with Celtic runes making it unbreakable even against Jack's blade. He also has superhuman strength and endurance, evidenced when he could pick up and throw an entire tank with relative ease, headbutt a robot until it exploded, and get bitten by a pair of alligators without so much as flinching. This is apparently a genetic trait, as the other members of his family are just as powerful and, by admission of the Scotsman himself, even rowdier than he is (they even have the same disproportionately small legs). The Scotsman is heavily featured in the two-part episode "The Scotsman Saves Jack". He counters the Siren's song with his bagpipe playing, thus giving Jack back his memory and saving The Scotsman from being crushed.

The Scotsman serves as a convenient foil for Jack, as they are nearly perfectly matched in fighting and survival skills, but very different in personality, manners, and sense of honor. While Jack is humble and polite, The Scotsman tends to be rude and brags about his skills. Yet he happily calls Jack "The Greatest warrior on the planet aside from me." Whereas Jack has mastered many martial arts and skills, The Scotsman seems to rely almost entirely on his freakish strength, brawling using his Claymore, machine-gun leg and various grenades in his kilt.

Jack's father: played by Sab Shimono (older) and Keone Young (young)), appears in four episodes: "The Beginning", "Jack Remembers the Past", "The Aku Infection", and "The Birth of Evil". Like his son, he is brave, humble, and polite.

Influences

Cultural references

Still from Jack and the Spartans

Samurai Jack frequently features appearances from gods of varying pantheons and creatures of legend. In the episode "The Birth of Evil", Odin, Ra, and Rama are shown to join forces to battle the dark power that would one day become Aku.[11]

Samurai Jack occasionally borrows from ancient sources as well as current ones. In episode "Jack and the Spartans", Jack fights alongside an army of three-hundred warriors who bear a likeness to Spartans, defending their home from an army of robots that would reconstruct themselves after each day's fight. The plot of this episode is based on the Battle of Thermopylae.[12]

Style

Tartakovsky borrows from a great many artistic sources for this series. The series overall was designed to look like a Japanese epic, with many individual episodes taking on their own styles. One episode could resemble a book by Dr. Seuss when the next could involve Jack fleeing from a demonic horde. Action in Samurai Jack borrows liberally from old martial arts and samurai films, and action films of the 1970s. Like 1963's Toei Animation studio release entitled The Little Prince and the Eight Headed Dragon (Originally Wanpaku Ouji no Orochi Taiji), it uses multiple angle and split screen shots to display action from multiple angles. The plot is frequently stopped to allow for the building of tension before combat or for the sake of humor; it is also not uncommon for episodes to be almost entirely free of dialogue which results in cinematic or stylized episodes.

SamuraiJack-lonewolf.jpg

Tartakovsky included a cameo of a Samurai with a young child in a baby carriage in the episode "Jack Remembers the Past". This character has a strong resemblance to Ogami Itto of Lone Wolf and Cub.[13]

Tartakovsky has also acknowledged taking some of his thematic inspiration from Frank Miller's comic book series Ronin, including the premise of a master-less samurai warrior thrown into a dystopic future ahead of our present in order to battle a shape-shifting demon. Similarly, the episode "Jack and the Spartans" was specifically inspired by Miller's 300, a graphic novel retelling of The Battle of Thermopylae.[14]

Response

Awards and recognition

Award Year Details Episode
Emmy Awards 2005 Won Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation
Bryan Andrews (storyboard artist)
XLIX - The Four Seasons of Death
2005 Nominated Outstanding Animated Program
(For Programming Less Than One Hour)
XLIX - The Four Seasons of Death[15]
2004 Won Outstanding Animated Program
(For Programming Less Than One Hour)
XXXVII-XXXVIII - The Birth of Evil
2003 Won Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation
Dan Krall (layout artist)
XXXII - Jack and the Traveling Creatures
2003 Won Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation
Scott Wills (production designer)
XXV - Jack and the Spartans
2002 Nominated Outstanding Animated Program
(For Programming One Hour Or More)
I-III - The Beginning

In 2004, British broadcaster Channel 4 ran a poll of the one hundred greatest cartoons of all time, in which Samurai Jack achieved the 42nd position.

Succession

The distinctive style of Samurai Jack is what drew Lucasfilm to recruit Tartakovsky for the Star Wars: Clone Wars animated series. Much of the signature cinematic style of Samurai Jack lives on in Clone Wars, such as lightning-fast combat, extended sequences without dialogue, explosions, epic vistas, etc.".[16]

Samurai Jack also remains a popular subject with Cartoon Network animators and continues to show up in programs being broadcast today. The following are a few examples.

The Duck Dodgers episode "Samurai Quack" was dedicated to spoofing the various stylistic elements and plot devices of Samurai Jack, such as only ever killing robots and the progressive ripping of clothes leading up to the final battle of the episode. Tartakovsky himself also made a cameo in that episode.[17] The role of Aku is played by Dodger's Happy Cat alarm clock voiced by Mako.
In one episode of Dexter's Laboratory, another cartoon created by Tartakovsky, boy-genius Dexter frequently says "Samurai Jaction" rather than "action", e.g., "That's enough Samurai Jaction for you!" Also in the post-2001 episodes, a Samurai Jack action figure is sometimes visible on the shelf in Dexter's bedroom. Additionally, in one of the episodes Dexter is watching a TV show resembling Samurai Jack.

Reviewers of the 3D animated feature film Kung Fu Panda (DreamWorks Animation) have noted that the stylized 2D opening sequence is either inspired by, or a homage to, Samurai Jack.[18][19]

Media information

In video games, Samurai Jack: The Shadow of Aku for the GameCube and PlayStation 2 and Samurai Jack: The Amulet of Time for the Game Boy Advance were released during 2004. Cartoon Network Universe: FusionFall features Samurai Jack, the Scotsman, and Demongo as non-playable characters who will give missions to players. Aku is in the game as a Nano.

Samurai Jack DVDs were released by Warner Home Video between 2003 and 2007. The DVDs include episode numbers in Roman numerals as they appear at the end of each episode, but remain untitled. The full series is available for purchase and download from Apple's iTunes store.

DVD Name Release Date Additional Information
Samurai Jack: The Premiere Movie July 22, 2003 DVD containing the Premiere movie in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Also includes a never before seen bonus episode. Also on VHS. ("The Premiere" is actually just the first three episodes of Season 1, and the bonus episode is actually episode 11 of Season 1, Jack and the Scotsman)
Samurai Jack: Season One May 4, 2004 2 Disc DVD set including all 13 episodes from the show's premiere season. Includes a Making-Of, Original Animation Test, Original Artwork and Commentary on One Episode.
Samurai Jack: Season Two May 24, 2005 2 Disc DVD set including all 13 episodes of the show's second season. Includes Commentary on Episode XXV, Creator Scrapbook, and an Original Episode Pitch.
Samurai Jack: Season Three May 23, 2006 2 Disc DVD set including all 13 episodes of the show's third season. Includes Commentary on Episodes XXXVII and XXXVIII (Two-Parter), Lost Artwork, and a featurette called "Martial Arts of the Samurai".
Samurai Jack: Season Four August 28, 2007 2 Disc DVD set including all 13 episodes of the show's fourth season. Includes Genndy's Roundtable, Genndy's New Project, Deleted Scenes, and Samurai Jack Promos.

References

  1. ^ Mahan, Colin (April 25, 2006). "Cartoon Network brings anime to the Web". www.tv.com. http://www.tv.com/samurai-jack/show/3064/story/4262.html?om_act=convert&om_clk=headlinessh&tag=headlines;title;0om_act=convert&om_clk=headlinessh. Retrieved 2007-03-16. 
  2. ^ a b Toon trio starts Frederator - Entertainment News, Film News, Media - Variety
  3. ^ a b c Seibert, Fred (2009-09-05). "Lunch with Genndy". Frederator Studios Blog. JoeJack, Inc.. http://frederatorblogs.com/frederatorfilms/2009/09/05/lunch-with-genndy/. Retrieved 2009-12-11. 
  4. ^ a b Pollard, Mark (2009-11-25). "J.J. Abrams to produce Samurai Jack film". Kung Fu Cinema. http://www.kungfucinema.com/j-j-abrams-to-produce-samurai-jack-film-11829. Retrieved 2009-11-26. 
  5. ^ "Animator Profile: Genndy Tartakovsky". www.cartoonnetwork.com. Archived from the original on 2008-07-17. http://web.archive.org/web/20080717134403/http://www.cartoonnetwork.com/tv_shows/ap/gtartakovsky.html. Retrieved 2007-03-16. 
  6. ^ MTV
  7. ^ TV.com (cache of MTV story)
  8. ^ "Samurai Jack is Back". Movieweb.com. http://www.movieweb.com/news/29/20729.php. 
  9. ^ "XXXII - Jack and the Traveling Creatures". ''Samurai Jack''. Cartoon Network. 2003-04-26.
  10. ^ "XII - Jack and the Gangsters". ''Samurai Jack''. Cartoon Network.
  11. ^ "XXXVII - "The Birth of Evil"". ''Samurai Jack''. Cartoon Network. 2003-08-16.
  12. ^ "XXV - "Jack and the Spartans"". ''Samurai Jack''. Cartoon Network.
  13. ^ "XIX - Jack Remembers the Past". ''Samurai Jack''. Cartoon Network.
  14. ^ "XXV - Jack and the Spartans (DVD commentary)". ''Samurai Jack''. Cartoon Network. 00:21 minutes in.
  15. ^ "Nominees: Outstanding Animated Program". www.emmys.tv. 2005. http://www.emmys.tv/awards/2005pt/awards/animated.php. Retrieved 2007-03-17. 
  16. ^ "Genndy Tartakovsky". sci-fi-online.50megs.com. http://www.sci-fi-online.com/Interview/05-03-18_GenndyTartakovsky.htm. Retrieved 2007-03-16. 
  17. ^ "Surf the Stars / Samurai Quack". ''Duck Dodgers''. Cartoon Network. No. 211, season 2.
  18. ^ "Kung Fu Cinema Kung Fu Panda review". http://www.kungfucinema.com/?p=2198. 
  19. ^ Stephen Garrett. "Timeout Kung Fu Panda review". Time Out. http://www.timeout.com/film/newyork/reviews/85508/kung-fu-panda.html. Retrieved 2009-08-27. 

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