Home Video Review: Afro Samurai (Season One & Resurrection)

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The melding of Eastern and Western culture is cemented by the music of Wu Tang Clan’s RZA… but is it a gimmick, or a must-see?

Find out in our full review.

From the opening sequence of Afro Samurai, one thing is abundantly clear: this ain’t Dragon Ball Z.

Ultra-violent, sexually charged, and unapologetically foul-mouthed, Afro Samurai takes place in a world out of time. Cell phones and motorcycles exist side by side with samurai and swords… and cyborgs are abundant.

It’s a world where the hierarchy of power is determined by magical headbands, mostly focused on ‘Number One’ and ‘Number Two’.

Number One belongs to the most powerful fighter in the world, and according to the rules of the world, he or she can only be challenged by a fighter in possession of the Number Two headband. The Number One also imparts the power of a god to it’s wearer.

Unfortunately the owner of the Number Two headband can be challenged by anyone, and they cannot refuse to fight. This means that owning the Number Two inevitably leads to a life of murder, conflict, and never knowing peace.

The story of Afro Samurai (first season) opens with the current Number One being challenged by Justice, a crazed gunslinger in possession of Headband Two. Justice kills Number One and takes his place… while Number One’s son looks on.

This little boy grows up to be Afro Samurai, the Number Two. Afro has dedicated his life to avenging his father, by first achieving Number Two status, and then finding and defeating Justice.

Afro Samurai Season One tells the story of his search for revenge, with frequent flashbacks to his youth, his training, and the people and morals he sacrificed to further his mission.

SPOILER ALERT: HIGHLIGHT TO READ

Afro Samurai: Resurrection takes place years later, after Afro has defeated Justice and taken the Number One headband. Strangely enough, Afro refuses to wear the headband, leaving the world in a state of flux, and leaving him open to numerous challenges (rather than just being challenged by the Number Two). Because of this, someone from his past takes the headband from him, and begins a plot to bring Afro’s father back to life… for the express purpose of torturing him. An aging and battle weary Afro must regain the Number Two headband in order to challenge Number one and free his father.

It’s time for Afro to pay the price for the deaths and suffering he caused in the first story.

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The art style of this series took me off guard. It blends anime aesthetics with more traditional (western) techniques and clever use of CGI. Using this unique visual tone, the over-the-top violence takes on an artistic bend that is surreal; it’s terrible, powerful, and strangely beautiful.

Samuel Jackson voices Afro Samurai (a man of few words), and his terminally loud-mouthed sidekick-with-a-twist Ninja Ninja. While Afro barely speaks, Jackson’s characterization works well; gutteral, blunt, a barely restrained snarl. His work as Ninja is more like what we’re used to. Think of Sam Jackson in Pulp Fiction, but with a taste for parties, women, and drink… nothing new there, but it’s spot-on.

RZA pulls out the stops on the soundtrack, using ‘found’ instruments and traditional Japanese sounds throughout both disks, and intertwining these analog touchtones into a hip-hop sensibility. While both Season One and Resurrection have superb musical queues, I think RZA really hit his stride in the second offering. I find myself with the title track stuck in my head every time I hear Afro Samurai mentioned. I’m definitely going to pick up the soundtrack CD.

For sheer ‘bang for your buck’, the Season One has more feature content, but to balance this out, Resurrection has more bonus content (although the feature film is substantially shorter).

If you’re a fan of anime, hip-hop, or insane levels of violence and action, it’s a no-brainer: pick up both sets… and the soundtrack.

Here’s hoping that more adventures of Afro Samurai are in the works.

Links:

Afro Samurai: Season One – Director’s Cut [Blu-ray]

Afro Samurai: Season One – Director’s Cut [DVD]

Afro Samurai: Resurrection – Director’s Cut [Blu-ray]

Afro Samurai: Resurrection – Director’s Cut [DVD]

Afro Samurai – Soundtrack

Afro Samurai Resurrection – Soundtrack

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2 Comments

  1. […] This is probably not a game to play around the young ones as the language is a bit more mature and happens quite often. I’m not sure if I or the game yelled more expletives because of the previously mentioned problems. If you have seen the series, you are probably aware of the mature content. If not, you should check both of them out, they are available now on DVD and Blu-Ray and our reviews of them can be found here. […]

  2. […] This is probably not a game to play around the young ones as the language is a bit more mature and happens quite often. I’m not sure if I or the game yelled more expletives because of the previously mentioned problems. If you have seen the series, you are probably aware of the mature content. If not, you should check both of them out, they are available now on DVD and Blu-Ray and our reviews of them can be found here. […]


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