Andy's Anachronisms Logo

Time Travel Animated Television Series

Samurai Jack

P r i n c i p a l   C a s t
  Samurai Jack
Phil LaMarr
S y n o p s i s

"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 step forwarded 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."

- Aku's voice-over from opening credits.

A young samurai warrior seeks to defeat the evil shape-shifting master of darkness, Aku who has imprisoned his people and destroyed his homeland. During a climatic battle between Aku and the samurai, Aku casts the young warrior through a time portal into the far future where Aku rules the earth. Known as Samurai Jack in this future world, he seeks a way to return to the past and undo Aku's horrible legacy while battling Aku and his evil minions.

G e t t i n g   A r o u n d   I n   T i m e

Jack is initially flung through time by a spell Aku cast to open a time portal.

While time travel doesn't figure prominently in the day-to-day world of Samurai Jack, his displacement in time results in classic "culture shock" or "time shock" associated with time travel. A stranger in a strange land, Samurai Jack's quest for a way to travel back in time and undo this time-line makes for a compelling story.

R e v i e w

Samurai Jack is the creation of Genndy Tartakovsky, whose other animated cartoon Dexter's Laboratory has been nominated for several anime and Emmy awards. Featuring the voice work of Phil LaMarr as Jack, and Mako as Aku, Samurai Jack premiered in August of 2001 on the Cartoon Network in the USA and has since been aired on YTV in Canada and CNX in the UK.

The first three episodes of the series has since been packaged and released on DVD billed as "Samurai Jack - The Premiere Movie". It also includes a bonus episode from the first season, Episode XI otherwise known as "Jack and the Scotsman".

Strangely enough, "Jack and the Scotsman" was the first episode I ever watched of Samurai Jack. At the time I had only heard a general description of the show. I recall watching the episode thinking to myself this is unlike any other cartoon on TV. Sure it had anime and magna influences, but there was more to it than that. I couldn't quite put my finger on it at that time, but I think it was the cinematic quality of the show.

"Jack and the Scotsman" opens in virtual silence with Jack approaching a rope suspension bridge that stretches into the distance finally disappearing into the fog. As he begins his journey across the bridge he realizes it is infinitely longer than he could have imagined and is forced to spend the night on the bridge.

The next day while continuing his journey Jack hears the wail of bag pipes emanating from the fog. A one-legged, bag-pipe playing, Scotsman emerges from the fog with a machine gun in place of his missing leg. The bridge being barely wide enough for one the two are faced with a dilemma as to who should stand aside for the other to pass. Despite Jack's efforts to compromise the Scotsman is determined to challenge Jack to combat for the right to pass. The Scotsman provokes Jack by hurling a sting of insults at him and finally calling him a coward. As they fight they soon discover that both possess magic swords and are equally matched. Their battle last throughout the night and the next day finds them nearly too exhausted to continue, but neither willing to concede defeat.

From either end of the bridge bounty hunters approach in menacing machines speeding towards the pair. Realizing they are both wanted by Aku they prepare to flee when the bounty hunters shackle them together. With nowhere to turn the pair juimp off the bridge to an unkown fate below. With a patois speaking pig of a sherriff and his crocodile henchmen hot on the heels the duo is forced to team up to defeat their common enemy.

After a climatic battle scene in which the bounty hunters and their henchmen are defeated the episode ends with the two arguing which one should buy drinks for the other.

While the first three episodes as "Samurai Jack - The Premiere Movie" give us insight into the history of Aku and Jack, it's later episodes that give the true flavour of the series. With painstaking attention to detail such as handpainted backgrounds that look literally other-worldy, and great combination of sound-effects and use of split screen effects, Samurai Jack looks like nothing else on North American television right now. Definitely a "cartoon" for adults and wee ones alike.

Update: Since originally posting this review the first two seasons of Samuari Jack have been released on DVD at fairly affordable prices.

R e l a t e d   L i n k s
Samurai Jack at the Cartoon Network

This page for Samurai Jack includes an episode guide, character list, show synopsis, video and audio clips, artwork gallery, as well as games and collectibles.

Samurai Jack at TV Tome

This Samurai Jack webpage includes an episode guide, cast list, goofs and nitpicks, message board and links.

Auntie Momo's Samurai Jack Site

Well done Samurai Jack fan site that includes character info, episode guide, wallpaper, games, icons, articles, links to several Samurai Jack online merchandise stores, and links to other fan sites.

Return to Andy's Anachronisms Home

Return to Television Review Index

Review Posted: 2003-08-17
Review Modified: 2005-07-14