18 November 2007 | bob the moo
Knows its audience really well and delivers exactly where it needs to
Seeking to avenge his father's death, the Afro Samurai sets out to kill the #1 fighter in all the land, a man called Justice. After earning himself the title of #2, which is required for him to be able to challenge Justice, Afro Samurai sets out on his journey to revenge. His road is a dangerous one as he must first find out the location of Justice from his foes all of whom would seek to protect Justice and also win the title of #2 for themselves. His task is a lonely and dark one, but like it or not he has a companion in the constantly b1tching Ninja Ninja.
Although it will not be to everyone's taste, Afro Samurai is a perfect example of something being pitched right at the target audience it is intended for. adult swim is the perfect home for it because it is very much targeted at young males who like their hip hop, Anime and traditions of feudal Japan. It mixes these in a great series of animations that some audiences will claim is very high on style at the expense of content. Now I appreciate that most reviews here are gushing in their praise of this series and not keen on anyone criticising it but, the thing is, those saying it lacks substance do have a point. Like I said before though, it is target audience stuff and for those into it, there will be plenty of content to support the style those looking to be intellectually stimulated by the themes and ideals behind the characters will not get what they are looking for (but why were you looking here for those things). However for target audience the emotional core and the narrative twists will be more than enough to fill the running times of each episode and expand across the season.
What the series delivers in spades though is the cool world of the samurai crossed with the violent and stylish world of Anime with a big dollop of urban culture thrown in there too. It is no surprise to find The Rza involved because again it brings it back to a product that knows what its audience. So those coming to it will be looking for certain things and it delivers it well visually. The Anime animation is slick and cool and moves with all the conventions you will be used to from the genre. The soundtrack compliments it really well because, as other things (eg Boondocks, Wu-Tang etc) have shown, the mix of ninja/samurai (yes, I know they are very different) cultures and modern hip hop seems to be an easy fit. Performance wise you gotta say that Jackson is perfect for the role and again shows that he )or his agent) can pick the roles that bring him heat from his base fans. He is really good in his dual roles and brings the dialogue alive. Of course he is well supported by a famous cast even if they are not all given roles that are that big. Perlman has a great voice and uses it well, but while I think Hu is again a good example of targeting your audience's tastes, her voice is not her strongest feature. Generally though all voice work is good because they are matching the style of the series rather than giving performances per se.
Overall then, not for everyone's tastes but in targeting its audience it is as ruthlessly efficient as Afro Samurai himself. Stylish, bloody, brooding and with an overall air of effortless cool, it is a fine series that I enjoyed. Put it this way, if you like the sound of it then you will almost certainly like it it is that good at what it does.