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In the distant past, a Japanese samurai embarks on a mission to defeat the evil shape-shifting wizard Aku. Before he can complete his task, though, he is catapulted thousands of years into the future. He finds himself in a world where Aku now enjoys complete power over every living thing. Dubbing himself "Jack," he sets out on a new quest--to right the wrongs that have been done by his enemy and to find a way back to his own time so he can destroy the evil for good. Written by
Alan Back <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Samurai Jack is the quintessence of cartoon storytelling today. there is no two-ways about it.
let me break it down for you: Long ago in a distant land, Aku, the shape-shifting master of darkness, unleashed an unspeakable evil, but a samurai warrior wielding a magic sword stepped fourth to oppose him. before the final blow was struck, Aku opened a portal in time, flinging the samurai into the future, where Aku's evil is law. now the samurai seeks to return to the past, and undo the future that is Aku.
the first story involves the samurai landing in the future, he is given a name by some enthusiastic street-urchins (Jack), and finds himself in a rough bar filled with belligerent aliens and talking dogs. these dogs are in desperate peril, and seek jack's help in a very obvious reference to Akira Kurosowa's masterpiece The Seven Samurai.
as the series continues, Jack's quest becomes less a focal point of the story, and more a vehicle for various short stories. great storytelling needs but three things: a setting, a protagonist, and a goal. Jack uses this idea to exploit a formula of diversity. anything the animator/writers throw on the wall, generally sticks. the ambiguity of the show allows for a free-form format that has made shows like Cowboy Bebop and Justice League Unlimited fellow masterpieces of the serial animation format. stories range from horror, science fiction and fantasy, to comedy, Wu shu, drama, noir, giant robo and epic action.
Jack is a child of a lot of inspiration, things like Star Wars and Akira Kurosowa are obvious influences, but the works of Marvel and DC comics, as well as the work of graphic novelist Frank Miller are all very apparent references. (infact Miller's acclaimed graphic novel Ronin is very similar in plot to Samurai Jack, and there is an entire episode based upon the premise of 300, another Miller book which has also become a Hollywood film.)
Jack is, by all means, an action show. in a given show there is maybe 10-15 minutes of action in a 24 minute episode, however in later seasons, the formula of Jack as an action show recedes heavily, and the show becomes more of a sampler-plate of creativeness. the stories are as charming and moving as they are diverse and epic.
Samurai Jack is a brilliant show, it's influences are long-spread and it will undoubtedly be remembered as a staple of artistic television.
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