Samurai Jack

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Samurai Jack
SamuraiJack.png
Genre Action
Adventure
Comedy-drama[1][2]
Dystopian
Thriller
Science fiction
Fantasy[3]
Created by Genndy Tartakovsky
Written by
Directed by
Voices of
Theme music composer
Opening theme "Samurai Jack" (seasons 1–4)
Ending theme "Samurai Jack"
Composer(s)
  • James L. Venable (seasons 1–4)
  • Tyler Bates, Joanne Higginbottom, and Dieter Hartmann (season 5)
  • Paul Dinletir (additional music, seasons 1–4)
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 5
No. of episodes 62 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Genndy Tartakovsky
Producer(s)
  • Genndy Tartakovsky
  • Dana Ritchey (associate producer, seasons 1–4)
  • Kelly Crews (supervising producer, season 5)
Running time 22 minutes
Production company(s)
Distributor Warner Bros. Television Distribution
Release
Original network
Picture format
Original release Seasons 1–4:
August 10, 2001 – September 25, 2004
Season 5:
March 11, 2017 – May 20, 2017
External links
Website www.adultswim.com/videos/samurai-jack

Samurai Jack is an American action-adventure animated television series created by Genndy Tartakovsky for Cartoon Network. The series follows "Jack", an unnamed samurai sent through time to a dystopian future ruled by the tyrannical shape-shifting demon Aku. Jack quests to travel back in time and defeat Aku before he can take over the world. The series premiered on August 10, 2001, with a TV movie called The Premiere Movie, before ending in its fourth season on September 25, 2004, without concluding the story. A revival was produced twelve years later, giving the fifth season that concludes the series, which premiered on Adult Swim's Toonami block on March 11, 2017. The series finale aired on May 20, 2017.

All episodes of Samurai Jack are directed by Tartakovsky, usually in collaboration with others. The series has garnered critical acclaim, and won four Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Animated Program, as well as six Annie Awards and an OIAF Award.

Premise[edit]

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!

— Aku, in the original opening title sequence

Samurai Jack tells the story of a young prince (voiced by Phil LaMarr) from a feudal Japan-inspired setting, whose father (Sab Shimono and Keone Young) received a magic katana used to defeat and imprison the supernatural shape-shifting demon Aku (Mako Iwamatsu). Eight years later,[4] Aku escapes, and the Emperor sends away his son to travel the world and train so he can return and use the magic sword to defeat Aku. On his return, he faces and almost defeats Aku, but Aku creates a time portal that sends the prince turned samurai into the distant future, with anticipation that he would be able to deal with the samurai by that time.[5]

The samurai prince arrives in a dystopian retrofuturistic Earth ruled by Aku. The first people he encounters call him "Jack" as a form of slang, which he adopts as his name.[6] His given name is never mentioned. Most episodes depict Jack overcoming various obstacles in his quest to travel back to his own time and defeat Aku. Each time Jack nears the end of his quest, his chance slips away, forcing him to continue his journey.[7][8]

Settings[edit]

The retro-futuristic world is inhabited by robots, extraterrestrials, talking animals, monsters, magical creatures, and deities. Some areas have advanced technology like flying cars, while others resemble ancient times or industrial conditions. What's more, Aku has brought aliens from other planets to inhabit Earth, while destroying the habitability of the alien planets. Criminals and fugitives take refuge on Aku's Earth. Mythological and supernatural creatures make regular appearances, and coexist among the technologically-advanced inhabitants.

Episodes[edit]

Season Episodes Originally aired
First aired Last aired Network
1 13 August 10, 2001 (2001-08-10) December 3, 2001 (2001-12-03) Cartoon Network
2 13 March 1, 2002 (2002-03-01) October 11, 2002 (2002-10-11)
3 13 October 18, 2002 (2002-10-18) August 26, 2003 (2003-08-26)
4 13 June 14, 2003 (2003-06-14) September 25, 2004 (2004-09-25)
5 10 March 11, 2017 (2017-03-11) May 20, 2017 Adult Swim

Production[edit]

Samurai Jack creator Genndy Tartakovsky.

Development[edit]

Samurai Jack was created by Genndy Tartakovsky as a follow-up to his successful series Dexter's Laboratory. He intended to develop a series "that is cinematic in scope and that incorporates action, humor, and intricate artistry".[9] Cartoon Network executive Mike Lazzo recalled Tartakovsky pitching him the series: "He said, 'Hey, remember David Carradine in Kung Fu? Wasn't that cool?' and I was like, 'Yeah, that's really cool.' That was literally the pitch."[10]

Influences and design[edit]

The basic premise of Samurai Jack comes from Tartakovsky's childhood fascination with samurai culture and the bushido code,[11](42:56) as well as a recurring dream where he'd wander a post-apocalyptic Earth with a samurai sword and travel the world fighting mutants with his crush.[12] The show is meant to evoke 1970s cinematography, as well as classic Hollywood films such as Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia[11](46:44) and Spartacus.[13] Thematic and visual inspirations come from Frank Miller's comic book series Ronin, including the premise of a master-less samurai warrior thrown into a dystopic future in order to battle a shape-shifting demon. Similarly, the episode "Jack and the Spartans" was specifically inspired by Miller's graphic novel 300 that retold the Battle of Thermopylae.[13] The Japanese comic Lone Wolf and Cub and films by Akira Kurosawa were also an inspiration.[14]

Broadcast[edit]

The network announced the series' launch at a press conference on February 21, 2001.[15] Weeks leading up to the series were accompanied by a sweepstakes giveaway sponsored by AOL in which the grand prize was a trip for four to Japan. The promotion also included sneak peeks of Samurai Jack, behind-the-scenes model sheets, as well as exclusive Cartoon Orbit cToons.[16] Samurai Jack officially debuted on Cartoon Network on August 10, 2001, with the three-part special "The Beginning".[17] The premiere received high praise, including four award nominations, as well as was released as a standalone VHS and DVD on March 19, 2002.[10][18][19] Cartoon Network ordered 52 episodes of Samurai Jack, which were aired as 4 seasons of 13 episodes each, as a primetime member of the Cartoon Cartoon Fridays programming block. The final episode aired on September 25, 2004.

Reruns had frequently been shown on Cartoon Network's sister channel, Boomerang, from August 3, 2009, until December 3, 2011, and again from June 3, 2012, until June 1, 2014.[20] Later, the series moved to Adult Swim's Toonami block for reruns on February 1, 2014. It was removed on Adult Swim's block on January 25, 2015.

Conclusion and revival[edit]

Original ending[edit]

The original series was left open-ended after the conclusion of the fourth season.[21] Tartakovsky said, "coming close to [the end of] the fourth season, we're like, 'are we gonna finish it?' And I didn't know... The network didn't know, they were going through a lot of transitions also. So I decided, you know, I don't want to rush and finish the whole story, and so we just left it like there is no conclusion and then [the final episode is] just like another episode". Art director Scott Wills added, "We didn't have time to think about it, because we went right into Clone Wars. They even overlapped, I think. There was no time to even think about it."[22]

Planned film[edit]

A film intended to conclude the story of Samurai Jack had been in development at different times by four different studios.[23](2:50) As early as 2002, Cartoon Network was producing a Samurai Jack live action feature film,[1] in association with New Line Cinema.[24] Tartakovsky said in a 2006 interview that the live action version of Samurai Jack was thankfully abandoned, and that "we will finish the story, and there will be an animated film."[25] Fred Seibert announced in 2007 that the newly-formed Frederator Films is developing a Samurai Jack movie,[26] which was planned to be in stereoscopic 2D[27] with a budget of 20 million dollars.[28] Seibert said in 2009 the film was being co-produced with J. J. Abrams' Bad Robot Productions.[24] Sony Pictures Entertainment expressed interest in developing a Samurai Jack film in 2012. Genndy Tartakovsky said in an interview with IGN the Samurai Jack movie is in pre-production: "I've been trying so hard every year, and the one amazing thing about Jack is that I did it in 2001, you know, and it still survived. There's something about it that's connected with people. And I want it, it's number 1 on my list, and now Bob Osher, the president, is like 'Hey, let's talk about Jack. Let's see what we can do.' And I go, 'You're going to do a 2D feature animated movie?' and he's like, 'Yeah. Maybe. Let's do some research and let's see.' So it's not dead for sure by any means, and it's still on the top of my list, and I'm trying as hard as I can." Tartakovsky said the loss of Mako Iwamatsu, Aku's voice actor, would also need to be addressed.[29] The feature film project never materialized, and eventually the series concluded with a fifth television season.[30]

Revival[edit]

Samurai Jack returned to television thirteen years after the fourth season concluded. It began airing on Adult Swim on March 11, 2017. This fifth and final season was produced at Cartoon Network Studios with Tartakovsky as executive producer.[31] It has more mature elements and a cohesive story that concludes Jack's journey. The story takes place fifty years after Jack has been cast into the future, though he has not aged as a side effect of his time travel. Jack (reprised by Phil LaMarr) is in despair from the many years of fighting Aku (Greg Baldwin, replacing the late Mako) and from Aku's destruction of all the remaining time portals; he is haunted by warped visions of himself, his family and an enigmatic warrior on horseback.[32] Jack lost his father's magic sword; Aku seems to be unaware of this fact, and has started to give up hope of ever defeating Jack, especially since Jack has stopped aging.[33] Ashi (Tara Strong) and her sisters are raised by an Aku-worshiping cult to be assassins whose purpose is to kill Jack. They attack Jack and gravely injure him, but at their next encounter he kills them all except Ashi. Jack persuades Ashi that Aku is evil, and she joins Jack and helps him reclaim his sword. The two become romantically involved as they journey to defeat Aku. Aku is informed that Jack lost his sword and faces him, not knowing Jack has recovered it in the interim. Aku senses that Ashi has part of him inside her, and possesses her body to attack Jack. Jack refuses to kill Ashi, and lays down his sword in defeat. Aku takes Jack prisoner and prepares to kill him, but the people Jack helped all over the planet rally to his defense. When Jack tells Ashi that he loves her, she regains control of her mind. Ashi finds that she has the same powers as Aku and uses them to return the sword to Jack, and open a time portal to send Jack and herself to the past, where Jack destroys Aku once and for all. With peace restored and the future of Aku's rule undone, Jack prepares to marry Ashi, but she fades away as she says "without Aku, I would have never existed." The series closes with Jack secluded in a sun-lit grove of flowering trees, watching a ladybug fly free.

Reception[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

In 2004, British broadcaster Channel 4 ran a poll of the 100 greatest cartoons of all time, in which Samurai Jack achieved the 42nd position.[34] The show was ranked 11th by IGN for its Top 25 Primetime Animated Series of All Time list in 2006.[35] IGN also ranked the show 43rd in its Top 100 Animated Series list in 2009.[36]

Matt Zoller Seitz, a film critic for RogerEbert.com and television critic for Vulture, considers Samurai Jack, along with Tartakovsky's Star Wars: Clone Wars, to be a masterwork and one of the greatest American animated shows on television, mainly for its visual style:[37]

[A]lthough Tartakovsky is a good storyteller, in a silent-movie sort of way—expressing what’s happening moment-to-moment through picture and sound rather than in dialogue—I never watched either of these programs for their plots, and I don’t re-watch them for narrative, either. I re-watch them for the same reason that I visit art museums, attend live concerts, and pause during journeys from point A to point B in New York to watch dancers, acrobats, or street musicians: because I appreciate virtuosity for its own sake. And that’s what Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars and Samurai Jack give you, scene for scene and shot for shot .... [T]he plot was never the point. It was always about the visual music that Tartakovsky, his designers, and his animators created onscreen.

Samurai Jack would later be included in Seitz and Alan Sepinwall's 2016 book TV (The Book) as an honorable mention following the 100 greatest television series of all time.[38]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result
2002 Annie Award Outstanding Character Design in an Animated Television Production[18] Lynne Naylor
for "Jack and the Warrior Woman"
Nominated
Outstanding Music in an Animated Television Production[18] James L. Venable
for "The Beginning"
Won
Outstanding Production Design in an Animated Television Production[18] Dan Krall
for "The Beginning"
Won
Outstanding Production Design in an Animated Television Production[18] Scott Wills
for "The Beginning"
Nominated
Outstanding Storyboarding in an Animated Television Production[18] Bryan Andrews
for "Jack and the Three Blind Archers"
Won
OIAF Award Best Television Series[39] Genndy Tartakovsky
for "Jack and the Three Blind Archers"
Won
Annecy Official Selection Special Award for Television Series[40] Genndy Tartakovsky
for "Jack and the Three Blind Archers"
Won
Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming One Hour or More)[41] Brian A. Miller, Yu Mun Jeong, Yeol Jung Chang, Paul Rudish, Genndy Tartakovsky, Bong Koh Jae
for "The Beginning, Parts 1–3"
Nominated
TCA Award Outstanding Achievement in Children's Programming[42] Samurai Jack Nominated
2003 Annie Award Outstanding Achievement in an Animated Television Production[43] Cartoon Network Studios Nominated
Outstanding Character Design in an Animated Television Production[43] Andy Suriano
for "Jack and the Haunted House"
Won
Outstanding Directing in an Animated Television Production[43] Genndy Tartakovsky and Robert Alvarez
for "The Birth of Evil"
Nominated
Outstanding Production Design in an Animated Television Production[43] Scott Wills
for "The Birth of Evil"
Won
Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation[19] Scott Wills
for "Jack and the Traveling Creatures"
Won
Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation[19] Dan Krall
for "Jack and the Spartans"
Won
2004 Annie Award Outstanding Directing in a Television Production[44] Genndy Tartakovsky
for "Tale of X-49"
Nominated
Outstanding Production Design in a Television Production[44] Richard Daskas
for "Seasons of Death"
Won
Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming Less Than One Hour)[19] Genndy Tartakovsky, Brian A. Miller, Don Shank, Robert Alvarez, Randy Myers, Yu Mun Jeong, Bong Koh Jae, James T. Walker
for "The Birth of Evil"
Won
2005 Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming Less Than One Hour)[19] Genndy Tartakovsky, Brian A. Miller, Bryan Andrews, Mark Andrews, Hueng-soon Park, Kwang-bae Park, Randy Myers, James T. Walker
for "Seasons of Death"
Nominated
Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation[19] Bryan Andrews
for "Seasons of Death"
Won

Legacy and influence[edit]

The distinctive style of Samurai Jack is what drew Lucasfilm to recruit Tartakovsky for the Star Wars: Clone Wars animated series[citation needed]. Much of the signature cinematic style of Samurai Jack is present in Clone Wars, such as lightning-fast combat, extended sequences without dialogue, explosions, epic vistas, etc.[45]

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 an homage to Samurai Jack.[46][47]

Jack later made a cameo on the Uncle Grandpa episode "Pizza Eve".[48][better source needed]

Other media[edit]

Home video releases[edit]

Like other previous Cartoon Network shows, Samurai Jack DVDs were released by Warner Home Video between 2002 and 2007. The DVDs include episode numbers in Roman numerals as they appear at the end of each episode but remain untitled. Season 1 was released on Netflix streaming service in 2013.[49]

Samurai Jack VHS and DVD releases
Title Episodes Release date Description
Region 1 Region 4
The Premiere Movie 4 March 19, 2002[50][51] October 10, 2007[52] Available on DVD and VHS, this release contains the first 3 episodes of season 1 ("The Beginning" (I–III)) as well as the episode "Jack and the Scotsman" (XI) in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.
Season 1 13 May 4, 2004[53] November 7, 2007[54] This 2-disc DVD set includes all 13 episodes from season 1. It also includes a "making-of" documentary, an original animation test, original artwork, as well as commentary on "Jack and the Three Blind Archers" (VII).
Season 2 13 May 24, 2005[55] March 4, 2009[56] This 2-disc DVD set includes all 13 episodes from season 2. It also includes commentary on "Jack and the Spartans" (XXV), "Creator Scrapbook", as well as an original episode pitch.
Season 3 13 May 23, 2006[57] September 9, 2009[58] This 2-disc DVD set includes all 13 episodes from season 3. It also includes commentary on "The Birth of Evil" (XXXVII/XXXVIII), "Lost Artwork" and a featurette called "Martial Arts of the Samurai".
Season 4 13 August 28, 2007[59] October 3, 2012[60] This 2-disc DVD set includes all 13 episodes from season 4. It also includes "Genndy's Roundtable", "Genndy's New Project", deleted scenes and Samurai Jack promos.
Samurai Jack and Friends 7 October 7, 2014[61] N/A This DVD includes episodes 14 through 20.
Other releases including Samurai Jack episodes
Title Episodes Release date Features
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
4 Kid Favorites: The Hall of Fame Collection Vol. 2 7 March 12, 2013[62] N/A N/A 4-disc compilation set includes Samurai Jack: Season One, Disc One

Video games[edit]

The Samurai Jack world has been seen in the video games Samurai Jack: The Amulet of Time for the Game Boy Advance in 2003 and Samurai Jack: The Shadow of Aku for the Nintendo GameCube and PlayStation 2 in 2004.[63][64]

Several elements of the Samurai Jack concept were reused in several video games: the MMORPG Cartoon Network Universe: FusionFall features Jack, the Scotsman and Demongo as non-playable characters, while Aku is a Nano. The online game Project Exonaut features Jack only as a playable character for the Banzai Squadron. The brawler game Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion for Nintendo 3DS, Wii, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 features Jack and the Scotsman as playable characters while Aku is an assist character, a boss and a playable character.

Samurai Jack is voiced by Phil LaMarr once more for most games, and by Keith Ferguson for Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion. In Cartoon Network Universe: FusionFall, the Scotsman is voiced by John DiMaggio and Demongo is voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson. Due to Mako Iwamatsu's death in 2006, Aku is voiced by Greg Baldwin in Cartoon Network Universe: FusionFall and Fred Tatasciore in Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion.

Comics[edit]

In February 2013, IDW Publishing announced a partnership with Cartoon Network to produce comics based on its properties. Samurai Jack was one of the titles announced to be published. It was further announced at WonderCon 2013 that the first issue of Samurai Jack would debut in October 2013.[65] The first comic in the series was released October 23, 2013.[66] The final issue came out on May 2015. On October 25, 2016, IDW re-released all of the issues in a compilation entitled "Tales of a Wandering Warrior".[67] Tartakovsky doesn't consider the comics part of the story of Jack.[23](4:58)

Jack also appeared in multiple issues of DC Comics' anthology comic series Cartoon Network Action Pack, which ran from July 2006 to April 2012.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ "'Samurai Jack' Review: Adult Swim Resurrects the Best Samurai of the 21st Century, and It's Already an Action-Packed Masterpiece". The Verge. Retrieved March 31, 2017. 
  3. ^ "Genndy Tartakovsky on reviving Samurai Jack: 'I was out of shape for working this hard again'". IndieWire. Retrieved March 31, 2017. 
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  65. ^ [1] Archived February 28, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  66. ^ [2] Archived November 23, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
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External links[edit]