I remember very little of the old show; more than a decade ago now, all I can recall is that Samurai Jack was part of the initial “Golden Age of TV” that made my childhood cartoon-watching so enjoyable. It was part of that Friday-Saturday night line-up—alongside other largely-forgotten nostalgia, including Johnny Bravo, Ed, Edd, ‘n’ Eddy, and Courage the Cowardly Dog—that made being a ‘90s kid awesome. When I heard of Jack’s return to late-night, I was stoked. One of my bosses at work is big on Toonami (check out his page: @ToonamiNews—twitter’s number one unofficial Toonami news source), and he’s the one who kept me up-to-date on the reboot.
Being completely honest, I’m still just as excited as I was leading up to the show as I am after watching the premiere.
Very little seems to have changed, from the original show. This is a good thing; reboots are tricky, and changing too much can confuse and even frustrate fans who remember what made the original good. I don’t, but enough here is familiar to bring back that nostalgic aspect, while remaining fresh and visually-appealing. The same crew is involved as on the original show, but with one exception: with the move to late-night Adult Swim programming, their room to move, material-wise, is limitless. It’s like what’s been done with the newest Wolverine film, Logan: shifting into a more adult headspace allows the creators more leeway to tell the story they want to tell, without having to worry about turning viewers away. They’re able to show more intense imagery and violence, because that’s what they’re aiming for and have accepted in the ratings board’s labeling of their show. I’m hopeful for this minute change—the show is growing with its fans.
This is a different Jack than what we’re used to. He’s clearly suffering from PTSD due to the events of his past (the series’ original run), and this is something he’ll have to deal with throughout the course of this limited return. Aku, for the most part, appears vanquished—or, at least, in a weakened state. In his absence, however, a splinter group calling themselves “Daughters of Aku” have risen up to combat Jack, looking to destroy him and secure Aku’s return and rule once and for all. I expect that Jack will fight and dispatch these new warriors—after all, how can they hope to stand up to this legend of the sword?—and the reboot will culminate in a final showdown with Aku, or, at least, the priestess that raised the Daughters. The possibilities are endless here.
The creators have shown us a grittier, darker take on the universe of Samurai Jack, with more grounded themes that affect Jack in ways like they would any of us. I feel that, with the material they’re opening up, however, that the episodes should really be in hour-long (45 minutes, excluding commercials) chunks, just so it doesn’t seem they’re speeding through the new story. A lot of corners feel like they’re being cut with the relatively-short run-time of the eps.; adults have a longer attention span than the younger audience, so—even at 11pm—they could, in theory, stay awake for the entirety of the show on a Saturday night.
All the exposition brings newer viewers up-to-speed without seeming sluggish, and also refreshes the older fans on where the original series left off. As I said, a limited series is the way to go here—enough of a reboot to be satisfying, without trying to resuscitate the brand fully. It’s like what Joss Whedon’s 2005 film, Serenity, did for Firefly fans: wrap things up from the series in a satisfying way, while still able to entertain in its own right.
I look forward to seeing where this limited series goes. Final ‘Risk Assessment: ****/*.
Jack is back.
Catch Samurai Jack on Adult Swim, Saturday nights at 11/10c.