Cartoon Network have been repeating Samurai Jack over the last couple of weeks, so obviously this gives me a great excuse to write a blog post on how great it is, including lots of pretty pictures and general fangirling. I was a big fan of Samurai Jack when it first appeared on our tellies back in, oh jeezum cripes, 2001 (2001?! That’s ten years ago, my friends) and it coincided with my first forays on to the internet. In fact, my very first forum was a Samurai Jack fan forum, where I first learnt internet etiquette and the rules of fandom wank. It was run by a boy whom I always assumed was about 12 years old, but the forum itself was actually populated largely by older ladies, and I don’t think our administrator always appreciated our take on the cartoon. Ha. Good times.
Anyway, here are a few reasons why Samurai Jack is Pretty Much the Greatest Cartoon Ever Made.
It’s Beautiful: You could take any single frame of this cartoon and hang it on your wall, and people would come over to your house (probably people you’ve never met) to tell you what fantastic taste you have in modern art. Every backdrop is gorgeous, every character design clever and satisfying. Jack’s form is a brilliant collection of block colours and spare lines, every bit of it economical and right, and that’s all without even going into how everything moves – which is gracefully, and with perfect timing (both comedy and otherwise).
Samurai Jack Doesn’t Care About Your Attention Span: Everything in modern animation is fast, fast, fast. Look at this, now look at that, now over here… We’ve got to pack a billion things into this twenty minutes, so stay alert! Samurai Jack doesn’t do that. I convinced Marty to watch an episode with me the other week, and he was most amused by the drawn-out action sequences – amused and delighted, I think. In the episode we watched, a trio of arrows are approaching a target, all converging on the same tiny point. We switch views from arrow to arrow, to the faces of the archers, to Jack’s reaction, and then back again as they creep on to an inevitable doom.
And it’s not afraid to do that in quieter scenes too. We sometimes see Jack travelling the beautiful landscape alone, his figure lost amongst the bizarre alien foliage… all so we can appreciate the weirdness of his journey, and how alone he is.
It’s Also Fucking Funny: While I waffle on about the gorgeous backdrops and the ineffable awesomeness of Jack’s quest, I should also point out that it’s very funny. Even the action episodes will have moments of humour, usually dialogue free: Jack is the perfect straight man, and it’s a shame not to use him as such, after all. There are also episodes that are just straight up funny too, and it certainly never takes itself seriously: there’s the episode where Jack is zapped by a wizard for instance, and he has to survive as a bad ass Samurai… chicken. Or the one where he loses his lovely sandals, and at one point ends up wearing a pair of stacked pimp shoes, complete with goldfish in the heels.
It Is Not Afraid of Fan Service: For a cartoon with a male lead, Samurai Jack does not mind admitting that the main character is…well, hot. We’re quite used to seeing the (usually second fiddle) female cartoon characters treated as sex objects but it is much rarer with the men- not so in Samurai Jack. In fact, the animators take every opportunity to, for example, tear his robes off so he’s fighting bare-chested, or have his hair come lose, or even have him running about in his cheerfully old-fashioned loincloth dealio. We were treated to one episode (Jack is Naked) where Jack spends pretty much the whole time… well, in the nip.
So there you go. If you’ve never seen Samurai Jack, I strongly urge you to seek it out. It’s an animated masterpiece that deserves a proper ending, and perhaps if we all start bigging it up again Genndy Tartakovsky will give us one. Oh, and it also won some Emmys.