Samurai Jack [Animated TV Series] (2001)

Run Time - 30 min.  |  
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The half-hour animated series Samurai Jack was the full fruition of a dream long held dear by creator Genndy Tartakovsky (Dexter's Laboratory). As Tartakovsky explained to an interviewer from the Sequential Tart online magazine, "I love action and I love action shows, but I've never seen a show that has enough action to satisfy me. I decided I want good action that's choreographed and since I like samurai, I came up with Samurai Jack." He also wanted to create a series that "has comedy, action, and adventure; it's all those things combined! From show to show you will never guess what will happen next." Though inspired by ancient Japanese legends (stylistically, the series resembled a marriage between cutting-edge anime and "classic" Hanna-Barbera), Samurai Jack's backstory originated in the mind of its creator. The hero was the son of a Japanese emperor, whose civilization was destroyed thousands of years ago by the evil, shape-shifting wizard Aku. Suddenly thrust forward centuries into the future, the young emperor's son endeavored to undo the long-range damage perpetrated by Aku -- which included conquering the world and subjugating generations upon generations of luckless mortals. Adopting the name "Jack" (as he'd been designated by a sarcastic passerby in the 21st century), and armed with his father's sacred sword, our hero utilized his finely honed samurai skills in his efforts to save the world from Aku's clutches. In the course of events, both Jack and Aku zig-zagged forward and backward in time...but alas, never far enough backward to nip Aku in the bud before all the chaos started. Per Genndy Tartakovsky's vision, one was never quite certain if Samurai Jack was to be taken deadly seriously, or if the whole thing was a campy put-on. Not only did the scenario veer sharply from comedy to drama and back again, but even the mixed-genre musical score kept viewers happily off balance. Additionally, Tartakovsky's yearning for "enough action" was carried out in the series' lengthy pantomimic passages, in which action rather than dialogue carried the storyline (a rarity in TV animation of the early 21st century). Introduced with three back-to-back episodes on August 10, 2001, Samurai Jack was one of the best -- and best-received -- of the Cartoon Network's "original" offerings.