Afro Samurai Review

As that layer of funk begins to flicker and the bullets begin to fly, Afro Samurai sets itself up as a flourishing, six-episode anime that brings the apocalypse to feudal Japan. Fuminori Kizaki’s piece of work offers clear and simple intentions for all characters involved. He does this so he can focus more of his time and efforts on the design of his heroes and villains, and the foregrounds they occupy. In those opening moments, both a villain and a reason for our hero to push forth are presented. That is all we as an audience will need. But how far can one character carry us through a world presented as dusty and grey not because it looks nice, but because it makes the blood look vibrant?

Crooked cigarettes in the mouth of Afro Samurai (Samuel L. Jackson) do more to highlight the detail and uniqueness of the world presented in Afro Samurai than anything else. These characters are fractured and broken by the world around them. It is a simple tale of revenge that Kizaki wishes to toy with, and in doing so he has much graphic detail he can work with. His action has pockets of brilliance, but they do not linger on the screen for all that long. Afro Samurai is after the headband that was stolen from his father. It is the headband that will give him the power to fight, but somewhere along the way he is sure to realise that the power was within him all along or something equally as mortifyingly dense.

One of the more frustrating aspects of Afro Samurai is that of its colour scheme. It is grey and gritty and not that good. Ninja Ninja (Jackson) appears more so he has a few lines, for the titular character himself appears to be one of stoic solemnity. He utters a handful of lines here or there, but by that point, it is clear Afro Samurai is trying to reinvent itself. Only five episodes, yet nothing of any real consequence is presented. It is the legendary tale of revenge and how it is best served at the end of a blade, but it is simplistic and inconsequential. Credit to the animation department, they manage to masquerade a horribly written story with such brilliant visuals, but the issue here is that they have many characters, and little time to develop them. If anything, Afro Samurai needs to spend more time with its characters, engaging with their weaknesses and deliberating on how their strengths outweigh their shortcomings.

Fairly forgettable scenes flutter across the screen, backed up by a soundtrack from RZA that is simply too good for this material. When the core elements are considered, Afro Samurai is nothing terrible. It is a fine series that will not linger on the mind for very long, for it has all the stylings of anime, yet does not offer any of the rich themes or stories the medium can offer. Director Fuminori Kizaki cannot get to grips with any of this, but his eye for detail and love for blood seems to work in his favour. It does much of the heavy lifting, but the burden is too much to carry. Jackson’s vocal talents and enthused performance are not enough to carry this weight.

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