Thursday, January 25

Blood and Guts

The second and third episodes of Afro Samura from GONZO Animation and actor Samuel Jackson have come out recently, and as promised they ramp up the blood, gore, violence and sex far up from the opening episode of this 5-part series.
Episodes 2, entitled The Dream Reader, follow the titular vengeance-seeking swordsman and Number Two warrior in the world after he is sent hurtling off a cliff by an explosion. Alive but seriously wounded, he is found and tended to by Okiku (voiced by Kelly Hu), a beautiful woman who isn't all that she seems. In and out of Afro's Subconscious and Unconscious, we see his bloody past- the taking of the Number Two headband from him by some brigands, as well as the desecration of his father's remains; to his joining a kendo school and finding other children to call friends, to his first kill on his road of revenge. In between the somewhat lullish moments of the episode Afro manages to have a bit of lovemaking just before the inevitable reveal and attack at the end.
The episode ramps up the violence quite a bit with Kill Bill-esque fountains of blood spouting from more than one character in the course of the 20+minute show, the circumstances made even more dark by the sheer youth of the protagonist at the time. Yes, there's sex before the finale, though not really enough to make this a hentai feature. It's all wrapped up neatly by the end and Afro's off to continue his quest.

I guess I failed to mention the continued presence of Ninja Ninja, Afro's tag-along companion who's about as talkative as Afro is silent. I have to say that while the role gives Jackson (he voices Ninja as well) room to perform more lines in the show (Afro's dialogue wouldn't fill half a page), the character is just wrong. He's irritating and doesn't bring anything to the table aside from being annoying. The lines aren't funny or helpful, and the only mystery I am seeing in Ninja Ninja is WHY THE HELL IS AFRO ALLOWING HIM TO FOLLOW? And for someone named Ninja NInja, you'd think he'd be kinda kick-ass... but he's not. But he is hard to kill though. Does he actually have a use aside from not-comedy relief? We'll just have to see.

Anyway, Episode 3, titled Clan of the Empty Seven has Afro taking on the evil order of monks that has been following and harassing him from the start of the series. The baddies send out their big gun- nothing less than a robotic copy of Afro (apty called the Afro Droid) to take him out. Afro wins the first round and promptly thereafter starts taking out the clan one by one in fights which, while not being too exciting or slick, are certainly very bloody and gory. A return engagement with the Afro Droid follows, with a look at Afro's next opponent (a swordsman wearing, of all things, a huge Teddy Bear mask) ending the episode.

While Episode 2 was a lull and a bit of flashback, Episode 3 is all action. There are some cool animations and some wild fight scenes, perhaps a bit overblown even for this series but still quite cool. Again, blood spurts in disturbing (and by now monotonous) amounts, and Ninja Ninja once again is utterly irritating and useless. Just two more episodes to go and this one is done. Will the last few opponents ramp up the blood even more after all the carnage in the first 3 installments? Get your barf bags ready.

All in all, I have to say I'm not totally impressed by Afro Samurai. Midway in, I haven't been blown away by any revelations, any coolness to the villains (aside from Justice himself in the first episode) or any twists (no twists are coming by now, I guess... this is all a one-trick, one-track simple story). The animation is consistent at least, and the action intense as heck. I guess I am disappointed by the lack of real humor (Ninja Ninja is not funny at all) or any depth to Afro aside from the occasional glass of lemonade.
Despite all the flaws, I guess I'm seeing this to the bitter and bloody end. Maybe there's a surprise at the end. Maybe not. But I do know someone's going to die. Next ep's up in a day or two, so we'll see then.

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