Friday, January 5

One Bad Mutha of an Anime

Samuel Jackson makes his animated debut in Afro Samurai.

Last night, I was able to acquire and watch the first episode of Afro Samurai. Originally a manga by Takashi Okazaki, the title has now been adapted into a 5-episode anime featuring the voice of Samuel "Bad Mutha" Jackson as the titular big-haired hero. Also lending their voices to the show are Kelly Hu (Deathstrike in X2) and Ron Perlman (Hellboy). Fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender may also recognize the voice of Grey DeLisle(Princess Azula) in the cast. The musical score was produced by Wu-Tang Clan member RZA.

The story is simple, seemingly. A legend states that there are two headbands in contention by all the greatest warriors; one is marked with the symbol for 'Number One', and whomever wears this can rule as a god. The only one who can challenge the Number One is the wearer of the cloth headband with the symbol "Number Two"... the problem is, ANYONE can challenge Number Two. The titular character, Afro Samurai, is the current bearer of the Number Two headband, and he's on a mission to avenge his father's murder at the hands of the current Number One- a demonic gunslinger named Justice. Of course, he has to face hordes of rogue bandits, mercenaries and other unsavoury dudes along the way, many of which are packing some serious firepower. All Afro has on his side is a very talkative tag-along named Ninja-Ninja (also voiced by Jackson) and his trusty sword.

As to be expected, Afro Samurai is a pretty bad-ass piece of animated action, featuring some graphic violence in the form of lethal swordfights and skirmishes aplenty, with lots of the red stuff flying around (which gives a bit more color to the often black-and-white or dull general grey tones of the visuals), along with decapitated heads, severed limbs and what not. It's very much like the anime portion of Kill Bill, very stylized violence which is at least quick enough to be artistic and not totally gruesome. Aside from the blood, there's a wee bit of titillation, some colorful language and quite a bit of smoking done by several characters of what suspiciously looks like pot. Well, at least Afro only drinks lemonade, it seems.

The first episode of Afro Samurai ends with a cliffhanger, and generally this leaves me wanting to see more. I'm still hoping for the story to get deeper, more intriguing characters to be introduced (at least give us a hot babe fighter) and funnier (or more colorful) Sam Jackson lines in the next episodes. For now, you can try to find your Afro Samurai online or at your favorite anime dealers.

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