Final Thoughts on Samurai Jack Season 5

ModernSpongeBobSucks
Most of you should probably know by now that Samurai Jack, an American animated series created by Genndy Tartakovsky for Cartoon Network, had just finally received the series conclusion that fans have long waited for in the form of a fifth and final season formatted as a serialized 10-episode cohesive story. Before I get into the meat of this review, I would like to give you all some background on how I came to watch and enjoy Tartakovsky's magnum opus. Now when I was a kid, I unfortunately never really watched Samurai Jack back then. Not because I didn't like it, but because since I was still a kid around in its prime from 2001-2004 before its cancellation, I was mostly into shows that were more comedy-oriented and appealed to kids, such as Ed, Edd n Eddy and SpongeBob SquarePants. Which was why I never found interest in Samurai Jack since it felt too complex and not the type of show that I would have enjoyed when I was younger. And boy, did I make such a huge mistake to miss out on watching four seasons chock-full of everything you needed in a nigh-perfectly flawless cartoon that could appeal to audiences of all ages and earn four Primetime Emmy Awards. Prior to Season 5, the only times I ever took interest in this show was through reading about it on the official Cartoon Network website and Wikipedia, watching clips of it such as those from The Scotsman Saves Jack duology and Jack and the Annoying Creature, and a few of its online web games like Desert Quest and Way of the Warrior.

But around the time that I got older and became a casual anime fan, I was living in a world where online streaming of animated content was now more accessible on the Internet... and around the time that my parents got rid of cable since they felt that it cost too much money and that I could already watch stuff online. Thankfully, that didn't stop me from being able to get interested in Samurai Jack. Even though I no longer had cable, I still kept up with news from the revived Toonami Saturday night block that had been brought back in 2012 since its 2008 cancellation as I marveled at bumpers featuring T.O.M. 5 and his supporting female host SARA. One day, around the time that I was watching episode of the Intruder II Total Immersion Event that acted as a sequel to The Intruder Total Immersion Event, I saw a promo teasing a new season for Samurai Jack as Jack wielded his sword clad in armor in front of a silhouette of Aku. Thus, I began to develop an interest in Samurai Jack as I watched clips of old episodes from the first four seasons and was even able to watch the full length of Episode XLVIII: Jack versus Aku, which featured Jack and Aku going man-to-man in a duel together to settle their long-standing conflict once and for all. While the duel may have ended with Aku fleeing and saying that he'll be back, Jack replied in bold confidence that he will wait for as long as it takes to finally destroy Aku. Which now brings us to our main topic discussion.

With that line, Jack's wait is now over now that Season 5 has aired and finished its run on Toonami on Adult Swim. While I was never able to watch all four seasons, that didn't stop me from enjoying what could be considered one of, if not, the best animated series revival on television to hit the small screen. Now Samurai Jack has always been a show that invoked the artistry and power of silence in its little to no use of dialogue conjoined with the combination of the show's cinematic scope and episodic format. And what better way than to culminate all of that into a stoic and humble samurai warrior named Jack. But around the time Season 5 came along, the revival made quite a few major transitions that would change the show for the better. A major one being Jack in particular. While Jack was always generally a blank slate but likable male protagonist, as the show's age rating got bumped up and began to flex its maturity muscles, Jack aged along with the show as well like its audience has as he went from said blank slate character who was nothing but an idealistic and heroic spirit of pure heart and justice that would conquer evil anywhere he goes to save the lives of others even at the risk of his own to a three-dimensionally complex man of war who was starting to truly feel the harsh effects of his 50-year long stay in the future as he began to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his own perceived failure to save those who have died under Aku's grasp and to get back to the past to undo the future that is Aku. Whether it be being haunted by the show's interpretation of a physical personification of death or having to struggle with his inner demons, Jack's character is explored more deeply in depth than ever before in the original.

Next, is the show's maturity itself. Now you're probably thinking to yourself that since the show is now aimed for a more mature audience, it would be FILLED to the brim with infinite levels of gore and violence to the point that that was all the show would be about as heads and guts would be flying everywhere across the screen. Thankfully, instead of being an edgy bloodbath that took away the charm of the original series, Samurai Jack's fifth season was able to both give meaning and symbolism to the significant moments of blood spilling and keep the charm of the original series at the same time. Take for example when he kills his first human. In all four previous seasons, the only things Jack has ever killed were robots and alien creatures. But at one point in this season, he actually kills a HUMAN of all things, further highlighting his internal struggles as he conflicts with himself morally over whether it was right to do so. Which brings us to the themes of this show's fifth season as well. While mature themes were already present in the first four seasons, they are definitely explored more in-depth in the fifth season, especially the one involving that the decisions and actions that follow are a reflection of who you are. And if I'm to add on, I would without a doubt say that this fifth season pretty much deconstructs the series as a whole, considering that the stakes are higher and Jack is in more dangerous situations than ever before whether it be being mercilessly chased down by seven female assassins or contemplating suicide for his own perceived failure.

As for the characters, old and new, each of them are presented very well in how they are affected by Aku's future after the 50-year time skip and their relationship with Jack. First off, while Aku doesn't appear too much in the fifth season, the first few episodes do manage to deconstruct the eternal stalemate between him and Jack as the Shogun of Sorrow himself is left in a depression knowing that Jack may very well be here forever since he can't do anything about it now that he cannot age. With this deconstruction, this really shows how the show went from keeping the status quo to now essentially breaking it. Back in the old days, Aku would occasionally confront Jack and fly away from the verge of the defeat in every encounter, treating it as status quo as he would never defeat Jack and Jack would not as well. But now, you can see the 50 years really take a toll on Aku. Though, that's not to say it's to the point he's a sympathetic villain. While Mako Iwamatsu may no longer be of this world to give Aku's signature energetic and flamboyant voice, Greg Baldwin was able to still keep much of Aku's charm, humor, and sadistic tendencies while still putting on his own spin of his portrayal of Aku without straying away from Iwamatsu's original portrayal of him. As for the new ones, we have characters like Scaramouche and Ashi. While Scaramouche looked like he was initially going to be a one-time character, he would go on to become quite a comical recurring antagonist in the later episodes of the season. Voiced by none other than Tom Kenny, Scaramouche was a very hilarious comic relief character full of personality that made you laugh every time. Oh, and let's not forget that talking penis joke as well! Now for Ashi, she already had a lot of potential going on with her character considering she had the most screen time and focus out of all the Daughters of Aku in the first episode, highlighted by her love for nature as she peers out of a crack in her cult's cave and gazes at the beauty of a lush forest. Initially raised to be relentless and bent on destroying Jack like the rest of her sisters, Ashi would gradually go from being the one meant to kill Jack to being not only one of his most important allies in the series as a whole, but also... a meaningful love interest as well. You may or may not enjoy the character dynamic between Jack and Ashi, but I personally enjoyed their growing friendship as they went from bitter enemies to allies and eventually two destined for one another. But things would really tense up once Aku was brought into the midst of things. I would go on about this, but I think it's best you experience the entirety of the series for yourself as you read this final thoughts post.

And finally, story and production value was truly state-of-the-art. The execution and presentation of an entire serialized story within the time span of 10 episodes was pretty well done for the most part from my perspective. All the way from beginning to end. Not to mention the emotions and cliffhangers really had my heart tugging and my mind anticipating in suspense respectively. As for production value, the animation was top-notch as always as it not only stayed faithful to the original series, but also masterfully used digital animation as well while trying to keep the same feel and style of the original art style of the first four seasons. Throw in the phenomenal music, superb choreography, outstanding voice acting, and so much more and at this point, Samurai Jack Season 5 might as well be considered to have fired on all cylinders in the production department with well-aimed shots. Now I know not everyone is quite satisfied with the series finale of Samurai Jack, as while a majority were content with the ending that Tartakovsky said was going to have us in tears, there are actually some people who were disappointed with the conclusion. Regardless, my opinion on the series finale stays the same as I truly believe that while the season had some flaws, especially in its final episode, it took the simplest but best solution and was able to work with it to the best of its ability to really wrap things up on a high and good note. I would try to write more, but you can see all of that in all 10 of my episode reviews of Samurai Jack Season 5. Overall, I indeed enjoyed all of Samurai Jack Season 5 and will always remember it not only as one of the best cartoons I have ever watched, but also one of the best cartoons in existence.

Here's to Samurai Jack (2001-2017)

"Your love has been set free."

We will never forget you till the day we die, Samurai.

Comments

Gennedy Tartovsky is a genius - TwilightKitsune

It's spelled Genndy Tartakovsky. And yes, he is an animation genius. - ModernSpongeBobSucks

Never saw this, but the clone wars series he made is good(not as good as the CGI one mind you). - Therandom

I've heard about the two Clone Wars installments. I've only seen the CGI one which I remember liking, though I have yet to watch a full episode or even a clip of Tartakovsky's Clone War series. - ModernSpongeBobSucks

Treated the series with a bang of a finale. - visitor

To be honest I think the start of this series was better than the end. I loved the constant violence and Jack's helplessness. I think it drove the story more. Everything went downhill when he got his sword back. The story ended up feeling rushed. - Mcgillacuddy

Truth be told, the ending could have been better-paced. After all, the 10-episode duration was much a choice on Tartakovsky's part rather than a result of production issues. I can see why some fans wanted more since everything felt stuffed in at the last minute. Regardless, I'm just generally satisfied with the show finally getting a well-deserved conclusion. - ModernSpongeBobSucks

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