Cartoon Network: Samurai Jack Season 1
From Genndy Tartakovsky, creator of Dexter's Laboratory, comes the tale of a young samurai cast far into the future by the evil shape-shifting wizard Aku. Join Samurai Jack on his quest to return to the past and undo the destruction that Aku has wrought upon the land. With award-winning artwork and intricate, action-packed plots, the many journeys of Samurai Jack are a must for any fan's collection. DISC 1: Episode I - When Aku is reborn to set forth his reign of terror, a young samurai attempts to slay him with a mighty sword. But Aku banishes the warrior to the future. Episode II - After landing in the future, the samurai, now named Jack, begins his quest for Aku. Episode III - Jack attempts to beat back Aku's army and save a race of canine archaeologists. Episode IV - Jack helps free the Woolies from the tyrannical Chritchellites. Episode V - Jack and a group of scientists join forces to try and escape the wrath of Aku. Episode VI - A mysterious warrior woman joins Jack in his quest, but is she really an ally? Episode VII - Jack must get past three mysterious archers to reach an all-powerful wishing well. DISC 2 Episode VIII - Jack must do battle with his darker self, Mad Jack. Episode IX - Jack has an underwater adventure while hunting for an ancient time portal. Episode X - Jack survives a cave full of challenges before doing battle with a feared lava monster. Episode XI - When Jack and a Scotsman meet on a never-ending bridge, they end up shackled together and on the run from bounty hunters. Episode XII - Jack hooks up with some Chicago gangsters to try and get close to Aku. Episode XIII - Aku tells three fairy tales, with a decidedly skewed point of view, to the children in order to win them over to his side.
When Samurai Jack burst onto the small screen in 2001, it introduced a boldly imaginative visual style to the often dreary realm of television animation. Other series have tried to imitate the flattened, angular graphics pioneered by the UPA studio during early '50s. Samurai Jack succeeds in recapturing the essence of the UPA shorts because creator Genndy Tartakovsky and his artists understand that these highly stylized visuals require equally stylized movements.
The ongoing battle between heroic Jack and the evil shape-shifter Aku simultaneously evokes and spoofs the conventions of anime and Western live-action film. Long ago, Jack nearly destroyed Aku in a duel; in desperation, the wizard hurled the samurai far into the future, where Aku's word is law. Jack fights robots, monsters, bounty hunters, etc. as he seeks to return to his own time, so he can prevent Aku's rise to supremacy.
The writing is sometimes uneven, but even when the material feels weak, the visual imagination never falters, from the flamboyant character designs to the use of split-screen. The filmmakers stage the quiet moments as skillfully as the action sequences, and Samurai Jack offers more exciting storytelling than many big-budget animated features. (Unrated: suitable for ages 10 and older: stylized violence, occasional profanity) --Charles Solomon