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An upcoming (as of 7/26/2001) animated series on Cartoon Network, created by Genndy Tartakovsky, creator of Dexter's Laboratory. It continues the mix of traditional cartoon and anime styles for which its creator is known (who also worked on, but did not create, The Powerpuff Girls). Particularly notable about the art style is that many foreground shapes do not have the black outlines that almost all cartoons and anime tend to have. From what we know of its storyline at the moment, it seems to be rather plain and cliché, but Genndy’s other cartoons often purposely set up such expectations so they may be reversed to humorous or dramatic effect later.

Word is that Samurai Jack is not meant to be a humorous cartoon.

Update

Well, Samurai Jack just premiered on Cartoon Network, and it seems to be very good. Very different from what one might expect from CN, but also more cartoony than most anime. Very obviously cartoonish talking dogs are everywhere in the pilot, some of which looking like they were taken straight out of the likes of Powerpuff Girls. (Indeed, Big Dog from Two Stupid Dogs and the weird six-legged insect/horse from Herculoids have cameos, and it is possible that the decaying city the dogs are excavating is the remains of The City of Townsville.) But the show seems to realize this about itself, and Jack has some nice moments reacting to the cartoonishness of much of his world. Jack himself, in some scenes, could be mistaken for Professor Utonium in a bathrobe with a sword.

But overall, the show seems to work, and with its own clever, action-filled style that takes equal measures from both anime and, of all things, Hanna-Barbera animation.

Genndy Tartakovsky's excellent Samurai Jack cartoon plays off the juxtaposition of our hero, who hails from ancient feudal Japan, with the show's setting, some time in the far distant future.

Interestingly, this contrast is strongly reflected in the show's title sequence. It begins with a synopsis of Jack's predicament, which is rather unusually narrated by the show's main villain, the shape-shifting master of darkness Aku. This part has a very mythic quality to it, and the accompanying visuals are a series of still paintings. These depict the rise of Aku, Jack's village's futile attempts to destroy him, and Jack's fateful personal encounter with the demon.

Then when Aku has finished telling how Jack came to be in the future, there follows the musical part, which sounds a bit like some kind of futuristic rap, and is accompanied by lots of action clips, like the introduction to an eighties action show. See Jack leap from tree to tree! Share Jack's bafflement at the futuristic world he now inhabits! Thrill as Jack demonstrates his preternatural skill at all imaginable forms of combat! Marvel as Jack destroys fearsome attack robots with a single swing of his magic sword! And so forth.

In full, the opening sequence goes like this:

Aku's narration:

Long ago, in a distant land, I, Aku, the shape-shifting master of darkness, unleashed an unspeakable evil.

But a foolish samurai warrior, wielding a magic sword, stepped forth to oppose me.

Before the final blow was struck, I tore open a portal in time, and flung him into the future, where my evil is law.*

Now the fool seeks to return to the past, and undo the future that is Aku.

Rap:

Gotta get back
Back to the past
Samurai Jack
Watch out
Gotta get back
Back to the past
Samurai Jack
Jack Jack Jack Jack Jack
Gotta get back
Back to the past
Samurai Jack
Watch out
Gotta get back
Back to the past
Samurai Jack
Jack Jack Jack Jack
Gotta get back
Jack Jack Jack Jack
Watch out
Gotta get back
Jack Jack Jack
Samurai Jack
Jack Jack Jack Jack

The music is by Will Adams (probably not the same Will Adams that was the first western Samurai, though it's an odd coincidence) and George Pajon, Jr.


Source - my ears, and considerable time fast-forwarding and rewinding a taped episode of the show.

*I must admit, I'm not totally sure that Aku says "...where my evil is law." He might say "...where my evil lives long." Or something else. It's hard to make out through the over-the-top 'ancient Japan' accent.

Also, unless you're listening very closely, the rap lyrics sound much more like "mumble mumble back, mumble mumble jack, jack jack jack, mumble mumble jack..."

CST Approved

I would like to clarify a few things about Samurai Jack. All of the words in TenMinJoe's narration and rap are exactly what I heard. You can tell that Aku does say "My evil is law" because that's true in the future. It just makes sense, and I am quite sure that TenMinJoe is correct about everything he wrote. Also, Aku has an over-the-top ancient Japanese accent because the voice actor is indeed, old and Japanese. :)

"A cross between Bruce Lee and Clint Eastwood. Jack is the strong, silent type - a man of few words... but rest assured he is a noble, nimble, tireless hero." - Los Angeles Times


(The Gist)
In the premiere movie of Samurai Jack (the first three episodes) the story is told in full. Aku is "The Master of Masters, The Deliverer of Darkness, The Shogun of Sorrow!" A magical, shapeshifting wizard who wishes only for control and destruction. Jacks father once imprisoned Aku with a magical sword constructed by three wise men. Aku broke free when Jack was a child, and Jack was sent to train under multiple families, in many countries, to become the most well-rounded samurai. When Jack was ready, he returned and found his mother, who handed the sword down to him. The magical blade bestowed upon Jacks father to destroy Aku, was passed down to attempt to destroy Aku yet again.

Jack returned to his home village, and freed the tortured people (including his father) from the wrath of Aku's minions. Fulfilling his destiny, Jack pushed on to find and vanquish Aku. "Before the final blow was struck" Aku teleported Jack into the future. Aku was never destroyed in the past by the one samurai who could, so his control and power has grown over thousands of years. Aku not only controls all of the Earth, but has branched out and started to grasp other parts of the galaxy as well. Jack seeks to return to his time, where Aku's destruction has not taken place, and stop Aku before his grasp gets too strong.

It's worth pointing out that Jack is not his real name. When he first landed in the future, a few on-lookers simply referred to him as Jack when they were talking about how impressive his skills were. Also, Aku has placed a price on Jacks head. Mercenaries, Bounty Hunters, and anyone after a large amount of money seeks to kill Jack for the reward.

Samurai Jack is not meant to be solely funny, but it certainly is, frequently. I'm not really a fan of anime, and that's not what this is. It was created by Genndy Tartakovsky so it looks like a few of his other creations on Cartoon Network.


(Voices) imdb
Phil LaMarr - Samurai Jack
Makoto Iwamatsu(Mako(I) on imdb) - Aku



(Episodes)
One great plus about the series is that it's quite easy to watch any episode at any time, even without any prior knowledge of the show. Samurai Jacks story and goal is spelled out in the intro by Aku, and any reference to past episodes is explained in full.
Here is a run down of the episodes I've seen. I haven't given away anything to really spoil the episodes for anyone, but really... the show can't go on if Jack actually dies or does manage to kill Aku, right?

I, II, III - The premiere movie is 70 minutes long, and so was able to be split up as the first 3 episodes of the Samurai Jack series. In 1, Jacks history is explained in great detail, Aku is introduced of course, and during the fight Aku throws Jack into some sort of swirly teleport that he created. In 2, we realize that Jack has been cast into the future and he is shocked and confused by all the strange people and aliens he meets. In 3, he helps a group of talking dogs defend themselves from Aku.

IV - Samurai Jack accidently gets mixed up with the Woolleys and their cruel, annoying captors the creature-lites(?). The Woolleys were once a great people living in paradise and prosperity, but the the creature-lites rained down, (undoubtedly sent by Aku) in technologically advanced pods with weapons well-built to control the Woolleys. Jack is convinced to free the Woolleys, and after fulfilling this task, their prophetic and wise leader tells him to head north to complete his quest.

V - Jack stumbles upon a group of scientists who have been forced to use their "scientific knowledge to build Aku's robot army". They're attempting to escape from Aku's clutches in a rocket they've built, but they need some way to fight Aku's border patrols around the planet. The plan is to have Jack fight off the inevitable attack, and as long as he is in the escape pod at the back of the rocket, as they approach light-speed they will jetison the pod, which will teleport Jack into the past.

VI - In this episode, Jack finds the shopkeeper whom the Woolley leader told him about. The shopkeeper tells Jack of a jewel in the desert to the West, with tremendous power. Before Jack leaves, a girl teams up with him to help him find the jewel. She seeks to destroy Aku as well, for enslaving her father. Watching this episode more than once is a good idea, there were many hints to the twist at the end. A personal favorite of mine.

VII - Jack learns of a tower guarded by three magical archers, able to defeat impossibly large armies. Anyone able to live to make it to the top of the tower, is granted any one wish by the well. Jack has to figure out why the archers are so good, and use this, with the help of his training with monks in his younger days, against them. Another favorite, but I have a thing for monks.

VIII - Jack learns that there is a reward, one googleplex, for his capture, dead or alive. He bests a large number of Bounty Hunters sent to collect the reward, while Aku says to himself "Is there no fighting style that can defeat his? ... Yes... No fighting style CAN defeat his!!!". Aku cleverly creates a clone of Samurai Jack, to defeat him.

IX - Samurai Jack hears a tale of the fish/people The Triseraquin, caught and released by an old fisherman, and in return for the fishermans releasing of him, the Triseraquin told him of Oceanis, the city under the sea, and the time machine kept there. Jack finds Oceanis and is welcomed warmly, for they have not had visitors in many years, since they were banished to the bottom of the ocean by Aku.

X - An ancient warrior seeking revenge against Aku for destroying his village was imprisoned in a crystal, never allowed a warriors death by the hand of Aku. Over time the warrior learned to control the rocks he was buried in, and constructed a mountain of traps around him, hoping one day to be slain by one brave and skilled enough to pass. Samurai Jack hears his voice calling from a distance and finds him.

XI - Crossing an insanely long rope bridge, Jack is confronted by a rather large Scotsman going the other direction. Neither of them wants to risk falling off the bridge for a perfect stranger, so neither will step aside. after a lengthy battle on the bridge with neither side winning, Bounty Hunters show up, and it's not clear which person they're looking for, because both Samurai Jack and the Scotsman are wanted by Aku.

XII - Samurai Jack joins a gang of mobsters to steal the Neptune Jewel. Jack defeats the three guardians of the jewel (which Aku has not been able to do) to give it to the group, who plan to give it to Aku. Jack knows all this and is going along with it because they will lead him to Aku. This episode has a lot of funny Reservoir Dogs references, with Mr. Blonde, Mr. Pink, and Nice Guy Eddie.

XIII - Bottom line: Best Episode EVER. The tales of Samurai Jack's frequent (and almost always successful) battles with Aku have spread, and children are acting out the battles, mocking and laughing at Aku. Aku attempts to convince the children to love him, so that they won't rebel against him as they grow. They would rather hear stories about Samurai Jack though, so Aku puts some twists on some classic fairy tales to make Jack look evil.

Start of Season Two XIV - Jack runs into a tribe of monkey-like creatures. While under their wing, Samurai Jack witnesses them being attacked and overrun by another group, stealing their food. Jack teaches them how to defend themselves from the rival tribe of thieving gorillas, and in return, they teach him how to "jump good".

XV - Samurai Jack meets a magical wyrm that can supposedly grant wishes, then a family of metal-eating robots dressed as poor helpless people, then a fairy held prisoner by a gargoyle. This episode makes no sense and doesn't explain anything. I think it was a dream

XVI - Jack is captured by a group of robots and taken to the "Dome of Doom" where he's forced to participate in Gladiator like fights to the death.

XVII - The Scotsman from episode 11 returns, and tells Samurai Jack of his wife, who's been kidnapped by the Master of the Hunt. In order to free her, he is only allowed the help of a stranger, so he calls upon the aid of Jack.

XVIII - A scientist builds 8 robots of Adamantium specifically designed to destroy Samurai Jack, in an agreement with Aku. Aku, as usual, lies and destroys the scientists home city. Because of Aku's betrayal, the scientist helps Jack destroy them with a bionic arm of sorts. Features divine intervention!

XIX - Samurai Jack finds himself in the empty, moss-covered remains of his home village. Of course this brings back memories of his life as a child, and we get to see a bit of background on why Samurai Jack is so helpful to everyone he comes across. I'm told this episode has Lone Wolf and Cub references in it. I haven't seen the movies, and the episode was still so smooth that I didn't notice anything out of place, so that Genndy is clever.

XX - Jack follows 3 monks and climbs a mountain. "It is impossible" is uttered more than once. Mostly though this episode serves as a motivator for Jack's goal, despite the 20 let-downs so far.


I am a huge fan of Samurai Jack and so I felt compelled to complete the episode synopsis which Sal_Lebowski began.

The following episodes stretch the potential of Samurai Jack and contain many of my favourites. It is another example of a show that was cancelled when it was getting good.

Genndy Tartakovsky experiments with the animation, using black and white, charcoal and pen and ink techniques often to show a psychic battle ( Haunted House, and Ninja versus Ninja). He also experiments with the stereotypes of the show, Aku has weaknesses other than Jacks sword and both Aku and Jack are beaten in fights. (Jack and the Travelling Creatures, The Birth of Evil, The Aku infection)

21. XXI: Jack And The Farting Dragon
The title says it all really.

22. XXII: Jack And The Hunters
This is one of the best episodes because the hunters are as talented as Jack. The Imerkandi are a noble lion-like alien race who combine their weapons and strengths to become the ultimate hunters.

23. XXIII: Jack Versus Demongo, The Soul Collector
Brilliant concept; Jack fights a seemingly invincible foe who has the ability to use the ‘essence’ of slain warriors. Demongo can continually bring thousands of renowned fighters back from the dead and to make matters worse, he has an exceptionally annoying voice.

24. XXIV: Jack Is Naked
Jack follows a white rabbit, who has stolen his sword and gi into the most surrealistic adventure he has ever had. The people of this land are appalled at the idea of someone being naked, but when Jack tries to cover up, they treat him like the character he is dressed as until its so unbearable he has to change again.

25. XXV: Jack And The Spartans
There is no way in hell that Genndy Tartakovsky can mess up a story this good! The story of Thermopylae is retold with Jack as the warrior who swings the balance in favour of the Spartans. Awesome.

26. XXVI: Jack's Sandals
Too many stories are told about a warrior breaking his sword. What would happen if Jack broke his sandals?

Start of Season Three

27. XXVII: Chicken Jack
A wizard turns Jack into the best ovarian martial artist ever! This is very similar to the ‘Dome of Doom’ episode. (XVI)

28. XXVIII: Jack And The Rave
This is so cool. Jack has to save teenagers from an evil rave. The music is awesome, it really takes me back…
There is a anti-drugs theme in this episode. When the music kicks in the evil kids all get redeye!

29. XXIX: The Good, The Bad, And The Beautiful
A Husband and wife bounty-hunter team come close to capturing Jack.

30. XXX: Jack And The Zombies
Jack takes a wrong turn and ends up in a graveyard filled with zombies. Jack must stop them and Aku without his sword. Aku shows off some of his rarer skills.

31. XXXI: Jack In Egypt
Didn’t you know? Jack hung out with the ancient Egyptians when he was young. He uses the knowledge he learnt back then to destroy a new evil.

32. XXXII: Jack And The Travelling Creatures
This is as close as Jack gets to going back. Jack passes the tests of three wise monsters so he can get to a time portal. However the time portal is guarded by the ultimate bouncer. If you have ever worked with doormen this is hilarious. Jack is beaten because, although he is destined to travel through to the other side, he is not ready yet. We see an image of Jack in the portal with a long grey beard and a crown.

33. XXXIII: Jack And The Creature
This kind of grows on you, basically Jack can’t get rid of a useless blue monster.

34. XXXIV: Jack And Swamp Monster
This shows that Jack has become less naive about Aku’s duplicity. Jack has to pass some tests to get the armour of Kronos.

35. XXXV: Jack And The Haunted House
One of the episodes you show people who haven’t seen Samurai Jack before. Inspiring animation done in black and white depicts a mental battle between Jack and a daemon who is haunting a Japanese house. This episode is actually quite scary.

36. XXXVI: Jack, The Monks, And The Ancient Master's Son
Jack fights off two shaolin temple monks until they realise that he is the pupil of an ancient martial arts master. A struggle to reach a shaolin time portal ensues.

37. XXXVII: The Birth Of Evil (Part 1 of 2)
Something the show had to address, what happened when Aku first arrived in Japan? The Emperor, Jack’s Dad, leads a disastrous first attack on Aku.

38. XXXVIII: The Birth Of Evil (Part 2 of 2)
Jack’s dad is divinely granted a sword capable of wounding Aku made from the goodness of humanity. The final battle against Aku makes up for the absence of an episode showing Jack’s ultimate victory.

39. XXXIX: Jack And The Labyrinth
Jack and a cat-burglar compete to steal a time travelling diamond from a booby-trapped pyramid.

Start of Season Four

40. XL: Samurai versus Ninja
A ninja robot deliberately designed to beat Jack at his own game is sent to defeat him. However the ninja does not know that Jack has been taught the secrets of the white ninja, to disappear into light not darkness. The fight scene is beautifully rendered in black and white which creates a fantastic atmosphere of suspense. ( A tribute to the comic book ninja vs. ninja?)

41. XLI: Robo-Samurai versus Mondo Bot
Homage to super robot manga. Small robots have built a giant robot to defeat Aku that they can no longer control. Jack merges with a huge Japanese golem to destroy it.

42. XLII: Samurai versus Samurai
If you do martial arts and think you are good this is one to watch. A wannabe martial artist is taking on all comers calling himself DA SAMURAI. The character embodies everything a martial artist doesn’t want to be. Jack agrees to fight him but an astute viewer knows a lesson in humility is on its way when Jack says ‘not here, outside; beneath the shadow of the leaves.’ Plenty of references to Kurosawa's "Shichinin Samurai"

43. XLIII: The Aku Infection
Another fantastic idea. A sickly Aku accidentally infects Jack with a virus which takes over his body and causes him to become evil.

44. XLIV: The Princess And The Bounty Hunters
We see a proposed ambush from different points of view (and styles of animation) before a leader unites all the bounty hunters and combines the plans. By seeing the preparation we become convinced that the ambush will be successful. The final attack is so rapid it demands repeat viewing. Lots of Samurai movie references.

45. XLV: Scotsman Saves Jack (Part 1 of 2)
The Scotsman finds Samurai Jack who is calling himself ‘Brett Worthington', and sets off on a quest to return his memory.

46. XLVI: Scotsman Saves Jack (Part 2 of 2)
The Scotsman finds out that The Sirens (one of many odyssey references) are responsible for Jack’s amnesia, the Scotsman has such bad taste in music he is immune to their charms. The operatic style singing is brilliant.

47. XLVII: Jack And The Flying Prince And Princess
Just so many references to Star Wars. Jack helps two aliens and a camp robot save their world.

48. XLVIII: Jack versus Aku
This is a good excuse for Jack and Aku to fight hand to hand rather than with magic. I wonder if Aku will cheat?

49. XLIX: The 4 Seasons Of Death
Four stories based on the seasons. In Summer, Jack is travelling through the desert and is attacked by living sandstorms. In Autumn, an over exited scientist poisons a well to kill Jack. In Winter, a warrior race forge a mighty sword with which to slay Jack. In Spring, Jack is lured into a mysterious garden paradise.

50. L: Tale Of X9
A robot with human emotions tells us the story of his life. He used to work for Aku, but stopped because of his emotions. But Aku kidnaps a dog he had fallen in love with and forces him to fight against Jack to save its life. This throws out one of the central premises of the show, that it’s ok to kill robots because they don’t have feelings

51. LI: Young Jack In Africa
Young Jack is learning to use a bo staff from African villagers when they are attacked and kidnapped. Jack evades capture and frees the villagers after mastering their enemies’ weapon techniques.

52. LII: Jack And The Baby
Jack becomes a father! Well he adopts. This has plenty of lone wolf and cub references. Jack rescues a baby from a bunch of cannibalistic monsters. Jack cares for the baby; even telling him the classic Japanese tale of Momotaro a brave boy who defeats ogres by using trickery. Eventually the babies’ mother is found and she is horrified to see that her baby has changed. Jack tells her that the baby has achieved sakai, the spirit of the samurai.

Rumours of a feature length concluding episode were quashed when Genndy Tartakovski agreed to do the Star Wars cartoons. It seems like the legend of Samurai Jack will remain incomplete.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samurai_Jack
http://www.tv.com/samurai-jack/show/3064/episode_listings.html?tag=tabs;episodes
http://www.cartoonnetwork.com/tv_shows/samuraijack/

Additional info, the rap introduction was performed by will.i.am, a member of the black eyed peas.

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