One of the … odder addition to the anime series out there; Afro Samurai is an ancient samurai revenge flick, a blaxploitation movie, and a western that someone stuck into a mixer and hit puree.
The result is a bizarre sludge of stuff ranging from black samurais and ninjas, cell phones, gunslinging cowboys, and whatever else that they could mix ‘n match to create this mismatched world. The basic plot is that a young boy (whose black) sees his samurai father (whose also black) killed by a cowboy in a battle to seize ‘The Number One’ headband that declares to the whole world—he’s the biggest bad@$$ of them all. The kid wants revenge and takes up his father’s sword and a mission to retake the ‘Number One’ headband and grows up to be—go on, guess—yeah, you’re right, Afro Samurai. Probably because of the gigantic afro hairdo he sports. Of course, he’s not exactly the sole eccentric character lurking around—but the one who is tough to top is the weirdo dressed up with the giant stuffed head like some sort of demented muppet.
Otherwise, the plot is so thin, it’s practically nonexistent. It doesn’t help that Afro is so stoically stone-faced that there is little personality to him as well and he doesn’t emote either. His alter ego is a rather annoying black guy whose constantly yammering on called Ninja Ninja—whose a ninja for some unknown reason who accompanies Afro—for what reason, I don’t think they ever really bothered to explain.
Overall, the entire series is one big splatter-fest of gory over-the-top fights where Afro battles it out as he pursues his enemy, the Man With the Number One Headband while a bunch of people either want his Number Two Headband—so that they can challenge Number One themselves. I think. They don’t really bother to explain that part too well either.
Basically, the entire short series is graphic mindless violence at it’s finest, it’s like a montage of fight scenes interspaced with some hip hop music, which probably doesn’t help as I’m not much of a hip hop aficionado. Oh and to break up the fights, they did throw in a little sex and nudity too in-between.
Don’t get me wrong, I like mindless action shows as much as the next red-blooded male but even I found Afro Samurai to be corny, empty, and pushing it. Kill Bill did it better and it has better dialogue and storyline to boot. About the only thing that this series had going for it was top-notch animation. Studio Gonzo did a bang-up job of stylized violence, fight choreography, and brilliant backgrounds. Basically, if I were judging this purely on the art content then I would grant it 5 STARS without hesitation. Unfortunately, it fails on mostly everything else.
As far as the voice actors, only Samuel L. Jackson is the truly outstanding one who played double duty as Afro and Ninja-Ninja. Otherwise, none of the others truly were that exceptional or memorable either.
If you’re a die-hard fanatic of the blaxploitation genre, then Afro Samurai is definitely for you. If not, then I don’t recommend it. But even so, I think that those movies and even those revenge style samurai or Old West stories at least tried to have a bit of plot than this which was more or less stylized violence designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator.
RATING: 2 STARS.