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Watch & Learn: AFRO SAMURAI #1

The inevitable spawn of hip hop and anime's mutual fascination.

Nothing phallic about this. No sir.
Nothing phallic about this. No sir.

If the Shaolin Cowboy ever makes it into the anime arena, he totally needs to duel with Afro Samurai. That comic’s been published sporadically, so it’s not especially well-known even in comics circles, but I’d say it could slot into the same set of revolver chambers as this. Ultra violence and rampant anachronisms in an indeterminate wasteland that could just as easily be the Old West or feudal Japan… all wrapped up with a tone that’s at once self-ridiculing and deathly serious. Yeah, judging by these two’s similar background, I figure they’d make perfect drinking buddies.

I’d comment on how this show would seem like the natural end product of hip hop and anime’s mutual fascination, but if the RZA’s doing the score, then the point was already made a long time ago. Actually, I’ve been meaning to get into this for a while, now. I caught some portions of it on Adult Swim or Spike or whomever had broadcast rights to it, but held off because I wanted to watch it from the beginning. Joke was one me though - - I actually caught the last half of the first episode!

Hearing Sam Jackson do the voices is simultaneously cool and distracting. Dude’s great in whatever he’s in, but since this is a dub (right?) the lips don’t “read” exactly to what he’s saying and, because he’s such a recognizable personality, I can practically see him in front of the mic in the recording studio when I’m hearing Afro and his “sidekick” speak. Guess it’s simply unavoidable with a star like him.

Straight up, this is some of the most baroque and expressive animation I’ve seen outside of anything Peter Chung’s done. Every single cel is just saturated with style and, beyond the familiar questions of style and substance, I can’t help but wonder if this was an experiment to see how minimalistic a revenge tale could get away with being. They set up the wrong-to-be-righted in the very first scene and all the blood and slashing and tough talk will take us to a comeuppance that litterally comes down to a matter of who's wearing a particular bandanna.

There’s no point in arguing with any of that.

Watch this episode "Revenge" here and decide for yourself.

Tom Pinchuk’s the writer of HYBRID BASTARDS! & UNIMAGINABLE. Order them on Amazon here & here. Follow him on Twitter: @tompinchuk

Mikey2Don Oct. 7, 2011 at 5:19 a.m.

I'm a huge time fan of Afro Samurai. The world and characters are awesome and the story is fab. Only wish there was more.

selfconfessedcynicon Oct. 7, 2011 at 6:28 a.m.

Wasn't very much into the second one, but the first was totally my jam. Some of the best anime around, especially if one is looking for English voice acting.

(was talking about the movies here)

sotyfan16on Oct. 7, 2011 at 12:13 p.m.

I love this series. Most of everything in it is unique and lots of care was taken to create it. There's a Guide up for it now. I highly suggest at least watching the series since it's on FUNi's YouTube channel.

thekokapellion Oct. 7, 2011 at 2:24 p.m.

I dropped it after the first two or three (I don't like it much) but it seems to me that it's evidence that the Japanese have a fascination with blending pop culture and reality to create a bizarre hybrid of surreality. But I guess that's not just the Japanese, although you do notice this a lot with this sort of thing, when the east and west mix up. It's certainly a unique kind of derivation, although I admit that is a paradox.

also @ Tom_Pinchuk:

Completely unrelated, but just wanted to thank you for watching and recommending The Tatami Galaxy. Thanks to Watch and Learn I started watching the first few episodes, (I had never heard of it previously) and it's been a while since I've been so excited about a new show (well, new for me).

ZombiePieon Oct. 7, 2011 at 3:33 p.m.

The first episodes are great and the show has an awesome conclusion. It's just the stuff in-between that I'm not that big a fan of in Afro Samurai. Also I was not a fan of the movie.

Lurkeroon Oct. 7, 2011 at 7:29 p.m.

Afro Samurai was such a crazy premise it just had to work at least a little bit. It was okay, not bad, but not as special as hoped.

zaldar is online on Oct. 9, 2011 at 7:26 a.m.

ug don't waste your time on this. Samuri Champloo with even less plot or point. Do not want. Definitely nothing to discuss or learn from this one either.

Dig Deeper into Afro Samurai

Afro Samurai's violent tale of revenge fuses hip-hop and contemporary culture with exaggerated Feudal-period action.

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