afro samurai anime 1In the world of Afro Samurai, it is said that the one who becomes “Number One”, will rule the world, wielding powers akin to a god. Someone becomes Number One by killing the previous Number One and taking his ceremonial headband. However, the only rule in this world is that only the “Number Two” (also designated by a sacred headband) is allowed to fight the “Number One.” The downside of this is that anyone (and typically everyone) can challenge and try to kill the Number Two, to gain the right to move forward and challenge Number One.

This is the future – a technologically advanced feudal Japan. Afro Samurai (Afro because of his hair), was a young boy when his father (the then Number One) got killed in a duel by a gunman, Justice, severing his fathers head right in front of him. Now grown up and sporting the Number Two headband, Afro travels the road seeking revenge.

Okay, maybe not a particularly deep storyline, but it serves the purpose of being the vehicle to drive home this short, bloody and very gory five part anime series. The series is produced by GONZO and directed by Fuminori Kizaki at an estimated one million dollars an episode. The story is based on a Japanese doujinshi manga series, created by Takashi Okazaki.

As I’ve mentioned above the story is pretty straightforward. The length of the series means we focus on Afro Samurai and delve into his past, showing us what shaped him into what he is today. Cardboard thin supporting characters are introduced suddenly and disposed of just as quickly, but this really is simply a testament to the short length of the series. Afro Samurai exudes style and attitude and in some respects the story really takes a back seat to the action and visuals being presented on the screen.

Animation wise, Afro Samurai is all about style and speed. Fluid fights scenes with the usual speed manipulation weve come to expect in television, a restricted colour palette for contrasts and a just plain cool factor makes for a very fast moving show that is easy on the eye (as long as youre not squeamish of course – body parts fly everywhere in this one) and easily digested. Characters are detailed but do have their proportions distorted a little, all in the name of style. A very distinctive look, Afro Samurai does not disappoint at all in the visual department. Look out especially for the numerous sparks and light trails left by the clashing blades. Oh yes, the sword fight scenes do come off rather nicely choreographed.

The series features a hip hop soundtrack from RZA, a member of the well known Wu-Tang hip hop outfit. The voiceovers are all by established performers, with Samuel L. Jackson voicing Afro (not that he ever says much mind you) and Ron Perlman handling Justice for example. The voices all fit the characters pretty well, even if Ninja (Afros travel buddy) comes across as being more than just a little annoying. – Afro Samurai has a nice wide variety of sound effects thrown in too, and it really does come together as a well put together package, meshing well with the visuals to create a pretty unique treat.

Afro Samurai really is to be seen as a short vehicle for showing what animation is capable of. Its not the greatest of stories and the excessive violence, profanity and gore will put off a lot of people. However, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a black samurai before and that novelty in itself makes Afro Samurai lift its hand and stand out of the crowd just a little. Fans of GONZO productions will enjoy it, but it really isnt a must see unless you feel like indulging into a little bit of some unadulterated action.

[Note that this is a mature title and definitely not for kiddies]

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