Afro Samurai is one of those modern concoctions that you just know will take place some day – a Japanese animation made exclusively for an US network. Featuring typical Japanese themes, yet voiced by immediately recognizable American actors and a hip hop fuelled soundtrack, even the title of Afro Samurai indicates the bastard nature of this violent animation.
Set in a retro-futuristic wild west, Afro Samurai sets out to the avenge the death of his father by challenging the current No.1 fighter Justice, the man who slaughtered Afro Samurai Sr. Along the way, Afro Samurai is challenged by what seems like a group of monks known as the Empty 7 – in these battles Afro Samurai crosses swords with ninjas, terminator robots and a cybernetic friend from his childhood.
Created by Gonzo Studios (Basilisk, Samurai 7), Afro Samurai delivers very beautiful graphics with a very sharp colour scheme and well choreographed action sequences. The pace of the series remains fast throughout the handful of episodes, despite several flashbacks establishing Afro Samurai’s childhood. Many of the characters in the series remain mysterious but this is the kind of animation in which questions about how they came to be like that are better left off the table. Key characters are amusing, in particular Ninja Ninja (Afro Samurai’s motor mouth imaginary friend) and Kuma (the teddy bear headed assassin). Samuel L. Jackson does an excellent job voicing Ninja Ninja, delivering a sort of Tarantino feel to the dialogue. I bought the Director’s Cut DVD which keeps the swearing and gruesome / violent fights intact. I was very impressed with the gate fold package for the Director’s Cut; it was made with high quality paper bound of stiff cardboard and features awesome artwork.
In concluding, if you like animations like Ninja Scroll, Trigun and Cowboy Bebop, you are likely to be entertained by Afro Samurai. Recommended.