March 30, 2009 Seth Perkins

Afro Samurai

I’ve been meaning to see this film for a long time, and finally, my friend Andrew came along with a copy and we just watched it on my projector.  Daaaaamn.  If you want to read up in detail on the origins and plot of Afro Samurai, check out Wikipedia’s article here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afro_Samurai)

First off, the story.  It’s the traditional “boy avenging father” plot.  On the road to vengeance, our hero has had to sacrifice feelings and friends:  universal concepts which make for good drama.  However, it’s what’s built upon this simple construct that really makes the film stand out. 

Our samurai/hero is not the traditional “Yojimbo”-looking character.  He’s a silent hero sporting a loud afro.  It’s never explained what he’s doing in Japan.  He just is (in the same mythic sense I love in Kurosawa and the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone).  The hero has an “imaginary friend” embodying his repressed feelings and desire for family.  Both the hero and the imaginary friend are played by Samuel L. Jackson with the flare that just is the man.  The script is full of jive and Americanisms that are funny and just cool set against a quasi-feudal Japan.

Imagery.  The visual style is fairly unique in my experience with japanimation.  The frames are very detailed with a literal edge/contrast in the color pallette that feels like a mix between ink and watercolor.  Obviously, the “inks” tend to lend themselves towards red.  Poses of figures are very exagerated.  The film actually looks more like a graphic novel in its attention to detail and style.

Music.  The soundtrack was assembled by RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan.  The hiphop rhythms go beyond Samurai Champloo‘s lauded beats into a sound that fits tightly with the visual world and character stylings.  

All in all, if you are into japanimation, this is a film to see.  If you’re like me, and just into japanimation if it’s “really something special” (along the Ghost in the Shell, Paranoia Agent, Big-O strain)… then you too will find some serious enjoyment in this 5 episode film.

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