GONZO is one of the worst anime studios in existence and Afro Samurai is yet another example of that. It even ruins the minds of the people it employs; just look what happened to poor Kizaki Fuminori. His first work was the rather good Basilisk. Instead of improving, GONZO turned his brain to mash potatoes and afterwards he directed this lame Afro Samurai anime, while later on the complete flop X-Men anime. DAMN YOU GONZO! But enough with that; let’s now talk about the anime and how horrible it is even if we don’t know it was GONZO who made it.
[Where have I heard that one before?]
A black samurai (!) wants to revenge his father’s killer, the holder of the No.1 headband. Because he is wearing the No.2 headband, he is targeted by all those who want to make a name for themselves… That’s it.
For starters, an action-based series with revenge being the only excuse for the plot is not original nor it is smart. The series doesn’t try to go any further than that, leaving all characters with a depth in personality that even toadpoles would find hard to live in.
[All show and no meaning]
- Afro is another cool heavy-dude, ultra-powerful no matter what his opponent may be. He talks too little and doesn’t care about anyone else other than himself. He never tries to reason with someone and simply solves all his problems with brainless violence. He doesn’t care about anything else, other than revenge, making him distant and hard to believe that someone can actually spend his life like that (is this even called life?).
- There is a sexy woman in the story, supposed to soften his heart. She is there to show him that happiness doesn’t evolve killing a dozen people every day. But all her presence is wasted on that brainless Afro and in reality she’s just there for fan service.
- There is this funny imaginary guy that follows Afro everywhere. In a way, he is Afro’s inner voice of reason, and is supposed to question his motives of revenge. Again, his words are also wasted on “I don’t care what you say” Afro and becomes just the comic relief in the story.
- The bad guys are typical insane megalomaniacs that engage with an obviously superior opponent but are too stupid to realize that they can’t win. The only thing they care about is wasting their lives on becoming the No.2 in the world. Why? So murderers like themselves will target them for the rest of their lives. What the hell are they thinking? They can be much better by being just Afro’s famous lap dogs.
What is there to praise about the characters? The cool way they fight? That’s not personality, nor character development. Personally, I have left behind any respect I had about muscular/shallow heavy-dudes. No matter how awesome they fight, if they don’t have a descent backdrop story or personality, they are like the drone characters of every MMORPG: Cool to look at but without a hint of reasoning behind anything they do (pressing a button is hardly called a reasoning).
But you know what? I bet the GONZO retards thought that all it mattered was to have some famous dude giving his voice to one of the characters. And thus we have Samuel Jackson voicing the main hero. There you go, half the people ran to watch this just to hear his cool voice. And that is as far as good personalities went.
The artwork is weird. Rough edges and as black palette colors as the samurai’s race. It was hard to get used to it but then again I prefer this sort of drawings to those so-cute-that-you-want-to-puke Air or Kanon artwork. So, I won’t say they are bad but rather they are “alternative”. More reminiscent of dark-themed American graphic novels than anime; it’s up to your personal tastes if you like them or not.
Action scenes are the whole focus. Animation and sound effects are greatly detailed and flashy but also hardly realistic. Again, it’s your tastes that will decide if you find them to be cool (it’s high-octane action!) or fake (it’s a brainless slug-fest). If realism is set aside, you get to see some of the best fighting a series can offer.
Villains with cool gadgets and an insane look will engage the grimace-less Afro in faster-than-sound speeds. The speed of the battles is extremely high and has no intervals(like in typical shounen).
There is apparently a lot of air in the world of the series, as a breeze seems to run through everything and makes headbands, coats and hats to flap endlessly. This gives a non-stop movement to even stale images. You could even say that the breeze is in fact the strength of the characters’ resolve and lust for power! … Or just hot air coming out of those airheads… Whatever it is, it makes everyone a lot cooler and imposing.
The “air effect” also causes a lot of dust. As an optical trick, every action lifts considerable amounts of dust, giving the feeling that the characters are not fighting in a stale image, called the background. It also helps to hide the outcome of every attack … and the mistakes in the animation of the action’s reaction. It makes the battles much more interesting but also more confusing as many moves are hidden and leave you to imagine what happened.
Swords versus rocket launchers and laser guns may sound ridiculous to compare but then again Hollywood is famous just for being extravagant. And this series sure tries to follow Hollywood’s footsteps.
Music themes are African American-oriented and appeal mostly to people that are accustomed to them (the rest of us are used to hearing J-pop). Personal tastes decide yet again. But they sure do fit with a story that has a black man as a protagonist. Being a combination of rap and techno, there is a lot of strength (and beat!) present to the point of reminding you all those AMVs some make with action clips from anime while awesome music themes play in the background. I still think that Rock and its variations is the best kind of music for battle themes. African American music is about fighting the system and describing the cruel society of the Ghettos black people were left to live; a theme not present in the series. So, it’s not that fitting with the action and becomes another thing that only those accustomed with it will appreciate.
But to heck with whatever I said about the music so far; most people will only care about the hero being voiced by Samuel f-ing Jackson himself. And he is cursing, and killing, and doing stuff. And that’s pretty much all there is to it.
Ever heard of another black samurai? How many series with so well made action scenes are there? These are the good parts that stand out. How many myriad series/movies with heavy-dudes bound on revenge have you seen? This is the bad part that ruins most of the replay value. Meh, besides the quality action scenes, you get a hollow cast and a pitiful story. In other words, a typical GONZO show.
P.S. This series reminded me of the song Dust In The Wind, performed by Kansas. It is full of dust and air. And it dissolves with the slightest wind before other good Samurai series.
Sword of the Stranger
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 8/10
General Artwork 2/2 (well-done)
Character Figures 1/2 (weird looking; they stand out but non in a particular positive way)
Backgrounds 1/2 (basic)
Animation 2/2 (fluent although it has its problems with the wind and stuff)
Visual Effects 2/2 (basic)
SOUND SECTION: 8/10
Voice Acting 3/3 (Samuel f-ing Jackson’s voice is in it)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 3/10
Premise 1/2 (typical)
Pacing 1/2 (erratic)
Complexity 0/2 (zero)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy)
CHARACTER SECTION: 3/10
Presence 1/2 (cool in a blunt way)
Personality 0/2 (cheesy and barely founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 0/2 (none)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 3/10
Historical Value 0/3 (none)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because there is very little to see in it)
Memorability 2/4 (Samuel f-ing Jackson offers some reason to remember it but that is all)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 5/10
Art 1/1 (looks cool)
Sound 1/2 (cool songs, stupid dialogues)
Story 1/3 (generic as hell)
Characters 2/4 (cool but shallow)