Set in a world where everyone’s desire is to beat up the bigger, tougher guy in order to become the biggest, toughest guy in the ’hood, Afro Samurai serves a plate of standardised plotting. Much of the development comprises a lot of macho standoffs followed by gruesome resolutions; furthermore, the protagonist has no other motive for his deplorable actions except revenge against the nasty guy who killed his beloved father when he was barely old enough to remember it.
So what? Well, there are three notable points which, despite Afro Samurai’s simplistic premise, make it worth following. The first thing is style. The second thing is style. And the third thing is… style. As Afro predictably hacks his way through one unfortunate challenger after another, the creative design continues to retain its fascination – consider a kind of irreverent world setting where rocket launchers are used in close-combat as easily as daggers; sex and violence are equally gratuitous; and the main character wears a pair of 18th century oriental bell bottoms. Heck, even the chief antagonists are a kind of menacing Pentecostal sect with fervent sermons drawn directly from the gospel preacher stereotype.
Generally, Afro Samurai consists of smooth, groovy, funky stuff and borrows its hard edge from African American culture in a way that brings to mind a bloodier, brawnier, but less original Samurai Champloo.
Alongside visual feasts like Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, Afro Samurai is at heart a long sequence of set pieces intentionally arranged to wow viewers who like pretty shiny fast things. Afro dodges crossbow bolts, parries double swords, and carves flying bullets with the unnerving precision of a murderous master chef, all to an eerie backdrop of deep shadows, sinister greys, and hot splashing reds.
More than that, the show offers some excellent stylistic ‘comic book’ touches, from the majestic way hair floats to the ethereal fluttering of bandannas and other loose material. Afro Samurai also makes the best use of smoke I’ve seen anywhere, including claustrophobic shots of steaming gun nozzles and cigarette fumes pumping out of nostrils, which adds to the intense hellish atmosphere.
Unfortunately, stylistic excellence doesn’t extend to the soundtrack. Comparisons with the hip-hop themed Samurai Champloo are unavoidable once more: unlike Samurai Champloo’s memorable OP and catchy ED, Afro Samurai’s equivalents are respectively generic and bland. Many of the scenes avoid music altogether, opting for natural sounds, but when there is music, it consists of nondescript instrumentals or vague hip-hop-ish beats.
As a pleasant surprise, the English dub consists of street lingo to match the show’s urban flair. It’s novel but it’s also rather corny. At worst, there’ll be Samuel L. Jackson’s monosyllabic deadpan performance as Afro, which adds nothing to the feel of the show except to render his scenes flat and uninteresting.
The men are ‘badass’, the women purely decorative, and the ham-fisted villains fall to Afro’s sword at the drop of a dismembered head. As for Afro himself, viewers need only know one thing: he’s hard. He’s so hard he could break rocks by just sitting on them. He’ll fuck a brother up quicker than he can utter ‘Yo momma’. Etcetera. In short, Afro is vacuous and only entertaining while he’s killing people; in fact, his blinkered, unrepentant lust for revenge even at the cost of allies is wholly unattractive without the necessary background substance to make it understandable.
Afro is not the worst of them, though. No, that award belongs to his invisible sidekick, who presumably is some crude external representation of Afro’s inner self and whose incessant blabbering is meant to fill Afro’s stifling silences. His rapid-fire statements of the bloody obvious (‘We’ve got a stalker and I think he wants to fight you!’) are annoying as hell; moreover, he’s redundant as a foil since Afro’s glacial personality never wavers or develops in response to him. I’d much rather those precious minutes wasted on the sidekick had instead been used to flesh out Afro.
Compact but viscerally impressive, Afro Samurai is also one for the adults. It provides excellent visual entertainment and a gritty atmosphere that countless will find transiently enjoyable. Come for the style, watch for the stunts, and stay because it’s short and won’t waste too much of your time.
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
Afro Samurai is made up of 30% action, 33% style, 30% badass and 7% everything else. It's main purpose is to show how awesome Afro is, and nothing more than that. Straight up, this is a tale of revenge; Justice kills Afro's father and Afro goes for revenge. That right there is the story. There are flashbacks to Afro as a child to give him more depth, but that's pretty much it. Unfortunately, Justice doesn't appear much, but it is mostly about Afro journey to get revenge, so that probably explains it. It's also a mix of modern technology and samurai-era weaponry, which works quite well. The battles are the bread and butter of the series and is what you should be watching this for. Violent and pours out style just like a slash wound. Fights where Afro is against a group of foes are basically curb-stomp battles but are fun to watch and the best ones are 1 vs. 1, particularly some of the ones later on.
The animation is nothing short of style, that's for sure. From the character designs to the setting, it oozes style. It's fluid, slick and is simply stylish. Not to mention the decapitations, dismemberments and slashes are met with blood and lots of it. Unsurprising, but damn, does it look good. Which is part of the reason to watch this.
For VO, you have Samuel L. Jackson as Afro Samurai and Ron Perlman as Justice. Music is done by The RZA, which I enjoyed quite a bit, especially the song that plays in the fight scene Afro's Father vs. Justice. The amount of violence goes with the hip-hop soundtrack, as a more feudal-like one or classical music sounding one (Or something you would find in a more traditional samurai series) would sound out of place.
Characters... Afro is badass, he's a killing machine, he's out for revenge and makes it look good. The already mentioned flashbacks give him more depth but to go too much into that would spoil it a bit but his present form is for the most part an emotionless killing machine of style. Ninja Ninja, his travelling companion is more talkative by a mile and provides some commentary throughout, which is kinda nice. Otherwise, everybody else is there to be killed by Afro or share a few words to him. Probably before he kills them.
It's not about the story, it's not about character development, it's not about any of that stuff this show would call filler. It's about violence, style, action, badassery, stylish violence and fighting. It does what it does and if you expect that, then you'll have a fun time. I expected action, style with some good music and more style in terms of fighting and that's what I got and am perfectly content with that, hence why the final score doesn't entirely match the other sub-scores.
Still needed more Ron Perlman. Seriously, he was amazing for what few lines he had.
What is Afro Samurai -- Mindless Gorefest or Thought Provoking Tale of Revenge? Read on to find out!
Afro is a samurai on a mission to obtain the Number 1 Headband and claim revenge for his father. The problem is, only the owner of the Number 2 Headband may challenge the Number 1, leading to a constant, brutal struggle for the Number 2 Headband.
The basic story of Afro Samurai isn't too much to look at -- a man trying to get revenge for the death of his father by becoming the strongest in all the land. However, once you see past the basics, and look deep into Afro's thoughts and psychological issues, it becomes evident that Afro Samurai tells an incredible story. It may be hard to understand the first time you watch it, but like many other works (think Fight Club) watching it for a second time could lead to some intense revelations.
The animation was pretty unique, combining Feudal Japan with a dusty, western-like theme incorporating mostly dull colors, which matched the overall feel of the anime. In some parts, Afro Samurai almost appears to be in black and white, only to be broken by a sudden splash of bright red blood.
The highlight of this anime is definitely the fight scenes. They are both beautiful and brutal at the same time, and establish Afro (and many of his enemies) as complete badasses.
The sound was one of the best parts of this anime. I personally HATE hip-hop/R&B music, but it just worked so well with Afro and all the themes/fight scenes. The music made up for the fact that Afro is such a quiet character, as the large gaps in dialogue were filled with appropriate tunes.
The voice acting was good, but minimal, as the characters did most of their talking with swords.
The titular character, Afro, is driven by deep psychological issues and a thirst for revenge. He travels with his "buddy" Ninja Ninja, who make an interesting pair, complementing each other perfectly.
Afro's past also comes back to haunt him in the form of one of his most powerful adversaries, Jinno, who was one of the best characters in the whole anime.
This Anime Is... Badass. Samurai engaging in blood-baths with rough hip-hop playing in the background...what could be more badass than that? Not much.
Should I Watch This Anime? Absolutely. Whether you're in for the plot or in it for the gorefest, you won't be disappointed with Afro Samurai. Enjoy!
Well, let me put it this way. You have to be engaged within the story to like it. It really depends on how you look at it. The animation is rather nice and the beginning and middle are brilliantly developed and give the story an edge, but then as we reach the ending, things start to slip. Where it is revealed that Afro killed his master for having the #2 headband, which he must obtain to get the #1 headband (I know, I know, dumb rule, but that's how it is). Why is Afro aiming to get the #1 headband? To avenge his father's death at the hands of the #1. Everyone is planning on attacking Afro to get to kill the #1, but Afro is too strong. Then later in the story he comes across a former friend, who was a fellow student of the master Afro killed for having the #2 headband (seriously, if he wanted to hide it, why didn't he just give the headband to Afro and fake his death, would've worked out a lot better for both of them). So his friend tries to kill Afro in hopes of getting revenge (which is rather hypocritical because he hated Afro for choosing revenge over forgiveness). DUDE, THE GUY CUT HIS DAD'S HEAD OFF!. So it also ends in a stalemate with the outcome ambiguous (not cool).
Unless you think profanity and nudity makes up for a poorly assembled story with an unsatisfying final act I highly suggest you avoid this, it will bring disappointment.