Samurai Jack: The Complete Fourth Season (TV)
R1 - America - Cartoon Network
Review written by and copyright: Pat Pilon (30th September 2007).
The Show

A cross between a samurai movie and an anime series, 'Samurai Jack' is an original creative take on the jidei-geki sub-genre of action movies. As the introduction to each episode will tell you, the evil Aku sent Jack into a special portal that zapped him to the future. Now, he tries to find a way back to his own time, while trying to stop Aku, who's been living large for a long time now. This is a world where swords and teahouses are on the same level as boomboxes, guns and robots.

The show is very minimalist, with very little dialogue, score or even plot. Indeed, there's very little storyline. The episodes are generally filled with one basic movement. Generally, it's Jack fighting someone or something. There are small variations, like the episode 'The Aku Infection', but the episodes are generally very simple. The dialogue also follows suit, with very little dialogue. In fact, I believe the introduction has more lines than most of the episodes.

It is, however, highly stylized, for example, changing aspect ratios at will, making for an interesting watch. There's plenty of action to be had, as the last half of many episodes feature one big fight scene. The one that will always stay in my mind is the black and white fight sequence from the end of the very first episode. It's a stunning piece. It's very simple, but it's drawn and conceived in such an amazing way, the results are something breathtaking. The ending of 'The Scotsman Saves Jack, Part 2' is also a lot of fun, but for different reasons.

Though the animation is pretty simple, the show has some big ideas. They're always presented in a fairly obvious way, but they're never rammed down the audience's throat. The episodes are well thought-out and are generally enjoyable, 'Four Seasons of Death' definitely being a standout. It's the best of the season and show's incredibly creative.

If you're a fan of the show, then this will fit in well with your collection. The show only lasted for about four years, but this is a very nice and fitting ending to the series. The season is strong and still shows great originality. Episodes like 'The Princess and the Bounty Hunters', 'Tale of X9' and, of course, 'Four Seasons of Death' ensure that this season will always be remembered.

disc 1:
XL: Samurai vs. Ninja (22:30)
Jack tries to save a village from mechanical things. At the same time, he has to fend off an assassin sent by Aku.

XLI: Robo-Samurai vs. Mondo-Bot (22:40)
Jack gets attack by Mondo-Bot, a giant robot designed to protect a city, gone haywire. This is 'Samurai Jack''s ode to the mech genre.

XLII: Samurai vs. Samurai (22:09)
Jack, while having some tea at a teahouse, meets a blowhard, who seems to want to be taught a lesson.

XLIII: The Aku Infection (22:37)
Jack gets infected with a kind of virus, which brings out his bad side.

XLIV: The Princess and the Bounty Hunters (22:27)
A group of bounty hunters gather to get Jack. This is from the point of view of the bad guys. Interesting storytelling. Awesome ending.

XLV: The Scotsman Saves Jack, Part 1 (22:34)
XLVI: The Scotsman Saves Jack, Part 2 (21:49)
The title is pretty self-explanatory. The Scotsman finds someone who looks just like Jack serving drinks on a boat. He then takes the Jack-look-a-like on a trip to see what happened to Jack. For people familiar with voice actors, John DiMaggio plays the Scotsman.

disc 2:
XLVII: Jack and the Flying Prince and Princess (22:37)
Under attack, the Prince and Princess of a planet flee to get help, and crash land on Earth, where they Jack decides to help them.

XLVIII: Jack vs. Aku (22:45)
Aku proposes a duel with Jack. Then, they fight.

XLIX: The Four Season of Death (22:50)
This is the best episode of the season, and it's incredibly original and stunning. The episode is separated into four segments, each with a different season, and showing a different way the season can kill Jack. It's doesn't sound so impressive, but you have to see it to understand what I mean.

L: Tale of X9 (21:39)
X9 is a robot created by Aku to help bring in his reign of terror. This is its story. Another outstanding episode, this reminds me of a couple of 'Cowboy Bebop' episodes.

LI: Young Jack Africa (22:40)
This explores Jack's youth. As a young boy, he was in Africa, and you see a bit of his early life here, as well as his introduction to martial arts. This has a strong reference to Tsui Hark's 'The Blade'.

LII: Jack and the Baby (22:40)
'Lone Wolf and Cub', right here! Jack finds a crying baby, kidnapped by ogres. He decides to take care of the baby while he tries to find its parents. Strange way to finish the series, but it's a good ending.

Video

1.33:1 full frame (mostly). The show is extremely minimalistic in its animation and the DVD reproduces the show pretty well. The colours are bright and accurate. The lines are well delineated and the colours don't flicker. The source material is good enough, though, to me, some of the shots could be a bit sharper. It's pretty basic animation, so a soft transfer is strange. In any case, the transfer is very nice, with no obvious digital work, like edge enhancement or compression artifacts.

Audio

There are three audio tracks: 2 dubs (French and Spanish) and the original English track, all of them in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. The only bad part is that some of the dialogue is drowned out by some of the other sounds. This only happens a few times and doesn't really take much of the sound away. The track is actually very good, with plenty of ambiance and other environmental effects to add to the sound, and it turns out to be quite amazing work. With a stereo track, you can't really do much more than this.
There are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Extras

Warner has given this set some nice extras, all of which are on disc two. The first thing are some Deleted Scene (1:16). These are from the 'Tale of X9' episode. They don't really add much and seem more like an extension more than anything else. I think they add a little bit of blood splatter, but other than that, I can't really tell.

Next is the very nice Genndy's Roundtable (53:00). Seven crew members, including Mr. Tartakovsky himself, sit down and reminisce about the show and how it changed them. They sit down and each talks about how they got involved in the project and what their jobs involved. Mr. Tartakovsky asks questions, which everybody else answers. Everybody adds to everybody else's comments, and this makes for a very informative discussion. They talk about the concept of the show, the lack of dialogue, the main character, the freedom they had to do different things and the like. Genndy Tartakovsky tells you how he came up with the show, how to end the series, and all of them tell you how much pressure there was to make an episode every week. It's a great talk.

Genndy's New Projects (4:20) is a misleadingly-titled look at the new offices of Orphanage Animation Studios. Mr. Tartakovsky takes you inside the house where they'll do their new stuff. To finish off, there's Samurai Jack Promos (4:02), which is actually three things bundled together. The first is a promo for the show (1:02), the next is a promo for one of the episodes (0:32) and the last is a montage used for I don't know what (2:26), but looks like a music video. With this show, the promos are actually pretty nice, especially the last one. Very artsy.

Overall

The Show: B+ Video: B Audio: B+ Extras: B Overall: B

 


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