Holy damn, I made it to 100 official anime reviews. For the past two years of my life, I have written many anime reviews of either shows and movies I just learning about, forgotten gems that no one else knows, and of course, the ones the people know and love…..although some of the ones I either just found “meh” or just straight up horrible; but then again, those titles that most people recommended to me……I did ended up loving them. Now with the 100th review approaching, the question of everyone’s mind is that what anime am I going to review……but however, I guess you already know what title I’m talking about. There’s no use in surprising you anymore as The Blue Hybrid goes into his favorite anime of all time………
You know, knowing about this anime when I first discover it, I wasn’t that exactly knowledgeable of much anime as this was the time I was pretty much limited to TV via Cartoon Network on Toonami and Adult Swim when it came to anime but once seeing a preview of it, knowing that it’s going to air on SPIKE TV, who was…….um…….well, some shows. (Yeah, I don’t watch that network that much anymore) but that was the time when I was still much a teenager and now that I’m in my early 20s, I wonder if this show still holds up to today.
But are all the origins of the show and where it’s from?
It is originally a seinen dojinshi manga series by Takashi Okazaki, in which the artist has a love for soul and hip hop music, which like many people said about anime is that while American artists do have some inspiration from anime, sometimes the Japanese does have a bit of our influences in their material and for this time around, it’s hip hop and I love hip hop and I love the usage of it being more creative in a style like this rather than a gimmick to sell to audiences as this is an anime directly hand-made for the American audience.
On the dark path of swordsmanship in a “futuristic” yet feudal Japan, it is said that the one who becomes the No. 1 warrior will rule the world with powers akin to a god. Only the No. 2 warrior is allowed to challenge the No. 1, but anyone can challenge the No. 2. The current No. 2, the Afro Samurai, travels the road looking for revenge on Justice, the man who murdered his father (who was then the No. 1) in front of him when he was just a boy, a skilled gunman who became the current No. 1 after defeating Afro’s father.
Now with the plot outline out of the way, you know that I love a good revenge storyline and that’s the overall theme for the character of Afro. The reason why Afro hunts for these headbands…..he didn’t care about the power or the fear of others or the respect of it. He was haunted by his father’s death at the hands of Justice and that was his only motive to hunt down Justice, even though he managed to break some friendships he made in his past and judging by the way it went, I’m not surprised that one of his former buddies want to end him and I completely understand it.
Does it mean I like Afro any less of a character?
No, not really? Yes, Afro is a character with some fucked-up tendencies about him but you can’t argue the fact that Afro can kick some ass and I love seeing him in action, kicking some ninja/samurai ass all around but thankfully, he isn’t some god-like fighter as he even struggles with some fights, thus making them more exciting to watch.
Plus, this is one of the few leads in an anime where the lead character is African-American and I like that they portrayed him well and not in an embarrassing, coonish way that make you want to facepalm. Also, he is a silent-type stealth character – another trait that I like in a character because it means their actions are far more important and meaningful than just talking your ass out about something that can be pointed out in less than a second.
And there’s Ninja Ninja and no, I’m not annoyed by the presence of him because he actually provides some good humor into the show and it does balance out the tragic aspects and the action scenes, so it doesn’t feel too awkward and out of place. I don’t get how people are annoyed by him considering he is about as important to the character of Afro.
Jinno (or as he called Kuma), I really do feel for this character’s motivation for wanting to take down Afro. He might sound a bit cliché with the whole “you killed my master” shtick but when that and your whole class died (with one of whom isn’t entirely dead) from being cutted down, you wouldn’t take that lightly. Otsuru (or Okiku) is one character that does have some focus on her having a crush on Afro but I feel that she was shafted early on in the start of the series, although I could see if the opposite of that would’ve happened, it could have made some more major problems than what we got.
As for the villains, the Empty 7 Clan are just some secondary villains to Justice, the main antagonist prize and while he only shows up in the beginning and the end of the show, he is still more of a threat than them as the Empty 7 Clan just wanted the #2 headband for themselves. They want that for power and yet they were so full of themselves.
Now for the animation. Yes, GONZO was in charge of the animation here and knowing its reputation and what people say about their style and as for how they’re done in the show, it is actually fitting and very appropriate from the dark atmosphere, the harsh surroundings and the desolate dystopian and futuristic setting. Also, the action and fight scenes were just downright amazing in my eyes and if you happen to be squeamish, you might want to think twice before watching because there is a lot of blood and gore. Possibly my favorite fight scene of the series is the final showdown between Afro and the Afro Droid. Maybe it may not look fancy or shiny but it’s definitely something worth noticing.
The music……(yeah, this is the part where I show my fanboyism)….If you don’t know much about me, I am a big fan of the Wu-Tang Clan but more specifically, the producer behind it, Robert Diggs aka The RZA and I’ll say that the score and soundtrack is fucking excellent but not because it just uses hip-hop in a show and it’s done right but he does take on more musical genre influences such as spaghetti-western style music to the funk fight-showdown style music to some traditional samurai/martial arts music. The point is, the music does explore a few genres fitting into the series and I appreciate that fact. The opening theme is just 30 seconds long and while it’s good, I wish I had more to listen to but the rest of the soundtrack got tracks I really got love for, mostly the song “Fury in My Eyes/Revenge” with the RZA and Thea van seijen, whom often is a go-to singer/vocalist for anything RZA or Wu-Tang related but yeah, this is that song that goes with the tone of who Afro is as a character and the choices that he made throughout his life.
Oh, the English dub……actually, no, it’s the only version because there is no Japanese voice-acting on this and this is a dub-only title (and this is actually very rare considering there is a lot of sub-only anime on the market so this is quite fair) and not only that, this is quite the star-studded cast of either well-known actors and voice actors, even ones that don’t be in a lot of anime productions, but then again, this is a Studiopolis production and FUNimation is the one distributing it, instead of using their own people. Let’s start with but who else but SAMUEL L. MOTHERFUCKING JACKSON!!!! Yes, for doing dual roles as both Afro and Ninja Ninja, I say that he delivers a great performance from both, especially for characters with different traits; Afro being the silent one and Ninja Ninja being the talkative one. Ron Perlman was great as Justice, Kelly Hu did a decent job with her being Okiku although Tara Strong as Otsuru was actually a better effort. Yuri Lowenthal as Jinno did put a great performance as well and others such as Phil Lamarr, T.C. Carson, John DiMaggio and even small appearances by Grey DeLisle, Steve Blum, Liam O’ Brien & Greg Eagles was also well-acted.
FINAL VERDICT: This anime, to me, feels like it’s made for a person like me, wanting to cross two genres that may seem a weird fit but in the end, it does work well. When people say this is Samurai Champloo mixed with The Boondocks, it does draw much of an interest in me. It feeds within the anime fan of me, the action fan in me, the samurai/martial arts fan in me, and also the hip hop side of me as well. I can’t say for others if they’ll like it but the thing is, the show isn’t some perfect work of art but it’s downright over-the-top and enjoyable.
And now, you may ask, does Afro Samurai make the cut or will it be cut?
Psshhh…..You know how I’m going to rate it.
10/10 – HALL OF FAME
You damn right.
AFRO SAMURAI is available on DVD & Blu-ray either edited or uncensored and uncut via FUNimation Entertainment. Streaming options are available on Netflix and Funimation.com via their Elite Video Subscription.
You know, I do want to thank you all for actually reading my reviews and blogs for the past 2-3 years. I never would’ve thought to make it this far but I’m still doing this right here and right now but remember that I always want people to check them out not because I want them to or just to get noticed, but for if they got some genuine interest in them and sometimes I don’t think that highly of myself. But to be really thankful, I would’ve never met so many people online that I now consider to be my friends and partners…hell, as well as my own family if I haven’t done this. I really appreciate the support from all of you and I thank you from the bottom of my Hybrid heart and hope Anime Discovery along with other projects I got continue to thrive into 2014. And until then, I’m MAK2.0 aka The Blue Hybrid, bringing all the elements in one format.
AFRO SAMURAI – animation by GONZO & distributed by FUNIMATION ENTERTAINMENT