Samurai Jack

Samurai Jack

Infobox Television
show_name = Samurai Jack

caption = Title card for "Samurai Jack"
genre = Animated Series
Science fiction
camera =
picture_format =
audio_format =
runtime = 22 minutes
creator = Genndy Tartakovsky
developer =
producer =
executive_producer =
voices = Phil LaMarr
narrated =
theme_music_composer = James L. Venable
opentheme = - Samurai Jack
endtheme =
country = United States
location =
language =English
network = Cartoon Network
first_aired = August 10, 2001
last_aired = September 25, 2004
num_seasons = 4
num_episodes = 52
list_episodes = List of Samurai Jack episodes
preceded_by =
followed_by =
related =
website =
imdb_id = 0278238
tv_com_id = 3064
Infobox TV ratings
show_name = Samurai Jack
width = 250px
usa_tv =TV-Y7-FV

"Samurai Jack" is a 4-time Emmy award-winning American animated television series created by animator Genndy Tartakovsky that aired on Cartoon Network from 2001 until 2004. It is noted for its highly detailed, outline-free, masking-based animation, as well as for its cinematic style and pacing.

The plots of individual episodes range from dark and epic to light-hearted and comic, but typically follow Jack in his singular quest to find a method of traveling back in time. Many of the battle scenes in the series are reminiscent of samurai films, and since Jack's robotic enemies "bleed" oil or electricity and monsters/aliens bleed slime or goo, the series is able to exhibit the action of these films while avoiding censorship for violence.

"Samurai Jack" is available to be viewed by American residents via the Toonami Jetstream website,cite web |url=;title;0om_act=convert&om_clk=headlinessh |title=Cartoon Network brings anime to the Web |accessdate=2007-03-16 |last=Mahan |first=Colin |authorlink=Colin Mahan |coauthors= |date=April 25, 2006 |year=2006 |month=4 |format= |work= | |pages= |language= |archiveurl= |archivedate= |quote= ] It is aired at 11:00pm on Cartoon Network in the UK. Production on the show was halted in 2004, but it was never officially canceled. In return, Tartakovsky has announced plans to direct a theatrical film, but whether or not this will be used to resolve the series has yet to be announced. The show returned to Cartoon Network on the March 29, 2008 broadcast of the now defunct Toonami programming block.



"Samurai Jack" was created by Genndy Tartakovsky for the Cartoon Network. As a follow-up to his very successful series "Dexter's Laboratory", Tartakovsky intended to create a series "that is cinematic in scope and that incorporates action, humor and intricate artistry".cite web |url= |title=Animator Profile: Genndy Tartakovsky |accessdate=2007-03-16 ||format= |work= ] "Samurai Jack" began airing on August 10, 2001 and ran for four seasons.


This quotation begins each episode of "Samurai Jack", which tells the story of a young prince (Jack) from medieval Japan whose father's empire is destroyed by the demon Aku. The child Jack escapes destruction and travels the world training his mind and his body for years until he reaches adulthood. Then, taking his father's magic katana, he challenges Aku to a duel and defeats the demon. However, before Jack can deal the killing blow, Aku creates a time portal and sends his opponent into the distant future, anticipating that he would be able to amass sufficient power to deal with the samurai later. The protagonist arrives in a hostile, futuristic Earth ruled by Aku and filled with his robot minions and a large number of alien immigrant races of various appearances. The first people he encounters in the future call him "Jack" as a form of slang, which he adopts as his name - his true given name is never mentioned in the series.

Standard episodes follow Jack's search for a way to travel back to his own time, where he hopes to stop Aku before these events come to pass. The cartoon depicts Jack's quest to find a time portal, while constantly facing obstacles set by Aku in a classic battle of Good versus Evil. Typically each time Jack believes he has reached the end of his quest, a deus ex machina causes him to dramatically miss his chance. In one attempt Jack locates a stable portal to the past, but the guardian of the portal defeats him easily and is about to crush him when the portal starts to flicker and glow, apparently giving the guardian a message; the guardian has a giant bird take the unconscious Jack away. After Jack leaves, the guardian states that it is not yet time for him to return to the past, and an image of what seems to be an older Jack is then seen in the portal; this seems to indicate that Jack is predestined to succeed, but it will take many years for him to do so.cite episode | title = XXXII - "Jack and the Traveling Creatures" | series = "Samurai Jack" | credits = | network = Cartoon Network | airdate = 2003-04-26]


"Samurai Jack" takes place in a world where science and technology has developed far beyond what we have available to us today, and in some ways resembles magic on its own. However, despite scientific advances, the future is decidedly dystopian - in one episode the mafia has profited greatly from the sale of simple water.cite episode | title = XII - "Jack and the Gangsters" | series = "Samurai Jack" | credits = | network = Cartoon Network] Aliens, bounty hunters, and robots are plentiful, and always ready for a fight. Above all of this stands Aku, which is evident as the shape of most buildings in urban settings resemble the shape of his head.

Stories take place in a variety of locations. Ranging from beautiful wilderness and to futuristic or even dystopic cities, the stark contrast in these can be extremely rigid. Regardless of the setting, the simple, minimalistic art style employed resembles ukiyo-e paintings.


amurai Jack

Samurai Jack (voiced by Phil LaMarr) is the son of the Japanese lord who ruled the area where Aku originally appeared on Earth, and is banished to the future by Aku during their first battle, where he is left in every episode to search for a way home. He was born on the day that his father defeated Aku and he seems to be the only mortal (aside from his father) to be a match to Aku (which explains why so many will train him when he only shows the insignia of his father's kingdom).

As a boy, after his father was captured by Aku, Jack traveled around the world to prepare both physically and mentally for his confrontation with Aku. He studied under various scholars, such as Greek thinkers, and attempted to master each art of combat from the cultures he met, training with African warriors, Viking sailors, Robin Hood, Mongolian warriors, Shaolin monks, Greek Olympic contestants, Russian Cossacks, and several others (it should be noted that many of these cultures didn't exist at the same period of time).

Later, after being sent into the future, he is taught the ability to jump hundreds of feet into the air by a species of blue gorilla and a jungle man, thus allowing him to reach vast areas he previously could not reach while also giving the impression that he can fly, quoting a friend he rescued (Aku: Wha? You can fly!?)"No, jump good.) as the taken aback Aku underestimated Jacks' abilities. Jack's magic sword was forged by the gods Odin, Ra, and Rama through three mortal avatars. The sword was forged from the righteous energy within Jack's father; it is unable to harm beings that aren't evil, as seen in one episode where Aku steals the sword and attempts to kill Jack with it, only to fail miserably. Jack later gains (though it is unknown if he kept) a blue colored gem called the Eye of Chronos that once belonged to Chronos, the Titan of Time. It was presumed to allow time travel when combined with two other identical gems. This artifact is ironically but unintentionally provided by Aku when he attempted to revive Chronos to destroy Jack.

Jack strongly exhibits the characteristics of a stoic hero. He is unfailingly polite and humble despite the completely alien nature of the futuristic world and never scoffs at or disparages the customs of the people he encounters (as unpleasant as they seem to him at times), no doubt a legacy of his international travel and interaction with foreign cultures during his own era. Despite his almost hopeless situation, he does not bewail his destiny, instead exhibiting a strong "amor fati". Jack consistently shows an uncommon moral strength of character by helping the poor and defenseless along the way, in one instance even helping talking dogs that worked for Aku, another he released the souls of a family in a haunted mansion. Occasionally, he faces great physical pain, or has to forget his own goals in order to help someone in need.

In the first episode, his name was never mentioned. In the second episode however, he began using the name Jack when three teenage aliens, after witnessing Jack survive a huge fall by jumping onto cars, referred to him as Jack while praising him when he landed - in this case, more of a generic term, a la "dude" or "guy." On occasion, when asked to identify himself, he replied "They call me Jack." His real name, has never been revealed.


Aku (voiced by the late Mako Iwamatsu) is Samurai Jack's main antagonist. His name means "evil" or "wickedness" in the Japanese language. He is similar to Akuma, the evil demon with burning eyes from Japanese mythology (which may also be another source for his name) like a tallest devil. He is an extremely powerful demonic wizard whose primary ability is shapeshifting, though he possesses many other powers, such as laser eye beams, pyrokinesis, summoning storms, object conjuration, regeneration, telekinesis, ultrasonic screams, time portals, and teleportation. He requires no food, water, or air and is capable of interstellar travel. He also has the ability to spy on Jack and others from a large sphere he can summon at will in his tower. A significant aspect of the series is that Aku is immortal, and Jack's samurai sword is the only weapon capable of harming and finally defeating him; even the slightest physical contact with the sword's blade causes Aku severe pain, and wounds inflicted by it take much longer to heal from. Because of this, Aku does not like to fight Jack himself (only doing so on occasion), preferring to let his minions do it for him. Aku is also vulnerable to varying degrees to other forms of magical or divine attacks (such as the powers and artifacts of gods.)

Aku constantly antagonizes Jack, often attacking him while he is weak, and other times defending himself from Jack's own gambits. The two seem doomed never to defeat each other, for though Jack has bested Aku on numerous occasions, Aku merely transforms into a small creature and escapes, usually calling out a taunt over his shoulder as he flees, a fact that he himself is aware of and even makes a reference to in one episode.

The episode "The Birth of Evil" reveals Aku's origin. Long ago in the vastness of space, a great formless evil appeared. Before the darkness could do harm to the universe, it was set upon by the kings of three religions: Odin, the one-eyed king of Asgard and the Norse Gods; Ra, the sun god and king of the Gods of Egypt; and Vishnu, the supreme being in Hindu mythology. So fierce was their attack on the shadow, that it was completely destroyed, save for a small fragment that was flung aside in the heat of battle. The fragment drifted and eventually fell to Earth, and caused the impact event that wiped out the dinosaurs when it landed. The land around its impact site eventually formed into the islands of Japan, where it slowly grew and spread like poison over the course of eons, creating an ever-spreading forest of black spikes that devoured any who entered. Eventually the forest grew so large that the Damiyo of the land (Jack's father), decided to kill the evil at its source. Armed with a magic oil given to him by Buddhist monks, the Lord and his cavalry rode into the heart of the forest, the Lord himself the only one to survive. Once at the black lake at the forest's center, the Samurai Lord doused an arrow into the oil he was given, lit it with a green flame, and shot it into the lake. Instead of destroying the evil however, the magic arrow gave it both a will and consciousness, thus the demon Aku was born. Aku proved to be unstoppable, so with the help of the three gods, Jack's father forged a sword capable of harming him. With it, he was able to defeat Aku and somehow turned into a black tree. This imprisonment lasted less than a decade however, as a solar eclipse released Aku upon the world once more.

While he is usually presented as a serious and threatening foe (as well as being pure evil), Aku is also a source of comedy due to his outrageous design and sometimes wise-guy behavior, supported by Mako's over the top voice acting.

econdary characters

When Jack arrives in the future, he finds that Aku has conquered the world and rules the populace with an iron fist. Jack finds that there are still warriors in this age, and occasionally meets both those fighting for and those siding against the side of good. "Samurai Jack"'s universe is populated by a diverse cast of characters who often appear for single episodes with a few exceptions.

The Scotsman: Only known as the "Scotsman" (voiced by John DiMaggio), he is the only one of two characters to appear in 3 episodes- "Jack and the Scotsman", "Jack and the Scotsman II" and "The Scotsman saves Jack" (This is a 2 part episode). When he first meets Jack ("Jack and the Scotsman"), he makes fun of Jack, calling him various names and insults (such as calling him "a sissy in a nightgown"). He even makes fun of Jack's sword, calling it a butter knife; however, Jack has impressed him by the end of the episode. He even gets Jack to help him rescue his dainty, beautiful wife from a demon (this is an understatement by the Scotsman as she is, ironically, larger and more terrifying than the Scotsman himself, and stronger than Jack and the Scotsman combined). The Scotsman even saves Jack when Jack loses his memory due to the Sirens. His notable features are his legs. One is a normal (though disproportionately small) leg and the other leg is a machine gun, which he uses in combat along with several explosives contained in his kilt and he carries a shield on his back. He also uses a longsword inscribed with Celtic Runes making it unbreakable even against Jack's blade and his skills with it are even equal to Jack's multiple talents. He also has superhuman strength, evidenced when he could pick up and throw an entire tank with relative ease. This is apparently a genetic trait, as the other members of his family are just as powerful and, by admission of the Scotsman himself, even rowdier than he is (they even have the same disproportionately small legs).

Jack's father:Jack's father (voiced by Clyde Kusatsu) appears in 4 episodes "The Beginning", "Jack Remembers the Past", "The Aku Infection", and "The Birth Of Evil". Like his son, he is brave, humble, and polite.


Cultural references

"Samurai Jack" frequently features appearances from gods of varying pantheons and creatures of legend. In the episode "The Birth of Evil", Odin, Ra, and Vishnu are shown to join forces to battle the dark power that would one day become Aku.cite episode | title = XXXVII - "The Birth of Evil" | series = "Samurai Jack" | credits = | network = Cartoon Network | airdate = 2003-08-16] "Samurai Jack" does not speak of an afterlife to any great extent and the presence of deities in the program are mostly pagan and practical.

"Samurai Jack" occasionally borrows from ancient sources as well as current ones. In episode "Jack and the Spartans", Jack fights alongside an army of three-hundred warriors who bear a likeness to Spartans, defending their home from an army of robots that would reconstruct themselves after each day's fight. The plot of this episode is based on the Battle of Thermopylae.cite episode | title = XXV - "Jack and the Spartans" | series = "Samurai Jack" | credits = | network = Cartoon Network | airdate = ]


Tartakovsky borrows from a great many artistic sources for this series. One episode could resemble a book by Dr. Seuss when the next could involve Jack fleeing from a zombie horde. Action in "Samurai Jack" borrows liberally from old martial arts and samurai films, and action films of the 1970s as well as 1963's Toei Animation studio release entitled "The Little Prince and the Eight Headed Dragon" (Originally "Wanpaku Ouji no Orochi Taiji") also using multiple angle and split screen shots to display action from multiple angles. The plot is frequently stopped to allow for the building of tension before combat or for the sake of humor; it is also not uncommon for episodes to be almost entirely free of dialogue which results in cinematic or stylized episodes.Tartakovsky included a cameo of a Samurai with a young child in a baby carriage in the episode "Jack Remembers the Past". This character has a strong resemblance to Ogami Itto of "Lone Wolf and Cub"cite episode | title = XIX - "Jack Remembers the Past" | series = "Samurai Jack" | credits = | network = Cartoon Network | season= | number= | minutes= | airdate = ]

Tartakovsky has also acknowledged taking some of his thematic inspiration from Frank Miller's Graphic Novel "Ronin", including the premise of a master-less samurai warrior thrown into a dystopic future ahead of our present in order to battle a shape-shifting demon. Similarly, the episode "Jack and the Spartans" (see above), while based on historical events, was specifically inspired by Miller's "300", a graphic novel retelling of said events.cite episode | title = XXV - "Jack and the Spartans" (DVD commentary) | series = "Samurai Jack" | credits = | network = Cartoon Network | airdate = | minutes = 00:21]


Awards and recognition

In 2004, British broadcaster Channel 4 ran a poll of the one hundred greatest cartoons of all time, in which "Samurai Jack" achieved the 42nd position.


The distinctive style of "Samurai Jack" is what drew Lucasfilm to recruit Tartakovsky for the "" animated series. Much of the signature cinematic style of "Samurai Jack" lives on in "Clone Wars", such as lightning-fast combat, extended sequences without dialogue, explosions, epic vistas, etc.".cite web |url= |title=Genndy Tartakovsky |accessdate=2007-03-16 | |format= |work= ]

"Samurai Jack" also remains a popular subject with Cartoon Network animators and continues to show up in programs being broadcast today. The following are a few examples.

:The "Duck Dodgers" episode "Samurai Quack" was dedicated to spoofing the various stylistic elements and plot devices of "Samurai Jack", such as only ever killing robots and the progressive ripping of clothes leading up to the final battle of the episode. Tartakovsky himself also made a cameo in that episode.cite episode | title = "Surf the Stars" / "Samurai Quack" | series = "Duck Dodgers" | credits = | network = Cartoon Network | season = 2 | number = 211 | minutes = | airdate = ] The role of Aku is played by Dodger's Happy Cat alarm clock voiced by Mako.

:In one episode of "Dexter's Laboratory", another cartoon created by Tartakovsky, boy-genius Dexter frequently says "Samurai Jaction" rather than "action", e.g., "That's enough Samurai Jaction for you!" Also in the post-2001 episodes, a Samurai Jack action figure is sometimes visible on the shelf in Dexter's bedroom.

Reviewers of the 3D animated feature film "Kung Fu Panda" (DreamWorks Animation) have noted that the stylized 2D opening sequence is either inspired by, or a homage to, "Samurai Jack".cite web|url=|title=Kung Fu Cinema "Kung Fu Panda" review] cite web|url=|title=Timeout "Kung Fu Panda" review|author=Stephen Garrett|work=Time Out]

Media information

Broadcast history

Cartoon Network ordered fifty-two episodes of "Samurai Jack", which were aired as four seasons as a prime time member of the Cartoon Cartoon block of programming. Despite its Emmy nominations and wins the show was taken off of the air before the fourth season could complete its initial run. The unaired episodes were later shown as a Toonami special, on Toonami Jetstream (on Cartoon, and in re-runs.

While airing, the series spawned a comic book and several tie-ins.

"Samurai Jack" made a reappearance on Cartoon Network's adult swim, based on results from a successful user poll, noted in bumps during programming on 2/22/08. The first episode of the series was broadcast during the network's Toonami block on March 29, 2008, and has been airing the episodes in order each week since.

Feature film

There had been plans for a "Samurai Jack" movie that were in development in 2002. But this project was canceled after the lackluster performance of "The Powerpuff Girls Movie". In an interview, Tartakovsky confirmed that "Jack will come back" and that "we will finish the story, and there will be an animated film." [ [ MTV] ] [ [ (cache of MTV story)] ]

It is also stated on the inside jacket of the Season 4 DVD that Genndy still thinks the best way to finish the story is to do a feature-length movie, and goes on to state that this will hopefully be in the "near future".

Newly formed production company Frederator Films has announced in "Variety" that one of their first projects will be a feature film adaptation of "Samurai Jack", written and directed by Genndy Tartakovsky. [ [ - "Samurai Jack" is Back] ] updateneed

Video games

Although has a handful of "Samurai Jack" web games of their own, there is a home video game of the series.
* "" for the GameCube and PlayStation 2.

DVD releases

Like previous Cartoon Network shows, "Samurai Jack" DVDs are released by Warner Home Video.

The DVDs include episode numbers in Roman numerals as they appear at the end of episodes, but remain untitled.

As of 2007 the series has not been released on DVD in the United Kingdom despite its international popularity.

Season One was released in Australia (region 4) November 2007 by Madman Entertainment.

All seasons are downloadable on Zune Marketplace for 160 points or $1.99 an episode.


External links

* [ Official Website]

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