Funimation went all out with this release. If only I enjoyed it…
What They Say
Afro Samurai avenged his father and found a life of peace, but the legendary master is forced back into the game by a beautiful and deadly woman from his past. The sparks of violence dropped along Afro's bloody path now burn out of control - and nowhere are the flames of hatred more intense than in the eyes of Sio. She won't quit until Afro is schooled in the brutal lessons he dealt those who stood in his way.
This edition includes a limited-edition art book featuring forwards from the RZA, Bob Okazaki (creator) and Fuminori Kizaki (director) as well as never-before-seen images from the anime and the original manga.
The only sound option on this release is an English 5.1 option. This mix is really good. In particular, I was impressed with how well the hip hop music track blended with the rest of the action. It really enhanced the feel of the series. There were no technical problems, and there was plenty of directionality during the fight scenes. Really good job here.
As nice as this movie sounded, it looked just as fantastic. I loved the coloring in that the backgrounds were nice and bold, while the characters tended to have more of a faded look. Character designs were severe, but each person had their own unique look. Technically, I saw no problems in the presentation. The lining was bold, and everything came up clear. This is just a really slick production.
Again, a top notch job. The two discs are held in a trifold sleeve, with a slipcase to cover it. This provides plenty of opportunity to show off the artwork, as there are plenty of shots of Afro, Ninja Ninja, and Sio to go around. The slipcase keeps the coloring from the series, but the images in the trifold tend to be more monochromatic. The trifold also has a pocket to hold the artbook. The whole package is pretty sturdy and well designed.
The menus feature more of the type of artwork from the slipcase cover, which lends itself to a nice design. The selections are aligned to the side, and are easy to see and follow. The main theme plays on a loop in the background while the main menu is up. If you like the artwork for Afro Samurai, then the menu will interest you as well.
If you like extras, there are a lot on this set, as a second disc is provided purely for the extras. For starters, there are four separate “Behind the Scenes” looks, as we get to see the art production of Gonzo in Japan and Uppity Films in the US, the musical production with the RZA, and the production of Afro Samurai: The Game. There is also an extensive interview on the world of Afro Samurai with Takashi Okazaki (series creator), and a retrospective of Afro Samurai at San Diego Comic-Con 2008. Finally, there is a video commentary with various directores/artists of the first thirty minutes of the feature; this commentary has a split screen which has the movie in one box, with video of the commentators on the opposite side. In all, there are over 100 minutes of extras on this disc. The only disappointment is that there is no cast commentary, as I would have liked to have heard Sam Jackson’s thought processes on the series.
Apart from the extras on the disc, this set also comes with a 24 page artbook that has some information from various production people as well as plenty of images and sketches from various aspects of the feature. This is a nicely put together artbook and is a nice addition to the whole package.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Afro Samurai: Resurrection is the sequel to the incredibly popular Afro Samurai TV series. Afro Samurai is a successful attempt to bring a samurai story into hip hop culture, and Resurrection follows the theme well. I could see this movie being just as big as the TV series, but it was something that just did not click with me.
In the world of Afro Samurai, there are two headbands signifying the two strongest samurai in the world, and legend says that whoever owns No. 1 will rule the world. Because of this, much blood has been spilled over both bandanas, especially No. 2 as only the one who owns No. 2 can challenge No. 1. As this movie begins, Afro still controls the No. 1 headbands he won from Justice in the TV series.
Unlike prior No. 1’s, though, Afro refuses to fight to maintain his place, preferring instead to live in solitude. Unfortunately, there are still people gunning for him. The most vicious is the Lady Sio, who holds a grudge against Afro for killing her brother, Jinno. She has managed to resurrect Jinno, and by ambushing Afro, she steals the No. 1 headband, along with the skull of Afro’s father, Rokutaro. She claims that she will also resurrect Rokutaro and torture him mercilessly for Afro’s crimes unless Afro reclaims No. 2 and comes to confront her. Then she feels she can have her revenge.
Feeling he has no recourse but to follow her demands, Afro leaves his seclusion to search for No. 2, with Ninja Ninja in tow as always. And everywhere he goes, he finds people who hold grudges for the bloodshed he caused in his hunt for Justice. So, as usual, he leave plenty more bloodshed in his wake. But the search takes him a while, and all along, Sio gets closer to achieving her goals.
Afro Samurai is a samurai anime with attitude. The soundtrack is filled with rugged hip hop beats, and the action follows suit. There is plenty of blood and violence as Afro tends to leave dead bodies in his wake. The action in this series is some of the best samurai action I have seen in an anime, as it closely toes the line between realistic sword fighting and the more supernatural violence that pervades some anime. It really makes for a nice dynamic as it is fast paced and hectic, but not unbelievable.
Watching this, I can see why it would be popular. The action is great, the soundtrack is hopping, and it is incredibly stylish. Unfortunately for me, I am not part of the hip hop culture, so I found it hard to really get into this movie. I have also not seen any of the TV series, so I do not even have that history to draw from.
I think I would have liked to have seen more from the plot. It had an interesting initial setup, but then the rest was essentially Afro going from place-to-place and killing people. The battle with No. 2 was wonderfully rendered, and there was some really nice asymmetry with the festival going on at the same time, but the rest of the fighting was missing the certain “something” that made the fight with No. 2 so interesting.
I also had problems with how insightful Afro was, as he was never really fooled by anything. He just automatically knew what was going on. For example, when Afro is gambling with the old man to get his information, he knew that the old man was cheating the dice, but instead of having to spend some time figuring it out, he just knew that the old man had a device under his beard that set the roll of the dice. And there was no hint to the viewer what was happening. It felt too much like a “Deus Ex Machina” to me.
As a hip hop samurai anime, it would be easy to compare this to Samurai Champloo. In all, I think I enjoyed Samurai Champloo better because I feel that the story was tighter. The action was just as good, though the presentation in Afro Samurai is better. But Samurai Champloo is only hip hop because of the soundtrack; Afro Samurai really buries itself in the culture. Ninja Ninja got on my nerves fairly quickly, but I think he would be a popular character among fans of the series for his street smart attitude. Just because Afro Samurai was not my cup of tea does not mean that it should just be written off.
In the end, I am probably not the best judge for a movie like Afro Samurai: Resurrection. It just could not hold my attention. However, I am also not part of the target demographic, as I am a bit too old and am not part of the hip hop culture. From an objective standpoint, I can see this being a hit with those inside the demographic, so while I did not particularly enjoy it, I am sure that plenty will.
English 5.1 Language, The Making of the Anime, The Making of the Video Game, Interviews with the Cast and Crew, RZA in the Studio, Commentary from the Creators
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (Component Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System