Afro Samurai: Resurrection (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Bryce Coulter
Review Date: Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, February 03, 2009

One brother, one path…

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 Review!
Audio
The disc information on the back of the packaging indicates that the audio track is listed as English Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Unfortunately, this is not as advertised as there is only one audio track on the disc, which is a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix.  This lacks the precision and clarity that audiophiles love and crave when it comes to a lossless mix.  Overall, the series sounded pretty good, knowing that the audio was lossy, with the dialogue appropriately balanced with the action sequences.  If this were a normal DVD release, I would give the audio a higher grade, but this is Blu-ray where lossless audio is expected. 

Technicalities aside, you have to respect the creativeness of RZA from the Wu-Tang-Clan for making a very interesting and appropriate soundtrack for a series that demands creativity.  RZA was a good choice, and I can’t imagine Afro Samurai without his hip-hop genius.

At the time of this writing, FUNimation is aware of the problem and will replace any old discs with updated new ones that have the English Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Video
The video for this movie is beautifully rendered in 1080P. This movie uses a wide spectrum of color that will blow your Blu-ray player and your high definition TV out of the room. You get to experience a lot of variety in darkness, brightness, and in between.  There are a few scenes that appear somewhat monochromatic, but manage to maintain proper color balance from the background to the foreground. I was unable to find any distracting color banding at all.  The clarity and detail is superb.  Distance scenes looked great. The black levels are rich and there was never a loss of shadow detail in the darker scenes.  The bit-rate for the video hovers around 25 MBPS with no noticeable flaws in the transfer.

Packaging:
Afro Samurai: Resurrection comes in the standard Blu-ray case featuring Afro, Ninja-Ninja and Sio.  Sio’s family is featured below near the bottom with Kuma riding the chopper. The backside of the case features the screen shots on the left side with a paragraph of accolades for the series that include Samuel L. Jackson, Lucy Liu, Mark Hamill, and RZA.  In the midst of the accolades, you will find a brief description of the movie.  Also included, are the technical specs and listing of extras.

Menu:
The menu design for the series is simply laid out with the main menu on the bottom left-hand side of the screen.  The Afro Samurai: Resurrection theme plays appropriately as different clips play in the background.  The submenus appear on the top-left hand side of the screen.  The menu theme has a dark appearance that fits well with the overall feel for Afro Samurai as well as the music from RZA.  The menus were quick and easy to access.  However, I would have liked to have the chapter menus use larger menu screens as they were relatively small.

Extras:
The extras on this disc are extensive.  The icing on the cake for the extras is that it is provided in 1080P (with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio).

Afro Samurai: The Game - 12 minutes
As most of you should know, games made after movies typically don’t make good games.  The 12 minutes spent watching this has caused me to consider looking into this game when it comes up on the used games list at EB Games.  The insight into the creation of the game may just cause you to feel the same way. If you have any remote interest in the game, you might want to check this out as it may just win you over.

Enter the RZA - 6 minutes
Growing up in 80’s and 90’s, I always knew who RZA was and who the Wu-Tang Clan were, but I never really listened to them.  After watching the Afro Samurai series extras, I have new appreciation for the talent of RZA.  This feature focuses on his passion for Afro Samurai as well as the time he spent creating the score for the series.

Afro In-Depth - 6 minutes
This interview features Takashi Okazaki, the creator of Afro Samurai.  This featurette focuses on topics such as the Afro Samurai manga, the music for the series, and the storyline.  My favorite part has to be the interview where Okazaki describes the underlying themes he wanted to bring across in “Resurrection“.

Afro Samurai: East Meets West, Part 1 - 19 minutes
This feature focuses on all of the Japanese staff involved in the production of “Afro Samurai“.  This will provide you with an in-depth view of the production work and technical aspects that took place in creating the film.  It also focuses on how the team used their past experiences with the series to take the film to the next level. 

Afro Samurai: East Meets West, Part 2 - 25 minutes
My favorite part of the extras was the interviews with Samuel L. Jackson, Lucy Liu, Yuri Lowenthal, and the English producers.  Here, a discussion takes place about the themes explored in the series.  From the series extras, we know that Samuel L. Jackson is a fan of anime and has an appreciation for Takashi Okazaki’s work.  He still takes that standpoint in his interviews as he talks about how much he enjoyed working with the series and his hopes for it. Lucy Liu’s take on the series and her interest in anime was also cool to watch.  She also described her first experiences of being introduced to anime by Quentin Tarantino during the production of Kill Bill.

Afro Samurai at San Diego Comic-Con 2008 - 8 minutes
This feature focuses on the panel discussion at Comic-Con in 2008 with Samuel L. Jackson, RZA, and Takashi Okazaki.  You also get some fanboy interviews which can sometimes be a hoot to watch.  This is probably the least interesting part of the extras.

Part A Video Commentary - 28 minutes
This video commentary takes on a unique aspect as the screen is split into three sections. Two boxes appear at the top of the screen while one is positioned at the bottom.  The top screens feature silent clips from the movie and video of the main Japanese staff discussing the scene. The bottom screen displays the text of what the Japanese production members are saying.  This play-by-play commentary gives you some additional insight about the scenes that the creators liked the best along with Okazaki.  My favorite part of this commentary is where the group talks about the sexy scenes, especially the one that involves “excessive fan service”.  It’s worth fast forwarding to that part!

Also included in the collection is a sampling of 8 FUNimation trailers that of course, are presented in 480P with 2 channel audio.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers). 
The Afro Samurai anime series is a unique blend of anime, American culture, Japanese culture, and hip-hop music.  The series was created and adapted from Takashi Okazaki’s manga. Afro Samurai takes on a personification that is very unique in the anime world.  In fact, it is very cutting edge in how the series was designed and produced.  One can experience that first hand by watching the first season of 5 episodes.  Having watched the first season, I can recommend that you not watch Afro Samurai: Resurrection without having watched it first.

Afro Samurai: Resurrection is the continuation from the 5 episode series entitled Afro Samurai.  The story takes place several years after the anime series and is considered to be the second part of the saga.  Here, we find Afro in a state that was not depicted in the original series.  Afro appears to have settled into a monk-like lifestyle after gaining the number one headband and avenging his father’s death.  We don’t get much in terms of what he has been up other than carving figures of those he cared about in his life.  It is not clear if this is a form of penance for all the lives he’s taken.  The tranquil scene depicting Afro in this outwardly peaceful state is immediately interrupted with a butt-kicking of epic proportions.  Sio and her brother Jinno (aka Kuma or the guy with the teddy bear mask) show up and destroy everything that Afro has.  This results in Afro losing the number one headband, and his father’s grave is completely defiled.
Sio has a dastardly plan to resurrect Afro’s dead father.  Sio wants to use Afro’s father to torture him. Sio knows that Afro lives by the samurai code that is bound to the number one headband.  She challenges Afro to obtain the number two headband and face Jinno, herself and her resurrected family members in a fight to the death.

Upon her and Jinno’s departure, Ninja Ninja shows up and it’s at that point that you know that Afro is back.  Afro sets off to obtain the number two headband and challenge Sio before she resurrects his father.  Just like the first season, you get plenty of fighting, blood, fan servicey sex scenes, lots of Ninja Ninja, and little talk from Afro.  For me, what makes Afro Samurai so engaging is Ninja Ninja.  Samuel L. Jackson really does a great job of making this annoying character so unique.  You never know what he’s going to say or do next.  Afro is so predictable, but Ninja Ninja is anything but, and that’s what makes this series fun.

What’s new in this movie is that you get more insight into Sio and Jinno.  The Jinno soap opera continues as we learn more about how Sio and Jinno were affected by Afro’s pursuit to get the number one headband.  Afro really messed up this family, and Sio’s anger is personified to its fullest as the details of her plan unfold throughout the movie. We also begin to wonder if Jinno will ever die.

The plot for this movie is simple, just like in the first season, it is all about revenge.  This time the revenge aspect is focused on Sio. There is nothing profound in this movie as far as further character development for Afro other than what is implied and left for the viewer to interpret.  The first season of Afro Samurai really focused on Afro’s need to avenge his father’s death.  This time around, for Afro, it’s all about stopping Sio from turning his father into a zombified monster. Will Afro be reunited with his number one headband, his father or the cost of his past?  If you are a fan of the first season, here’s more candy for the candy dish.  PS – be sure to watch the end credits for yet another resurrected foe…. 

Summary
Afro Samurai: Resurrection takes place several years after the first season.  Afro has achieved the pinnacle of samurai achievements, the number one headband.  Revenge takes on a new twist as ghosts from his past reappear to strip him of all things that he holds sacred, the number one headband and the buried remains of his father.  The plot does not deviate from the elements set forth by the first series, which will please most fans.  However, the plot is predictable and offers nothing really fresh or inspiring.  With Ninja Ninja and his blade, Afro sets out to obtain the number two headband so he can take on a revengeful family who holds what he values most.  A spectacular visual treat in high definition with a subpar audio presentation makes this a collection worth getting if the lossless audio is corrected.

Features
English 5.1 Language, Behind the Scenes of the Game, Enter the RZA, Afro In-Depth, East Meets West Part 1, East Meets West Part 2, SDCC 2008, Commentary

Review Equipment
Hitachi 62VS69 62" UltraVision LCD Projection HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080i



Mania Grade: C+
Audio Rating: C+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 17 and Up
Region: A - N. America, S. America, East Asia
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 39.98
Running time: 90
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 1080p
Disc Encoding: H.264/AVC
Series: