Is Cartoon Network doomed?

Cartoon Network is one of the reasons so many people, including myself, have such a fond memory and passion for animation. They were one of the three main sources of cartoons for American audience alongside Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.

 

While the animated motion picture market was, and still is, dominated mostly by Disney; Nick and Cartoon Network have been battling it out for the tops spot in the television department for nearly three decades now.

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Worth the Watch? Samurai Jack: Season 5 Episode 2

When I turned off the NCAA tournament to watch the latest episode of Samurai Jack, I honestly thought I might regret it. After watching it however, I can safely say that I made the best decision of that entire day.

While the premiere and therefore first episode of season five was great for introducing us to the world and giving us a glimpse at what Jack has gone through over the last 50 years, nothing could have prepared me for what the follow up was.

It might seem like I am exaggerating this episode a little bit, and to be fair I might be. But in my opinion, this is the single best episode of Samurai Jack to date.

Take into account when I say this however that I have not rewatched the original four season in upwards of two years so I am going off of memory and it is still a close call between this and a few other classics. But I stand by what I said.

If you are not caught up or for some reason have either not been watching the newest season or seen the original, then stop reading now and go do so, because this next portion will delve into spoiler territory. You have been warned.

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

In the last episode, the writers slowly got us used to the new voice of Aku by making use of the villain of the episode calling him on a cell phone like device.

Many people took this to mean we would not actually see Aku for many more episodes until the buildup was over and there was a grand reveal, probably in some sort of menacing or evil fashion. What we got, in my opinion, was a much truer to style reintroduction.

How do we meet the conqueror of the world and lord of all evil? Well by seeing him wake up, don his iconic flaming eyebrows and go through a morning routine of stretches of course.

This introduction to Aku makes things perfectly clear that despite the much darker and meaningful tone of the final season, things have not changed so drastically as to make our favorite demon lord lose his comedic side.

We see him stretch and talk with a few groups wishing to pay him tribute, which while cool, defeats part of the significance for the back story of the Daughters of Aku from episode one. Part of the reason they are born and trained so thoroughly is due to their mother and apparent matriarch of their cult wanting Aku to come back to the world.

Hopefully we get a little more details about where exactly Aku is located and maybe some information about why he is there.

The second group of people who visit Aku are three scientists who show him a giant version of the beetledrones from the previous episode. They state it will finally rid Aku of the Samurai.

To my surprise, Aku talks about how he does not care for the defeat of Jack anymore and that he actually finds it amusing to see him run around with all of the issues going on in his head. This was a route I was not thinking we would see.

At this point it is still assumed that Aku knows not of Jack’s sword being lost, which I am hoping we see more about soon, so that makes this train of thought come as even more of a surprise. He tells them to keep trying anyways and slinks back down to his domain.

I took him seriously until he started talking in a slightly higher tone, and the next scene when he is talking to himself as a shrink made me laugh. It also gave us some insight into the events that led to the current timeline.

Aku said he destroyed all of the time gates in hopes that by doing so Jack would just die of old age over time. Instead he found out Jack does not age and he is distraught over that fact, but refuses to do anything about it.

Thus, ends our time with the main villain and we enter a scene with a single white wolf. I immediately thought we would see Jack hunting the beast, but soon found it was instead a simultaneous use of imagery for the fate about to befall our hero.

After the wolf runs into the shadowed tiger and its companions we see Jack riding his motorcycle and choosing paths on a fork in the road. He stops suddenly in a clearing and is attacked by the giant drone we saw previously.

We get a brief flash over to the Wolf before Jack uses his trusty spear to one-shot the large mechanical beast. As he is riding off again however his bike is destroyed by what appears to have been a steel trip wire and he is assaulted by unknown assailants.

A brief assault shows how helpless Jack is against these attackers and he is soon left in but a shell of his armor and trying to mow them down with a gun. It doesn’t work and he is forced to hide.

This scene where he confronts what appears to be the Jack of long ago is deep and very well written. It shows how truly at war he is with himself and touches on the idea of Jack walking to his own death with honor.

He manages to ignore his inner musings and makes a break for a temple, which is shown through a sequence that is amazingly done. His assailants are revealed to be the Daughters of Aku and we now truly see how much trouble Jack is in.

We see Jack outwit the sisters before he himself is outwitted and pushed to the brink. With one last ditch effort, he hides in a coffin with only a nearly broken sword as protection.

His position gets compromised and he begins to fight in what appears to be a hopeless battle against seven enemies. He once more manages to escape and faces down one of the sisters alone.

At this point I realized that no words had been said since the conclusion of the inner dialogue and I was speechless. Through nothing but music, sound effects and animation this episode hooked me more than I have been for an episode of anything in years.

The fight concludes with Jack slashing the sister’s throat and realizing that his attackers are actually human. There is blood on the blade when he drops it and looks at what he has done.

He does not have time to dwell on that as he has been stabbed by a dagger in the torso and the others are gaining on him. He grabs the vibrating sword he took from his opponent in the last episode and uses it to escape.

The last two things we see before the credits are a bloodied Jack floating down the river in a pool of his own blood, and an equally bloodied white wolf lying dead in the clearing from earlier around the dead bodies of the tigers.

Once more I am left with a hole in my heart where the next episode is bound to fit and waiting with baited breath for it. This series is shaping up to be one of my all-time favorites.

Does Samurai Jack Season 5 live up to its hype?

Thanks to Adult Swim having the foresight that this would be a big night for them, I watched the premiere of Samurai Jack Season 5 online along with upwards of 30,000 other people.

As I said in my previous article on the subject, the fourth season of Samurai Jack finished airing on September 25, 2004 before being cancelled. This left fans distraught and worried that they would never truly see the Samurai from the past accomplish his goals.

After series creator Genndy Tartakovsky announced the fifth and final season would air on Adult Swim in 2016, pushed back into 2017 after production slowed, fans rejoiced and began hyping the series up.

Many people looked at the outcry of joy, support and hope with a critical eye and said that even with many of the same people working on it, 13-years of hiatus will deteriorate the product.

Well I am here to say that the revival of Samurai Jack blew my expectations away. Other than the budget getting a boost, which shows in how beautiful the episode looked, and the show now airing on an adult network, so the creators no longer need to censor violence, the show is as strong as ever.

I watched the episode two times, back to back, and time seemed to fly because I was so enamored with it. It took me back to when I was a little kid, staying up late to watch it with my little brother and dad.

The art style looks more polished and less constricted by both the technology at the time and the vision of the creator. 13-years has given some of the characters a reimagining, but the feel of the show as a whole is identical to previous seasons.

The signature backgrounds and stylized characters are back and look better than ever. The cuts during action still draw you in and odd framing choices point you to areas that might have gone unnoticed to the average eyes.

On the note of drawing attention to something, Jack is seriously messed up after those 50-years have passed. I won’t delve into spoilers since this is an experience I want everyone to have for themselves, but let’s just say there is a large case of PTSD in store for the near future.

There are things shown, talked about and foreshadowed that I cannot wait to see more of in the future. As soon as I turned off the stream I was already anxious for the second episode.

The blood is minimal, but shows that coupled with the already darker tone, this season might get really personal for our favorite time-traveler.

Starting with next week’s episode I will break down each new one, but for the first week I hope you go and enjoy the final chapter of a cartoon classic.

Samurai Jack is back!

After years of leaving fans in suspense, Cartoon Network and Adult Swim finally gave creator Genndy Tartakovsky the green light to bring back his most successful series, Samurai Jack, after it has been off the air for 13-years.

Saturday, March, 11th will see the release of Samurai Jack Season 5, episode 1 on Adult Swim at 11 p.m. EST (10 p.m. CST) and start the 10-episode conclusion to the cult classic.

The last episode of Samurai Jack before this new season was season 4, episode 13 “Jack and the Baby”, which aired Saturday, September 25, 2004. Now over a decade late, myself and many other fans are anxiously waiting for more of the time traveling samurai’s adventures.

In the trailer that was released earlier this year, it was revealed that Jack’s original voice actor, Phil LaMarr, would be reprising his famous role and Greg Baldwin will continue his long line of roles that were originally held by deceased Japanese voice actor Makoto “Mako” Iwamatsu. Baldwin has voiced Aku multiple times for other projects since Mako’s passing.

The visuals for the final season of the fan favorite cartoon received a huge upgrade and look stunning in nearly every facet. While it is true that the show has been upgraded, it is still clear as day that the same style and expertise used in the original that we all remember so fondly.

Speaking of the familiar style, one major difference that can be gleamed form the small amount of the show we have been given is the much darker tone this iteration seems to be leaning towards. Now the original seasons were never completely lighthearted, season 5 seems to be heading for a dark conclusion that might take fans by surprise.

I am sure the ending will be satisfying to no end, but I can’t help the feeling that our favorite swordsman might not get the happy ending people think he deserves.

With updated visuals and a large portion of the cast and creative team from the original project having worked tirelessly to get this done for countless years, the hype will finally be put to the test when Toonami starts up on Saturday.