Samurai Jack – The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-Ray)

5 out of 5

Created by: Genndy Tartakovsky

However many years later, at a point that I had, admittedly, forgotten that Season 4 left us without a solution / conclusion to Jack’s perpetual Aku problem, Adult Swim and Genndy Tartakovsky let us know that we could expect a proper ending.  The switch of networks, from CN to AS, let us know something key: that the creators and station were well aware of who their audience was: once younger, now older.  The risk with appealing to that audience, of course, is that you might alienate them by deviating too far from expectations, and with season five’s relationship subplot… that may have occurred (though for reasons beyond just that it wasn’t the norm for the show).

But this was one plot-point that, amongst many, felt very earned by the episode-to-episode narrative, which jumped us forward fifty or so years to when all the time portals are gone, Jack is swordless and bearded, and he wanders the landscape in full-on grizzled mode.  And while this could have come across as the typical lost-hope-hero storyline, Genndy and team combined their show’s well-remembered sense of solemnity and maturity with its newfound embracing of more adult themes (and some adult humor); we get full-on nostalgia, yes, but also a quite brilliant juxtaposition of Jack and new character Ashi, an Aku-bred assassin who is forced to confront a new take on the world while Jack struggles with his own demons, continually proclaiming him to be a failure…

The animation shows the technological advancements of the years via its slickness and more nuanced color palette, but damn, is it gorgeous, awesome, and stunning.  It’s ridiculous how often the series’ animators have been able to use black and white color splits to effect impressive sequences, and they repeat the same – with the same level of impressiveness – here.  We also get a bevy of new, fun, and challenging villains, with accompanying excellent choreographed action.  And, of course, an epic conclusion…

While it would have been interesting to have had this type of linear narrative in past seasons, something about it only applying in this concluding season seems fitting; the loose collection of past battles made sense then, and this more focused season makes sense now.  It’s flexible enough to take side steps into references to the past while still maintaining a clear sightline on its goal, giving us the best of both ‘old’ and ‘new’ Jack.

The bluray features a fitting review of Jack’s evolution leading up to / during the fifth season, as well as storyboarding of full episodes with Genndy’s VO.  I’m not normally big on storyboard extras, but having them ‘read’ to you as opposed to side-by-side episode comparisons interestingly gives you a view on actually being in the writers room, having to use your imagination to bring the boards to life.