5 out of 5
Created by: Genndy Tartakovsky
Combining the cinematic flair of the first two seasons with some of the animation flourish applied in season three, Genndy Tartakovsky and team send their demon- and evil-hunting samurai (temporarily) out on an incredibly high note: a perfect season in which all beats humorous, epic, odd, poetic, and emotional are successfully hit.
Right from the stunning opener, Samurai versus Ninja – which builds to a fantastic two-tone concluding battle – it’s clear how much the animators have learned during their years on the show, now able to apply and range of shapes and colors and a sense of pure fluidity to the animation without, somehow, betraying the basic palette and square-shaped ethics of the design. The show looks modern and classic at the same time. They lean heavily on influences throughout, embracing them with an adult’s sense of joy and leaving behind the forced framing that made some season one attempts at the same come across a little herky-jerky; so we get an epic mecha fight in episode two, some Tarantino-esque square-offs in a multi-bounty hunter episode, amazing and fully embraced kung-fu (and assorted styles) choreography throughout, and a deep-dive robot noir pastiche with the somber-with-a-smile Tale of X-49. Even the episode that revisits Jack’s past, Young Jack in Africa, expands on and embellishes Jack lore / history when I’d felt prior flashbacks fell flat. Jack Versus Aku, the season’s ninth episode, which was logically assumed to be a season closer when the show had a brief inter-season hiatus, is possibly one of the best Jack episodes of all time.
Oh: and a two-part Scotsman blast of humor, action, and myth-twisting that totally did not go the way I expected.