4 out of 5
Created by: Genndy Tartakovsky
All of the massive pluses from the first season – the poetic battles; the amazing sense of design and creativity; the slick syncing of pacing and excellent James Venable score – with the addition of a boost in confidence: with the “Jack’s gotta get back to the past” premise fully established, it feels like Genndy and team settle down a bit and don’t feel the need to make it the end-all be-all of every episode, which seemed to force them to wrap Jack in various “Jack in space!” variants to extend the concept’s mileage. Here, while Aku’s baiting and hopes of procuring methods of time travel are still omnipresent, they sink into the background; Jack becomes settled in his roaming samurai persona, helping out people in need and undertaking quests that offer a challenge. Similarly, the future setting begins to feel more like a boon as the art / writing crew accepts that it can embrace everything without justification: mythical stuff, more typical future-robo stuff, etc. Instead of this becoming the variations mentioned above, it allows for the writing to feel more organic – benefiting the action and drama and humor – and more importantly, it allows for Jack to remain Jack, wandering in to underground Alice in Wonderland environments, or stumbling across some stoic, mountain-climbing monks, or battling dragons, and etcetera. There really are a fair amount of wonderfully imagined scenarios on display.
…Which doesn’t avoid the occasional sense of repetition, or an odd anthology episode (three mini adventures) which needed some type of framing to make it feel at home in the season. There are two episodes that have Jack squaring off a league of bigger and better villains, and it’s super cool the first time, and then the next it really feels like the same core script re-skinned.
But that’s me, again, watching all of this in one extended sitting. If you got one episode of this weekly, it’d likely be pretty majestic the whole way through.
The bluray edition – along with the bump in quality – has commentary on one episode (the Spartans) that’s interesting, but recorded poorly, with varying volumes and an echo; an alternate pitch for an episode (also interesting); and a pretty great bio on Genndy.