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

3 out of 5

Created by: Genndy Tartakovsky

While Samurai Jack’s third season maintains the general quality of the series, and absolutely has some wonderfully original and entertaining episodes, some key diversions from form mark it slightly below what’s come before.

Starting in the second season, the show’s directors purposefully moved away from some of their more typical visual tricks, particularly the split-screen effect.  A ramification of that, which fully emerged in this season, was that the cinematic flair of the show became somewhat distilled as well.  Jack’s sharp angles and stilted, sudden movements are traded for a more fluid style and varied character shapes.  Three years in, some changes are inevitable, and this does allow for some tonally different episodes that probably wouldn’t have worked before – the comical and exciting Couple On A Train, and the truly creepy Jack and the Haunted House – but when it’s applied to the more typical ‘Jack fights for a time warp’ setup, episodes taken in isolation are exciting, but as a binge view, they blend together.  There are also a handful of head scratchers here, including, for me, the Emmy-winner two part Birth of Evil.  It’s heads and tails above many of its cartoon peers, so awars deserved, but its prequel telling of Aku’s landing on Earth and battle with Jack’s father just feels like a second go-round of what was told more effectively in the first three episode ‘movie.’  Yes, these are the events that preceded that, but the ‘birth’ of Aku just amounts to “evil exists” and we otherwise see a battle play out that we’ve seen before or seen reflected in other Jack episodes.  Besides this, there’s one episode where Jack seems to let Aku go, and one where he turns away from a time portal to do some moral good works.  Both of these decisions diminish momentum, distilling the core passion that otherwise drives our samurai.

Stepping back, there are the previous high points mentioned, as well as some key comedic classics: season opener Chicken Jack, and the My Neighbor Totoro tribute Jack and the Annoying Creature.

The blu-ray includes a fun feature showing off some of Genndy’s character artwork, and a funner feature showcasing the legit martial arts used on the show.