Jack is back. Back from the past. How ’bout that?
After the last new episode aired on September 25, 2004, many thought the animated TV series was complete. Fifty-two episodes had already aired, winning four Primetime Emmy Awards, six Annie Awards and one Ottawa International Animation Festival award. And now, 13 years later… it’s back for a fifth and final season, currently airing on Adult Swim’s Toonami programming block!
Welcome back, Samurai Jack!
Series Creator, Writer, Director, Executive Producer and Storyboarder Genndy Tartakovsky returns to bring Jack’s seemingly never-ending battle with the shape-shifting demon, Aku, which takes place in a dystopian future where Aku reigns supreme. Recapping the series: Jack was sent into the future before defeating Aku. Each week, the Cartoon Network series depicted Jack battling a monster of the week or fighting Aku, in hopes of reaching a portal and returning home to feudal Japan, once more, to his family and for four seasons, he would only make a little bit of progress, before different setbacks arose. One step forward, two steps back. Rinse and repeat.
But something’s very different for Season 5.
The final season feels more grown-up and serious than the first four seasons, which could be enjoyed by children and adults alike. A more mature and bearded jack is still fighting injustice (and Aku) 50 years later. A side effect from time travel means he will not age, but it also means Jack has practically lost all hope in returning home, falling into madness and fearing the ghosts of his past. Jack’s afraid he may have abandoned his purpose and forsaken his family and his village, which feels so very far away.
The TV show is incredibly stylish and full of nostalgia. For the very first time, a mythology feels like it’s being laid out for the series, which means the end is in sight and that makes it all the sadder for fans of the show. The animation looks incredible, the storyline is full of symbolism and there’s an incredible soundtrack that makes each episode feel even more intense. This greatness is only a tease. It’s only back temporarily.
Many unique elements come together to create an arching storyline that’s accessible to many viewers. Each episode features an introspective journey for our hero, but in different formats. Through the first three episodes this season, different genre elements were presented to tell the tale. The first episode featured a post-Apocalyptic Western theme, the second showcased survival horror and the third highlighted mortal combat. By telling mystical stories that spotlight science fiction, horror and different monsters, the TV show is hard to classify, but does an excellent job with each different style.
Genndy’s return to Cartoon Network is a welcomed one. As a longtime fan, I can only wish for more adult-themed animated programming by him in the future, especially after enjoying his Clone Wars miniseries. The conclusion of Samurai Jack will be bittersweet, but reliving the character’s greatness has been a nostalgic joyride I’d almost forgotten.