Funimation Entertainment, 2007
Afro Samurai is a concerto of high-quality hack and slash
There were never that many black samurai in history. Save for their fictional counterparts, let’s just say diversity wasn’t the thing in ancient Japan. But for all of that lack of attention to historical detail, Afro Samurai manages to evoke sympathy and more than enough interest with its protagonist and story.
One of the things we’ve come to love about Afro Samurai in the years since its first release and airing are the characters.
True, Afro doesn’t say too much but Ninja Ninja more than makes up for that. Afro is your classically stoic protagonist who doesn’t say much and chooses to let his actions speak louder than his words ever could. Ninja Ninja is — spoiler alert! — his consciousness, saying the things he wishes he could say out loud and looking like a smaller, more cool version of himself. The dynamic between the two characters, both voiced by the incomparable Samuel L. Jackson, is the meat of the plot and carries the story, though Afro’s quest to own the No. 1 headband and be the No. 1 fighter in the world is important as well.
Make no mistake, though, the duo roaming around chopping people to death in that quest is the draw of the story.
And while the characters are interesting, it’s their stories and history that make the show. How exactly Afro comes into possession of the No. 2 headband and his quest to run from his past of violence and death is riveting. Within five episodes the Empty Seven Clan is introduced and the fights for the No. 2 headband are detailed. The art style of the fights is gorgeous and the soundtrack, composed by the RZA, is worth replaying. Though everything isn’t wrapped up nicely and neatly, the five episodes tell the story at a nice pace and put the action at the forefront where it should be.
We even appreciate the naturally developed ending, which leads to Afro Samurai Resurrection, though it isn’t quite as good as the original. But with a stellar voice cast, beautiful animation and a pretty good plot and soundtrack, Afro Samurai is worth starting from the beginning.
Animation quality: 10
Score: 30 out of 30 or 10
HOW WE GRADE
We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 and 30 overall.