The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Afro Samurai

Title: Afro Samurai
Genre: Action
Company: Gonzo
Format: 5 episodes
Dates: 4 Jan 2007 – Feb 2007

Synopsis: In a world of guns, swords and rocket propelled grenade launchers, there is only one way a man can assert himself as the strongest person in the world: the number one headband. It is said that whoever holds this headband is tantamount to God himself. However, the only way to challenge the number one is to posses the number two headband. With the number two headband proudly worn on his head, the Afro Samurai plans to challenge the number one in his quest for revenge.

The Highlights
Animation: Slick, detailed and sharp.
Choreography: Quick and frantic.
Story: Predictable and horribly cliched.
Brain cells: Don’t think; you’ll lose them.

From snake wrangler to Jedi, Samuel L. Jackson embodies the word “cool” in the world of live action movies. Anime, however, is not live action, and no amount of Samuel L. Jackson‘s charisma is going to change the fact that Afro Samurai is nothing short of a well-budgeted slaughter fest. Much like Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children(1,2), this anime appeals to little more than the most primal aspect of the viewer’s mind.

Afro Samurai is best described as a series of fights loosely tied together by sparse dialogue and a handful of flashbacks. With Gonzo providing visuals, battles literally glide across the screen. The fights are quick, kinetic and bloody. The character designs are heavily accentuated, and the art is stunningly detailed. Watching the various scuffles almost makes me wish that Gonzo produced Berserk.

While the series is visually engaging, the plot suffers from a lack of competence. The entire story is merely an excuse to show more fight scenes. I guarantee that the more you think, the less the anime makes sense. This series does not lend itself to any type of logical scrutiny whatsoever. It simply guides the viewers to the pyrotechnic fight scenes and lets them soak up the exploding limbs and the frantic clash of swords.

Despite the show’s many faults, there is no denying that the flashbacks do add meat to the story. For one, the seemingly heartless Afro Samurai is humanized. However, these scenes come far too late to have any significant emotional impact. Afro may be cool, but it is hard to care about what happens to him. His hilarious sidekick, Ninja Ninja, is just about the only likeable character, but one good character cannot turn the tide of an entire anime.

This anime is best described as a giant set of gratuitous fight scenes showcasing how well the Afro can slaughter his foes. If this show had put half as much effort into the script as it did the choreography, it would have been a good series, but such is not the case. Afro Samurai oozes style from all angles, but the final product just has no soul.

The Rating: 4

Reviewed by: Shadowmage

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