The return of the samurai is finally upon us.
When it was announced last year with a six-second teaser that "Samurai Jack" was being revived for a final season, fans (particularly ones that grew up watching the series) were abuzz over the announcement that after over a decade, the series would finally conclude its epic tale.
The original "Samurai Jack" series was lauded for its unique animation style, action sequences and storytelling, much of which was told without its main protagonist uttering a word. Mostly episodic in nature, the show excelled in balancing the light and dark elements of its overarching story while also making a vast number of pop culture references during its run. This time around, however, the show appears to be taking quite a different approach.
The newly released trailer hints at what viewers can expect from the show's final season, offering tantalizing glimpses into what Jack has been doing since the series' cancellation in 2004. With an inability to age and having been stuck in the future for 50 years, we see a much different Jack compared to the one from the first four seasons. Jack has lost his fire and seemingly given up in returning to the past to defeat Aku. Gone are his traditional samurai garb and his father's sword (at least in this initial trailer), traded in for a bearded appearance and guns and other forms of artillery, something he never resorted to in the original.
This time around, it appears the show's tone will be darker and intense, as we see more blood openly spilled than the previous series, where most of the slashing was usually directed toward robots. It's obvious that creator Genndy Tartakovsky isn't holding back for the show's fifth and final season, a move that has certainly created an untold amount of excitement among fans, especially when it comes to emphasizing the show's mature elements and fully bringing them to the surface.
Given that it's been 13 years, the decision to make such a turn towards this more mature Jack likely comes as a result of two things: having one season to conclude Jack's story, and the fact that many who grew up with this series are older. Appealing to the fans and viewers who want a real conclusion to the series is a solid move, and matching the maturity of its fan base has only served to further ignite the excitement behind its return. Having such freedom will allow many of its scenes, particularly its combat scenes, to flourish in newer and more brutal ways that it couldn't before.
But more violent battles aren't the only aspect that will have a profound impact on the story and its protagonist. Presenting such a broken and defeated Jack is a sharp turn from what fans have known before; even after being defeated by the Portal Guardian in "Jack and the Travelling Creatures," tracked down by the Imakandi hunters in "Jack and the Hunters" or defeated at the hands of the Ultra Bots, one could never argue that Jack was completely broken. Just as Jack has been stuck in time, so too have his fans who have been waiting to continue the journey back to the past with him. Coming out of such a prolonged wait, it is only fitting that things won't pick up right where they left off.
This time around, Jack is a broken, defeated man who appears to hold little hope of victory. It's apparent that the weight of being in the future, where he's suffered repetitive failure at finding a portal while continually being hunted by Aku's minions, has finally worn him down. Despite no longer aging, the long beard and hair coupled with the weight of his words present a man who is tired and appears to have lost his drive and desire. The visions of his beardless self chastising himself only accentuates that fact, illustrating that the series is looking to be taking a psychological dive into the once-proud samurai, showing us an aspect that was not really touched upon during its original run. The season presents the opportunity to take a number of such dives, indicating a story that may be as much about a journey of psychological recovery as much as it is good vs. evil. If handled as masterfully as we expect, this final chapter eclipse the other four seasons.
It means just as much for Toonami, which will be the home of the series' fifth and final season. scheduling the show as part of the Adult Swim's branded programming, which has become a safe haven for anime and more mature content, allows the series to have the kind of freedom with its more violent elements that it wasn't able to have in regular time slots during its original run. With "Samurai Jack" and the long-anticipated "FLCL" revival coming soon, Toonami's status as a late-night weekend destination for mature animated content stands to rise higher in 2017. Yes, bringing "Samurai Jack" to such the programming block certainly poses a risk, but it is one that is well worth its potential rewards.
If the fifth season can capitalize on its immense potential, "Samurai Jack" will skyrocket to an even higher ranking on any list of all time animation greats while adding to Tartakovsky's already lofty status. More than anything, it could prove that bringing such series back after such a long time away can be successful, and that it doesn't necessarily need a weekday timeslot to do it with. Good shows can withstand the test of time, great ones can transcend their previously lofty reputations. Based on the trailer, it looks like "Samurai Jack" may well find itself in the latter category.
“Samurai Jack” returns Saturday, March 11, at 11:30 p.m. ET/PT on Cartoon Network.