Art of story telling

This weekend, in the midst of contemplating my future, I began to miss the simplicity of the past. I woke up Saturday morning and did something I hadn’t done in a while. I sat down with my breakfast and watched cartoons.

I didn’t go to Netflix, or YouTube, or magically acquire some other form of digital videos. Instead I glossed over the many, ignored, DVDs I have in my possession.

Things like “The Venture Bros”, “Clerks”, and “Undergrads” were immediately removed from possible viewing. Anime like “Trigun”, “Bastard”, and “Ninja Scroll” were also removed from contention. These were all much too adult. I also eliminated the animated films in my collection. It really reduced  my possible choices. That left me with “Batman: The Animated Series”, “Darkwing Duck”, “Raggedy Anne and Andy”, “Superman Saves the Day”, and “Samurai Jack”. This was a surprisingly hard choice to make. After a few moments of contemplation, removing and replacing box sets on the shelf, I went with “Samurai Jack”.

Oh my, that was a good choice. Sometimes you forget just how good something is. I reveled in the whole experience that is “Samurai Jack”. It reminded me that some people, Genndy Tartakovsky and Co., do take children’s entertainment seriously taking into account not just the visual but creating a deep rich story to captivate the audience. I am not marginalizing the visuals at all, this is one of the most beautiful shows ever made, but that combined with the epic story just makes it that much better.

The show also has one of the best villians out there. Aku.

This shape-shifting Master of Darkness is just…mean. I am not talking psychotic or blood thirsty. He is mean, toying with his prey, taunting and teasing, messing with his mind. Sure he sends armies of robots to try and defeat him but there are many times when he defeats his spirit and that can be an even greater victory. Also, he has the best eyebrows.


The shows attention to character design and environments is simply awe inspiring. Many of the characters are relatively simple with clean lines and bold graphic colours but they still manage to be strange, wondrous, and lively. They go from cute

to ugly

And just plain weird

The environments in “Samurai Jack” leaned heavily on the classic art of the far east. Again using clean lines with pops of colour and an almost water colour finish to bring the world to life. This was true whether it be a barren wasteland

Futuristic city

or lush valley.

The simplicity of the scenes allowed the viewer to focus on the action on screen and concentrate on the story. Despite this they were still breathtaking giving a sense of grandeur or danger or desolation.

And then there is the over arcing story of the show. The viewer is reminded of the shows plot in the opening sequence of every episode except for the first 3.

Long ago in a distant land
I Aku the shape shifting Master of Darkness unleashed and unspeakable evil
But a foolish samurai warrior wielding a magic sword stepped forth to oppose me
Before the final blow was a struck
I tore open a portal and flung him into the future where my evil is law
Now the fool seeks to return to the past
and undo the future that is Aku!

Really disappointed in myself as I had to look up that penultimate line….anyways…

This somewhat straight forward, uncomplicated premise leads to some amazing, odd, and fantastic tales. Many of them are one offs but they knit together the great tapestry that is the strange future that Jack is trapped in. There are few recurring characters except for Jack and Aku making the show fresh and unpredictable. When a character does return, ie The Scotsman, it is used to great effect.

The story telling style of this show is bold utilizing humour, mystery, and suspense. “Samurai Jack” is a show made for kids but it doesn’t treat them like that, refusing to spoon feed the story to the audience but lets it unfold in its own time. If it is confusing at first, so be it, but by the end of the episode you will understand and a lot of times learn something from it. Jack was put into situations where he battled robots, hunter from other planets, as well as himself, taking to show to some surprising dark and scary places.

Telling a complete story that keeps your audience interested with no dialogue can be a hard task but the writers and directors of this show have mastered that. There are many episodes were there are few words spoken but the combination of visuals, SFX, and music keep you at the edge of your seat.

The music also plays a big part in the quality of the show. It is easy to tell where Samurai Jack is, what time he is in, and what is going on just by listening to the perfectly composed soundtracks; in the future synthesized instruments and heavy beats; in the past soft instrumentals.

“Samurai Jack” is the kind of show that begs to be watched, absorbed, and appreciated, have a look. Everything about it is just outstanding and I just thought I would remind you of that.


About the Author




When did DVDs get outdated? Ah well. While my best childhood TV memories are filled with He-Man and Thundercats, “Samurai Jack” is could have been there too, had it been made 10 years earlier. Damn i’m old.
P.S. those ARE eyebrows. I always thought they were flames leaping from his eyes.


I never said this was part of my childhood, I just said I hadn’t done this in a while. The first season came out in 2001. I was NOT a kid at that point. Thanks for making me feel even older. And yeah, they actually call them eyebrows in an episode.


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