After the rousing success of the first volume (or season, whatever you want to call it), Afro Samurai returned for a second time around in Afro Samurai: Resurrection. With an all-new story that pulled elements from creators Takashi Okazaki’s original vision of the character, fans of the series were treated to even more brutality, violence, and copious amounts of blood to follow every slice and dice on the screen. Now, after airing on Spike in late January, the all-new “season” of Afro Samurai is now available in two different DVD editions as well as an “ultimate” Blu-ray pack.
Afro Samurai (Academy Award ® nominee Samuel L. Jackson) avenged his father and found a life of peace. But the legendary master is forced back into the game by a beautiful and deadly woman from his past. The sparks of violence dropped along Afro’s bloody path now burn out of control – and nowhere are the flames of hatred more intense than in the eyes of Sio (Lucy Liu: Kill Bill). She won’t quit until Afro is schooled in the brutal lessons he dealt those who stood in his way. There’s no such thing as final vengeance. The cycle of bloodshed spinning around the Number One Headband must roll on. Featuring the voice of Mark Hamill (Star Wars) and fresh production from The RZA (Wu-Tang Clan), the saga that began in the best-selling anime DVD of 2007 continues in AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION.
As I said in the review for the first release of Afro Samurai, I’m not big on anime. But I made an exception for Afro Samurai for a few reasons: it was loud, absolutely wonderfully animated, and really just an all around entertaining series. Every one of the episodes had the most fantastic looking battles and the quest, to avenge his fallen father, was noble and one you could really get into. After the season ended, I thought to myself “I could really go for more of those action scenes, but I’ve no idea how they’d bring back the character in a worthwhile way.”
Enter Resurrection, which is everything I hoped it’d be in terms of the action elements and nothing I hoped it’d be in the story. Even for the universe of Afro Samurai, where there’s no real set time period yet it looks like ancient times with subwoofers, the idea of resurrecting the dead is a bit farfetched and even when I finally came around to accepting the idea of Afro Samurai’s father being brought back so that he could be tortured by the vengeful Sio, the rest of the season just wasn’t worth its weight in the least.
Unlike the first season which featured some solid back story synchronized with the brutality of the battles, this season is just a whole lot of exposition and very few battles. Sure the final showdowns are interesting enough, but I actually found the opening of the film with Afro on a bridge to be the most visually exciting battle out of it all. By the time the end came I had expected so much from the series that when I wasn’t blown away with my jaw on the floor, I just walked away disappointed.
My issues with the season weren’t even that major, I don’t think. I mean you watch a show like this for the action and when it skimps on that in an attempt to feed us some forced plot about a zombie Afro Senior then it just begins to fall apart. While the first collaboration fielded equal goods from all of the talent involved, this second season almost seems like it was made for nothing more than to cash in on the franchise.
The biggest problem, I guess, is that it isn’t a series that lends itself well to sequels. Afro’s whole quest in life was to simply avenge his father and after he did that, everything else seems a bit…well, pointless. On top of that there were some discrepancies in the actual film, with the zombie Afro Senior really nothing more than a zombie—mindless and killing. I don’t know how Sio expected to make Afro suffer by her torturing the zombie, as it shared nothing in common with his father.
When it all boils down to it, Resurrection feels terribly half-assed. I had high hopes they wouldn’t screw it up, but there’s nothing about this season that’s worth watching, especially if you’ve already seen the first. Some nice use of colors during the fight for the number 2 headband, but other than that the series remains the same in terms of visuals and audio. Granted that intro really is something to behold, but a couple minutes of frantic fighting in the beginning didn’t make up for the remaining ninety five minutes of film that dragged onto nowhere. Though I guess those eager to see some animated bare flesh will delight at the randomly inserted couple having sex while Afro battles (seriously, what the hell?).
Worth a Rental for fans of the series, but if you haven’t seen any of the Afro Samurai franchise yet then, then I’d just go for the Director’s Cut of the first season—it’s a lot more rewarding.
For this review I’ll be tackling the two-disc director’s cut DVD review which comes in some fantastic looking packaging. A two-digi pak tray set is slipped inside of a standard cardboard box, with art from the season worked all around the set, although I’m not sure where the tattooed naked woman comes from, as I don’t think Sio even had tattoos…but whatever. I guess I’m the only guy who is going to complain about the excessive and worthless nudity, so I’ll just be quiet. The first disc of the set contains nothing but the film itself, while the second disc houses all of the extras.
I will say that even though I only saw the first Afro Samurai on Blu-ray, I was still disappointed with the transfer for Resurrection. Yes I’m reviewing the DVD version so of course there’s going to be discrepancies, but main problem I had was the blocking that it was subjected to. Particularly whenever reds would come onto the screen, it would just turn into a mess and was really quite unattractive. You’d think with the extra gig or so of space on the first disc they’d just up the bitrate so that it wouldn’t crush so much, but alas. Other than that it’s a decent transfer, with a solid DD5.1 mix that pumps the series hip hop soundtrack in full clarity and allows the gushing sounds of squirting blood to come through in full clarity.
Extras include the following:
Afro In Depth (6:42)
Afro Samurai: East Meets West (Part 1, 19:17; Part 2, 25:07)
Enter the RZA (6:25)
Afro Samurai The Game (11:46)
San Diego Comic Con 2008 (8:15)
Part A Video Commentary (29:06)
There’s a lot of fun to be had in watching these extras, although for those watching the video commentary, be prepared to read (unless you know Japanese) as it’s all subtitled. For the most part the extras are pretty straight forward, with talk of how Resurrection came to be and the collaborations with the RZA. The eleven minute featurette on the video game is nice too, although the developers are a little over excited about it at times.
Overall Afro Samurai: Resurrection is a solid two-disc set, but considering the main feature is such a disappointment, whether or not you pick it up will depend largely on how big of a fan of the series you are. Recommended for fans, otherwise it’s a Rental.
Afro Samurai: Resurrection is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.