Samurai Jack was an oddity during its airing on Cartoon Network. The show, visually and aesthetically, was like no other; shunning the black line outlines for the characters, the show immediately struck a different visual presence and the silence that laid over each episode of the four seasons was sometimes deafening. Sure, there was sound effects that kept the viewer knowing that their speakers hadn’t gone out, but the show seemed to relish telling the story through visuals only, relying on words only when a comedic moment, always perfectly timed, was ready to come out or when some bit of plot explanation just had to be told. The show was, and still is, like no other animated series I’ve seen before and with this final fourth season finally on DVD, it’s a wonderful series to watch again and again.
Although Jack’s quest to vanquish the evil known as Aku didn’t come to end in this final season, despite the creative team knowing it would be the Samurai’s last, the season is nothing less than amazing. Having just finished the third season on DVD (I owned it since release and for one reason or another I never got around to watching it until a month ago), I was eager to follow up immediately with the fourth season. Like the last season, this final batch of episodes contains plenty of Aku, even going so far as to include another Aku vs. Jack battle (XLVIII) as well as the usual array of “Aku sends someone to kill Jack.” While I can easily sum up a few episodes with that plotline, the episodes are never anything short of astounding and episode “L” in particular, featuring a retired robot assassin in a film-noir style story, is amazing to watch, both for the visual aspect as well as for the story.
Of course there’s also the comedic in this season and that comes mostly within the two-part “The Scotsman Saves Jack” (episodes XLV and XLVI), where Jack loses his memory. I’ve always loved the Scotsman and seeing him again in the fourth season after being completely absent in the third was a welcome sight. There isn’t an episode in the bunch that wasn’t a joy to watch and while the plot for the final episode may seem run entirely anti-climatic to such a powerful series, Tartakovsky’s hope expressed in the DVD packaging as well as on the DVD extras shows me that he’s serious about closing Samurai Jack’s journey in a feature film one day.
Anyone who has seen the series knows that Samurai Jack is all about visual style and the aforementioned “L” episode is simply dripping with it. It’s clear after watching the show and the round table discussion on this set that the show was made by artists who were at the top of their craft and had a superb grasp on what they were doing. True, the show was made in a rush at times, but in the end the series is so beautiful it’s hard to believe any of it was done in a hurry. The artists love for the show and their work show through in this series and it is, without a doubt, a crown jewel of animation.
Overall the show is, obviously, hard to pass up. While it took four years for the show to completely arrive on DVD (a bit more really, as this fourth season, had it followed the previous release schedule, should have arrived in May, rather than September), the long wait is now over and now fans only need wait for the eventual film. Highly Recommended.
Packaged in the same “Cartoon Network Collector Series” packaging style that the previous seasons of Samurai Jack have arrived in, the fourth seasons gold hue flows well with the other seasons, especially when lined up on the shelf (although the change of the old to new CN logo that occurred on the third season set is still irksome to look at) and the interior art features a message from Genndy Tartakovsky, as well as a full listing of the disc contents.
Video and audio on this release matches that of past seasons. The transfer is interlaced, but the audio is incredibly strong. While only a Dolby Surround 2.0 mix, with the right set up the mix sounds great and a lot louder than other DVDs I own (it’s only with the Samurai Jack DVDs that I have to decrease the volume by ten levels due to the loudness of it). On top of that there are actually chapter stops this time around, timed right after the intro and at the commercial breaks. I cannot tell you how excited I was to discover this—after fast forwarding the intro manually each time while watching the third, easily skipping past it on the fourth season was very nice.
Fans will be disappointed to learn that there are no episode commentaries this time around, although we do get some rather nice extras. A pair of deleted scenes from “L” are included and it becomes quickly evident why they’re cut (much too strong for a TV-Y7 show). Samurai Jack promos from Cartoon Network are included as well and we get a nice look at Genndy’s “New Projects”, where we don’t learn exactly what they’re working on, but we do get to see some art from it as well as the new studio he and some of the Jack crew formed, entitled “The Orphanage.”
Is that it? Nope! There is a roundtable with Genndy and quite a few of the Samurai Jack crew and they touch base on everything from the creation of the show, how each one of them became involved in the show, the trials and tribulations they faced working on it and just how much they loved working on the series. There are a ton of cool stories in this discussion and we get to hear about so much from so many of the people involved that this extra more than makes up for the lack of commentaries. Be prepared to set aside some time for this roundtable discussion, however—it’s no slouch, as it’s near an hour in length.
Overall this fourth and final season of Samurai Jack is remarkable viewing all around. While the video transfer could be stronger, it’s not enough of a reason to pass on the DVD. Complete your collection with this one folks, it comes Highly Recommended.
Samurai Jack: Season 4 is now available on DVD.