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AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Review)

June 24, 2009 by  



“‘AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION’ is an action-packed and a violence-driven samurai anime film.  For those who loved the TV series, you will definitely love the film even more as it features better animation, much more detailed artwork that just looks absolutely magnificent on Blu-ray.  Also, featuring talents such as Samuel L. Jackson and Lucy Liu with music by RZA!  Definitely worth checking out!”

TITLE: AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION

DURATION: 97 Minutes

 

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16×9),  Dolby TrueHD English 5.1, English subtitles

 

RATED: TV MA

 

COMPANY: GONZO/FUNimation Entertainment

 

RELEASE DATE: February 3, 2009

 

Directed by Fuminori Kizaki

Written by Takashi Okazaki and Yasuyuki Muto, English adaption by Eric S. Calderon, Leo Chu and Eric Garcia

 

Executive Produced by Leo Chu, Eric Garcia, Samuel L. Jackson and Arthur Smith

 

Produced by Eric S. Calderon

Character Design and Chief Animation Director:  Hiroya Iijima

Art Director: Shigemi Ikeda

Mechanical Design by Ken Ootsuka

 

Music by RZA

 

Casting by Jamie Simone

 

Starring:

Samuel L. Jackson as the voice of Afro Samurai/Ninja Ninja

Lucy Liu as the voice of Sio

Mark Hamill as the voice of Bin/ODen Shop Master

Grey DeLisle as the voice of Tomoe/Ogin

Dave Wittenberg as the voice of Adolescent/Fencing Brother

Liam O’Brien as the voice of Shichogoro

Zachary Gordon as the voice of Kotaro

Yuri Lowenthal as the voice of Jinno

 

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 that in the eyes of Sio (Lucy Liu).  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 RZA (Wu-Tang Clan), the saga that began in the best-selling anime DVD of 2007 continues in Afro Samurai: Resurrection.

 

The top samurai with the afro is back for another round of slicing and dicing galore.  Okazaki’s “AFRO SAMURAI” returns with the animated film “AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION” that is action-packed and poetically violent.

The popular anime and manga series is created by mangaka Takashi “Bob” Okazaki and produced by world renown Japanese animation company STUDIO GONZO (“Full Metal Panic”, “Vandread”, “Gantz”, “Samurai 7” and many other anime) that brought us the popular five-episode series (aired on SPIKE TV back in 2007) made its return returned with a feature film in 2009.

Because of it’s impressive visuals, violent action scenes, unique characters (especially since the main character is a Black samurai) and its hip hop music courtesy of RZA (of Wu-Tang Clan fame), the anime attracted many fans in the US.

The series revolves around a wandering samurai known as Afro Samurai in his goal of wanting to exact revenge for his father’s death.

In this futuristic, feudal-like Japan,  the country is dominated by the person who is known as the top #1 fighter (which is designated by a “ichiban” headband).  Afro’s father happened to be the #1 man at the time, the person to beat and one day, he was killed by the #2 opponent (note: only the person who has the #2 headband can challenge the #1 fighter) that goes by the name of “Justice”.

Justice decapitated Afro’s fathers head in front of him when he was a child and since that traumatic moment, Afro has trained and has become an excellent swordsman.  So, the series focuses on Afro trying to get his vengeance by challenging the top opponents out there and becoming #2 and finally getting the opportunity to challenge his father’s killer, Justice who is #1.

With “AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION”, the action takes place a year later.  The story focuses on Afro who tries to live an ordinary, peaceful life since the last events (from the TV series) have transpired.   Afro is literally hated by people due to the people he had to kill in order to get the #1 spot.  Some people who were really bad but some who are pretty good.

As Afro tries to live this normal life, his peaceful life is suddenly changed when Sio and Kuma make their return and steal his #1 headband and also his father’s remains.  Sio’s goal is to avenge the many people killed by Afro but also what Afro did to her step brother Kuma.  By resurrecting Afro’s father, the former #1, Afro will be made to suffer because he will have to fight and kill his own father.

So, Afro’s peaceful and normal life is dampened and now the samurai must return to his old killing ways in order to find out what happened to his #1 bandanna but also to get back at the people who stole his father’s remains.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION” is an anime that looks absolutely gorgeous on Blu-ray. One thing is clear, the film just looks so much better than the TV series and the film showcases its vibrant colors during daylight scenes, its darkness during the night and most of all, impressive detail in the backgrounds courtesy of its 1080p High Definition (16×9) transfer.  The film just looks great!

It’s also important to note that “AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION” has quite a bit of talent involved with the look of the film such as character designer and animation director, Hiroya Iijima (“Gantz”, “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex” and “Black Cat”).  Also, art direction from Shigemi Ikeda (“Gantz”, “Gasaraki”, “Inuyasha”, Infinite Ryvius, “Black Cat” and many of the “Mobile Suit Gundam” TV series and films).

The picture quality really brings out the detail of the surroundings, including the rocky cliffs to the disembowelment of several characters.  And color from the lush green painted backgrounds, blue skies and huge clouds, villages and buildings to the action sequences which showcases a lot of blood.

“AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION” is just far superior to the look of the “AFRO SAMURAI” television series in picture quality and animation detail.

As for the audio, there is a known issue with this Blu-ray disc.  It appears there have been bad discs that were shipped earlier on.   On the back of the case, “AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION” is listed as Dolby TrueHD 5.1.  But upon playing it on my system, it only came up as Dolby Digital 5.1.  Upon further investigation, I have learned that FUNimation Entertainment has been giving a replacement Blu-ray disc with the correct Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack to those who can provide an original receipt (and fax it to the company) and an e-mail of the purchaser’s address.

With that being said, I am unable to review the audio based on its lossless soundtrack.  As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, the audio sounds good and dialogue is clear and understandable.  Music comes quite clear as well and utilizes the bass quite well.  You do hear the swords clanging and cutting quite well on the DD5.1 soundtrack.  But primarily, audio is front channel driven and I don’t recall LFE being used.

“AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION” is featured only in English, there is no Japanese soundtrack.   Voice acting is well done by actors Samuel L. Jackson, Lucy Liu and Yuri Lowenthal.  Samuel L. Jackson definitely brings out the believability of both Afro and Ninja Ninja.

Subtitles are featured only in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION” comes with the following special features in 1080p High Definition (16×9) and Dolby Digital English 2.0 audio:

  • Afro Samurai: The Game – (11:41) Interview with the staff who created the “Afro Samurai” video game.  From the cuts, the music, movement, character animation for the video game and more.
  • Enter the RZA – (6:20) RZA talks about how he came up with the music for the film and the various hardware and software used.
  • Afro In-Depth – (6:37) Interview wtih Takashi “Bob” Okazaki and how “Afro Samurai” became a manga, an animated series and an action figure.
  • Afro Samurai: East Meets West, Part 1 – (19:14) Interviews with creator Takashi “Bob” Okazaki and director Fuminori Kizaki about having more freedom now than when they had with the TV series and now, wanting to blend of the cultures and how they had much more freedom to work for “AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION”.  Also, interviews with the crew that includes character designs and artistic backgrounds. And also the Eastern staff  working with the Western staff.
  • Afro Samurai: East Meets West, Part 2 – (25:03) Interview with actor and executive producer Samuel L. Jackson, executive producer Arthur Smith, voice actor Yuri Lowenthal, actress Lucy Liu and the crew from the Western staff.
  • Afro Samurai at San Diego Comic-Con 2008 – (8:10) Series creator and mangaka Takashi “Bob” Okazaki,  Samuel L. Jackson and RZA at San Diego Comic-Con discussing the series during their panel and also interviews with the excited audience.
  • Part A Video Commentary – (28:59) A roundtable video/audio commentary by Director Fuminori Kizaki, Creator Takashi “Bob” Okazaki, Character Designer/Chief Animation Director: Hiroya Iijima, Animation Producer: Yuji Hori and Animation Producer: Kenichi Hayashi.   The guys have a fun time watching the animation and discuss what they wanted to accomplish for the film, things that they wanted people to see and taking pleasure in discussing scenes that were well done and more.
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers for upcoming or currently released series or films.
  • 24-Page Booklet – Also included with the Blu-ray is a small booklet with image boards, color setting, production art, character info. and more!

“AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION” is definitely going to appeal to the fans of the show.  It was pretty unique to see the collaboration between the East and the West for this series and I can only hope that GONZO continues to further production of more episodes (note: Okazaki says that what we have seen so far on the TV series and film is such a small part of what he has already written/planned for the characters).

As far as samurai anime goes, “AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION” is a violent anime.  Part of Afro’s unique fighting style is his ability to slice and dice people with multiple hits with his sword.  There are a lot of decapitations, loss of limb and blood featured throughout the series, so for the parents wondering if this film is child-safe, the answer is that this film is definitely not child-safe.

There is a lot of Western appeal and as seen at San Diego Comic-Con back in 2008, this series has its large fandom who love this series.  For those who enjoy samurai violence and a samurai anime that is just full of action, there are many positives of “AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION” from its beautiful animation, magnificent art and of course, the music by RZA just adds another positive reason why people the series but also the film.

Also, another major plus is that this Blu-ray goes beyond what many anime Blu-ray tend to have in terms of special features.  You get several featurettes and the Blu-ray definitely explores the Japan and American side of their working collaboration.  So, there are a good number of special features include on this Blu-ray disc.  Picture quality again is gorgeous but with audio, I’m unable to comment because I am reviewing the disc that doesn’t have the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack.

But overall, “AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION” is an anime film that features a ton of action, humor and violence.  If you dig samurai anime and a lot of fighting and violence, definitely check this film out!






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