Action adventure, Sword and sorcery, Science fantasy, Drama
Cartoon Network Studios
August 10, 2001 – September 25, 2004
Number of Seasons
Number of Episodes
Long ago in a distant land, I, Aku, the shape-shifting Master of Darkness, unleashed an unspeakable evil! But a foolish Samurai warrior wielding a magic sword stepped forth to oppose me. Before the final blow was struck, I tore open a portal in time 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!
Samurai Jack tells the story of a young prince (Jack) from Feudal Japan whose father's empire was destroyed by the demon Aku. As a child, the prince escapes destruction and travels the world training his mind and his body for years until he reaches adulthood, becoming a legendary samurai. After taking his father's magic katana, he challenges Aku to a duel and defeats the demon. However, before the prince can deal the killing blow, Aku creates a time portal and sends his opponent into the distant future, anticipating that he would be able to amass sufficient power to deal with the Samurai later.The protagonist arrives in a dystopian, futuristic Earth ruled by Aku and filled with his robot minions and a large number of alien immigrant races of various appearances. The first people he encounters in the future call him "Jack" as a form of slang, which he adopts as his name (his true given name is never mentioned in the series).
Standard episodes follow Jack's search for a way to travel back to his own time, where he hopes to stop Aku before these events come to pass. The cartoon depicts Jack's quest to find a time portal, while constantly facing obstacles set by Aku in a classic battle of Good versus Evil. Typically each time Jack believes he has reached the end of his quest, something causes him to dramatically miss his chance. In one attempt Jack locates a stable portal to the past, but the guardian of the portal defeats him after a long but noticeably mismatched battle. The guardian is about to crush him when the portal starts to flicker and glow, apparently giving the guardian a message; the guardian has a giant pterodactyl take the unconscious Jack away. After Jack leaves, the guardian states that it is not yet time for him to return to the past, and an image of what is implied to be an older Jack is then seen in the portal; indicating that Jack is predestined to succeed, but it will take many years for him to do so.
Samurai Jack takes place in a world where science and technology have developed far beyond what is available our current time, and in some ways resembles magic on its own. However, despite scientific advances, the future is decidedly dystopian—for example, in one episode the mafia profits greatly from the sale of simple water. Aliens, bounty hunters, and robots are plentiful, and always ready for a fight. The leader of this world is Aku.
While the setting is distinctly futuristic and technological, several instances of mythology and supernatural events do occur. Mythologies, like Valhalla, and even supernatural forces, such as demonic enemies, make regular appearances, yet do not seem to stand out amongst the technologically advanced inhabitants. Aku himself is obviously supernatural, as is Jack's sword.
Stories take place in a variety of locations. Ranging from beautiful wilderness to futuristic or even dystopian cities, there is often a stark contrast made between the industrial world and the natural world. Regardless of the setting, the simple, minimalistic art style employed resembles ukiyo-e paintings.
Samurai JackEditSamurai Jack (voiced by Phil LaMarr) is the son of the Japanese Emperor who ruled the area where Aku originally appeared on Earth, and is banished to the future by Aku during their first battle, where he is left in every episode to search for a way home. He was born on the day that his father defeated Aku and he seems to be the only mortal (aside from his father) to be a match to Aku.
As a boy, after his father was captured by Aku, Jack traveled around the world to prepare both physically and mentally for his confrontation with Aku. He studied under various scholars, such as Egyptian thinkers, and mastered each art of combat from the cultures he met, training with African Zulu warriors, Viking sailors, Robin Hood, Mongolian warriors, Shaolin monks, Greek Olympic contestants, Spartans, Russian Cossacks, and several others. The only time Young Jack has spoken is in Episode XXXI.
Later, after being sent into the future, he is taught the ability to jump hundreds of feet into the air by a species of blue gorilla and a jungle man, thus allowing him to reach vast areas he previously could not reach while also giving the impression that he can fly. Jack's magic sword was forged by the gods Odin, Ra, and Rama through three mortal avatars. The sword was forged from the righteous energy within Jack's father; it is able to cut through all but the most magically-protected targets. On the other hand, it is unable to harm beings that are pure of heart, as seen in Episode XXX where Aku steals the sword and attempts to kill Jack with it, but fails even to cut him.
Jack strongly exhibits the characteristics of a stoic hero. He is unfailingly polite and humble despite the completely alien nature of the futuristic world and never scoffs at or disparages the customs of the people he encounters (as unpleasant as they seem to him at times). Despite his almost hopeless situation, he does not bewail his destiny, instead exhibiting a strong amor fati. Jack consistently shows an uncommon moral strength of character by helping the poor and defenseless along the way, in one instance even helping talking dogs that worked for Aku, in another, releasing the souls of a family in a haunted mansion. Occasionally, he faces great physical pain, or has to forget his own goals in order to help someone in need.
His real name has never been revealed (however, his way of replying his name when asked may be a homage to Violence Jack who shares a similar response as well as name). In the second episode however, he began using the name Jack when three teenage aliens, after witnessing Jack survive a huge fall by jumping onto cars, referred to him as Jack while praising him when he landed - in this case, more of a generic term, à la "dude" or "guy." Later, when asked to identify himself, he replied "They call me Jack."
AkuEditAku (voiced by Mako) is Samurai Jack's arch nemesis. His name means "evil" in Japanese. He is similar to Akuma, the evil demon with burning eyes from Japanese mythology. He is an extremely powerful demon wizard whose primary ability is shape-shifting like the god of evil Amatsu-Mikaboshi, though he possesses many other powers. He requires no food, water, or air and is capable of interstellar travel. He also has the ability to spy on Jack and others from a large sphere he can summon at will in his tower. A significant aspect of the series is that Aku is immortal, and Jack's samurai sword is the only weapon capable of harming and finally defeating him; even the slightest physical contact with the sword's blade causes Aku severe pain, and wounds inflicted by it burn his body and cut away his power. Because of this threat, Aku does not like to fight Jack himself, and only doing so when Jack is incapacitated or without the sword. Aku much prefers to let his minions and bounty hunters do it for him. Aku is also vulnerable to varying degrees to other forms of magical or divine attacks such as the powers and artifacts of gods.
Aku constantly antagonizes Jack, often attacking him while he is weak, and other times defending himself from Jack's own gambits. The two seem doomed never to defeat each other, for though Jack has bested Aku on numerous occasions, Aku merely transforms into a small creature and escapes, usually calling out a taunt over his shoulder as he flees, a fact that he himself is aware of and even makes a reference to in one episode.
The episode "The Birth of Evil" reveals Aku's origin. Long ago in the vastness of space, a great formless evil appeared. Before the darkness could do harm to the universe, it was set upon by the kings of three religions: Odin, the one-eyed king of Asgard and the Norse Gods, Ra, the sun god and king of the Gods of Egypt and Rama, the seventh avatar of Vishnu, the supreme being in Hindu mythology. So fierce was their attack on the shadow, that it was completely destroyed, save for a small fragment that was flung aside in the heat of battle. For ages the fragment drifted through the cosmos and eventually fell to Earth, and caused the impact event that wiped out the dinosaurs when it landed. The land around its impact site eventually formed into the islands of Japan, where the evil fragment slowly grew like a forest and spread like poison over the course of eons, creating an ever-expanding mass of black spikes and toxic tar that devoured and poisoned any who entered. Eventually the forest grew so large that the Emperor of the land, decided to kill the evil at its source. Armed with a magic oil given to him by Buddhist monks, the Lord and his cavalry rode into the heart of the forest, the Lord himself the only one to survive. Once at the black lake at the forest's center, the Samurai Lord doused an arrow into the oil he was given, lit it with a green flame, and shot it into the lake. Instead of destroying the evil however, the magic arrow gave it both a will and consciousness, and the demon wizard Aku was born. Aku went on a rampage of destruction, burning and killing. He proved to be unstoppable, so with the help of the three gods, Jack's father forged a sword capable of harming him. With it, he was able to defeat Aku and turned the demon back into a black tree. This imprisonment was only temporary, as years later a solar eclipse releases Aku upon the world once more.
While he is usually presented as a serious and threatening foe, Aku is also a source of comedy due to his outrageous design and sometimes wise-guy behavior, supported by Mako's over-the-top voice acting. Aku's shifts in personality between serious and chaotic suggest that his mind changes form just as his body does.
When Jack arrives in the future, he finds that Aku has conquered the world and rules the populace with an iron fist. Jack finds that there are still warriors in this age, and occasionally meets both those fighting for and those siding against the side of good. Samurai Jack's universe is populated by a diverse cast of characters who often appear for single episodes with only two notable exceptions.
- The Scotsman
- Like Jack himself, he is only known as the "Scotsman" (voiced by John DiMaggio) rather than a real name, and he is one of only two characters to appear in four episodes - "Jack and the Scotsman", "Jack and the Scotsman II", and "The Scotsman saves Jack" which consists of two consecutive episodes. In "Jack and the Scotsman", he first meets Jack and then makes fun of Jack by calling him various names and insults such as "a sissy in a nightgown." He even derides Jack's sword, calling it a butter knife, though Jack has impressed him by the end of the episode. In "Jack and the Scotsman II", the Scotsman enlists Jack to help him rescue his dainty, beautiful wife from a demon. The rescue is successful, but only because the Scotsman's wife turns out to be larger and more terrifying than the Scotsman himself, and stronger than Jack and the Scotsman combined. By time of the episode "The Scotsman Saves Jack", he has come to use the name 'Samurai Jack,' instead of 'friend' or 'stranger.' The Scotsman saves Jack when Jack loses his memory due to the Sirens, whose preference for the bagpipes means their songs have no effect on the Scotsman who is the only one immune to it, as he compares their singing to "someone stepping on a lot o' cats".
- The Scotsman's notable features include his legs; one of them is normal, if disproportionately small, and the other is a fully functional machine gun, which he wields in combat along with several explosives contained in his kilt. He also carries a shield on his back, and uses a Template:Convert Scottish Claymore sword inscribed with Celtic runes making it unbreakable even against Jack's blade. He also has superhuman strength and endurance, evidenced when he could pick up and throw an entire tank with relative ease, headbutt a robot until it exploded, and get bitten by a pair of alligators without so much as flinching. This is apparently a genetic trait, as the other members of his family are just as powerful, possessed of the same disproportionately small legs, and, by admission of the Scotsman himself, are even rowdier than he is. The Scotsman is heavily featured in the two-part episode "The Scotsman Saves Jack". He counters the Siren's song with his bagpipe playing, thus giving Jack back his memory and saving The Scotsman from being crushed.
- The Scotsman serves as a convenient foil for Jack, as they are nearly perfectly matched in fighting and survival skills, but very different in personality, manners, and sense of honor. While Jack is humble and polite, The Scotsman tends to be rude and brags about his skills. Yet he happily calls Jack "The greatest warrior on the planet aside from me." Whereas Jack has mastered many martial arts and skills, The Scotsman seems to rely almost entirely on his freakish strength, brawling using his Claymore, machine-gun leg and various grenades in his kilt.
- The Emperor portrayed by Sab Shimono in "The Beginning", "Jack Remembers the Past" and "The Aku Infection" and Keone Young in "The Birth of Evil" is the Emperor of the land and Jack's father and the original wielder of Jack's sword. Like his son, the Emperor is brave, humble, and polite as well as having a striking resemblance to his son except that the Emperor has a bigger nose.
Samurai Jack frequently features appearances from deities of varying pantheons and creatures of legend. In the episode "The Birth of Evil", Odin, Ra, and Rama are shown to join forces to battle the dark power that would one day spawn Aku. In another episode Jack shows he is familiar with the chronology of the Greek pantheon, such as the God Zeus and the Titan Chronos.
Samurai Jack occasionally borrows from ancient sources as well as current ones. In the episode "Jack and the Spartans", Jack fights alongside an army of three-hundred warriors who bear a likeness to Spartans, defending their home from an army of robots that would reconstruct themselves after each day's fight. The plot of this episode is based on the Battle of Thermopylae, while the episode's artistic style is a homage to Frank Miller's comic book, 300.
The premise of the entire series - a solitary man from the Orient wandering in a foreign world - is adapted directly from the early-70's television drama "Kung Fu", starring David Carradine as the Shaolin monk Kwai Chang Caine. While their individual adventures do not correspond to each other, the ongoing dynamic of solitary wanderer learning, sometimes through pain and sometimes bemusedly, his new surroundings, while simultaneously teaching his own sense of ethics to those he meets, is consistent. At the conclusion of season 2 of Kung Fu, Kwai Chang meets a burly, somewhat crazy Scotsman who is transporting his wife in a gigantic casket. In this case it turns out that the wife is a stone statue.
Samurai Jack symbol - ZintarisEdit
Zintaris symbol looks like a diamond with four lines inside a circle. It represents five basic positive human characteristics: Goodness, modesty, wisdom, skills and inner peace and is the symbol (or "ka-mon") of Jack's family. All the families of the nobility in Japan had their own individual ka-mon or mon. Genndy Tartakovsky, the creator of Samurai Jack, in an interview said that they did careful research to make sure that Jack's family's ka-mon would look authentic without copying any other ka-mon.
Within the Cartoon Network UniverseEdit
In The Beginning, Part 2 when Jack first meets the canine archaeologists,
In the same episode, it is believed that the dogs are mining a destroyed City of Townsville
from The Powerpuff Girls
In one episode of Dexter's Laboratory, boy-genius Dexter frequently says "Samurai Jaction" rather than "action",and in the post-2001 episodes, a Samurai Jack action figure is sometimes visible on the shelf in Dexter's bedroom. Additionally, in one of the episodes Dexter is watching a TV show resembling Samurai Jack. (While this might be breaking the fourth wall of this universe, it is done multiple times in many of the other shows as well. Also, it is believed among fans that Samurai Jack may occur on an alternate timeline due to the absence of Aku throughout the rest of the universe, and that the rest of the universe is the by-product of Jack having succeeded his quest)
Even though it's not a Cartoon Network or Hanna Barbera property, Lone Wolf and Cub make a cameo in Jack Remembers the Past