Based on the original manga of Takashi Okazaki and given the anime treatment by Japan’s award winning Studio Gonzo, Afro Samurai turns your traditional anime expectations on their head to deliver a five part series chock full of brooding complex characters, truly impressive fights sequences and enough bloody revenge melodrama to keep a Tarantino aficionado happily salivating. The real surprise however is the Western voice talent, with the ever versatile Samuel L. Jackson stepping up as the series protagonist Afro, a troubled samurai travelling through a quasi-futuristic feudal Japan determined to extract revenge against his father’s killer, a master swordsman named Justice (Hellboy’s Ron Pearlman). Continuing with its bold casting, Afro Samurai also indulges in a subversive hip hop soundtrack produced by Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA whose musical interpretation of the drama morphs seamlessly with the un-orthodox on screen action.
Having undergone the Blu-ray treatment, Afro Samurai undoubtedly benefit in its visuals presentation, but it’s the audio transfer that really stands out with superb directional tracking across the numerous sound effects including the feverish battle scenes and tight dialogue. As for the extras though, those familiar with the DVD release won’t find any real surprises with the two making of featurettes ported over. The first featuring interviews with Jackson, Perlman and other co-stars including X-Men’s Kelly Hu, while the second explores the evolution of the show from concept to page to screen before an interview with RZA rounds off an informative, yet pedestrian package. A rich, multi layered, brutal coming-of-age saga, Afro Samurai could have failed spectacularly, but thanks to some inspired casting and superb animation, this bloody saga somehow manages to shine brighter than expected.