Samurai Jack TV Poster Image

Samurai Jack

Japanese warrior fights evil in violence-heavy cartoon.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Jack's motivation is getting home, and he'll do anything to make it happen. He doesn't enjoy fighting or seek out conflict, but when it finds him, he does what he has to protect himself and the innocents around him. While he's a force of justice, his adversary revels in killing and controlling those who work for him.

Positive role models

Jack's not violent by nature even though that's how he's forced to solve problems. He does what he does by necessity, whereas Aku is cruel by choice. Instead Jack fights for peace and justice.

Violence

Jack is a sword-wielding samurai, but he mostly battles robots and other machines, so what looks like blood is actually gushing oil and other fluids. Some scenes show more human suffering, as when Jack imagines seeing his father burning alive on a cross. Much cartoon violence and weapons like knives and handguns. Stabbings, hand-to-hand combat. Kids are trained to fight for a villain.

Sex
Not applicable
Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Samurai Jack has a lot of animated violence – especially in newer episodes that air during Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming – but it's a stylish cartoon that has a big following among teens and adults. As a hero, Jack does ultimately wield his sword to fight evil, but he's forced to do what he does to protect innocent figures. Most of the violence involves robots of various sizes and shapes, so there's no blood but plenty of oily fluids made to look like it. Expect to see gun use, stabbing, punching, and sword fights, as well as some slicing and dicing of bodies, mostly without gore.

What's the story?

In feudal Japan, a young prince's father is killed by a demon named Aku (voiced by Greg Baldwin) in SAMURAI JACK. The prince escapes and spends his life training as a samurai, eventually challenging the demon. Before he can deal the killing blow, however, the demon opens a time portal and flings his opponent into it. The prince arrives in a frightening dystopian future Earth ruled by Aku and his robot servants and assumes the task of attempting to find a way back to his time to prevent the future he's seen, but he's also occupied by Aku's underlings who seek him out to destroy him. Haunted by memories of his family and the knowledge that they need him, Jack (Phil LaMarr) survives decades of Aku's assaults without giving up hope of returning home.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

This beautifully drawn, animated, and edited cartoon is a cut above most, but the brooding hero and mature themes – especially evident in newer episodes – mean it's not for most kids. Older episodes involve some absurdity and lightheated content, but season five is decidedly more intense and violent, casting Jack as an increasingly tortured soul haunted by his extended inability to get back to his family. As such, the show is better suited to older teens and adults than it is to kids.

Violence is the biggest concern in Samurai Jack's content mostly because of how the show's minimal dialogue accentuates these exchanges. Even though most involve Jack facing off against robots, it's evident the experiences weigh on him; in those moments when his adversary is human, he's bothered long after the deed of self-preservation is done. This translates to a highly sympathetic, understated hero who maintains his own humanity despite forces that seek to undo it.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how shows like Samurai Jack portray violence. Are there circumstances under which the use of violence is necessary? Who decides when it's justified and when it's not?

  • Is Samurai Jack a viable hero? Does he act like one? Are heroes always easy to spot in real life? What accounts for his ability to persevere through so many years of mental anguish?

  • How does this series reflect aspects of Japanese history and culture? Is it respectful in its representation? How fine is the line between stereotypes and honest representation?

TV details

Premiere date:August 10, 2001
Cast:Phil LaMarr, Greg Baldwin, Grey Griffin
Networks:Boomerang, Cartoon Network
Genre:Drama
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Sports and martial arts, Robots
Character strengths:Perseverance
TV rating:TV-14
Available on:DVD, Streaming

This review of Samurai Jack was written by

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Kid, 9 years old October 23, 2009
terrific!! It has a great role model and most of the fighting is against robots and if it is not, he would just knock down that humanoid person.
What other families should know
Great role models
Kid, 11 years old August 19, 2009
Kid, 11 years old August 4, 2013

Excellent, one of Cartoon Network's best.

Samurai Jack is a beautifully animated, excellent show. Jack doesn't hurt people unless he has to, and is very noble and has a strong sense of duty. Most of his enemies are robots and aliens that only "bleed" oil or goo, and there is no language or sexual stuff. Although some things Jack encounters could scare younger kids, most of them can get a laugh out of older audiences.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence