What parents need to know
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?
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?