Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Jan 27th 2009
Afro Samurai: Resurrection
Dub.DVD - Uncut
After winning the legendary #1 headband (making him the most feared warrior in the land) in the first installment, this feature-length sequel finds Afro living a life of solitude, until the vengeful Lady Sio shows up with a gang of revenge-minded freaks, looking to exact vengeance on Afro for his past misdeeds in service of the headband.
It's impossible to deny that a whole lot of time and money and talent went into the production of Afro Samurai: Resurrection. One of the few existing anime franchises backed by a big budget and genuine A-list voice talent, it's a gorgeous film, with incredible animation, spectacular action setpieces and a thumping score by The RZA; this is the closest thing to a big summer Hollywood-style blockbuster as could exist in the anime industry. It should come as no surprise, then, to those seasoned on what to expect from a big Hollywood blockbuster, that like those noisy, expensive cinematic confections we flock to every summer, it's a whole lot of time, money and talent dumped into a pretty terrible script. That doesn't mean it's a total waste, though.
Resurrection picks up what seems like a few years after the events of the original OVA (this time the story isn't split into TV-friendly chunks; it's just a 97-minute feature) and Afro has basically retreated into solitude, growing a beard and basically spending his days carving wood figurines of the movie's cast and fighting off would-be challengers who want to claim the legendary #1 headband for themselves. Along comes Jinnosuke, the teddy-bear-headed guy from the first one who takes Afro out pretty easily and introduces him to the movie's villain, Lady
That, of course, is all just window dressing; if Afro Samurai is “about” anything, it's about Cool. Everything in this film – every creative choice, every plot development, every character – is all executed in service to being and looking cool, in the sense of what everyone's inner teenage boy thinks is cool. Big bloody fights, motorcycles, sunglasses, hot chicks in skimpy outfits, samurai, Samuel L. Jackson, all of it. To that extent, the film works as kind of a modern cousin to all those ultra-violent high-budget OVAs that came out of Japan in the 80's, with a uniquely Western flavor added in and a metric ton of hip-hop culture. If that's all you're looking for, then you're going to extract some measure of entertainment out of this thing, which delivers very well on the big bloody fights and hot chicks and motorcycles. Make no mistake – this is a really good-looking film, with excellent production values and some really kinetic fight scenes. That's really all there is to recommend about it – which is fine, since for a big chunk of the audience for this film, that's all they're looking for. Unfortunately, while all those elements come together, they ultimately don't go anywhere thanks to the film's subpar script.
Initially the film feels like it's all business as usual – Afro Samurai is back, he's gonna kick some ass, yadda yadda – everyone knows to expect the story to be little more than an excuse to string fight scenes together. But as it goes along, it becomes clearer and clearer just how weak the writing is here. We're stuck watching Lady
The worst thing about all this is that there isn't much for the characters to do in the stretches between fights, so what we get is a whole lot of Afro's ‘sidekick’ Ninja Ninja, an imaginary friend who represents his inner monologue and NEVER EVER STOPS TALKING.
Anyone who's seen the first series will recognize this character as sort of the token zany jive-talkin' mega-stereotypical comedy relief black guy, who in most movies usually only has a handful of lines (examples include “dayum!” and “oh snap!” and the like) but in this film fills up the giant empty sections in between fight scenes. We watch Afro slowly trudge across the country while Ninja Ninja comments on both the story and the setting. “DAYUM IT IS WINDY UP IN THIS PIECE” “HEY AFRO WHEN WE GONNA FIND THAT BOOTYLICIOUS BITCH WHO TOOK YO FATHER'S SKULL” “OH SNAP NOW WE ON A MOUNTAIN DAYUM AFRO OH SNAP HELL NAW SAY WHAAAAAT”. After a few minutes of this it's pure torture because Ninja Ninja isn't funny, actually feels just a little racist, and seems to be always on screen and always jabbering on, especially when there isn't anything of interest happening, which is probably a good third of the film.
But, again, when Afro Samurai: Resurrection works, it works. The battles are cool and extremely well-animated and the look and sound of the film seems very well put-together; it's just a shame they couldn't back up all that amazing artistic talent with a decent script that would've put it all to better use. Perhaps when the inevitable Afro Samurai 3 comes out – which is guaranteed to happen, if not solely because they've come up with a formula that ensures the story never has to end – they'll spend as much time refining the script as they have the film's visual aesthetic. Until then, if you're looking for a good collection of fight scenes and some very cool visuals, check this out – just don't expect poetry.
Overall : B-
Story : D+
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : A
+ Great music, great animation, a unique visual flair not seen in any other anime production.
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