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Reviewed by Jason Zingale
fro Samurai” must have done pretty good business for Funimation and Spike TV, because even though I thoroughly enjoyed the hip hop-influenced anime, there didn’t seem to be any reason to bring back the character for a second go-around. Kudos to creator Takashi "Bob" Okazaki and director Fuminori Kizaki, then, for not only figuring out a way to give us more “Afro Samurai,” but for doing so without compromising the quality of the original miniseries. Some might argue that there simply isn’t enough action to go around in “Afro Samurai: Resurrection,” but while that may be true, the swordfights that do appear are bigger, better and badder than before.
Since avenging his father’s death and becoming the new Number One, Afro Samurai (Samuel L. Jackson) has finally found some peace in his life; such that he no longer fights unless absolutely necessary. That is, until a mysterious woman named Sio (Lucy Liu) steals the Number One headband and resurrects Afro’s father with plans to torture him as revenge for those he killed along the way. Now, Afro must track down and win the Number Two headband before he can challenge Sio and save his father. Helping Sio with her evil plan is her older brother Kuma (Yuri Lowenthal), rebuilt after his last showdown with Afro, and a gang of new robotic warriors for the black samurai and his loudmouthed sidekick, Ninja-Ninja (Jackson), to deal with once again.
No doubt a product of its unusually large budget, “Afro Samurai: Resurrection” is one of the best looking animes ever made. The original miniseries was already visually stunning, but this time around, the animation is so sharp and the colors so lush that you’d be doing the film a disservice if you didn’t watch it on the biggest screen you own. There’s just so much detail in every frame that it’s impossible to look away, and the fact that some really cool characters inhabit the world definitely helps. While Afro is always a joy to watch as he slices and dices his way to the top, however, it’s supporting characters like Kuma and Ninja-Ninja who steal the show. The teddy bear head-wearing assassin is one of the most unique characters ever created, and though he plays a much smaller role this time around, the fans obviously liked him enough to warrant bringing him back. The same goes for Ninja-Ninja, who makes me laugh with each obscene remark and premature freak-out.
Though it’s different enough that it doesn't feel like a monotonous reimagining, “Resurrection” is really just more of the same stuff that made the first series such a blast to watch. More drama. More action. And lots more blood. The voice acting remains top notch (Jackson and Liu are the clear standouts), while the RZA’s pulsing soundtrack provides the backbone of the entire film. The theme song, “Combat,” is so good that you’ll be humming it for days, while more unconventional tracks like “Fight For You” add additional layers to the characters' relationships.
If there’s one complaint to be made, it’s that the writing just isn’t as strong as in the first series. The story feels so forced at times that certain rules are broken in order to accommodate major developments, and while they’re easy to forgive for the sake of what “Resurrection” is trying to accomplish, it’s still frustrating to see the writers have to bend their own mythology to make it work. Still, “Afro Samurai: Resurrection” is a better-than-expected follow-up that takes any lines that may have been crossed in the original and totally demolishes them. If you thought “Afro Samurai” couldn’t get any more intense, graphic, or over-the-top, prepare to be pleasantly surprised.
Special Features: If the new series is bigger, better and badder than before, then so is the special edition Blu-ray release. Along with a director’s cut of the film, the two-disc set also includes a host of impressive bonus features that any fan will appreciate. The video commentary with creator Takashi “Bob” Okazaki, director Fuminori Kizaki and crew may only appear on Part A, not to mention recorded completely in Japanese, but it’s well worth checking out if you don’t mind reading subtitles the whole time. Also included is a short interview with Okazaki (“Afro In Depth”), a two-part making-of featurette (“Afro Samurai: East Meets West”), a brief look at the RZA’s composition of the soundtrack (“Enter the RZA”), footage from the San Diego Comic-Con 2008 panel, and a sneak peek at “Afro Samurai: The Game.”