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Afro Samurai - Season 1 - 2-Disc Director's Cut Review




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Rating
Video:   9/10
Audio:   9/10
Extras:   3/10

Go Afro!
by Gord Lacey (All reviews)
5/23/2007

    Afro Samurai (played by Academy Award nominated Samuel L Jackson) is an epic tale of a black samurai's hunt for Justice (Ron Pearlman: Hellboy, Alien 3) who murdered his father. Composed by famed artist RZA (Kill Bill, Wu Tang Clan) Afro Samurai blends traditional Japanese culture, funky technology and hip hop to create a brutally fresh entertainment experience
I knew absolutely nothing about Afro Samurai before FUNimation announced it was coming to DVD, and even then I didn't know much about the story. Afro Samurai saw his father killed when he was just a boy, and vowed to avenge his death. His father was Number 1, the most-skilled swordsman in the world. He could only be challenged to a fight by Number 2, but Number 2 could be challenged by anyone. Afro must learn to fight, then find Number 2 and kill him so he can confront Number 1 and avenge his fathers death. It's a classic story of revenge, told through stylistic animation, and a killer soundtrack.

This set, the Director's Cut, features the entire 5-part series in its unedited form, along with a bonus disc featuring extras for the set. The packaging features an acetate O-sleeve which comes off to reveal the book inside. The cover is secured by a magnet inside the sturdy package.

Disc 1 (2:11:26)
Chapter I (26:14)
Chapter II (26:15)
Chapter III (26:16)
Chapter IV (26:17)
Chapter V (26:24)

Video

The video on this Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1) transfer looks pretty good. The show has a unique look to it; the colors are muted, except for the red blood, which jumps off the screen every time it's shown, and it's shown a lot. I noticed a few scenes that exhibited some banding, but otherwise I don't have any complaints. There are chapters after the opening of the show, and the disc contains a "play all" feature.

Audio

I started to watch the first episode of Afro Samurai and I was surprised by the audio, and it wasn't a good surprise. The audio was lifeless, and the opening battle seemed boring. I picked up the remote and pressed "audio" which changed the track from the default stereo track to the Dolby Digital 5.1 track. I have no idea why FUNimation chose to make stereo the default, but there's a huge difference between the two. The 5.1 track was alive with sounds of swords clashing, the music by RZA, and the deep bass that only a .1 track can deliver. I'm always amazed when companies set an inferior audio track as the default, especially when there's a huge difference between the two. There aren't any subtitles or captions on the set.

Extras - How we rate extras

In the Booth - Voice Talent of Afro Samurai (14:50)
This is much more than a featurette on the voice talent, it's a "making of" for the show. Samuel L. Jackson, Ron Perlman, Kelly Hu, Eric Calderon (co-producer), Takashi Okazaki (creator) and Taito Okiura (producer) are interviewed.

RZA Music Production Tour (4:54)
This is not a tour of RZA's recording studio, it's a featurette on the music with interviews by RZA, Taito Okiura and Eric Calderon.

Character Profiles (23:42)
Eric Calderon talks about the characters in the show as scenes from the show play. It's a commentary track that's cut together with footage from each episode, along with some early sketches.

Trailers
Check out trailers for other FUNimation releases on disc 1.

Summary

Afro Samurai was a fun way to spend a couple of hours. Samuel Jackson was great as Afro, and I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes material that featured him talking about the show, and his love of samurai movies. Speaking of the extras, the names of the featurettes were misleading - they didn't reflect the content at all. I expected the first featurette to be ALL about the voice cast, but it was a "Making of Afro Samurai," while I expected a tour of RZA's recording studio for the second featurette, which should have been called "The Music of Afro Samurai." I liked both featurettes, I just thought they should have given them appropriate names.


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