Cartoon Network's 'Samurai Jack' simply breathtaking
By Nancy Imperiale Wellons

Prepare to be amazed by the Cartoon Network's Samurai Jack, premiering tomorrow at 7 p.m.

It's a breathtaking blend of artistry, morality and adventure that tells a profound tale. The title character is a samurai warrior who is sent through a time portal by an evil wizard. He uses his training and wits to survive, always searching for a way home.

The premiere episode introduces Jack as a boy armed with a wooden sword and a cryptic warning from his father, the Emperor: "Always be aware, for the presence of evil is sometimes right behind you."

Too soon, the prophecy comes to pass. Aku, a malevolent "shapeshifter," captures Jack's father and ravages his town. The boy is sent away, where he is trained by everyone from Tibetan monks to Greek philosophers.

For 10 minutes, there is no dialogue, only music and pictures. The effect is elegant and overwhelming. James Venable's glorious musical scoring and Scott Wills' gorgeous background paintings contribute as much power as the action.

Samurai Jack, which moves next week to its regular time slot, 8 p.m. Mondays, is surprisingly nonviolent and gore-free. The thwing of arrows and shoosh of swords are like poetry.

Villains are so clearly evil that Jack's battles take the mantle of a grand moral crusade.

Samurai Jack was created by Genndy Tartakovsky, creator of Dexter's Laboratory and producer on The Powerpuff Girls.

Those are fine, but don't expect more of the same. Samurai Jack is a singular, breathtaking vision. Give it a serious viewing; your expectations of cartoons may be forever altered.

 close window