Afro Samurai (2007) is Gonzo’s 5-episode miniseries anime adaption of the Nou Nou Hau serialized manga of the same name by Takashi Okazaki. Directed by Fuminori Kizaki.
Afro Samurai is a tightly mixed production, comprised of cyberpunk neo-feudal settings, emotionally enrapturing sounds of soul and hip-hop, and tonal influences from blaxploitation media.
The series centers on two ancient headbands, a warriors path. The wearer of the number one headband is granted access to godhood, perhaps more so symbolically. Only the number two headband can challenge number one for the shot of (maybe?) transcendence. Anyone can come for the Number 2.
So, if you’re rocking that number two headband, the block is just perpetually heated for you. It truly is a rubbish way to live life. You could instead post up at a serene village and just farm. Make you some lemonade. Maybe have a family? Truthfully, Afro had several chances for this kind of tranquility, particularly a moment from his adolescence. Afro is taken in by Sword Master’s dojo, where he bonds with his peers, all fellow orphans. Unfortunately, the attraction of revenge is too strong.
Afro witnessed his father, the former Number 1, decapitated by Justice, a pruney gunslinging cowboy with some form of Polymelia. Dude has arms on arms on arms. Young Afro sets out to re-track the number two headband, so he can make his way back to Mount Shumi, make a mess of Justice, and avenge his pop’s death. It’s an expectedly bloody tale.
The show is engaging the whole ride through, the five episodes are well-paced, and there is a vibrant rhythm to the profanely witty, theatrical dialogue. The show is self-aware, entirely playing into all the cheesiness the genre propagates.
Further contributing to the effective story pacing, Afro Samurai cuts its battles together superbly. All the fights are fluid, chic, and easy to parse. The score syncs to the shot-variation during fight choreography, and the musical beats harmonize with the combat’s emotional beats.
Afro Samurai features, undeniably, one of the smoothest, nastiest, prodigious anime OSTs of all time. Produced by the legendary RZA of Wu-Tang Clan, also notable for his work on the Kill Bill soundtrack, and his film The Man with the Iron Fists. Featuring contributions from luminary Hip Hop artists Q-Tip and Talib Kweli. RZA’s soundtrack is a strengthening coat, solidifying the show’s indestructible badassery. In a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Afro Samurai, RZA reveals the show’s sonic story as Afro’s father representing soul, and Justice representing hard rock. A masterful consideration, capturing both the story’s events and symbolic beats. Rock kills soul, killing that piece of Afro, his innocence. Afro grows up formed by soul (his father) and rock (his father’s killer, Justice) — the combination of the two, being Hip Hop.
The voice acting cast features Samual L. Jackson as Afro, and his loud-mouthed imaginary friend, Ninja Ninja. Ron Perlman plays Justice, and other cast members include Tara Strong, Kelly Hu, and Phil LaMarr.
A powerhouse cast, delivering captivating performances, fully committing to the absurdity of their characters — all of whom flex iconic designs. From Kuma’s bear-head to The Empty Seven, Justice’s pruney-ass, Ninja Ninja’s clout-goggles, and Afro himself, with his chilling gaze.
Afro Samurai is genuinely one of the dopest pieces of art created.