Nearly 13 years since the end of its fourth season, the epic story of Samurai Jack concluded with this 10-part fifth season, an impressive piece of television led by creator Genndy Tartakovsky, and the Blu-ray highlights the visual artwork.
As the season opens, fifty years have passed, although Jack (Phil LaMarr) hasn't aged, and he is still tortured by memories of his family left behind after the demon Aku (Greg Baldwin, replacing the late Mako) flug him into the future. Jack's hair has grown long, he wears a beard, and he uses a gun because he has lost his katana, which was forged by the gods and given the ability to kill Aku. He has also lost a part of himself, as will be revealed.
The cult of Aku raises seven daughters as assassins to defeat Jack. When he kills one, it is the first time he has killed a human and it troubles him. He captures one daughter, Ashi (Tara Strong), and tries to convince her it is Aku that is the true villain. Even after they are swallowed by a giant creature, she continues to attack him whenever able. He could easily leave her behind and escape on his own, but that's not Jack's way, and she soon learns the true nature of both Jack and Aku. Together, they work to defeat Aku though the their path is not easy.
Being on Adult Swim as opposed to Cartoon Network for the previous seasons and with the growth of the makers over the past 13 years, the story has grown darker and the characters deeper. The episodes are well plotted with the story having very believable twists and turns as Jack strives to defeat the seemingly undefeatable Aku. Jack is an authentic hero, understandably filled with doubt and anger over the decades, which he must come to terms with, sending a great message without preaching to the viewer.
The artwork is outstanding, as the talented animation teams executes Tartakovsky's masterful vision, which is influenced by film directors Akira Kurosawa and Sergio Leone. The video has been given a 1080p encoded transfer with an aspect ratio that is usually 1.78:1 but varies at times for great effect. The colors come through in a wide spectrum of vibrant hues. Blacks are inky and whites are bright, contributing to a strong contrast. The audio is Dolby Digital 5.1. Dialogue, effects, and music are clear and mixed well together. The surrounds and the subwoofer offer some support for the music and effects.
The HD special features are “The Evolution of Jack!” (14 min), a brief making-of the season, and five Pitch Movies that present storyboard versions with narration and human effects of episodes XCIV (29 min), XCIVI (36 min), XCIVII (35 min), XCIX (27 min), and C (24 min).
Not limited to the animation field, Samurai Jack: The Complete Fifth Season is one of the best television programs of 2017. The only negative is that the story has come to an end, so we likely won't be seeing any more adventures with Jack, but that's a fair trade-off for such a satisfying conclusion. The Blu-ray delivers a stunning video presentation and a satisfactory audio experience.