After 13 years, Samurai Jack’s epic quest in the future will finally come to it’s conclusion with a new fifth season on Adult Swim but before that arrives on March 11th, let’s jump back to the first episode in this latest Auto Pilot entry.
Episode Title: Part 1- The Beginning
Original Airdate: August 10th, 2001
Did I Know Anything Going In?: I’ve seen a bunch of Jack over the years as they’ve hit streaming sites but I didn’t catch in on Cartoon Network as it aired and I haven’t seen the whole show front to back.
The first episode of Samurai Jack is part of a premiere movie that Cartoon Network aired in August 2001 that was the first three episodes but you can watch the first episode by itself on it’s new streaming home Hulu and it’s one of the best first episodes you will ever see.
Perfectly setting up the style and masterful visual storytelling that Genndy Tartakovsky continued for all four original seasons, the first episode begins with an eerie sequence where a lunar eclipse causes the evil demon wizard Aku to return to wreck havoc on the world and Jack’s father is captured as revenge for defeating Aku previously. Jack and his mother flee with the magical sword that can defeat Aku and Jack begins his life’s journey around the world, training with various masters around the world to gain all the skils he needs to become the ultimate samurai warrior. This sequence is the perfect example of the visual storytelling that the series always excelled at, as the montage features no dialogue and you get everything you need to know just by seeing Jack journey and grow as he learns things like martial arts from monks, archery from none other than Robin Hood and more. After many years, Jack is finally ready to recover his father’s sword and take the battle to Aku, who has taken over and enslaved the people of his homeland.
We get our first taste of the show’s trademark robot fighting in a great sequence where Jack frees his father and the other slaves from robotic overlords but Jack’s father tells him that he cannot rely just on the sword, but he also has to have the proper mindset as well. Taking this advice, Jack goes to battle Aku and it’s the third spectacular visual sequence of the episode as Aku constantly shapeshifts into various animal forms to try and stop Jack but Jack’s years of training pay off and he manages to get Aku one blow away from being defeated but Aku uses one last trick to send Jack thousands of years into the future, where he now controls the entire Earth.
Right from the start, Genndy Tartakovsky knew exactly what he wanted to do with Samurai Jack and he masterfully paces out an entire movie’s worth of plot into a tight and precise 24 minutes that sets the tone for the show’s action and storytelling going forward and things only got better from this already great episode. The original four seasons are all on Hulu right now if you want to jump in but if you don’t have time to watch it all, Polygon has a good list of the essential episodes to check out here: http://www.polygon.com/tv/2017/3/2/14536782/samurai-jack-best-episodes