This is the episode i think of when I think about why I love Samurai Jack; the beautiful art direction, the action scenes, the use of visuals to tell the story, its cinematic scope, its mood and atmosphere, all of it comes together in what is arguably the best episode (Seasons of Death and Tale of X9 are other contenders). I don't want to summarize the episode (as others have already done so). Just watch and be in awe of a cartoon that has the audacity to become art.
The show by this point had already taken many big steps, separating itself from many of the other shows that had ever aired on cartoon network, or any other children's programming channels. But this episode was the one that finalized the shows style, it's finesse. From the epic opening, to the ambient nature sequence, to the final duel with the archers, this episode never got boring.
Even though we're only on the 7th episode here, an army of ruthless robotic minions is nothing new, no doubt more scrapmetal for Jack to slice through. However, Jack never appears, as the robotic army has another target, a tower, defended by three lone cursed archers. While it appears the army had the tower surrounded, the archers quickly decimated the entire horde with an endless rain of arrows. The leader (most likely who was cowering in fear the whole time) was lucky enough to survive and tell the story over a bottle of grog within earshot of a certain samurai warrior. And the tower just so happened to have a well that could grant wishes....wishes such as returning a lost samurai back in time to his home.
Jack (who now has his trademark hat, the first of many, they seem to get destroyed every episode, that along with his robes) quickly sets off to take on the archers...alone. His first attempt at beating the archers was ultimately a failure and he had to rethink his strategy. And this is where Genndy had the opportunity to flourish artistically. When Jack put on his blindfold, it was as if the TV had been turned off. Silent blackness. Then a deer appears munching on some grass...birds chirping...wind in the trees...a babbling brook...snow flakes shattering on the ground... and with all these wonderful nature sounds together we return to face Jack, who has now mastered his sense of hearing enough to fight the blind archers.
With this in hand, he quickly makes his way to the top of the tower, defeating the archers, approaching the well and... finding that his hopes were once again crushed and makes another sacrifice to rid the world of another careless evil.
This episode alone stands out as not only one of the best in the season but the best of the series. Many more great episodes were yet to come, but this is the one that set the show on its course to success. From here on in, the show cemented itself on cartoon network's schedule with people of all ages tuning in to see the lone samurai make is long, lonely, unforgiving quest to return home and defeat Aku, though with many laughs along the way.
Yes, this is one of the finest action episodes of Samurai Jack. The utter style and class with which the storyline is executed and animated is breathtaking, and the action sequences are lightning fast with arrows being more unlimited than Aku's evil.
Though the army that was decimeted at the beginning by the three blind archers without breaking a sweat was a robot army, it was nonethless a very chilly image to see their 'bodies' rotting/rusting in the snow, as they could just as well be human. As violent as Samurai Jack episodes can be, they contain no blood, as all Jacks adversaries which he cuts open are robots or machines. This only adds depth to the series, as it is obvious that the produres do not trade content for shock and gore value that would inevitably happen if blood and guts were splashing everywhere.
The archers are emotionless, lethally skilled and precise, and totally silent.
Jack must fight at an equal level to them to stand any chance of beating them. The sequence of the silent and black images, with splashes of beautiful sound and colour, as Jack make his peace with the world of pure sound, is utterly beautiful.
Then the attack and subduence of the three blind archers, their freedom, and the sheer evil of the well. I have never seen Jacks face in such a mixture of exasperated anger, despair and disappointment as when the true nature of the well is revealed.
A truly excellent episode.
This episode is my personal #1 favorite. It features Jack at his best and some of the coolest visual yet on the show. The sound FX and sound editing were some of the best I've ever heard, especially for a cartoon.
My favorite part is when Jack figures out the archers are shooting at him based on what they hear and not what they see and he deprives himself of sight via blindfold in order to take them on.
I don't think any other episode can compare to this one (though, a close contender is Seasons of Death); I could watch it over and over and not get bored!
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