How can an anime series with Samuel L. Jackson -- packing a big afro and an even bigger sword -- slicing off badniks' faces that explode in a geyser of blood be this boring? Afro Samurai is an ambitiously stylish series, but it's so caught up in its overcaffeinated visuals and blows so much of its budget on a few spectacular but short brawls that it never really figures out what to do whenever someone's not being disemboweled on-screen. The semipretentious reams of dialogue about the nature of revenge, Ninja Ninja's excruciating "off the chizain!" jive-speak, and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of walking...it all gets very stale very quickly. There's barely anything resembling a plot, so once you get past the novelty value of a black samurai with a cartoonishly oversized afro, the only hook that's left is the violence. (Well, that and some sarcastic-fingerquotes "edgy" T&A, but whatever...)
The battles really can be spectacular: Afro Samurai chops off pretty much every body part you could rattle off at some point in here, every nick and slash spews out a couple hundred barrel drums of the red stuff, and I have to give extra credit to any series that'll whack its hero in the face with a whirring motorcycle tire. Still, there's maybe 25 minutes of meat in this 100 minute season to gnaw on, and the rest is padded out with unwatchable filler. There's not much more to the plot than "hey, Afro Samurai! You sure did slaughter a whole hell of a lot of people", with no meaningful progression of note up until the arbitrary, batshit-crazy climax. Oh, and I think I can figure out who the series is anchored around without having to have one character or another say, "Ah, Afro Samurai!" every twelve seconds either. I can read the big, bold letters on the box: he's a samurai with an afro. I get it. There's so much "Afro Samurai! Afro Samurai!" repetition that FUNimation might as well have packed instructions for a drinking game in with the liner notes. Whatever. I'm not writing anymore. Skip It.
The intensely stylized Afro Samurai: Resurrection looks reasonably impressive in high-def. The linework is on the soft side but is much more richly defined than anything DVD could hope to belt out, and although the palette skews towards the gray and overcast, its more richly saturated hues leap off the screen. I couldn't spot any hiccups in the compression, although some mild banding does creep in every once in a while. This disc is nothing startling but certainly ranks as good enough.
Afro Samurai: Resurrection is served up on a dual-layer Blu-ray disc, and the 1.78:1 video has been encoded with AVC.
The flipside of the packaging incorrectly rattles off a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track, but Afro Samurai: Resurrection only sports a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix (640Kbps). As overcaffeinated as the sound design is -- the surround channels never let up, from post-apocalyptic hustle-and-bustle to whizzing chains and laserblasts -- it doesn't rank much higher than DVD quality, really. The distinctness and clarity I'm used to hearing on Blu-ray is lacking, and for a series littered with hip-hop and hyperkinetic brawls, the low-end is surprisingly anemic. I'd expect a series like this to rattle the room, but Afro Samurai's low-frequency belches don't pack much of a wallop. It's okay, sure, but this low-res soundtrack falls short of the format's usual standards.
There are no dubs, alternate soundtracks, subtitles, or closed captions on this disc. Despite so much of the production being tackled overseas, Afro Samurai: Resurrection is aimed squarely at North America, and this English track is its original language.
All of the extras piled onto Afro Samurai: Resurrection are presented in high definition.
The Final Word
Think twenty minutes of Kill Bill's Crazy 8s hack-'n-slash strung together by an hour-plus of jivetalk and walking. Afro Samurai: Resurrection is an empty technical exercise, twiddling its thumbs through reams of meandering dialogue and cardboard cutout characters as it disinterestedly waits for the next battalion of ninjas to be carved apart. Not recommended.