Samurai Jack-The Premiere Movie (NTSC) (2001) (NTSC)

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Released 9-Sep-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation Poster
Featurette-Behind the Sword
Featurette-Samurai Jack Archives
Featurette-Samurai Jack Bonus Episode
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 65:50 (Case: 70)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Genndy Tartakovsky
Studio
Distributor
Cartoon Network
Warner Home Video
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music James Venable


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Samurai Jack is an animated series written for, and premiering on, The Cartoon Network in 2001. It's pretty cool.

    The pilot episode on this DVD starts out quite sombrely as the story of a young boy who watches as his father is defeated and kidnapped by the evil, shape-shifting, magic-wielding warlord named Aku (this being the Japanese word for "evil"). The young boy becomes a samurai warrior, training for the day when he can finally take on and defeat the oppressive Aku. The day of this battle arrives and the samurai meets his challenge. However, just as the samurai is about to defeat his nemesis, Aku uses his last remaining magic to fling him into the future, using a time portal. It turns out that the future is indeed a pretty bleak-place - openly Blade Runner-ish in its feel - where Aku has become the all-powerful dictator. The local youths in the future dub the strange new samurai "Jack", and help him in his quest to try to return to the past. Jack in return helps the locals fight Aku's oppressive drones.

    OK, it sounds like a pretty silly plot when you have to describe it, and it probably is. But hey, it makes for an interesting concept for a new animated series. And it must be said, this is definitely a lot better quality than your run-of-the-mill kids' animated series. It contains a very bold and stylistic animation style, some surrealistic backgrounds (all hand-drawn) and some very slick production, including great use of devices such as split-screen effects, freeze frames and slow motion to break it up visually. These aspects, along with a punchy soundtrack, quick pace and witty dialogue should broaden the cartoon's appeal to "kids (most probably boys) of all ages". If you haven't heard of this animated series before, as indeed I hadn't, then I recommend checking it out - it's a lot of fun.

    Note that the above plot synopsis summarises the pilot episode (actually 3 normal-length episodes, it would appear). Apart from this feature/pilot, this DVD also features a bonus episode from the series - and I found this one even cooler and funnier than the pilot!  The inclusion of this episode as an extra on the DVD is clever marketing by Warner Bros, as it does leave you wanting to see more. I wonder if there will be a Samurai Jack 2 DVD release?...

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This video transfer is excellent, and can't be faulted for this type of release. The video aspect ratio is naturally 1.33:1. Note that this is an NTSC transfer though, so you will need an NTSC-compatible TV to view it.

    Sharpness is fine, with excellent detail and no apparent grain. Shadow detail is obviously not relevant and there is no noise in the transfer.

    Colours in this animation are certainly striking and are very well rendered indeed on this DVD - extremely bold and well saturated, but without tending to over-saturation at all.

    There are no MPEG artefacts, no film-to-video artefacts and no source artefacts. That is, apart from the odd judder effect I noted with some of the quick pans. These might possibly be judder effects associated with the infamous NTSC "3:2 pull down", or may just have been an intentional part of the animation style. Anyway, it's hardly an issue.

    There are only English subtitles included on this disc, despite the claim on the rear cover that it also includes Spanish subtitles. I sampled the English subtitles and they are fine, only missing the odd word here and there.

This is a single layer disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

The audio transfer is all that it needs to be, being 2 channel and fulfilling its role perfectly.

    Dialogue quality is fine - audio sync being obviously less of an issue for animation - and the transfer delivers on all the levels that the driving soundtrack calls for. The stereo speakers get a good workout, and the subwoofer is also called upon fairly constantly to fill out the bottom end of the bass in the soundtrack.

    There are no sound drop-outs, audio hiss or any other anomalies.

   A surround mix probably wouldn't have really added much and so its absence is understandable.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    A great list of extras, which fill out the background to the feature and provide a great teaser of the series. All the extras are presented in 1.33:1 video and 2-channel audio. 

Featurette - Behind the Sword (10:01)

    This features insightful interviews with the producer and main animators. It sets up the story and includes some very interesting background material on the characters and the style of animation they were trying to achieve. I would recommend watching this extra prior to the feature.

Featurette - Samurai Jack Archives (8:10)

    A nice extra, featuring a sequence of artwork set to music, showcasing the progressive stages of animation, from early original design drawings through to final animation style.

Samurai Jack Bonus Episode (Episode XI of the series) (22:38)

    This episode is a hoot!  I won't give away the plot, but let me just say that the introduction of a rather burly, bagpipe-playing, name-calling, antagonistic Scottish clansman makes for a lot of fun and provides a great foil for our friend Jack! 

Poster

   Samurai Jack on one side (the same artwork as appears on the DVD cover) and the "Justice League" - ie. Superman, Batman and a rather thin Wonder-Woman, on the other.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

(Note: this section re-edited 19 September 2002.)

    The Region 4 release of this DVD misses out on: a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack (note that this is not listed on the back cover, but is present nonetheless) and a DVD-Rom feature, providing a screen saver, game and website link. The Region 1 version in turn misses out on the Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

A pity that we miss out on the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, plus the DVD Rom link for the kids. The latter I can easily live without, but it is annoying to find we miss out on a 5.1 mix just so we can get an extra language track. I am reliably informed by a reader who has this R1 release that the 5.1 mix is quite good, too.

Looks like the R1 disc is the version of choice then. However, as the disc is available here at a discount price, it will be a personal preference as to whether you feel it is worthwhile paying the extra money to import this disc.

(Many thanks to our reader JMM from Spain, for pointing out the extra 5.1 soundtrack on the R1 version - not listed in the specs.)

Summary

    Samurai Jack is a fun new animation series from The Cartoon Network. It features great characters, some bold, stylistic animation, a pacey story and some slick production. A great video and audio transfer and a nice package of extras add to the enjoyment. This is a kids animation series that doesn't take itself too seriously, but just sets out to have fun, and so consequently should appeal to "kids" of a broader range. It's pretty cool.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Abberton (read my bio)
Thursday, September 12, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using Component output
DisplayToshiba 117cm widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderYamaha RXV-1000. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationElektra Home Theatre surround power amp
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora III mains, Orpheus Centaurus 1.0 centre, Velodyne CT150 sub and B&W DM303 rears

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Comments (Add)
R1 Samurai Jack - DarkEye (This bio says: Death to DNR!)