Afro Samurai isn't a movie, but rather a TV series containing five episodes approximately 26 minutes each, with the series first appearing on TV screens in 2007. Now the series is out on Blu-Ray and with voiceovers from Samuel L. Jackson, John Di Maggio, Ron Pearlman and Phil LaMarr this is a series that really sounds the part, and has the visuals, and storyline, to match.
In a strange world of swords, guns, kimonos, cell phones and cybernetics, Afro Samurai has at last achieved the rank of #2 fighter in the world. With this rank comes the exclusive right to challenge the #1: the man known as Justice and his father's killer. Pursued by enemies who covet the #2 title and the rights it grants, Afro battles forward with sidekick Ninja Ninja in tow, cutting a bloody path of revenge!
We must point out that yes, while this is an animated TV series this isn't a show for youngsters. The Blu-Ray set has been awarded an MA15+ rating with the warning "Strong Animated Violence, Strong Sexual References" and indeed there is a lot of violence and blood in the episodes. As for sexual references we didn't really see too much however there is also a lot of swearing. Still, this all adds to the realism and charm of the series.
Admittedly I'm not a massive anime fan but there are some movies and TV shows which I really do enjoy. Afro Samurai is one such franchise which will have me coming back for more - in part due to my love of Samuel L. Jackson. Animation quality is exceptional and this is one of the best franchises in recent years.
Afro Samurai is presented on Blu-Ray at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and fills you entire HDTV as a result. The 1920 x 1080p video has been encoded with the AVC MPEG-4 codec and while the bitrate is a little low at times the video quality is quite stunning with bold colours, distinct lines and a brilliant anime style. We did notice some very light compression here and there (when Afro is falling though the clouds at the 1:13:30 to 1:13:44 for instance) but overall fans of this series really couldn't hope for anything better. Given the lack of any film artifacts we have to assume this is taken directly from a digital source.
The only other audio option is a fairly decent Dolby Digital 2.0 track encoded at 448kbps which, while lacking surround sound channels, still puts up a decent show. Unfortunately there are no subtitle tracks on the Afro Samurai Blu-Ray.
RZA music production tour (4:53): This brief featurette looks at the influence which RZA had on the project and finding the music to suit the storyline.
Interview & character profiles with commentary by Eric Calderon (23:42): This feature looks at the characters in the TV show and how they were designed and incorporated.
Review By: Dave Warner