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April 20, 2010
Afro Samurai Blu-Ray Review
TV Air Date Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
20079/9/2009MadmanFuminori Kizaki
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4Dolby TrueHD 5.1MA15+Samuel L. Jackson

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Visually Afro Samurai is impressive.

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!

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The after effects of a bloody battle...
While this disc contains all five episodes it's also possible to play them back to back essentially making this a movie for just over two hours. Unfortunately you will get the start and end credits for each episode which will have to be skipped. As for the actual series it's a fairly interesting story, with good characters and some impressive action sequences. There's no doubt that the animation in this TV series really is quite gorgeous with well defined characters, some great animation and visual effects.

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.

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Afro Samurai is now on Blu-Ray.
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.

While the video transfer is very impressive the audio isn't too far behind with a very respectable Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track. The speech is very clear while the surround sound channels get a bit of a workout at times too - especially during the fighting sequences. What stands out though is the wide range of music composed by RZA (from Wu-Tang Clan). It's electric and quite different to what you may expect from an anime, but suits perfectly.

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.

While it's not packed with extras there are a couple here worth checking out.

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Ohhh, look at the fireworks.
In The Booth: The Voice Talent of Afro Samurai (14:50): More then just a look at the recording sessions for this film, it's more of a Making Of documentary which covers many areas. It's a bit brief, but worth checking out.

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.

It's violent, vulgar and very much for adults but Afro Samurai is a brilliant animated TV series. You'd better also love Samuel L. Jackson as his voice is relentless throughout this series. This Blu-Ray shows the benefits of HD video quite nicely while there are a couple of extras too. If you like this series, pick up this Blu-Ray.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Madman. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.