I think we had not smoked enough drugs to properly appreciate the ambience of the show. It's pretty weird. In fact, we had to consult the Wikipedia article on Afro-Samurai to figure out what the heck the setting was.
The setting is Japan of the future, inhabited by surprisingly few Japanese and surprisingly many blacks, most of whom sound as if they're from the 'hood. The society is apparently feudal now.
In this setting, there are two great swordsmen--#1 and #2, who wear mystical headbands. The person wearing headband #1 has the powers of a god. The person wearing headband #2 is the only person who can kill #1. Therefore, everyone who seeks to become #1 must first defeat #2. Apparently, a lot of people want deital powers.
Our story begins twenty some-odd years ago, when the previous #1, our main character's father, is defeated by the previous #2, a total scumbag who is voiced by Ron Perlman. Perlman's character removes his #2 headband and ties the #1 headband around his head. Then he gives the #2 headband to Jackson's character, telling him that, when he is ready to take revenge for his father's death, to seek him out.
The first episode is pretty much nothing but a lot of guys trying to kill Afro-Samurai by any means possible. Some use swords, others use guns, and one enterprising fellow shows up with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
Anyway...This is not at all what Mark and I had hoped for. I wanted to see black people who were samurais. Instead, this is like a really bad Highlander dream-sequence episode.
For one thing, the graphic artists drawing this thing seem to have no appreciation for and no idea how to draw/animate kenjutsu. All of the combat sequences are quick-cut, flurries of scenes at different angles, none of which show the beauty of real kenjutsu.
Then you've got the totally unrealistic way Our Hero's headband ends don't hang down naturally or obey the laws of gravity. Instead, they sort of float behind him in the wind all the time, and they're very long.
Also--dig the 70's cop show music.
And dig the fact that the reason this guy is called Afro-Samurai is not because his ethnicity is African. It's because he has an Afro whose size Jimi Hendrix would envy.
Jackson's character is a man of few words--in fact, he would make Calvin Coolidge seem verbose. Can we say 'no personality?' All this guy does is walk around like Kwai-Chang Caine, be mostly silent, drink lemonade in taverns, and kill any challenger who comes after him. Oh--and he has a perfectly annoying, loud-mouthed sidekick who I would cheerfully toss over the side of a cliff if I were Jackson's character. The fact that Jackson's character doesn't toss that fellow over a cliff is the only example of bushido I saw in the episode.
There's a villain on the show who sounds like a white, Southern Baptist preacher and is ten times as annoying. Personally, I think throwing in a villain like that is both unimaginative and unrealistic. I mean, what is a Southern white boy doing in Japan?
Interestingly, I can see how this whole set-up was supposed to work. Presuming that #1 and #2 are benevolent, #2's job is to protect #1 from greedy, power-hungry people who want to take his position, and I suspect #1 is supposed to choose his heir. #1 and #2 are never supposed to be in competition with each other. Somehow, a past #2 decided he wanted the god-like power instead, and things have gone downhill ever since.
I've never seen the graphic novel on which this animated series is based, but I have a feeling that Jackson's character must both choose his heir and defeat the evil #1. Since it's only five episodes, I think I can sit through it for that long.