Samurai Jack is the best cartoon that’s ever existed

Genndy Tartakovsky’s Samurai Jack needs a Region 2 DVD release, never mind a movie

Samurai Jack aired 2001 to 2004 on Cartoon Network in the US
Samurai Jack aired 2001 to 2004 on Cartoon Network in the US

There are some things that you never ever want to be caught watching by other people. It could be Loose Women, Pingu, the ten minute preview… whatever they are you’ll be reaching for the remote to change the channel, hurriedly explaining ‘I JUST PUT IT ON AS BACKGROUND NOISE.’

I did this once, only to accidentally change the channel to Eurotrash. Well done me.

Cartoons get the same treatment, which is a shame, as sometimes they’re ten times smarter and more sophisticated than shows aimed at adults.

There’s a reason Adventure Time has most people going loopy at the minute.

However! Easily the best cartoon that ever existed was Samurai Jack (not to be confused with the anime Violence Jack, which is amazing in its own terrible way ). Samurai Jack was the brainchild of Genndy Tartakovsky, a man with a staggering CV. He can boast the likes of Dexter’s Laboratory, the Powerpuff Girls, and the original animated Star Wars: Clone Wars series, which is about the only good thing to come from George Lucas’s dementedly awful prequels (apart from Anakin’s chat up lines, dude’s a playa). It also towers over the CG Clone Wars series, although that’s something for another article.

Samurai Jack is the tale of a stoic Samurai called Jack, who finds himself stuck in the distant future trying to return to his own time, battling idiots from the future as his nemesis, a shapeshifting Dark Lord called Aku, who is equal parts despicable and brilliantly likeable.

It ran on Toonami for a while, and I happened upon it by accident (honestly, I was looking for documentaries about sharks and that) during the summer holidays, housesitting for my folks, and quickly became enamoured with this incredibly smart, stylish sleek little show. That entire summer consisted of walking dogs, working in warehouses and watching Samurai Jack. Line up ladies.

Samurai Jack and Clone Wars creator Genndy Tartakovsky
Samurai Jack and Clone Wars creator Genndy Tartakovsky

Samurai Jack worked so well, because Jack (a classic man out of time) largely played it straight, letting the insanity of the world around him speak for itself. It was full of genres that shouldn’t have meshed: steampunk, sci-fi, the supernatural, Japanese lore, western iconography etc. It reads like a list of things someone sticks in their hideous slash fiction, but Tartakovsky’s greatest triumph is that he and his team made it all seem coherent. Nothing felt out of place, be it the ancient beings, aliens, warlocks or the Scotsman with the machine gun for a leg (voiced by Bender from Futurama). It was a simple story, brilliantly told.

Basically, it was perfect and, given the scope and ambition of the series, surprisingly subtle. It never overpowered the senses or became obnoxious, and was always witty, engaging and easy to watch. It was perfect television…

AND IT ISN’T OUT ON DVD IN THE UK.

I remember as a student reading in a magazine (it was one of the enemy publications, and I’m liable to be flogged if I mention them. Probably) that it was due a box set release in the UK. This was 2005/2006.

That’s almost eight years of waiting. I’m closer to death now than to drunken stupors and failing exams. Just what on earth happened? How come rotten anime and all other kinds of horrendous toss is released at a rate of knots, but one of the best shows ever hasn’t? It’s a disgrace.

The series by that point had been cancelled, and we never found out if Jack got the better of Aku. However all is not lost. Tartakovsky has acknowledged the love that the show had, and has plans for a movie, although he’s had plans for a movie for the last decade or so, so maybe it’s just a pipe dream. If it happens though perhaps we could see some closure to the tale and the release of the show over here on blu ray or DVD? Please? Pretty please?

Basically, if you know anyone involved in the show or any kind of Cartoon Network distribution, give them a squeeze, eh? It’s not fair that The Big Bang Theory is allowed to exist, while I and others (it could just be me, I’ve no idea) sit around twiddling our thumbs waiting for more from a show that was heinously ended before it’s time. Start threads on forums, send indignant emails to relevant parties and man the tweetdecks proclaiming your love for the show.

You never know, someone might listen.

You can pick up Samurai Jack Seasons 1-4 on Region 1 DVD for £60.71 from Amazon.co.uk.