Samurai Jack review

05.25.2017 § Leave a comment

I just wanted to drop in here to share my opinion on the resolution of the Samurai Jack series.


I thought it was deep, both emotionally and intellectually. Deeper than earlier seasons ever came close to.

What happened was not surprising, but the impact it had was far more complex than I was expecting.

In the earlier run of the show, the time travel element of the show’s premise was little more than enablement, to pit an ancient Japanese warrior with traditional values and powers against various weird, technologically advanced forces from across the galaxy. Frequently, episodes would present the tension between Jack’s quest to return to the temporal root of the evil he sought to vanquish, and how his noble heart would nonetheless invariably sacrifice that goal to protect denizens of this horrible future. But that’s as far as things got.

In this reunion concluding season, this issue gets leveled up in a natural yet profound way. Jack must go beyond merely protecting this world to accepting it. As we glimpse in a couple episodes from the old run, often Jack’s battle becomes internal – against clones of himself, his anger itself, or inside his head in some haunted Japanese cottage I think. But here in season 5, Jack wins when he admits feelings of love.

This signals far more than, say, Trinity’s admission of love for Neo, merely fulfilling a prophesy that he is thereby The One. This is the fundamental battle that Jack has just won, not against Aku, but against his failure to Be Here Now, to live in the moment. In this season he begins in a spiritual place where hope is lost, and he has accepted that happiness exists only for him in memories. He is correct about the problem, but wrong about the solution. The problem is that happiness exists only for him in memories, but the solution is not suicide, but existentialism. Yes he must accept that he will never get back to the past, but his response to that must be to find happiness in this hell of a future.

It is a critical point early in the season that Aku informs Jack that the final time portal home has been destroyed. This is not trickery; it is the brutal truth, and it is a metaphor for the pain of separation all souls feel from the world they wish to belong to.

And ironically the moment Jack accepts that he will never get back to the past and does not need it is the moment he attains nirvana and thereby is granted the doorway back, through Ashi’s inheritance of Aku’s powers, including time travel.

Delightfully for us, both the future Aku and the past Aku meet ends of sorts. The future Aku realizes his folly in indulging the worshipping of the world he enslaves. This sets up a framework in which evil is associated with undoing and good is associated with preservation, where evil is associated with time and good with timelessness. Evil can create, but destructively, and unstably, through change. It can propagate but in ways that will negate itself ultimately. When good creates, what it creates is invincible, and can never be undone, transcending.

It is fitting that he locus for Jack’s acceptance and admission of love for the horrible future is the literal most direct creation of Aku’s, his daughter. This enters into some Gnostic themes, where the creator entity, or demiurge, is understood to be evil. What Jack is accepting at the deepest level is that evil plays a role in creating all that we hold sacred. The final image of the show is Jack sitting under the sakura trees, which in Japanese symbology represent ephemerality. Beauty is made out of a union between good and evil, here, because yes the evil of time makes short work of something pretty, but it also gives birth to it, and the knowledge of that beauty and appreciation for its fleetingness exists outside of the entire system.

What a mindfuck, I must say, that in this show what is ephemeral is a timeline itself. So meta. Much amaze. Very wow.

It is tragic that Jack’s battle is still not over, even after vanquishing Aku. Aku never got to appreciate any period of victory, being from his perspective in the past vanquished mere moments after his attempt to fling Jack into the future. But Jack has the tables turned. Where before the happiness in his memories was of something understood to be past, now the happiness that exists in his memory is of something which to him is past but to the rest of the world is an alternate future which is not to be. He could if he was weak experience the same problem of melancholy, missing Ashi and the life they could have lived together. But instead he signals that he accepts his role, not as a burden, but as an honor, to be the mind which preserves those memories. This is signaled with his smile as he encounters the ladybug, the thing which for Ashi helped with her awakening.

Some reviews I’ve seen complain that in the final episode Jack didn’t have enough banter with Aku. I believe this was by design. Aku is not Jack’s true enemy. The battle was elsewhere. Aku is destroyed when Jack moves past him. All he gets is one last YAAAAAAAA from Jack and death.


Others complained that Jack didn’t get to say or get to say goodbye to anyone, like the Scotsman. I believe this is also by design. How brutal and unsatisfactory is this feeling.
Others complained that Ashi shouldn’t have lingered on as long as she did. I thought this had some poetic truth to this time logic poetic license.

Other random notes:

  • Clever that the opening credits from the original series gets revealed to all along have been Aku propaganda.
  • Ashi is the same kanji as Aku, which both mean evil.
  • Scaramouche was amazing.

Dream 501: Triangulation

05.25.2017 § Leave a comment

I’m waiting tables at a cafe on New Years Eve when a patron karate chops my crotch from his booth. I ask my manager what my options are for pressing sexual harassment charges.

Karin and I are partying at Ernest’s basement warehouse when I realize I’ve left our blanket unattended in the entryway kiva. Sure enough it’s gone. Karin reminds me that the blanket has a tracking device on it which enables me to pinpoint the cell phone number of the person currently in possession of it. I call the number and get a gruff lawyer with a Middle Eastern accent. Karin poopoos my lack of assertiveness on the phone with this guy – he doesn’t even apologize for stealing our property, and while he’s willing to return it, I agree to meet him at Adam’s place to pick it up rather than have him return it to me since he’s far too busy to do it all himself (though I don’t know, maybe it was smart of me not to give the general whereabouts of my residence). That said, Karin does have a point that it was my bad for losing it in the first place.

Film Micrœview #360: Fitzcarraldo (1982)

05.19.2017 § Leave a comment

Rating: Dr. Pepper.

Pure cinema magic.

The 80’s music is weird, though. I’d forgotten about that part.

Dream 500: Shoddy

05.19.2017 § Leave a comment

I’m in a shop, naked. I cover my genitals with a jacket, should be fine, no one cares that much about butts anyway, though I do feel a bit out of place. The clerk hands me something I didn’t buy and pressures me to steal it.

Karin and I have moved into a new apartment inside a complex whose courtyard is indoors and modeled after a suburban house, just gigantic. The spiral staircase has no railings and is made of irregularly shaped stained glass flower bouquets. Karin is knitting something with a thread she’s pulling from the edge of the upstairs floor and wall; I can see over the banister that the thread continues through the floor we’re on and its origin is in the downstairs carpet (which is more like a straw weave, really).

Karin’s dad is brushing his teeth at the sink in the shower, but there’s a scary spider on the mirror.

I’m sorting Tristram’s library.

Film Micrœview #359: A League of Their Own (1992)

05.17.2017 § Leave a comment

Rating: Good.

I’ve seen this movie a million times. Just needed to expose my girlfriend to it so she could pick up on my family’s constant referencing of it.

I never realized before that Hans Zimmer did the score, though now I can totally hear it.

This movie is so damn fun, one can almost forgive the weird amount of slut-shaming of Mae, body-shaming of Marla Hooch, and the unpunished sexual harassment of Jimmy Duggan. And I don’t know quite what to think of the moment where a black woman impresses Dottie with a powerful lob; she is literally the only person of color in the entire picture. I guess the film is being honest about the state of gender and race relations at the time. But there’s something concerning about how some of the moments, like this one with the black woman, or another where a woman receives a serious injury while performing a standard baseball activity (sliding) because of the sexually exploitative and impractical costumes they are required to wear, are relegated to bits in montage sequences.

Something has always bothered me, in a good way, about the frame story centering the story on Dottie. I appreciate the historical contexualization of the women’s league, and don’t mind a little sappy excess in a feel-good dramedy like this, but it plays into the balance between Dottie and her sister Kit in a way I can’t fully get my head around. The conflict between the overshadowed and the overshadower is a fascinating one to explore, especially with so many other characters caught in the mix, and especially with their true sisterly love for each other shining strongly even through the darkest, most competitive moments. These are just two strong, flawed, proud, sensitive, unforgettable characters. They don’t write ’em like this anymore.

Film Micrœview #358: Orlando (1992)

05.16.2017 § Leave a comment

Rating: Bad.

I had seen this movie before and remembered it fondly enough to recommend it to my girlfriend who is a Tildaphile. But she isn’t even that good in this. And nice costumes I guess, but this is just way too self-satisfied of itself, gushing with naïve pretention. I admit I never read the book.

Billy Zane is an auto-ventrilloquist. He somehow throws his own voice into himself. It’s like only his speaking part’s audio is out of sync with the picture. I don’t understand how he makes so many mouth sounds and yet so little of it is comprehensible language, without overtly garbling his words. Fascinating and infuriating fellow, only in the film for five minutes.

Dream 499: Double Helix

05.13.2017 § Leave a comment

Vince is such a baller. With a band, a food catering business, and now this fancy tea business exploding, he’s gonna be rich. I nod off alone on the lower table in the center of the room while Vince and friends at the upper table get served their pork belly and strawberries. I wake up in time to get some scraps. The two women outside notice they’re missing out as well – I accidentally hand one of them an empty elliptical serving plate instead of a circular person plate.

Karin and I are playing mini golf in Fremont at night. A Muni train passes on the elevated tracks above. Our companion, also named Doug, asks us whether we’re taking Muni or bringing our car along camping.

Doug leads us down the helical staircase around the inside of the massive cylindrical chamber below the course. Doug, half-Korean and somewhat gangsta, handles returning our bowling shoes to the full-Asian gangsta guard while Karin and I slip out unnoticed.

Karin shows me the scar she’s received on her inner thigh from Doug’s ice skates. I begin to question the nature of her attraction to this Doug character…

Unfortunately Karin and I get separated. I’m able to hack my way outside, noticing a doorway which, just to the side of the bottom of the left frame, has a doghair-covered notecard reading state.setProps, which I recognize as some React code I can exploit. Further unfortunately, on the other side of the door is not quite out yet, but a half-cylindrical cell of sorts, and I can hear guard dogs approaching – they’ll be able to bite my face through the slits at head-level, and I don’t have enough room to back far enough away from them. Fortunately, I find a little plastic toy candle inside a poster on the wall which is able to transform them into cuddly Shiba Inus.


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