U.S., Japanese pop culture meld in 'Afro Samurai'
Assassins attempt to ambush a tall figure with a towering mop of black hair: They covet his ancient headband that identifies the wearer as the No. 1 warrior in the world. A long sword flashes as the dark-skinned samurai silently hacks through his enemies' limbs and skulls. Having reduced his assailants to human sashimi, he walks on, accompanied on the soundtrack by low-pitched rap lyrics.
"Afro Samurai: Resurrection," which comes out on DVD Tuesday, amps up the adventures of the black warrior who burst onto the animation scene in 2007. Taciturn and deadly, Afro (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) fights his way through a weird, post-apocalyptic world.
"Afro Samurai" exemplifies the increasing confluence of American and Japanese pop cultures. It's based on a manga by Takashi Okazaki and was animated at the Gonzo studio in Japan, where the anime hits "Samurai 7," "Full Metal Panic!" and "Gurren Lagann" were produced. Fuminori Kizaki directed the film, which was created for an American market, with Hollywood stars Jackson, Lucy Liu and Mark Hamill providing the voices. It aired on Spike TV last month.
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-- Charles Solomon
(Photo courtesy Takashi Okazaki / Gonzo / Spike TV)