Project #219: The Top 11 Samurai Jack Episodes

Hello and welcome to Project Nitsuj. Hey, did you hear Samurai Jack is coming back! YEAAAAAAAHHHHH! Samurai Jack is hands down the best show to ever appear on Cartoon Network. While Ed, Edd, n Eddy may be my favorite show from the channel there’s no denying that Samurai Jack was Cartoon Network’s best show. It was amazing, it was unlike any show at the time and a show that helped get me interested in anime. After years of waiting the show is finally coming back and we couldn’t be any more  hyped. So, in order to celebrate the return of Jack I’m going to name my top 11 favorite Jack episodes. Why top 11? Because I wanted to do a top 50 list but if I did we ’d be here all day. As always you’re free to disagree but do it in a nice way  and this blog will contain spoilers so read at your own discretion. Let’s rock with Jack, these are the top 11 Samurai Jack episodes.

#11. Jack and The Hunters

An overlooked episode but one that I really did enjoy watching. Aku hires these skilled lion men to capture Jack. They find Jack in the city and what happens next is one of the greatest chase scenes of all time. This episode was the first time we’ve ever seen Jack go completely on defense. Up until this point Jack has always been the one attacking but here, he has no choice but to outrun and out think his pursuers and one of the few times we’ve seen Jack have trouble fighting his opponents. In the end the lion men do capture him and instead of presenting him to Aku they let him go out of respect for Jack’s skills, quick thinking, and clever wits. An underrated episode but still one I consider to be the best as it shows off Jack’s intelligence and skills.

#10. Jack and the Lava Monster

This one is a real tearjerker. In this episode Jack gets lured into a trap set up by a lava monster who wants to fight strong opponents. Jack refuses to fight the monster because there’s no honor in this fight until the monster reveals his origin story. It turns out the monster used to be a human who was a king and had a family. That is until Aku came around. He captures the king and rather than kill him, Aku decides to make him suffer. The king is forced to watch Aku destroy his kingdom and family and then Aku plunges the king into the depths of the Earth to suffer and not be reunited with his people. He now fights hoping to die in an honorable fight against a skilled warrior and be reunited with his people. After hearing his story, Jack gives him the fight he desires going all out with Jack winning and the angels coming to take the king to Valhalla. It’s a tear jerking episode with a beautiful end for a proud man (fight here: //youtu.be/JCruvmQQSiE).

#9. Jack vs Mad Jack

Here’s another episode that always makes it on everyone’s list. A wise man once told me there is no greater enemy than thyself. Those words couldn’t be more true and this episode is a prime example of that. In the episode, Jack is constantly being attacked by bounty hunters  which annoy him to no end and make him angry. Aku sees this and uses Jack’s anger to create an evil version of himself to fight. We get another intense fight scene between the two Jacks where the forest catches on fire symbolizing Jack’s inner rage. It’s only until Jack sees a reflection of himself does he finally realize the key to defeating Mad Jack. Peace and acceptance. Mad Jack was born from Jack’s rage and the key to defeating rage isn’t more rage it’s peace. Why fight fire with fire, you’ll only make it bigger and destroy everything. Fight fire with water. I love the philosophical aspect of this episode, it reminds of the Persona series. Good fighting and good philosophy. Jack shows us that even the most annoying tricks won’t stop him in his journey.

#8. Aku’s Fairy Tales

Aku is hands down one of the best villains in animated history. He’s a disruptive being who can go from being pure evil and downright sadistic in one scene to silly and over the top in the next scene. This episode is a prime example of Aku’s comedic side. Serving as the final episode of season 1, tales of Jack begin to spread around the world and the youth are eating it up. Worried that Jack’s influence will cause a rebellion in the youth, Aku gathers all the children of the world and tells them fairy tales inserting himself as the main hero in each story. The tales are all classic fairy tales with Aku changing them up to make it look like he’s the good guy but the youth of the world are smart and aren’t falling for it. He then tries to make Jack look like the villain but once again the youth of the world aren’t falling for it. Aku finally gets frustrated and tells his end of the epic final battle between him and Jack where he defeats Jack and leaves. Once he’s gone the kids make up their own ending of the epic battle between Jack and Aku where it’s both funny, epic, and creative. This such a fun episode. Usually, the villain doesn’t care about their public image, they’re usually content with being seen as the bad guy. But here, Aku literally goes out of his way to make himself look like the good guy and get their approval. He could have easily destroyed them but he instead tries to make them like him how many villains do you see do that ? It’s a funny episode and shows us why we like Aku so much. Go back and give it a watch when you have the chance.

#7. Jack and The Haunted House/ Jack and the Zombies

I decided to put these two episodes together since they’re both horror related and are good ones at that. Starting off with Jack and The Hunted House, Jack comes across a girl in the forest who runs away from him. The girl drops a stuff ed animal so Jack chases after her to return it. His chase leads him to an old mansion which plays with Jack’s mind  as he begins to see images of what happened in the past and him trying to figure out what’s real and not. The atmosphere of this episode is amazing. It keeps building and building and letting the mood set in, bringing you into the atmosphere of the episode and even making you question what’s real. The episode also incorporates a minimalistic style of animation during the flashbacks. When you use minimal animation it’s usually done because of the budget or because the animators are lazy. Here, it’s used to scare you and give you clues into what the hell is going on and it works to great effects. This was an episode that understood horror and it still gets a good scare out of me to this day.

Jack and the Zombies was also another frightening episode. While not as frightening as The Haunted House it was an episode that gave you a rush. Jack is passing through a graveyard when all of a sudden he gets attacked by zombies and has to fight them all off. Keep in mind, this episode came out before the zombie craze so this episode had a big mountain to climb. Throughout the episode Jack is constantly being attacked by zombies and it only gets worse  when Aku shows up, takes Jack’s sword (you know, the only sword in existence that can harm Aku), and tries to kill Jack with it (why he didn’t destroy it in the first place is beyond me) so now Jack not only has to contend with zombies he has to deal with Aku without his sword. It’s one of the worst situations Jack has found himself in, yet despite all the odds Jack manages to survive the night and see the sunrise coming out victorious. The whole episode is so intense as you’re on the edge of your seat wondering how Jack is going to get out of this alive. When it’s al l done you feel as if you need take a rest from everything that’s happened. These two episodes were both scary in their own ways and pulled us in with their atmosphere that we won’t be forgetting any time soon.

#6. Jack vs Aku

With a title like this you think this is it, this is the epic final battle between Jack and Aku but no it’s a regular episode and a damn good one. After Jack gets done defeating another one of Aku’s bounty hunters, Aku approaches Jack and offers to settle their differences once and for all in one fight however Jack isn’t allowed to use his sword. Jack agrees to Aku’s condition but he also has a few conditions as well for Aku. He can’t use his supernatural powers to make himself strong, no minions, no shapeshifting, and he has to fight in human form. Aku begrudgingly agrees to Jack’s conditions and I have to say this interaction is one of the funniest moments in the show as you can tell the two don’t trust one another at all and are being so casual with each other  (scene here: //youtu.be/t7N67hn0TlA). The next day Aku and Jack fight where at first it seems like Aku is following the rules like he said he would but when he starts to lose he begins to cheat and it becomes more blatant and obvious as the fight goes on. Jack finally has enough and decides that if Aku won’t play fair than neither will he and the scenario that Aku described earlier in the episode happens. Jack swings his sword, Aku flies away saying he’ll return, and they’ll meet again next week to continue and do the same thing all over again. I love how casual Jack and Aku are in this episode. This is one of the few episodes where we see them interact with each other so much and it’s hilarious. Again, I love how Aku just goes from being this evil all-powerful being to an immature brat who refuses to accept defeat. The fight is funny, the interactions are funny, it’s just a funny episode with two characters who work off each other so well (fight here: //youtu.be/7__8uGaJFQI, //youtu.be/xrvGyOjQHGs, and //youtu.be/m2ZQxEzqA5s).

#5. Jack and the Scotsman

Always a fan favorite and for a good reason. Outside of Jack and Aku the series never really had that many reoccurring characters. Most characters were only used for one episode and never made a return. That is, except for the Scotsman who was easily one of the most popular characters in the show. While crossing a bridge, Jack runs into the Scotsman who’s in a similar situation like Jack. Neither one wants to move to let the other one through so they end up fighting each other on the bridge where they’re evenly matched. Their fight gets interrupted by bounty hunters and when the two get handcuffed to each other they have to learn to work through their differences in order to survive and defeat their pursuers. What makes this episode great is the amazing chemistry between Jack and the Scotsman (obviously because the VAs worked on Futurama together). Jack is quiet, respectful and patient while the Scotsman is loud, reckless, and impatient yet it’s their differences that make them work off each other so well. Just watch the episode and you’ll see what I mean.

#4. Jack vs. Demongo, the Soul Collector

Despite the fact that a majority of the characters were only used one time they had a lot of character and were memorable. Case in point Demongo, the Soul Collector. In the episode Demongo offers to eliminate Jack and we discover that he has the power to bring back the souls of slain fighters and control them. He uses that power to overwhelm Jack and summon an army of skilled fighters to take on Jack. Once again Jack is pushed to his limits as he has to fight against the odds and find a way to win which he does in a very clever way. Demongo was also a cool character. He had a great design, a cool power, and that chilling voice. Plus, his defeat leads to one of Aku’s best moments (scene here: //youtu.be/lxFxRXCG73M).

#3. Jack and The Spartans

How do make Frank Miller’s 300 even more epic? You add in a samurai and have the Spartans fight against robots and that’s exactly what they did with this episode. In the episode Jack comes across the Spartans fighting against an army of robots. Their fight has been going on for years and the Spartans fear they can’t keep up the fight for long. The only way the Spartans can win is by destroying the factory where the robots come from but a mountain blocks their path and they can’t risk leaving their home unprotected for long. Jack tells them of a small passage way that goes through the mountain and the king along with Jack and a few other Spartans use that passage way to reach the factory of the robots and take it down. This episode gives us some of the best fighting the series has to offer, an amazing soundtrack to go along with it and it ends on a high note. Truth be told, I wish this episode was made into a movie rather than the other 300 movies (scenes here: //youtu.be/wV95bjp7s50//youtu.be/qdw9tZ71DqI, //youtu.be/vuNreAAXeec, //youtu.be/aQNn4SGPSKc, and //youtu.be/3UmW0IXQGOA).

#2. Jack and The Three Monks

If the Spartans episode showed us Jack’s physical fortitude than this episode definitely shows us Jack’s mental fortitude. It starts off with Jack fighting a horde  of robots in order to reach a time portal only to have it get destroyed before he can use it. Jack screams out in rage saying it is impossible before walking off where he comes across some monks who are on a journey to reach the summit of a mountain which holds a great power. Intrigued by this, Jack joins the monks on their climb which proves to be quite the difficult climb. Not only does Jack have to contend with frigid temperatures but he has to fight goat-men, rock monsters, and a sasquatch. Tired and weary Jack lays in the snow admitting defeat until one of the monks reminds Jack of why he continues to fight. This gives Jack the strength to get back up and reach the summit of the mountain where the great power he finds is the power of will. Many people forget that Jack is human, just like us he has his limits and doubts and this episode shows that. Jack has come close so many times only to have it snatched away from him yet despite this he still presses on refusing to give up. This mountain is basically a representation of Jack’s journey. It seems impossible and almost pointless that it’s understandable why he would want to give up but he won’t because there’s too much at stake here. This episode shows us that no matter how impossible or long the journey is, Jack will never give up and that’s truly inspirational (scene here: //youtu.be/rZOfuPwXvQQ).

Honorable Mentions

Before naming the number one episode. Here are a few honorable mentions.

Samurai vs Ninja: A simplistic episode where Jack fights against the warrior of darkness using light. It’s a well-choreographed fight.

Tale of X9: A robot with emotions is blackmailed to kill Jack. The episode captures that Cowboy Bebop atmosphere where you feel sad for just about everyone.

The Good, The Bad, and The Beautiful: It’s a fun train fight between Jack and a bickering married couple.

Jack and the Labyrinth: Jack and Jigen from Lupin the Third  race to see who can reach an enchanted diamond in a labyrinth.

The Princess and the Bounty Hunters: The whole episode gives off that Hateful 8 vibe as a group of bounty hunters are sitting around talking about their plan to kill Jack and one of them is a princess who wants to kill Jack as leverage to save her kingdom. The outcome is awesome and sad at the same time.

The Four Seasons of Death: 4 great tales of Jack’s adventures in each of the seasons.

Jack and the Scotsman pt. 2: The Scotsman returns and needs Jack’s help to save his wife. The wife is funny as all hell.

The Scotsman saves Jack: A 2 part episode where Jack loses his memory and the Scotsman must remind him who he is.

The Premiere movie: Starting at the beginning of a series is always a good way to get into the series and this three part premiere showed us what we were getting ourselves into and why we were going to enjoy it.

The Birth of Evil: Like I said before, starting at the beginning is always a good way to get into a series and this award winning 2 part episode shows us how Aku was born, his relationship with Jack’s dad, and where the mythical sword that Jack wields comes from.

And the number one Samurai Jack episode is. . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#1. Jack Remembers the Past

I talked about this episode briefly in my Cartoon Cartoon-cember special and called it my favorite episode but let’s talk about it some more. In the episode Jack comes across the remains of his homeland where he begins to reminisce  about the past and his life as a child. We see his first kiss, who inspired him to become a samurai, and learn an important life lesson from his dad. The flashbacks are very touching as it’s nice to see that before all this Aku mess happened Jack lived a very happy and peaceful life. Another positive thing about this episode is there’s almost no dialog ue at all. One of the great things about this series is its ability to tell a story without dialog ue. You could honestly mute an episode and quickly piece together what’s going on, what this character is feeling, what this character is up to, and so on. That’s a sign of good storytelling. In this episode, there is barely any dialog ue. All we have to do is just watch what’s happening and we can easily figure out what’s happening and why. It’s a beautiful episode and it ends with a robot asking Jack for help and him running off to fight as we hold on an image of his parents watching across time and seeing the wonderful and brave person their son has become.

And those were my top 11 Samurai Jack episodes. I hoped you enjoyed, let me know what your favorite Samurai Jack episode is in the comments below. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next time on Project Nitsuj.

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