Monday, February 7, 2011

Acceptable Violence: Afro Samurai

NOTE: The video was taking too long to upload into the text so I included the link. Please watch
before you read the rest of this post.
This is the opening scene from Afro Samurai Resurrection, the sequel to the five part series that was Afro Samurai. The Afro Samurai (the series, not Resurrection I actually haven't seen it) tells the tale of Afro, a black samurai (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) who is trying to find and kill the wearer of the No. 1 headband. Along his journey Afro is constantly attacked for his No.2 headband which allows its wearer to challenge the wearer of the No. 1.
The violence that follows Afro wherever he goes are some of the most graphic scenes that I have ever seen in animation. Blood spurting, heads flying and disembowelment reign supreme. The violence in the series is exaggerated to an enormous extent. Each man in Afro Samurai's world seems to carry the blood of five men in the real world within his body. The violence in Afro Samurai may be over the top, but it is also some of the most stylistically enrapturing viewing experiences that I've ever had. That fact coupled with badass one-liners Afro Samurai is any teenage boy's (or overgrown teenage man) dream.
The violent acts are where Afro Samurai's "cool" factor is anchored. Simply shooting someone just doesn't cut the stylistic mustard for most nowadays. If someone isn't flipping, somersaulting, or jumping down from obscene heights to execute flawless killing maneuvers then it isn't worth watching. Just look at the film industry's obsession with spies and other highly trained personnel. These now cliche backgrounds were concocted as a logical explanation for why these people can awe us with their abilities. Afro Samurai, however, doesn't need this. His credit comes from the samurai sword and joint that he carries with him everywhere he goes. Afro Samurai, more importantly, also illustrates the way in which extreme violence can become warranted in the audience's eyes.
Afro is the quintessential anti-hero who NEVER fights unless provoked first; however, when provoked the fight can only end in gruesome death for his opponent. The idea that once someone attempts to hurt you they have given up all of their rights to their life (or any other body part) is something that the American viewing audience has come to accept. Violence, once called for, gives the combatants carte blanche as far as most people are concerned.

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