Seems like the time has come for combing through the tombs of cartoon yesteryear. Last week the Cartoon Network announced its plans to revive “Samurai Jack,” originally cancelled in 2004, sometime next year.
Hyper-stylized and cinematic, the series has developed about as much of a cult following that a western-action cartoon can. The show follows around the titular Jack, a samurai flung into the distant future by the shape-shifting demon Aku, as he searches for a portal back to his own time and cuts the heads off many a robotic beetle-creature along the way.
What still stands out about “Samurai Jack” over the decade since it first aired is how quiet the show was, especially for an action cartoon — not usually the most somber of genres. Jack himself had few lines of dialogue over the course of each episode. It had a really fantastical vision of the future, usually stuffed with some form of robot destined for a slicing, aforementioned beetles or otherwise.
I was a big fan of the show when it first aired, and I’m glad to see new episodes coming about, but I’m actually pretty surprised at the news of the revival. Bringing television shows — and cartoons in particular — back from the dead isn’t exactly uncharted territory, but I can’t help but feel that the nostalgia factor is being mined more and more with each announcement of a returning series.
Revivals themselves are not necessarily a bad thing — the last few seasons of “Futurama” that cropped up after that show was resurrected managed to keep the feel and gags of the original show alive. But it feels like a safe bet when creators tap an existing fan base, rather than strike out with something new — especially considering how much good TV is coming out nowadays.
After the initial jolt of excitement at seeing the announcement of any blast of nostalgia, some skepticism should follow. Even if the new season of the show perfectly preserves the spirit of the original (which is hard enough in its own right), that doesn’t necessarily guarantee a second round of success. Often the show you remember and the show you actually watched are two very different things.
For instance, as well-done as the second coming of “Futurama” was, after the initial hubbub died down and the nostalgia rager receded to half-chub, the show just sort of became another option among others. An existing loyal fanbase and memes didn’t save it from eventually facing a second axe in 2013. Creator Matt Groening is supposedly shopping the show around again aiming for a third revival.
Sometimes things just run their course. I’m sure “Jack” will be on my radar when the new season does come about. Between the time of the initial announcement and the actual airing I think I’ll have time to view it as more of what it actually is — a cartoon — rather than what I fear it might be trying to be — a childhood memory.
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