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'Samurai Jack' Knows the Score

August 10, 2001|STEVEN LINAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Move over, Powerpuff Girls. Cable's Cartoon Network has a new hero, and his name is "Samurai Jack."

Square-jawed and resourceful, his mission is to vanquish Aku, the evil, shape-shifting wizard who has dominated humanity throughout the ages.

Created by Genndy Tartakovsky, this stylish adventure series owes at least part of its inspiration to Japanese animation or anime. In tonight's 90-minute premiere, Tartakovsky places an emphasis on action and pacing, relying on striking art direction and James L. Venable's evocative score.

A cross between Bruce Lee and Clint Eastwood, Jack (voiced by Phil La Marr) is the strong, silent type--a man of few words. Some of those words aren't always grammatical, but rest assured he is a noble, nimble, tireless hero.

Jack's weapon of choice is an enchanted sword formerly used by his father, a benevolent emperor of Japan who imprisoned Aku (voiced by Mako) in the distant past. In their first showdown, the devious Aku banishes Jack to a bizarre future filled with flying cars and exotic creatures, the latter straight out of "Star Wars."

One can quibble with some of the dialogue, which sounds like something you'd hear in "Karate Kid 2" ("Let the sword guide you to your fate, but let your mind set free the path to your destiny").

Nonetheless, there is one highly unconventional aspect of the series which sets it apart from others--its willingness to go for extensive stretches in which there is no dialogue. Tonight, for example, Tartakovsky lays out two 10-minute sequences underscored solely by Venable's music.

We'd like to see Bubbles, Buttercup and Blossom try that.

*

"Samurai Jack: The Trilogy" can be seen tonight at 7 and 8:30 on Cartoon Network. New episodes will be shown Mondays at 8 p.m., with repeats shown Fridays at 7 p.m.

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