Samurai Jack has made a couple of noticeable changes in the show’s fifth season, mostly in regards to the more macabre and sorrowful tone it’s taken on, but one of the more visual changes is catching people off guard.
In the first four seasons, Aku’s facial features are more accentuated. He has a red lining surrounding his teeth and black eyelids that make his face look a little more human. In the new season, the red line has been removed, as have Aku’s eyelids. Even though this has been the case since the first episode this season, people are just beginning to notice how different it makes the character look.
An example of the old Aku and the newer version can be seen in the side-by-side below, which was uploaded by Reddit user LamboDiabloSVTT. In the first photo, you can clearly see the red outline around Aku’s mouth and the half-lidded eyelids. In the second photo, the eyelids have disappeared as has the red line.
This may not seem like a big deal to some, but the art style and attention to detail is something that creator Genndy Tartakovksy has talked about before. Tartakovsky told Comic Book Resources that as someone who has written and drawn for comics — and as someone who identifies as an artist above all else — being able to hand draw shows like Samurai Jack and pay close attention to detail was a big point of pride for him.
“There’s nothing like drawings that big, moving that beautifully with that kind of beautiful color and storytelling,” Tartakovsky said. “It’s a completely different experience than CG. CG is very detailed and slick. It’s beautiful in its own right, but it’s very real. It’s obvious through all of my work that I do like a point of view on things. I don’t like to just mimic reality. I think that’s what makes us artists, in a way. I wanted to make sure no matter what I did — whether it be CG or hand drawn — that you could say, only Genndy could do that.”
Now that Aku’s change has been recognized by fans, they’ve pointed out how it hasn’t felt right for the past four episodes knowing that something was off but not being able to recognize what that was.
“Samurai Jack is a little more extreme because the shapes and figures are so simple. The smallest change is actually a character redesign,” one fan wrote.
Here’s another side-by-side. The first photo of Aku is from the first season, and the one underneath it is from the fifth season.
Tartakovsky hasn’t spoken about the softer changes made to Aku, but has admitted it was difficult trying to usher in a new art style for Samurai Jack’s fifth season. In an interview with Indiewire, Tartakovsky said he eventually felt comfortable with the change, but the pressure was always there to make it feel as hand-crafted as possible.
“The hardest part was trying to make it feel hand-crafted,” Tartakovsky said. “Digitally [with TVPaint], you can do so much, so fast, but getting an organic look is difficult. Scott Wills, our production designer, spent a lot of time creating brushes in the computer that mimic hand brushes. Each texture was unique.”
Samurai Jack airs Saturday nights at 11 p.m. ET on Adult Swim. This is the final season — and the end of the story — for Jack.