Samurai Jack Vs Avatar The Last Airbender: Which Is Better?

Which Is Better; Samurai Jack or Avatar The Last Airbender?

  • Avatar The Last Airbender

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I Hate Both... I Don't Know Why I"m Here Either Honestly

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters

Neo Ultra Mike

Creeping Shadow of "15000"+ Posts
May 18, 2006
East Northport
In the 2000s, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon launched two of the most beloved cartoons not only of the decade and of this century but especially for American television, ever in the history of the medium. Though borrowing heavily from not only anime but Japanese customs and traditions, these were also clearly western series with their own unique mythos, featuring heroes who through freak circumstance travel from one period of time to the other, discovering an evil that needs to stopped only through their hands. With incredible animation, a solid impressive score and amazing voice over performances (including Mako whose sad passing in 2006 meant the final seasons of these series had Greg Baldwin come in to voice the characters the legendary Japanese actor had once portrayed) these shows left a legacy beyond just their incredible action and heart that will likely be felt for many generations. However despite having a lot of similarities, the two are quite different which means there will likely be quite a few differences of opinions. Still though, it's a question worth asking and certainly one answering as I pose to you dear friends and members of the anime super hero forum which back when these shows debuted was simply called Toonzone, the following;

Which Is Better: Samurai Jack, Or Avatar The Last Airbender?

.... This is something I had meant to ask like 4 years ago but kept either forgetting or not having the time too but zoombie having a thread about Avatar vs Gargoyles finally made me remember this and take the time to ask this right. I'm sure you all have your own opinions on this. As for me? .... Hmmm... tough. Especially since yeah both excel at so many fields. Maybe I should lay some catergories down and compare who does what better?

STORY - Yeah there's no debate this is a winner for AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER. Granted that may not even be fair as Cartoon Network may not of allowed Samurai Jack to even have much of a story so they could for the most part play whatever episode they wanted in any order, but I'm sure that was a restriction that some producers tried putting on Avatar the team wouldn't allow. The Avatar team had a clear goal of what they wanted to do and made sure the show reflected that; unlike Samurai Jack whose mission of defeating Aku was for the most part pretty open ended, Avatar made clear pretty early on Aang was on a time crunch where "no you need to take out Ozai in a few months or else you've pretty much lost" thus ensuring there wouldn't be seasons upon seasons of filler where nothing happened. Instead events and plot points, especially in the second and third season did impact our heroes and change up the routine and status quo, leading to a satisfying ending. IMHO SJ also had a satisfying ending and I do appreciate the finale season trying a bit more for story, but even then the story had some pretty obvious pacing issues and yeah never connected as much as ATLA did to itself overall, meaning it in this category is the weaker offering.

ACTION - However in this category SAMURAI JACK is the clear obvious winner. Which I'm sure some of you will find odd because "doesn't Avatar have more people in it and more combat styles that allow for more variety as well as a more generally epic scale" which yeah you could say somewhat. And obviously the action in Avatar The Last Airbender isn't a slouch; it's all very well choreographed and planned out and obviously flows very well. However a huge problem is that due to the nature of having to be a family show with a strict Y7 rating there's only so much impact and force that can be put behind each battle or skirmish. And though you do see people hurt and occasionally may even see a death, it just doesn't have the impacts and force the fights in Samurai Jack have. Yeah until the last season there are obvious Y7 censorship with Jack as well thus unless it's a monster or robot Jack can't just off someone but having a lot of those creatures does mean you actually do see opponents being taken out and actually see more often Jack taking damage and struggling more clearly then you do in a lot of Team BoomerAANG's fights. Especially when a fair amount of time a lot of the big hits are either through bending or are done more comedic so it's hard to connect with as much. SJ feels more visceral and despite the fact Jack mostly uses his sword there's still tons of variety as he is a weapons master with tons of unique skill the show does take advantage of.

CHARACTERS - Obvious winner is AVATAR. Great as Jack and Aku are as characters those are the only two you really get in a majority of the show. In fact even counting the 5th season there's only what 5 reoccuring characters between Scotsman, Ashi and Scaramouche as in characters who have been in more then like 3 to 4 episodes? Yeah there's a lot of interesting one shots but the small structure and constant traveling with just the one hero means the development and interactions arent going to be nearly as great. With Avatar though you can just have simple episodes just about the main characters interacting amongst themselves not even doing that much and still have a lot of greatness. Aang, Sokka and Katara have incredible chemistry that only grows when Toph is brought in. And of course that's not even including everyone's favorite characters Zuko and Iroh as yeah the fire bending prince as the sort of complicated morality SJ may touch on with a one shot or two but having a 3 seasons spanning arc all about their development and where their allegiances truly lie? You got maybe 3 episodes of that with Ashi but that's nowhere near as good as Zuko's development. And the fact there are more characters in Avatar to talk about (didn't even need to bring up fan favorites like Azula, Ty Lee or Mai among many others) and that is going to get them the particular nod here.

ARTISTRY -This one has to go to SAMURAI JACK. I mean both shows are ridiculously well animated and have a lot of talent behind them, but Samurai Jack just a more unique engaging presentation. Probably because though it does have anime tropes it also isn't doing really the overexaggerated sweat drops or face faults or chibi images and tropes you do see pop up much more in Avatar who feels like it's borrowing that look more while Samurai Jack is much more of it's own thing. Also SJ can just build on ambidance and the visuals without needing to say anything or even have music. It can just allow you to appreciate the images presented on screen which is just so rare of any western cartoon it has to be commended. It also is more consistent throughout the seasons. With Avatar you can tell there was much more an upgraded between seasons of how the characters looked and moved and can also tell more which studio may of animated which episode as some studios for it are better then others and that flow is directed in how the characters move and interact with the environment and one another. Again ATLA looks good but SJ is on a whole other level that yeah it has to get the point.

DRAMA - An advatnage Samurai Jack has is that it can just do an episode without any comedy whatsover. ATLA could never do something like "Jack And The Spartans" that went 22 minutes without telling one joke whatsoever and instead could just totally sell you on the drama of the story without a character having to make a snide come back or observation whatsoever. I think it also helps that due to the fact Jack's general quest doesn't really progress until well the end of his journey and even then there are consequences there is a more generally well built in drama and just allowing those moments like when Jack recalls the village where he grew up or is about to give into total despair matter that much more. And it can say a lot more without having to speak but yeah this is where that lack of characters also hurts the show. Avatar has the advantage of having characters with differing issues that it can focus on building up through episodes or arcs; Aang having to weigh in on whether he can break his airbending code to kill an opponent; Katara's desire for vengance on the person who killed her mother; Sokka admitting to Toph he can't even remember his own mother because of how long ago she died; heck all of Zuko's flashbacks showing how he got his scar or the loss of his own mother and how that impacted his family. These are moments and arcs and episodes that really do put the characters through the ringer and build the drama and yeah having so many and them being done so well does have to give the point to AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER. It is closer then some of the other poitns but yeah Avatar having those relationships has that drama that Jack does lack.

COMEDY - Now unlike most cartoons these two shows don't always have to have their focus on making you laugh or chortle at all but that doesn't mean either lacks it. As yeah both do have moments of comedy, though both can have their weakness. With Avatar it's sometimes relying on the comic relief character (Sokka) too much to the point where it stops becoming as much funny as it is annoying especially beating down over and over on the guy. You don't have that problem in SJ as when they do comedy episodes they focus on the right angle to either make Jack or Aku incredibly entertaining be it their more serious reactions to silly events (Jack thinking he spots Aku in the "Jack Is Naked" episode and goes on the attack for what winds up being a staged puppet) or attempts at being intimidating obviously fizzling out (Aku reading fairy tales that the kids keep pointing out flaws of that makes him just wind up giving up because of his frustration at the end), but never indulge it to the point of becoming obnoxious or just turning the characters into jokes. And you know unlike drama where it's harder to feel that over one off, sometimes just having one off silly ideas is fine where you can max the potential off that and just move along. Whether it's jack having to pretend he's a Mobster or getting mixed up in a pair of arguing married bounty hunters, these one offs leave an impression on the viewer even if only in one episode. However the weakness of Samurai Jack is that the writing and actual dialogue and exchanges usually aren't nearly as clever as a fair amount of the comedy depends on the visual or the situation. Sometimes the writing can be great (Jack and Aku arguing semnatics on what their last duel should be in "Jack Vs Aku" for instance) but often times it feels too basic to be funny relying either on obnoxious references for the joke ("This will lead to the dragon's lair" "where does the other one go?" "Space Ace" ... I know a lot of people like that exchange but I never did even when I got the joke behind it) or the material just not being as good. This is something that isn't nearly as much of a problem in AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER. Yeah they can beat on certain characters or siutations too much for a joke but there is more wit involved in the exchanges that sell the comedy more at the end of the day for me.

So yeah overall I would have to give the edge to Avatar The Last Airbender but both are great shows I think are worth talking about and comparing to one another and hope you guys are able to do so here. I think years back there was a thread for vsing these shows but that was before SJ was finished. Now that both have their main quest done which do you feel is the best and why?


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