What it’s about: There exist two powerful artefacts in the world: a headband granting its wearer absolute godlike power, and a second headband granting its wearer the right to challenge the first to single combat. While still a child, Afro saw his father, the previous champion, slain by a mysterious gunman. From that moment, Afro swore to seek vengeance, and has pursued it with monomaniacal focus. And now, with the challenger headband in his possession, he sets off to face his destiny.
Why you should watch it: It’s stylish, stylised, and over the top. the muted palette, hip-hop soundtrack, and unique character designs make the show stand out from the crowd. The fight scenes are fantastically well-choreographed and the whole thing is the closest I’ve seen to a comic book brought to life. As an added bonus, the English dub is excellent with some truly inspired casting choices. Samuel L. Jackson plays the title character, while Ron Perlman hisses his way into a great antagonist role. If you’re a fan of gory action anime, this should be near the top of your list.
Caveats: Character development is not one of the show’s strong points. While we get to see a lot of interesting backstory for Afro, he remains the quintessential inscrutable stoic badass and little more. Likewise most of the mookish villains are a little stereotypical without much in the way of meaningful motivation. Remember that there’s a follow-up film, Resurrection, if you want more once you’re done.
Themes: Honour and the warrior’s path. Revenge. The destructiveness of obsession and the ultimate futility of violence as a solution.