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|“||Long ago in a distant land, I, Aku, the shapeshifting Master of Darkness, unleashed an unspeakable evil! But a foolish Samurai warrior, wielding a magic sword, stepped forth to oppose me. Before the final blow was struck, I tore open a portal in time and flung him into the future, where my evil is law! Now the fool seeks to return to the past, and undo the future that is Aku!||„|
|~ Aku during the opening sequence of Samurai Jack.|
Aku is the main antagonist of Samurai Jack. He is a ruthless, cruel, greedy, vicious, dark-souled, heartless, and manipulative demon who is an extremely accomplished, resourceful, and competent archenemy of Samurai Jack. He is easily one of the most successful cartoon villains, as he managed to rule the world, and has been unstoppable for years. It is also later implied that he is actually created by a black virus that is the true ultimate evil.
Aku tends to switch back and forth between being played for laughs, and being a truly threatening villain. He would either do something pettily "villainous" not to be taken too seriously, like telling stories to children to make them like him instead of Jack, or be extremely ruthless, like causing genocide, and enslaving innocents, depending on the episode.
Originating long ago in the depths of space as a formless evil Aku was banished by the gods Odin, Ra, and Vishnu in order to protect the universe from his influence - yet a small shard of the great shadow managed to survive and flew off into space - for many years this shard continued flying through space until it eventually landed on Earth, causing the extinction of the dinosaurs in the process.
Many years later, the site on which Aku landed would become the ancient island of Japan, which Aku infected like a horrible disease - creating vast forests of evil in the land and threatening to consume it, eventually Aku's threat became so great and impressive that Jack's father decided to rid the land of the demon once and for all using magical-oil made by Buddhist monks, however, when he fired an arrow coated with this oil into the evil entity it didn't destroy it but rather gave it form and sentience, thus forming Aku as a humanoid threat of just unimaginable power.
However, with aid from Odin, Ra, and Vishnu Jack's father created a magical sword powerful enough to defeat Aku and fought the demon, at the end of the conflict Aku was transformed into a tree - yet the imprisonment wouldn't last much more than a decade before a solar eclipse freed Aku again.
Aku would then proceed to lay waste to the kingdom Jack's father ruled and engaged in a battle with Jack himself - Jack very nearly killed Aku for good using the magical sword but Aku threw open a portal in time and transported Jack to a future-world in which Aku ruled supreme.
For the rest of the series, Aku is portrayed as the tyrannical, omnipresent, all-powerful, and manipulative ruler of the world and is an almost unstoppable force - yet he fears Jack, knowing very well that the warrior has the power to slay him, Aku has placed a high bounty on Jack's head and is always trying to dispose of him, whether it be with manipulation, cunning, force, or trickery.
Samurai Jack (2017)
Aku returns in the new season and will fight against Jack for the last time, possibly meaning that he will be defeated by Jack and will be destroyed forever.
In episode 2, Aku wakes up from his long nap and becomes annoyed with his Royal subjects and minions as his minions come to his lair his minions bow down to him and give him gifts while he is trying to do his daily routine. When his minions mention that they he build more robots to destroy Jack, Aku states that he doesn't care anymore. Aku then creates a clone of himself to serve as a psychiatrist who asks him about what has been troubling him lately. Aku tell the psychiatrist that it's been 50 years since he destroyed all the time portals and that he hoped that Jack would've just died off the normal way, but, as a result of the time traveling process, not only has Jack not died from old age but he hasn't even aged a single day and has become virtually immortal, deeply frustrating him.
|“||That sword, I remember that blade, I recognize your blood. You are the son of the fool who imprisoned me those many years ago. No matter, neither he nor the sword had the power to sIay me forever, and neither do you!||„|
|~ Aku meeting Jack for the first time.|
Aku is evil incarnate; he embodies the very essence of an evil overlord. Cruel, uncaring, omnipotent, domineering, and authoritative to all he meets, it is obeyed or obliterated with Aku. He is truly selfish, cunning, arrogant, deceitful, oppressive, temperamental, uncontrollable, destructive, egocentric, and sadistic by default, so he has ruled the planet for thousands of years and does not take kindly to disobedience. An example of his cruelty can be shown when an alien prince and princess had crash landed on the Earth and begged for his help because they needed to get back to their planet to stop an invasion; Aku had their ship confiscated and ordered them thrown into a forced labor mine where they would live "miserably ever after" while laughing about it. When their robot companion objected to this treatment, Aku smashed him into the ground without hesitation. The same episode also showed a dog in his castle being tormented by electrocution and whipping for unknown reasons. Although he is extremely treacherous, bloodthirsty, unpleasant, merciless, and inhumane, to say the least, he has enough of an understanding of humanity to manipulate their feelings to his advantage.
Aku is as intelligent as he is powerful, and his cunning knows little end, from taking the form of a woman to trick Jack or manipulating various races into serving him. He is also extremely dishonest, traitorous, and manipulative, so he has no shame or remorse, and he routinely goes back on his word either to serve himself or simply for amusement.
Despite this, he possesses a dry sense of humor and often jokes when in a good mood, mocking Jack whenever he can and however he can. For instance, in one episode Aku holds a time portal just out of Jack's reach as Jack jumps for it.
He is also rather "genre savvy", and will occasionally lean on the fourth wall or lampshade either his own villainous tendencies or various cliche situations.
He is also a frequent, pervasive, and ubiquitous source of comic relief in the show, due (in prime) to his reactions to the things around him.
Aku seems to have soft spot for children. This can be seen in Aku's Fairy Tales where he attempted to make children admire him by telling them tales that depict himself as a hero and Jack is a villain. Unfortunately for him, the children weren't impressed hearing his increasingly ludicrous, outrageous, and nonsensical tales, causing him to vanish in rage after roaring "the end". Why exactly he refrained from harming them is unknown, though it was likely more that he wanted to continue to brainwash them, rather than any moral reasons. In "Jack and the Rave", he composed an evil music that cause a town children to hypnotically dance for him and committed crime until Jack freed them. Although, considering Aku has committed many genocides of countless nations, by massacring towns and enslaving the survivors, it is very likely children have been harmed during his rule.
After 50 years during his fight with Samurai Jack, Aku became upset and no longer see Samurai Jack as serious threat anymore. Due to the side-effects of time travel, Samurai Jack cannot be aged and cannot die even by effects of old age. He has no interest to fight Jack and wish someone else to just kill him.
Powers and Abilities
As Aku is a great, powerful, and omnipotent magical entity, he possesses a wide range and knowledge of magic that varies from episode to episode as the series demands. His powers, as shown thus far in the series include:
Shapeshifting: Called the "Shapeshifting Master of Darkness" at the opening of each episode, Aku can change into virtually any form he desires, from a giant dragon to a small insect, or even a beautiful woman. He can also change his size, liquefy himself, stretch, and expand his body. Aku's consciousness can exist even in a part of himself. He typically changes into animal forms that are threatening to fit certain situations, such as a scorpion or an octopus. He is however limited to his own color scheme, no matter what form he takes it will always be black, red, and green.
- Aku needs no food, drink, or air and is capable of interstellar travel. He also has the ability to spy on Jack through a large sphere he can summon at will in his tower.
- Superhuman Strength: When Aku challenged Jack to a so called final match he was shown to have superhuman strength even in a somewhat human form.
- Limited Invulnerability: Aku has shown the ability easily withstand weapons of any sort, such as simply absorbing arrows shot at him or not even being fazed after being hit by torpedoes as well as being capable of breathing underwater and existing in the depths of space, however he was shown to be vulnerable against mystic weapons and the weapons and artifacts of Deities and especially Jack's blade which was forged through the very essence of purity within Jack's father by the Deities Odin, Ra, and Vishnu.
- Fire Generation: Along with being capable of breathing fire Aku has also been shown creating it such as in one comical situation he had to re-ignite his eyebrows.
- Time Travel: This was the very ability that Aku had used to send Jack into the future at the beginning of the series, though so far it has only been used once and was a one way portal forward in time.
- Laser Eye Beams: Aku used this ability in numerous battles with Jack and he also used it to destroy the majority of Jack's Kingdom.
- Teleportation: Aku uses this quite often to appear before those he has business with, such as the Imakandi.
- Summoning Storms: Aku is capable of conjuring storms through will.
- Magic Materialization: The ability to create objects out of thin air. He once used this ability to conjure gold, jewels, and treasure for the Imakandi.
- Psychokinesis: Aku has shown the ability to move objects with his mind alone.
- Sonic Scream: Aku was shown capable of producing a powerful scream that causes massive damage to the landscape.
- Necromancy: Aku has been shown in one episode to be capable of animating countless dead bodies, and bending them to his will as they have neither mind nor soul.
A significant aspect in the series is that Aku is ageless and immortal. Aku's body is immune to nearly all forms of physical injury. If wounded, the wounds inflicted upon him will regenerate in moments. He can only be harmed and finally defeated by Jack's samurai sword. It is notable that Aku is also vulnerable to various magical and divine attacks (such as the powers and artifacts of gods).
- Premonitions: On one occasion, Aku had a dream that Jack found a way to return to the past, and realized it was no dream but a premonition, which spurred him into successfully preventing it from happening.
Although Aku can transform into any form, his reflection will show his normal form, most noticeable when Aku turns into a hermit, and asks Jack to look for the god's artifacts. When Jack and Aku are in the swamp, Aku shows his normal form even when he is transformed into his hermit form. He will always have the same reflection, so he splashes the water, and uses the ripples to hide his reflection.
Despite his nearly omnipotent abilities, Aku has a few weaknesses. These include:
- His shape shifting is limited to his red, green, and black color scheme, also, his reflection will show his normal form, no matter what guise he takes.
- He can be harmed by magical objects and attacks like Jack's father's magical-sword.
- In one episode (XLIII), he appears to have somehow caught the flu.
- Aku's name means "evil" in Japanese. The kanji is written as "悪", which can also be pronounced as "Waru".
- Aku may also be named after Akuma, an evil spirit in Japanese folklore who is said to bring misfortune upon those who see it.
- Aku has several similar villains worth noting:
- Grandfather (Codename: Kids Next Door) - They are omni-potential black demons with similar powers, including brainwashing. They also both succeeded in ruling the world, but were defeated by the protagonist's father, and then came back and succeeded in ruling it again. Also, Grandfather's design is too similar to Aku's.
- Dr. Ivo Eggman Robotnik (Sonic the Hedgehog) - They're megalomaniacs and evil geniuses, but are also extremely goofy and hammy, and aren't very good at scheming. However, they're cunning and deceiving to make up for it, manipulating several heroes. They also have some combat skills but get overshadowed by the heroes, and always tend to escape at the very last second before getting fully defeated, while yelling that they'll be back. However, it is seen that in the future they actually succeed in ruling the world, with the heroes working extra hard to stop him.
- Bowser (Super Mario Bros) - They're evil, yet goofy. They also tend to gloat about themselves a lot, and appear to be somewhat overconfident. However, they are extremely powerful foes that the protagonist always uses lots of effort in defeating. However, their schemes have some plotholes. They can shift size whenever they want, but prefer to stay in a huge, giant form.
- HIM (The Powerpuff Girls) - They're both Satan, and are masters of shapeshifting and disguise. They tend to be comical, yet deadly threatening foes to the hero, nearly the biggest threats in their own series, even succeeding in enslaving the world in the future (although HIM only ruled the world in an alternate future). Also, exists a rumor that Professor Utonium is a descendant of Jack and HIM is other of Aku's transformations.
- King Piccolo - They both have succeeded in ruling the world. They're also both Large Ham, and tend to share the same face expressions.
- In the season five trailer, it was seen that Aku has a group of ninja women as his allies. It's unknown what's the name of them and for which reason why they work for Aku, but with the premier of the fifth season, it was revealed that they are the Daughters of Aku, a group of women that serve him and were born during his early reign.
- Genndy Tartakovsky originally planned to finish Jack's and Aku's story with a theatrical feature-length film based on the series. However, the idea was abandoned after several delays and changed for a fifth season.
- Aku is the first main villain of a Cartoon Network show that is not defeated at the original end of it. The second is Slade of Teen Titans.