"Episode I: The Beginning" is the first episode in the first season of Samurai Jack. This episode is about Aku who devastates a young boy's land, forcing him to travel around the world to train as a samurai.
The episode begins with a solar eclipse. The eclipse has a strange effect on what appears to be a warped dead tree in the middle of a wasteland. The tree springs out of the ground and grows into a tall dark figure with flaming eyebrows. The figure states, "Once again I am free to smite the world as I did in days long past."
Not far from there, an Emperor of a Japanese homeland tells his son about a war he fought against an evil, shape-shifting demon named Aku. He continues to explain that Aku arose from the Pit of Hate to ravage land when the emperor was still young. On his own, he was helpless against the wizard's powers. However, he remembered a tale he had heard from his great-grandfather about three monks gifted with mystical powers. The emperor rode to the highest peak of the mountainside where the monks agreed to forge a magical sword for him. Armed with the sword, he battled Aku and defeated him, implanting him into the very wasteland he created in the form of the same black tree from earlier. Since then, the people have rebuilt the land in hopes that Aku would never return. The Emperor finishes his story with a warning to his son to always be alert, for evil might be lurking right behind him.
Impressed by the tale, the young Prince begins to play with a wooden sword, when all of a sudden a great shadow falls over the land. The alarm sounds as Aku forces his way through the palace wall. The army tries to fight him off using arrows, javelins and catapults, but to no avail as Aku absorbs their weapons and fires them back at the men. Aku further displays his overwhelming power by blasting the land with his laser eyes, setting everything ablaze. The emperor tries to fetch his sword, but Aku captures him. While he is being carried away, the Emperor shouts to the Prince's mother, "Mother, Aku has returned! Do as we have planned, our future depends on it!" The Empress grabs the young Prince and the sword, carrying them away from the burning palace by boat while Aku laughs victoriously over the destruction of his former slayer's empire. The Empress hands the Prince over to the captain of a ship which bears the emblem of his father, while the sword stays with her.
The prince spends his childhood and teenage years in various cultures. The ship's captain teaches him about astronomy. He trains in equestrianism in the camp of an Arab Sheikh.He learns stick fighting from the Chief of an African tribe. In Egypt he studies hieroglyphics. In Greece he learns the art of wrestling. He learns marksmanship from a European bandit known as Robin Hood. The knowledge of seamanship is instilled during his time on a Viking ship. A Russian Boyar teaches him axe throwing. Mongol warriors teach him spear throwing. He then reaches to the temple of Shaolin to study Kung fu.
Having finished his tour of the old world, the Prince, now grown up, heads to a designated rendezvous point where he reunites with his mother. The mother and child embrace after their long separation, and she returns to him his birthright: the sword of his father, and a white gi. The Prince trains with the sword before he is ready to return home and free his people.
Meanwhile, the people of his land are enslaved. The countryside is riddled with likenesses of Aku, and the Emperor, like all his subjects, has been put to work in the mines, though he is being tormented by Aku's evil minions far more than anyone else. Before the Emperor is about to be punished, the Prince arrives and battles Aku's minions. He easily defeats them and frees his father from his shackles. The Emperor tells his son that Aku means to use the riches found in the mines to strengthen his powers and take over the entire world. The Prince promises that he will vanquish Aku by the power of his sword, but his father berates him, saying that the sword is but a tool, and that the true power lies in the hands that wield it. He warns his son how evil is clever and that deception is its most powerful weapon. The Prince sets off on horseback, promising his father not to fail him. But the Emperor is worried, for he knows evil always "finds a way".
The Prince arrives at Aku's tower and calls him out. Aku rises from within his lair and meets the Prince. The Prince reveals himself to the son of the land and challenges Aku to reclaim it. Aku boasts that no mortal weapon can harm him, but the Prince cuts him with the sword. Aku then remembers the sword and recognizes the Prince's heritage from the scent of his blood. Aku says neither the sword nor the Emperor had the power to slay him forever, and neither will the Prince.
With those words, Aku decides to battle the Prince and shape-shifts into the form of a large gorilla. Aku attacks the Prince with furious claw swipes and powerful punches, managing to harm the Prince's back. But soon enough, the Prince manages to cut Aku, forcing him to shape-shift into a scorpion. The Prince states that Aku will never be able to defeat righteousness, no matter what form he takes. Aku continues to attack with his pincers and stingers, but is cut down by the Prince once again, and is sent tumbling in the darkness of his lair. Aku then emerges in the form of an octopus. He tries to attack with his tentacles, but the Prince cut his tentacles one by one, eventually taking to higher ground. Aku then shape-shifts into the form of a goat and charges at the Prince, who dodges and cuts Aku in half, forcing him to shape-shift into a bird. The Prince then prepares to finish Aku and throws his sword into the air, piercing Aku and trapping him within the sword. The Prince then forces Aku onto their floor with his power diminished. Aku is reduced into a shadow that lies defeated before the Prince and he declares, "You might have beaten me now, but I will destroy you in the future." The Prince exclaims that there is no future for Aku, but he disagrees. With a sonic screech, Aku tears a portal in time through which the Prince is flung into the distant future, where Aku is the supreme ruler of the planet for millennia and his evil is law. Aku promises they will meet again, but next time he will destroy the Prince once and for all.
- Directed by
- Casting by
- Collette Sunderman
- When Jack saves his father he cuts through his father's handcuffs after killing the guards, but his father hadn't been shown wearing handcuffs before then.
- The Prince's voice sounded more serious than subsequent episodes that follow which adds the Asian accent.
- Aku's tone likewise has changed, from serious and dark to having some form of humor in later episodes.
- The series began with Aku as a warped dead tree in the middle of a wasteland and it ended in Episode CI with Jack in a beautiful forest, showing the opposite personalities of both characters.