Samurai Champloo

Title: Samurai Champloo
Genre: Action
Company: Fuji TV/Manglobe Inc.
Format: 26 episodes
Dates: 20 May 2004 – 23 Sep 2004 and 22 Jan 2005 – 18 Mar 2005

Synopsis: Fuu, a young waitress at a teahouse is harassed by the son of a nobleman while on the job. When things start to get out of hand, she is saved by a bad-tempered samurai named Mugen, who is annoyed by the situation. Later that day, Mugen causes trouble of his own when he picks a fight with another customer, a more traditional samurai named Jin. The two samurai vow to kill each other, but Fuu intervenes and makes them promise to put off killing each other until they help her find a samurai who smells of sunflowers.

The Highlights
Action: Excellently choreographed; each character has a unique style.
Characters: Feel more like characters than actual people.
Plot: Serves as a device for holding the short stories together; does not receive enough attention.
Art: Similar to ukiyo-e paintings; creates a very stylized and unique look.

Watanabe Shinichiro may be done directing Cowboy Bebop in reality, but he isn’t done with it in spirit. Samurai Champloo, Watanabe’s first full length series since Bebop, is riddled with the same slick style and cinema quality choreography that made Cowboy Bebop into a hit. It is too bad that Samurai Champloo does not deserve the same level of praise as Cowboy Bebop due to its shortcomings.

The quality of the swordplay is top notch and approaches the quality of other legendary samurai anime, such as Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen(1,2). Mugen and Jin have their own unique and vastly different styles of fighting, which contrast each other very nicely. Jin fights with a traditional technique that is simply textbook, while Mugen’s sporadic and unpredictable fighting style is full of wild movement and resembles break dancing more than anything else. Even episodic characters have their own fighting styles, which makes every battle a joy to watch.

Samurai Champloo takes style to a level rarely seen in anime. The artwork is similar in style to classic ukiyo-e paintings, which give the show a historic feeling. The music is mostly hip-hop and stands apart from the more traditional art style. Champloo, coming from the Okinawan word meaning “to blend” is the perfect name for this anime, which is inspired by a mixture of classic movies, hip-hop, and historical drama.

With such outstanding action and style it is a shame that the rest of the series is mediocre. Fuu’s quest for the Sunflower Samurai serves more as a tool to hold together the short stories that make up most of Samurai Champloo than a driving force, although the quest is given its own time at the end. Most of the short stories are sub-par and don’t elicit the same kind of fulfillment or provide the “a-ha” moments that successful episodic anime like Kino’s Journey and Cowboy Bebop have. Not enough time is spent getting to know the characters, or what makes them tick. The characters have personality, but not depth which leaves them feeling as two dimensional as they look.

When it comes to sword fighting and samurai anime Samurai Champloo is a cut (pun very much intended) above most of the competition. The wide variety of inspiration gives Samurai Champloo a wide appeal and will provide the viewer with at least a few good stories. Samurai Champloo isn’t a bad anime; just don’t go into it expecting the next Cowboy Bebop.

The Rating: 6
6/10

Reviewed by: Kuma

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