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Samurai Champloo
Reviewer: Aaron Murphy 02/10/2007

Synopsis:
Taking place in the Tokugawa era, Samurai Champloo tells the story of three unlikely companions embarking on journey throughout Japan. Fuu is a young girl seemingly trapped in her job waiting tables, but desperately wants to get up the nerve to take a journey to find the samurai that smells of sunflowers. Jin is a traditional swordsman that has become a ronin and now wanders from town to town. For the most part he is a good natured and well tempered man, the polar opposite of Mugen. Mugen is the final piece to this unlikely trio, a man who is willing to kill pretty much anyone that looks at him wrong, and sometimes does. Fuu makes Jin and Mugen agree to accompany her in her search if she rescues them from being killed by the local governor. They agree, reluctantly, and thus the story begins. The only problem is she has no idea where this sunflower samurai is and she has to keep Jin and Mugen from either running away or killing each other before she finds him. Hilarity, beat-boxing and piles of dead ensue as they search for this “smelly guy.”

Review:

Samurai Champloo is a series I have been trying to finish for a while now. I would always get about eight episodes in and subsequently fail to get any further. This was not due to the series itself in any way; just due to various circumstances at each point in time. Now that I have finally finished the series, I must say, I wish I would have done so sooner. It’s an odd ball of sorts in the anime world. Not so much for its setting in feudal Japan, lord knows there are plenty of those, but for its use of hip-hop.  This makes for a truly unique experience, even in the face of a not so new setting.The entire series follows Fuu, Jin, and Mugan’s journey to find the sunflower samurai, which actually has a conclusive ending.

This is always a plus considering the number of anime series with ambiguous endings. Mugen is a joy to watch fighting; his style is similar to capoeira so he is always moving, twisting, spinning and flying all over the place. Jin is more traditional in his fighting style, so while he may kill the same number of people he is not quite as fun to watch. Fuu is usually the damsel in distress, constantly being kidnapped, sold into prostitution, or just taken as a good old hostage. Thus requiring Jin and Mugen to have to come and save her. Some of the episodes focus on the comedic side of things, like the gay guy from Holland that comes to Japan because he believes it is the “greatest land of manly love.” On the flip side, there are a number of episodes that relate back to the past histories of Jin and Mugen that are usually quite serious.

One of the few problems I had with the series is that it would have been nice if more episodes could have pertained to the actual plot. Now that’s not to say that the stand alone episodes are bad in any way, they are usually quite enjoyable. Who knows, I may just be bitter because of the two filler episodes right before the concluding 3 episode story arc. Funny and entertaining as they may be, they certainly could have been put to better use as episodes 22 and 23 of a 26 episodes series. While the main plot is good, it’s not spectacular. It’s more about the characters and action than a deep plot.

The art and animation is quite high by comparison to most other anime series out there. Action is fluid, scenes are fully animated with few shortcuts used and everything is crisp and detailed. It’s one of the higher quality series I have seen, up there with Rahxephon, Wolf’s Rain, and Last Exile, to name a few. The English dub is great, almost all the voices fit, especially those of the main characters. Since the voices mostly work, it allows you to completely immerse yourself into the story, without constantly cringing at the words being said. I only saw the first six episodes in Japanese, but I didn’t notice any problems with it either. Long story short, watch the English dub unless you have some problem with it, at which point just switch to Japanese. Both are great, but you should definitely give the English track a chance.

Overall Samurai Champloo is a thoroughly enjoyable series, one that you should definitely see. Don’t let the whole hip-hop aspect of it stop you.

Miscellanies:
The only other anime I know of that uses hip-hop is Afro Samurai, though I am sure some of you will argue if it should really be considered anime, but I am not going to go there.

When one compares Samurai Champloo to something, Cowboy Bebop is right there at the top of the list. What Cowboy Bebop did with adding jazz to space bounty hunters, Samurai Champloo does with adding hip-hop to a feudal samurai journey. Shinichiro Watanabe is the mastermind director behind both of these. If you have only seen one or the other, or neither, go check them out now!

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Samurai Champloo
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Review Title:
Samurai Champloo
Type:
TV
Episodes:
26
Duration:
650 Minutes
General Rating:
4.5 out of 5 stars
Aired:
2004-2005
Suitable For:
Young Adults
Genres:
Action, Adventure, Comedy,
Samurai, Shounen
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