Genre: Shounen, Adventure, Comedy
Distributor: Geneon Entertainment (2004)
Brief Overview & Review:
One of the things that will probably jump out at you will be the fact that the director of this anime, Shinichiro Watanabe, is the same guy responsible for Cowboy Bebop. However, this isn’t your typical samurai hero storyline. Actually, there really isn’t a hero per-say, so don’t expect a Kenshin-esque series. The word “champloo” in the title means “mixing” or “fusing” or “melding”. The word is supposedly from an Okinawan dialect.
The story’s foundation begins with a young waitress, named Fuu, in a tea shop. She accidentally angers a high-ranking official’s son and finds herself in deep trouble. As a result, she meets a lone thug samurai named Mugen. She agrees with Mugen’s terms on payment and he proceeds to “save her”. He learns from the son that his father is a high-ranking official and has powerful bodyguards. Then enters Jin (our third main character), who is mistaken for a well known guard of the aforementioned son’s father. Mugen and Jin have their duel and are later captured. Sentenced to death, Fuu attempts to rescue the two warriors and succeeds. As payback for rescuing them, she enlists both Mugen and Jin as her personal bodyguards in her quest to find the “Sunflower Samurai”. Very little about this “Sunflower Samurai” is known, but Fuu desperately wants to find him.
During the course of the group’s adventure you get a chance to find out a bit more about the pasts of the two samurai. However, you never really get a chance to find out more about Fuu– although bits and pieces of her information are littered throughout the series (seeing as this whole quest is for her). Even though this series has a serious appearance at first, it does have its lighter moments. Some mischief and comedy appears during the times when the group is resting, eating, or hungry (especially Fuu). A handful of side-plots (or mini-plots) also help keep the story interesting.
The animation is decent. Kazuto Nakazawa is the animation director as well as the character designer. You might recognize his name from “El Hazard”, “Armitage: Dual Matrix”, etc. Colors and backgrounds were good. Some people, however, might not like the skinny arms and legs type of character design. Also, some of the faces on the characters are just plain weird. It’s almost as if they have a sour look on their face. But like I said, overall, the animation is enjoyable.
The music is NOT what you would expect. I think this is where “champloo” comes in. The soundtrack to this series is, for the most part, instrumental hip-hop. Yes, you heard me, HIP-HOP. In charge of music are Japanese DJs: Fat Jon, Force Of Nature, Nujabes, and Tsutchie. Amazingly enough, the music fits incredibly well with this series. I will admit that I never really gave hip-hop music a chance and this anime has actually made me a fan of instrumental hip-hop.
There really isn’t much I can say about the music, so I’ve included a small handful of samples: 01 | 02 | 03 | 04
Characters: (names listed left to right)
Fuu, Mugen, Jin
Fuu is a determined young girl who will stop at nothing to find the mysterious Sunflower Samurai. Oh yeah, she LOVES to eat…
Mugen tends to be the violent, ruthless thug-type samurai who wouldn’t think twice about killing someone. His fighting style could be described as “freestyle”.
Jin, also a samurai, is a mysterious, reserved, and quiet gentleman who is quite skilled with the sword.
01. Tempestuous Temperaments
02. Redeye Reprisal
03. Hellhounds for Hire (Part 1)
04. Hellhounds for Hire (Part 2)
05. Artistic Anarchy
06. Stranger Searching
07. Risky Racket
08. The Art of Altercation
09. Beatbox Bandits
10. Lethal Lunacy
11. Gamblers and Gallantry
12. The Disorder Diaries
13. Misguided Miscreants (Part 1)
14. Misguided Miscreants (Part 2)
15. Bogus Booty
16. Lullabies of the Lost (Verse 1)
17. Lullabies of the Lost (Verse 2)
18. War of the Words
19. Unholy Union
20. Eulogy of Entrapment (Verse 1)
21. Eulogy of Entrapment (Verse 2)
22. Cosmic Collisions
23. Baseball Blues
24. Evanescent Encounter (Part 1)
25. Evanescent Encounter (Part 2)
26. Evanescent Encounter (Part 3)
I really enjoyed this series. Watanabe’s involvement is apparent, since Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo share many similar characteristics. That being said, if you liked Cowboy Bebop, you’ll probably like this series. You’d also probably like this series if you’re looking for something different, but still familiar. It did a fine job of champloo-ing (hehe).
*Spoilers* (highlight the area between the brackets)
I was very happy to find out that none of the main characters had died. I actually believed the couple of times where it had seemed as if Mugen and Jin had died (Mugen and the exploding ship and then at the end with the gunshot; Jin on the falling bridge and then at the end during the fights with the shogun). It’s mainly due to the past animes I’ve seen where main characters DO die. But this was great! The anime ended with all of the starting characters for once!