Archive for June, 2006

Samurai Champloo

June 5, 2006

 ChamplooChamploo

Some days, some nights

Some live, some die

In the way of the samurai

Samurai Champloo is a great show.  It is artistic in its presentation, has great characters, and is well written.  Yet I find it lacking.  This is one of those shows where you recognize that it is great but are disappointed that it isn't a masterpiece.

Samurai Champloo was created by the same man who created Cowboy Bebop (probably my favorite anime of all time) Shinichiro Watanabe.  It is the story of three people who through an act of serendipity, end up traveling together.  Even when they try to separate they end up back together again.  It is a story about a journey, about how you can't out run your past, and in the end you find redemption.  The main characters are Fuu, a young girl seeking the mysterious sunflower samurai, Mugen, a brash rebellious guy with a unique fighting style, and Jin, a quite introspective samurai.

Like Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo is a mixing of themes.  Cowboy Bebop was a mixing of a sci-fi western with jazz music, Samurai Champloo is a mix of hip-hop and samurai.  It is not a period piece and is at times very unfactual, for example in one episode Americans show up and play baseball with the characters (this show is supposed to be set well before baseball was invented).  The mix of genres works extremely well and adds a degree of artistic flavor to the show.  Symbolism runs rampant throughout the series, with Mugen and Jin representing yin and yang, sunflowers everywhere, crows for death, and other visual metaphors.

Despite the great artistic value it has, for some reason Samurai Champloo just doesn't measure up.  Some of its problem may be its ties to Cowboy Bebop, it almost feels like Watanabe is trying to forcibly recreate the magic he had with that series and admittedly it does work to some extent.  Many people complain about the episodic nature of the show, that there is not enough continuity between episodes.  For some reason the episodic style worked better for Cowboy Bebop, probably because it was sci-fi it felt more reasonable that random things happened.  Plus with them being bounty hunters it was easy to make each episode a new bounty.  In Samurai Champloo the fact that they are on a journey would probably lend itself better to a more continuous feeling episode structure.

Even though it didn't live up to its predecessor, Samurai Champloo is worth watching just for the interesting characters and the awesome fight scenes.  I hope Watanabe will learn from this and make his next work that much better.  Check it out if you get a chance, it would be a pretty good series for someone new to the anime genre or a savvy anime vet.  It does air on Adult Swim with very good voice acting.

Name: Samurai Champloo

Number of episodes: 26

Rating: 7/10