Archive for the ‘Anime’ Category

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

Yakitate!! Japan

May 30, 2006

YakitateYakitate1Yakitate2

Considering I have watched about 30 episodes of this anime in two days I probably should write something about this show. 

Yakitate is about a 16 year old boy (aren't they all about young boys with super powers, makes you wonder) named Azuma Kazuma.  When Azuma was about 6 he met a baker who taught him about bread and shared with young Azuma a vision.  A vision of Ja-pan (this is show is full of puns, in Japanese pan means bread), a bread that everyone could identify as Japanese just like they do with French Bread, German Bread, and Italian Bread.  Of course, Azuma isn't just any old small boy with a bread fetish.  He is blessed with the legendary "Solar Hands" which apparently means that his hands are extra warm.  The show claims that this lets him make better bread because it can ferment while he is kneading it rather than letting it sit.

Aside from the Solar Hands, Azuma is also a bread making idiot savant.  He has a sixth sense when it comes to making bread, and knows just what to do with out any formal training.  In fact, because he has no formal training he is apparently better than those that are constricted by "common sense".

So that's the basic premise, young boy has special gift for making bread.  He is given a vision of creating a unique bread for Japan and to do so must apparently battle with other awesome bread makers.  And the manager of his store is a Shaft type character complete with afro and butt-kicking abilities.

The intention of this show is to be a parody on the shonen genre (anime for boys, like Dragonball, Inuyasha, or Kenshin).  As such it is pretty good, it pokes fun at shonen for being melodramatic about mundane tasks.  It is funny with clever characters and inventive plots.  Like I said before it is full of puns, some of which are hard to follow because it is in Japanese.  The reactions that people have to eating the bread is usually the best part.  For example, crab bread made people think they were crabs, French bread made them think they were in France and so on.  There are a lot of episodes, but seeing about half of them I think I can say that this anime is probably a 7/10.  Its worth seeing if you are into anime, but not an anime I would recommend to someone who is not.

Name: Yakitate!! Japan

Number of Episodes: 69

Rating: 8/10

 Edit: I have now seen 67 of the 69 episodes of this series.  It got a lot better as it went along and hit its stride with the Monaco Cup Arc (episodes 27 to 52).