Sunday, 2 October 2011

Samurai Champloo

Title: Samurai Champloo
Distributor: Manglobe
Genre(s): chanbara, samurai, drama, adventure
Age Rating: TVMA (violence)

Episodes: 26
Aired: May 16, 2004 - March 19, 2005
Official Site: at

Authors Rating: 9.5/10

Fuu is a 15 year old young and attractive woman. She is working, at her part time job, as a waitress in a tea-shop when a group of brash thugs with influential political ties stroll in. They begin harassing and pestering young Fuu making fun of her and calling her an idiot, much to her discontent. Enter Mugen. Mugen is a self styled bad attitude samurai who fights with his heart putting his life on the line with every 'dance of destruction.' One thing he can't stand is people flaunting power that they simply don't have, also he can never resist an opportunity for a good fight! He barters with Fuu for a free meal to dispose of the trouble makers, but before she has a chance to answer one of them summons her. In Fuu's haste she manages to trip and spill drink over the ring leader of the group. They pin her down and begin deciding which finger they are going to cut off as payment. Fuu in her desperation announces that she will pay Mugen 100 Dangan (a popular Japanese snack) to save her! Mugen jumps in to action mocking them whilst cutting them literally limb from limb. Unsatisfied with the groups strength, he orders them to go find their stronger superiors. Enter Jin. Jin is a well mannered, polite individual who has dedicated his life to the sword. However, due to his moral ethics causing his bad timing Mugen mistakes him for one of the superior official guards that he demanded. They begin their fight neither besting the other. In the process of their thrilling battle the tea-shop gets burnt down. The two are captured and punished, sentenced to death for their previous actions that lead up to their fight. But, don't for a moment underestimate our little Fuu! She rushes to the scene and upon the execution causes just enough of a distraction to give our warriors the opportunity they need to escape! After the ordeal Fuu announces that they owe her their lives and therefore requests they join her on her search to find ''The samurai who smells of sunflowers'' who she believes to be her long lost father. And. so their adventure begins.

Samurai Champloo starts with a strong first episode that captures the viewers attention. The lightning paced fight sequences are that of a typical samurai anime, however the hip-hop element adds a new and exciting twist. The main plot isn't revealed until near the end of the show, and it's certainly worth the wait! Although the progression of the story seems rather weak we are consoled by the action that wipes away any need for a story in itself! The fight scenes are fluid and often, there is never a lack of action from episode to episode. The downside to the show is that the realism is not quite on par. Apparently wrapping a fatal wound in bandages, after loosing pints of blood, will result in rapid healing over a couple of days, when we as the audience know this not to be the case, even by today's medicinal standards, let alone in the Japanese Edo period! You can expect to see just as much humour from this anime as you can expect action, with quirky little one liners (much like Cowboy Beebop) that left this reviewer chuckling away. However, this by no means detracts from the essence of the show itself.

Samurai Champloo has three primary characters with secondary ones being interjected throughout. Fuu is our female lead who is on a quest to find 'the samurai who smells of sunflowers', escorted by two samurai (our other two leads, Mugen and Jin). Although the characters don't get a 'historical fleshing' until the end, because of this you get the feeling that they are very interesting. Their hidden pasts does, in a way, make them very entertaining and 'watch-able.'  As a result, the anime has a very good mix of characters; the funny, the serious and the emotional slapstick. The wait for the character development, on the side of our warriors, is both suspenseful and entertaining. 

In my opinion, the animation is the best part of the show. The mood is often set by the intricate scenery, with burning sunsets, distant mountains and soothing lakes it is hard not to provoke an emotional response. There is much attention to detail, not only in the backdrops but also in the characters. Small eye movements, freeze-frames and body-language help build atmosphere and suspense, as well as portray the emotions of the characters involved. The best part of the animation is, without doubt or surprise, the fight scenes. The fluidity and consistency of the fight make them thrilling. There is not episode long flashbacks, no stop and talk about how weak the other is for half and episode and no planning of every move. Fights are executed with the sense of a real life or death battle with few words, if any being said, and those that are only necessary to the fight. The frequency of battles increases toward the end of the anime, which ropes the viewer in even more. I found myself compelled to watch episode 18-26 straight through! Should I be ashamed to admit that I didn't even stop for food or drink? I don't think so!

Now, I don't usually care to mention sound in my reviews, as I feel it is often irrelevant and detracts from the anime itself. However, in this instance the sound IS a part of the anime, therefore feel it should be touched upon. The hip-hop element merges surprisingly well with the Edo period clothing and ideals. However not just, as one would suspect, through Mugen. I mean, yes Mugen is the vessel through which we can link the music with his rapid dance style fighting, but it's more than just that. The music is timed with visuals and cut-scenes which add a light-hearted and fun element to the show and at times represents the carefree way of life, and yet, at others the desperate battle for it. To be perfectly honest it is very difficult to describe and explain, as i've never personally encountered this before in any anime I have ever watched. All that can be recommended is to go watch an episode and you will understand.

Samurai Champloo is on my list of top ten anime I have ever seen. Although it may not be everyone's cup of tea, I would highly recommend giving it a chance. I'm sure you will be pleasantly surprised.


  1. You know I finally decided to rewatch this show after seeing it Netflix and I have to say it was a lot better than I remember. The ending especially was a nice bittersweet. Great action, characters, and soundtrack.

    And I have to admit like you said, soundtrack usually doesn't play a large role in an anime (so often doesn't hurt), but it can improve one a LOT. Nice review.

  2. Thanks very much, I checked out your website, like it a lot! Very nicely presented and uncluttered.

    As for the show we all feel it's one of the more superior anime out there. Personally we agree that we would love to see a re-run in the mainstream media!

    We appreciate you taking the time to comment.

    The Lively Anime Team.


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