There haven’t been many Anime over my Anime watching journey that have really stood out the way Samurai Champloo has. The series very much surprised me as I wasn’t expecting a lot from the title to be honest. What will become very clear once you start the first episode is that Samurai Champloo is not at all what you think it’s going to be. For an Anime that only came out in 2004, I’d say that it’s different ahead of its time and the writing quality, characters, narrative, settings and other aspects of the show clearly solidify my point.
The narrative is very interesting and manages to stay fresh up until even the later episodes. The cast of characters is good, we have 3 main characters who I’ll come to later and a large collection of supporting sub characters which were all mostly very memorable during my time watching this Anime series.
Samurai Champloo is set in alternative period of Japanese history more importantly the Edo-era (1603–1868) and follows the story of 3 people, two of whom are Samurai and the other a young girl. The young girl, known as Fuu works in a tea shop in the city when she encounters the son of a local magistrate who begins threatening her and the family who run the tea shop (her boss).
Luckily she is saved by Mugen & Jin, two Samurai who enter the shop separately and who are not affiliated with each other. After this they all escape from the shop which burns down after one of the men (who had his arm cut off) we saw previously sets it on fire. Realising they have no where to go and no money the 3 join up in search of a mysterious figure known as the “Sunflower Samurai” who’s true whereabouts are unknown.
Said like that initially the narrative appears a little boring and uneventful, but it’s the adventures and situations that the characters get into which is very fun to watch, getting into a whole load trouble and mostly not on purpose. There are lots of different episodes where our trio get themselves into tricky situations. I won’t spoil it but one of our 3 main characters gets kidnapped and held hostage more than 5 times!
Our main characters in Samurai Champloo were very memorable and I liked all of them. The voice actors did a pretty good job on all the characters and I’m happy for this. They fit the role very well and I don’t think they could have been better done today.
First we have the girl, known as Fuu. Fuu is young, around 15-16 in the Anime with medium length brown hair she usually wears up. She also wears a pink Traditional Japanese Style Kimono just like her friends Jin and Mugen.
Next is Mugen, who we meet in the first episode of the Anime, in a violent introduction when he fights his way out of the tea shop with Fuu and Jin. Mugen is a feared an effective swordsman and can take on multiple enemies at once with his Katana.
He’s seen as an outlaw in the Anime and his wild appearance cements this in our mind. He has messy unkempt hair with a scary stray pair of eyes. He has a rude attitude and is not my favourite character but I like the way he is written, since he contrast with Jin a lot as they argue all the time.
Finally we have Jin who we also meet in the first episode of the Anime. Jin is very different to Mugen and the two portray very different characters in the series. I like the dynamic between the two and I like the fact that Fuu is always breaking them up and is sometimes the voice of reason.
Jin is tall and handsome, he has long black hair which he also has tied up most of the time and glasses. He calm and collected and mostly keeps himself to himself. Fuu makes a point of this in her dairy, which I’ll come to later on.
The sub-characters in Samurai Champloo were great and I very much liked all of them. They were all very memorable and they made the episodes very fun to watch. The Nordic-Viking style guy was very funny and I loved the narrative where the attractive women who lures Jin and Mugen in then turns out to be a crook.
One thing to say is that they all felt genuine and unique. The animations were also very detailed for most of them so it was easy to become accustomed to them. The voice actors did a great job bringing all of them together thats for sure.
Reasons to Watch Samurai Champloo
Outlining Samurai Champloo’s Creativity
Now before you realise the obvious yourself I’ll briefly say that the way the narrative of Samurai Champloo is presented to us is very creative to say the least. An example of this would be the way the creators transition from scene to scene and the devices they use to do this. Sometimes they use eye catching transitions like morph cuts and masks but sometimes they simply just fade to black or use black cutaways.
Awesome Animation for its time
The Animation style and the finished product of Samurai Champloo is one of sole achievement. For a series that came out all the way back in 2005 I’d say it’s very ahead of it’s time on this front. Sure there were other Anime at the time with similar elements to that of Samurai Champloo but I think for an Anime I haven’t seen much talk about, it would surprise me if people didn’t mention this aspect of it as I would only be doing the series a disservice.
There are several scenes in the Anime which left me shocked, yes shocked at how good they were. They also left me scratching my head as to how I had not found this Anime sooner. I won’t say too much but there’s a psychedelic scene where a load of psychedelic plants are set on fire and all the characters basically start tripping out/laughing.
Brilliant Voice Acting
The voice actors really bring the characters in Samurai Champloo to life and the way they’re written allow for the voice actors to really take advantage of the dialogue in the series. Mugen and Fuu have pretty exaggerated voices while Jin’s is soft and reserved. These voices correctly match their characters in my opinion.
You won’t ever get bored with this cast anyway and they’ll make the Anime very fun and easy to watch, considering there the 3 main characters. There are also some one time and re-appearing characters who have great voice such as the leader of the Secret Police who helps rescue Fuu in the earlier episodes.
Flows like a River
The pace of Samurai Champloo is very well curated and I love the way it flows. It’s similar to that of a river, hence the title. Anyway, the way the Anime is structured and the beginning an end of each episode mean that it intertwines very nicely. There’s an episode near the middle of the series where we go back through all the events in the previous episodes that the 3 have gotten themselves into. In the episode it’s presented in a very engaging and creative way, where we see all the events previously through Fuu’s diary.
Mugen & Jin steal it while she is taking a bath and read through it. Now what most directors would have done for this would be to display a simple montage of all the events in the previous episode as a kind of recap episode, which is essentially what it is anyway.
However, what I find great about this episodes is the way in which it’s presented. Choosing to have the events be read (well Mugen can’t read) by Mugen and Jin and it really gives us an insight into how they react to their own actions when they are read back to them from the POV of Fuu. She gives an insightful voice over of the whole events previous and so we see all these events though her vision. This is something that I love.
It’s a very creative and great way to see all these events and I loved that it’s from the perspective of one single character as it’s very refreshing. Many other producers would not have bothered with this but I think it’s a good way to go over all these important events whilst still making it fun to watch and engaging.
The sound tracks in Samurai Champloo are particular noticeable since their not would you might expect for this action-adventure Anime series. There are many Hip-Hop style music beats in there but also some emotional ones as well and these tracks almost make it seem as if I know the series as the Hip-Hop style beats in the soundtracks are all too familiar with me. They don’t seem too serious but they certainly don’t feel out of place.
The dialogue in Samurai Champloo is great and it keeps you on your toes. Primarily the chemistry between the 3 main characters is a reason that it works so well but it’s also the way it’s written. Conversations between most of the characters in the series seem so…. well….. genuine, this fact means you can enjoy and more importantly believe most of the dialogue you hear.
Even after being adapted from the manga back in 2004 it’s still very good and well written, even if it has been condensed and adapted from the manga. There are some really great and memorable fight scenes which are very funny and contain long passages of dialogue which also offer an insight into the writing behind the show.
The Animation style isn’t anything too amazing but there are some beautiful moments where we really get to see the artistic talent of the animators of the series. There are some really nice hand drawn backdrops of the landscape at the time and it’s very eye catching. You can really see a lot of work has gone into creating the series and the settings we see the characters in.
I mean one thing to take a look at in terms how amazing this show looks and considering the time it came out (2004) would be the ending credits. For the most of the Episodes the original ending song “Shiki no Uta” by MINMI plays over a montage of artwork. The song is very memorable and really did stick with me. I can still hear it in my head now and it’s a very sweet song, with beautiful vocals and a memorable chorus.
It’s really a perfect little track to end on for the adventures of Jin, Mugen and Foo and really kind of lets you know that the series is not as serious as it seems and really lets you admire some of the artwork it displays during the ending. You can take a look at it below:
Great Developing Narrative
The narrative is something that is isn’t really built on in the first stages of the Anime and that leaves a lot open to question which is good in one way as it keeps the viewer always asking questions and wanting more. We start to see more and more hints on the story of the series later on. All in all it’s very easy to follow and it’s not really these parts of the Anime that are the most relevant but the little escapades they get themselves into that are the most fun to watch.
The general reaction to Samurai Champloo both on forums and in online discussion is that of shock. Most people seem to be very surprised that they have not come across this Anime sooner than they did. Seen as the first season of Black Lagoon would air a year later, I’d say Samurai Champloo did pretty good for its time.
Some Anime I’ve come across on this Anime watching journey feel, in my opinion, like unfinished products and ideas. Mixed in the with the ideals of the creation they were adapting. But with Samurai Champloo, you will not at all get that impression. It feels almost like a movie. It’s way ahead of it’s time and we can only dream of a second season, meanwhile, Netflix is Green Lighting another season of 7 Seeds. There may be another reality out there where 7 Seeds only got season and Samurai Champloo got 4. How a man can dream.
I don’t think Samurai Champloo is going to be for everyone and I understand that. However, if you give Samurai Champloo a shot I promise you won’t regret it. It has a great narrative, fun characters which are very easy to like and sympathise with, a soundtrack that gives the show heart but also keeps it moving and many fun and emotional moments in the series. You can watch it on Netflix here: https://www.netflix.com/browse?jbv=70213065
Thank you for reading, have a great day and stay safe!
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