Samurai Champloo
Type:TV Series (26 Episodes)
Version: Region 1 DVD
Reviewed: 1/20/06

When an anime has the name recognition power of “Shinchiro Watanabe” behind it, it doesn’t really need much else to sell itself. It will, however, have to perform well to maintain any sort of viewer interest for more than a few episodes. Samurai Champloo is up to the task.

Watanabe’s influence is present all through Samurai Champloo, and he didn’t use the fact that it would get easy hype thanks to Cowboy Bebop as an excuse to cut corners. But Champloo is a different fruit than Bebop, so the comparisons should really end with directorial stuff. So suffice it to say that the series is well directed, and clearly on par with that other famous Watanabe work.

Champloo tells a story that seems a mix of lighthearted and serious, depending on the episode, but mostly in favor of the former. An attractive young girl–because all girls in anime are young and attractive–named Fuu is looking for a samurai who smells like sunflowers, as finding him will link her to something she finds very important. By chance, she comes across Jin and Mugen, who are actively trying to kill each other. Through Anime Negotiationâ„¢, the two end up helping Fuu on her journey, but have an oral contract to fight to the death as soon as that’s over. It’s clearly a group like any other.

The aforementioned lighthearted story is portrayed as such largely thanks to Samurai Champloo‘s unique style. It takes place in feudal Japan, but the setting is used very, very loosely. Hip-hop culture is blended in freely, meaning breakdance-style moves may appear in fight scenes, one particular beatboxing samurai will be stirring up trouble, and all sort of other crossovers. The blend of modern and historical works rather well, unlike that time the Jetsons crossed paths with the Flinstones.

One can’t just have two awesomely skilled samurai walking around together and not killing fools, especially when there’s a defenseless girl in their caravan. This setup is just asking for fight scenes, and it gets them aplenty. Watanabe delivers here, as would be expected; the fights are fun to watch and creative movement and directing keeps them interesting.

Screen Shot
Man…I just would never want to be stabbed.

Samurai Champloo doesn’t necessarily have to be viewed in order, first and last couple of episodes excepting. Almost every episode can be described as, “the one where they’re looking for the Sunflower Samurai, but things get really crazy there’s all kinds of chaos and Mugen and Jin fight a bunch of people while Fuu is all like ‘aaahhh!’ but then everything turns out okay and they keep looking.” That’s fine though, because it’s still a great watch. The only thing irksome about the plot is the disappointing ending.

The series will be remembered for its excellent soundtrack. One doesn’t necessarily have to enjoy hip hop to enjoy it, either. It fits the anime perfectly and, just like its other components, helps make it truly individual.

Watanabe earns another feather in the cap with Samurai Champloo. Its catchy music and interesting visuals mix well, then continue to blend even better with the collision of samurai history and hip-hop style.

-Heath Hindman