This work of fiction is not an accurate historical portrayal. Like we care. Now shut up and enjoy the show.
- Taken from Samurai Champloo, Episode 1 Intro
Ditzy Fuu is a waitress in teahouse. She used to live with her mother, but a year back, she died of a disease. Now, she works part-time in the local tavern to eke a living.
On a fated afternoon, a rugged-looking, unkempt ronin (mercenary samurai) enters Fuu's teahouse, asking to be served a mug of water. Fuu naturally refuses his request, rebuking him for being a cheapskate. The man proposes her a deal - 50 dango (dumplings) - just to take care of the tavern's troublesome patrons. She negotiates for half the amount, to which the man dismisses. Before they can agree on the terms, Fuu-chan is called out by the rowdy patrons for some ocha (tea).
Meanwhile, on a nearby street, a ruckus has broken out. The daikan (local tax official), along with a consort of samurai, seems to be hounding a citizen, extorting him for some "financial favors". Fearing the daikan, the villager gives up all his money; but the official isn't satisfied yet. The daikan orders the villager's death as the final tax to be exacted upon him.
An observer in the crowd interrupts them, though. A refined, slender-built man wearing small glasses, the swordsman challenges the corrupt daikan and his men. He rapidly dispatches his bodyguards, much to the surprise and fear of the official. He leaves the scene afterwards, taking a partial sum of the villager's offering.
Back in the teahouse, Fuu klutzes up and spills the ocha on the roughneck patrons. The ruffians' leader, who coincidentally is the daikan's son, grabs Fuu and reprimands her. He demands a finger or two as payment for her blunder. They hold her down and prepare to strike her; but before they could do so, Fuu-chan shrieks out. "A hundred dango! A hundred!"
With that, the rugged ronin jumps into the fray. He provokes the daikan's son, and challenges his companions to all come at him at the same time. They eagerly comply and simultaneously lunge at him with their katanas. The ronin is extremely skilled, despite his rough and unpredictable style, and manages to slay all the attackers without breaking a sweat. He then turns on the daikan's son, breaking his fingers as he requests him to bring more potent opponents. His aides hurry outside to call for reinforcements.
The refined swordsman from the earlier ruckus unexpectedly enters the teahouse, though. Seeing the alerting situation, he readies his stance and prepares to brandish his katana. Misconstruing him as the daikan's lackey, the rugged ronin engages the newcomer. The two are evenly matched in speed and skill as they exchange blows.
Before they can conclude their duel, the daikan's henchmen set fire on the teahouse, trapping the two swordsmen. Still clashing swords in the hellish, blazing tavern, they eventually succumb to the fiery embers and pass out.
Already lengthy tale trimmed, the two wake up as survivors, but prisoners of the daikan. They are tortured the whole night and are set to be publicly executed tomorrow at sundown. Exhausted and jailed, they introduce themselves to each other; the unkempt ronin's name is Mugen, while the refined swordsman is Jin.
On the hour of the execution, they manage to free themselves and slay the daikan and his brigade. They then escape the compound with the help of Fuu-chan, who creates a commotion with some massive fireworks. She orders them to accompany her in a journey to find a "samurai who smells like sunflowers"... to which the two unusually agree.
What cards will the fates deal these three wayward adventurers? Haunted and hunted by their individual pasts, will they find what they seek for? Will they find the "samurai who smells like sunflowers"?
Masterfully directed by the creative visionary behind Cowboy Bebop, Shinichiro Watanabe, Samurai Champloo is an innovative presentation of a blatant blend of pseudo-historical Japanese settings, and hip-hop urbanite culture. Yes, mix hip-hop with the samurai -- and that's Samurai Champloo! "Champloo", by the way, is an alternate spelling of the Okinawan word chanpuru which means "mixed" or "blended".
This anime flick is just pure genius, I'm at a grieving loss for the right words to fully reiterate its beauty. I mean... Mugen fighting by way of bboying (in simplest terms, breakdancing, and yes, there's such a word), gangsters with wild hairdos and gaudy outfits, rapping and beatboxing villagers with medieval boomboxes and mics, punks who vandalize feudal fiefs with obnoxious grafitti... all accompanied with crazy dialogue, crazy cut and camera sequences, crazy duels and swordfights, and of course don't forget, crazy rap music. Man! I'm not really a fan of the hip-hop culture, but this takes the cake. Samurai Champloo for the win, I tells ya'!
And the story is just epic, even though it *did* look like a massive roadtrip all across feudal Japan. There's a certain sense of, as quoted from a poster in an anime forum, "realistic randomness" in the adventure in Samurai Champloo. I dunno how exactly to elaborate it. I guess the anime just brings up strong emotions within the viewer, so much so that you'd get easily attached to the three main characters and their individual plights. You'd get engulfed in their bleak world, unusually hip-hop it may appear, and get entranced by the numbered joys and the numerous misfortunes they experience on their journey. This is powerful, mind-blowing stuff, folks.
Samurai Champloo's characters are pretty interesting and colorful. Fuu is the ever ditzy, ever klutzy teenage girl with an unusual fixation for food. She's lovable, for the most part, and despite her outward bursts of hostility on the two ronin, she's really a caring individual. Mugen is the carefree, happy-go-lucky person in the wayward trio. The man is a loose cannon, a savage at heart, always seeking battle in order to prove his strength. He's normally unconcerned with the world around him, but when it comes to his two companions, he doesn't hesitate to display his concern, despite his crude and often rash actions. Jin on the other hand, is the contrast of Mugen. A sleek, refined and quiet man, his sword style reflects his attitudes, despite his troubled past. He's the most informed of the three; always alert and up-to-date with the surroundings they traverse through. He has a past as shady as Mugen's, but among the trio, he's the most stable and dependable member.
Music in Champloo is naturally, dominated by rap interludes and songs. While I'm not exactly a fan of the genre, these are musical pieces that magnificently capture the mood of each scene. They're brilliantly scored so that they fit the overall hip-hop quality of the anime, without sacrificing the emotion needed to be delivered in the crucial parts. I'm actually in awe that I got to like the soundtrack of Champloo, considering it's mostly hip-hop. I'm currently hooked to the series' first ending theme, "Shiki no Uta" (Song of the Seasons) sung by Minmi, and the last episode's closer, "San Francisco" by Midicronica. Please grab it at Gendou.com (see sidebar) and sample it for yourself. I'm sure you won't be disappointed.
The seiyuu cast is also noteworthy and commendable. Led by my most favorite seiyuu actress, Kawasumi Ayako as the extremely lovable and cute Fuu, these guys sure know how to gracefully deliver the needed airs and roles they play in the anime. Bad-arse Mugen is played by Kazuya Nakai, more known for his role as the seiyuu of Wakka in the Final Fantasy X series. Jin's seiyuu, Ginpei Sato, has Samurai Champloo as his debut in the career. With the way he handled Jin, you can expect a bright future for Sato in the seiyuu business. Hardcore voice-overs. Rated A.
Samurai Champloo. For. The. Win. Even if you're not a hardcore hip-hop afficionado (like yours truly) you'll definitely fall in love with this series. This anime is epic, stunning, crazy, amusing, action-packed, fast-paced, dramatic and memorable. Director Shinichiro Watanabe has again delivered quality goods in the anime world, just as he did in Cowboy Bebop. Samurai Champloo doesn't disappoint. Grab it now, onegaishimasu. Gimme a sequel too, please... It's driving me crazy, I can't get enough of it. Sequel, sequel, sequel, onegai!
Samurai Champloo has a lot of extreme violence and brutality. It also has occasional, short stints of ukiyoe (classical Japanese art) nudity. I suggest keeping this title away from your kids until they get out of puberty. 'Til then, feed them with Rurouni Kenshin as a substitute.