Apr 14, 2009
darkmac (All reviews)
Samurai Champloo is frequently compared to Cowboy Bebop, but there's one thing that really sets it apart: the action. There wasn't anything bad about Bebop's action, but Champloo's action is among the best of any anime out there, especially among TV series. Though the main characters both use swords, they fight with wildly different styles (Mugen's use of shoes is particularly brilliant), and the fights against enemies with various weapons throughout the series all manage to make themselves interesting and different. Even if the rest of the series were terrible, it would be worth watching simply for the action.

But the rest of the series manages to be entertaining as well. The main story's not anything special, but the stories told in individual episodes range from hilarious to heartbreaking. Each story is genuinely unpredictable due to the bloody nature of the series, and you can never tell whether the encounter's going to end well or not. That's not to say that the show revels in violence for the sake of violence, as conflicts are frequently solved peacefully as well.

The main characters themselves are all solid, but where they truly shine is in their interactions with other characters. The series is never content to just follow one character's story. All three of the characters will often split up, meet separate characters, and go through development of their own while the tertiary characters develop as well. Sometimes the stories will all be related, while other times they share only thematic links, but this structure keeps the show interesting and fast-paced at all times.

The style of the show likewise contributes to making everything more interesting. The artstyle is gorgeous, and the animation is always pretty. More important is the way hip-hop themes are integrated into the show. I'm not a fan of hip-hop in general, but the style here is absolutely perfect, contributing greatly to the humor of the show. It never dominates an episode completely, but it provides little touches that make otherwise ordinary characters and scenes special. A rumor might be told as a rap, and the episode might otherwise be completely devoid of hip-hop references. The music does have some hip-hop influences, but they never dominate the score, so don't worry that you'll dislike the music if you don't like hip-hop.

The humor of the show in general is likewise top-notch. The comedy episodes are some of the best in the show, partly because they tackle serious themes (such as Japan being invaded) in very comical ways. These episodes are also just as violent as the rest of the show, and include the same hip-hop styling to make things stay fun. Mugen is frequently the source of most of the laughs, but Fuu and Jin also frequently amuse, as does the side cast. Even the serious episodes often have jokes at very inappropriate times, and because of the style of the show, those jokes work.

I watched Samurai Champloo for the action, but every other aspect of the show completely surpassed my expectations. While I wouldn't call it perfect, as one or two of the episodes aren't very good and only a few are truly exceptional, I will say that I was never bored, and I usually had a smile on my face. Samurai Champloo is just plain fun.