Cowboy Bebop is one of my favorite anime of all time, but what about Bebop's little brother, Samurai Champloo? Honestly...I felt that Champloo was a crushing disappointment and really isn't that good in comparison. I know that isn't a popular opinion to state, but it is truthfully how I feel. Now I am going to analyze this series in depth to further elaborate.
The story is that a little girl named Fu is wandering around trying to find a mysterious samurai that smells of sunflowers. On her journey, she meets the cool headed Jin and the Wildman Mugen. Jin fights with a traditional kenjutsu style, while Mugen integrates hip hop break dancing into his fighting style. Basically, he fights like Eddy Gordo from the Tekken series when some n00b is just mashing buttons. The plot is largely episodic much like Bebop, but the episodes aren’t nearly as interesting as the ones from Bebop. The main storyline is also quite a large leap backwards for Watanabe when compared to Bebop’s main story. Champloo tries to integrate chunks of Japanese history and traditional Japanese culture with American pop culture, especially rap and hip hop culture. This was a very ambitious and bold idea that could have worked, but I didn’t think it was executed in this series very well. The anime also touches on Christianity and its impact on Japanese history. Christianity is certainly handled by Watanabe with a LOT more care and respect than some other anime directors. I’m looking at you Anno!
The characters are really pretty bland compared the memorable cast from Bebop. Jin and Mugen simply aren’t as cool or as likeable as Spike, Fu isn’t as awesome as Ed or Fay, and there is no villain with anywhere near the level of badass that Vicious brought. Having said all that, the characters aren’t terrible when compared to the average anime. They just can’t match up with the ones Watanabe created in his previous work. I did like how Jin and Mugen had the classic Red Oni/Blue Oni dynamic going on. Other than that, the character relations really didn’t interest me to a great degree. Even Fu’s relation with her father just didn’t feel that interesting.
The art is actually very good. I would say the art is by far the highlight of the series. The animation looks smooth and the series has aged quite well. No complaints here!
One major difference between Bebop and Champloo is the choice of soundtrack: Jazz vs. rap. This is obviously a matter of personal taste, but I like Jazz in general more than I like rap. This is amplified quite a bit when the Jazz and Rap in competition is Yoko Kanno’s masterful Jazz OST vs. some very mediocre J-rap. Whereas Kanno’s use of big band Jazz in the style of Duke Ellington was highly impressive, the rap in Champloo is only a notch above the skill and quality of Mike Jones. If you don’t know who Mike Jones is…just type it into youtube. You can hate me later for introducing you to his “music”.
I enjoyed some episodes a lot more than I enjoyed others. I appreciate what the series was trying so hard to do, but I just couldn’t bring myself to actually enjoy it, no matter how much I wanted to.
Overall: 6/10 (7+7+8+3+5)/ 5 = 6
Samurai Champloo is by no means a bad anime series that you should avoid watching at all costs. That is NOT what I am trying to say. What I am saying is that it isn’t a particularly good series and it is a HUGE let down for fans of Bebop. If you want an anime with samurai, lots of rap, and a cross between Japanese and American hip hop culture, I would go with Afro Samurai. It is far superior to Samurai Champloo.