The story has a main central plot. Two samurai (although I think Mugen shouldn't really be considered a traditional samurai) and a teahouse waitress meet and the swordsmen end up accompanying her on a journey to seek out the samurai who smells of sunflowers. However, each episode, or occasionally every two episodes, really has its own story, but still falls into the main storyline perfectly because these episode stories are really the stories of their travels.
In the beginning the whole sunflower samurai thing was somewhat vague and unexplained, but the truth of it becomes revealed throughout the series. I think it was a great story that was well developed and the ending was actually pretty good in my opinion. It really didn't leave you hanging at all because the main storyline was entirely resolved (despite what the idiots who believe it wasn't resolved say.)
This story takes place in Japan's Edo Period (1603-1868,) however is really a revisionist historical series, meaning that the makers added some modern day elements that are anachronistic, predominately because the show contains hip-hop cultural attributes (i.e. break dancing, turntables, graffiti, Mugen's style, etc.) Also baseball did not arrive to Japan until 1878, ten years after the end of the Edo era, but the episode that contains a baseball game does fabricate a story that would make it possible. On the other hand, it does still actually show a lot of Edo historical aspects (such as the persecution against Christians, the nation's restriction of foreign affairs, Ukiyo-e paintings, and even a fictionalized version of a real life samurai (Miyamoto Musashi.) This blend of historical traits mixed with some modern themes makes the show very enjoyable.
Superb. The art style was very cool and the animation was nicely done. Consistently, throughout the whole series that is, the art was great, showing that they didn't slack off and really wanted to do a good job with this. The fighting scenes were brilliantly animated and always fluent, and the variety of camera angles and movements made it all very exciting.
Yes, outstanding, definitely. The music is meant to reflect the hip-hop genre, and it does so very well. The OP is a cool song that fits the style as well as the samurai theme of the series. The ED is also a nice song for the show, and on several episodes there is an alternate ED, and then it goes back to the main ED, so the changes every once in a while are nice.
The background music is top notch, especially during the action sequences. The music gets you so into the feel of the battle and makes it quite exciting. The sound effects are awesome. In the middle of the episodes when that screen shows up that says Samurai Champloo (where like a commercial would usually be,) as well during the actual episodes when one scene changes to another, there are cool sound effects like turntables and such that further add to the hip-hop feel.
There's all this talk about the hip-hop, but maybe you don't like hip-hop. However, trust me, it makes the show so enjoyable and adds greatly to the overall feel of the show, generating a remarkable outcome.
The show primarily revolves around three characters: Fuu, Mugen, and Jin.
Fuu is a 15 year old girl who lost her mother to illness and was always told she never had a father. Thus, at the start of the show, she was alone working as a waitress at a teahouse. It is her goal to find the samurai who smells like sunflowers, for a reason I can't disclose because I believe it'd be considered a spoiler. She loves to eat despite her small stature often bickers primarily with Mugen.
Mugen is a swordsman who really helps give off the hip-hop feel. His fighting style incorporates a break dancing like art with swordsmanship, making it very cool, original, and enjoyable to watch. At the start of the show he's displayed as a lone wolf sorta guy who is a troublemaker always on the hunt for a tougher opponent. Anything about his parents or family is basically unknown to him, however the focal point of his history is revealed, which is enough to satisfy the viewer.
Jin is more of a classical, orthodox, and traditional samurai. He remains as a rather cryptic and sophisticated type of dude. Always being more calm and quiet, he differs greatly with Mugen, which is great. However, their sword skills are equal, and thus they agree that after their journey with Fuu is complete they would kill each other. Jin's history, like Mugen's, isn't given to you in its entirety, however I think more than enough is given about him, telling you basically what you need to know.
The contrasting personalities and styles of this trio makes the story extremely enjoyable because it always creates great comedy and humor. I think everybody could come to love these characters due to their separate traits. The supporting characters are usually pretty interesting and perform their roles nicely, all that is needed for a supporting character really.
Unique and top-notch samurai sword fighting mixed with other weapons such as kusarigamas and the occasional firearm. Great humor produced by three significantly different characters. A story that every episode keeps you occupied and drawn in. A wonderful soundtrack and magnificent artwork that boost the quality of the show.
What more could you ask for in a shounen series? It's a great action show that shouldn't be passed up, if anything simply for how incredibly enjoyable it is.