Aug 16, 2007
daimira (All reviews)
Fuu is a young orphaned girl doing her best to survive while working in a teashop. But her world as she knows it begins to unravel the minute a wandering Okinawan swordsman by the name of Mugen slouches into the shop while the daikon's abusive son and his rude cronies are also having some fun. When Fuu becomes the victim of their nasty games, she immediately offers Mugen fifty dango if he saves her from them. At the same time, a masterless samurai named Jin bears witness to the daikon's cruelty and quickly intervenes, easily dispatching the daikon's "best of the best" guards. Mugen also beats everyone in the teashop up, starting with cutting off the arm of the man threatening Fuu, and demands better opponents from the daikon's son.

Jin wanders in after the lordling threatens Mugen with his father's elite guard, unaware that Jin has already taught them all a lesson. Mugen mistakes Jin for the "really strong" warriors but is quickly corrected. It makes no difference because Jin is now the strongest opponent available. To Fuu's chagrin, the pair of them immediately decide to duke it out in her teashop. The fight, however, ends abruptly when the man whose arm Mugen has just chopped off sets the place on fire.

That is how the story starts, and how three strange, wildly different people get together. Due to a strange series of events, Fuu has contracted both Mugen and Jin tol help her find the mysterious "samurai who smells of sunflowers". But how long can a young girl keep a pair of battle-crazy swordsmen under control, and how can they find a samurai by his scent alone (especially when Mugen doesn't even know what a sunlower is)?

Samurai Champloo is Shinichiro Watanabe's next great animated venture that came right on the heels of Cowboy Bebop. It's quite funny and insane and just as initially apparently plotless as Bebop but once again proves to be a masterpiece in character studies. Unlike Bebop (which I can't help comparing Champloo to), there isn't much of an overarching plot. Though Fuu's quest to find the mysterious sunflower samurai is the main plot point, it isn't as heavy or deep or as present as the Spike/Vicious conflict throughout Bebop. Most of the time, it's just Jin, Mugen, and Fuu wandering across Japan, getting into trouble, starving, almost dying, and fighting with random people for no true purpose. It is occasionally dramatic, sometimes gory, and frequently violent, but it is never too heavy. It's more entertainment than actual story, although there are several stories and themes that intertwine.

The art is breathtaking, of course. The landscapes and backgrounds are so amazingly beautiful and complete while animation is dazzlingly fluid. The fight scenes are absolutely excellent and exciting. The music appears inappropriate in theory but sounds perfect in actuality. Hip-hop and lounge music in a samurai anime? Was the director on crack? Not really. Just brilliant. With artists such as Tsutchie and NUJABES on board, the soundtrack is unexpectedly fitting and over-all quite good.

My final verdict is: it's a good and entertaining anime but lacks the depth that made Cowboy Bebop a masterpiece. Still, I wouldn't pass Champloo up. The characters and setting are just too awesome and realistically done. However, some aspects of the stories and humor may be hard to grasp, as they are much too deeply rooted in Japanese history to easily translate or understand. And if you're one of those people who think that, after seeing one samurai anime, you've seen them all - trust me. You haven't. Samurai Champloo has it faults, certainly, but it is most definitely unique.