Quick & Dirty
Genre(s): Action, adventure, comedy, drama, historical, samurai
Initial Interest: High
Favorite Character: Jin
Likely to Finish: Maybe
Mugen is a fierce animal-like warrior with a unique Bboying (break-dance) inspired fighting style. Jin has a more traditional style but don’t think of this as a weakness because his skills are amazing. The two contrasting samurai warriors are far from friends, yet their separate paths seem to cross anyways. Mugen is wandering aimlessly through the city when he stumbles upon a teahouse where he meets Jin and Fuu (A ditzy waitress, but don‘t think she doesn‘t have anything hidden up her sleeves). Fuu convinces them both to come with her in search of a mysterious samurai that smells like sunflowers and their journey begins. This modernized hip-hop tale breaks the barriers of the common, historical, samurai anime. (Source: AnimeNewsNetwork)
The thing about Samurai Champloo is that I have technically already seen all of the episodes I am now obliged to watch. Once, when it was on Cartoon Network, I expressed an interest in seeing it but was unable to owing to it being already partway into the series. My good friend Nisey had purchased part of the series and loaned me the first disc. I enjoyed it, and would have been interested in watching more, but I was never afforded the opportunity. Now it’s on Netflix. So I’m going to watch the beginning again, and then maybe, after I pause to complete this review, I’ll watch the rest.
I picked Jin because I mostly find Fuu annoying and Mugen is too random for me to like him for two scenes together. Jin is soft spoken, intelligent, and strong. These are traits I tend to like in characters. I will say though, that I feel as though they character sinned him in episode three. That is to say, for a character that seems to value honor, intellect, and discipline it seemed extremely out of character for him to conspire with Mugen to ditch Fuu when they had both promised to find the sunflower samurai. I understand Mugen running out on her, he’s only in it for the fun and she was being obnoxious; but Jin should be duty bound to honor his word regardless of his own personal feelings toward Fuu.
What they did well: There’s a certain style to this anime that they seem to be fairly consistent with. To some degree this style works really well for the show, but it’s kind of a hit or miss. I really enjoyed the rhythm of this show the first time around and found myself caught up in it more than once this time as well. The characters, while being few in number, are pretty diverse in personality. And of course an important thing for any samurai anime, the fight scenes are done quite well.
What they didn’t do well: The style to which I refer above is, as best as I can describe it, somewhere between hip-hop and gangster rap. I imagine that most of you can understand the shortcomings inherent in that choice. First, it’s a little difficult to manage that visually for a samurai anime, and second a lot of people simply won’t enjoy it. It annoyed me most in the first episode when they kept running the animation like a dj at a club, the term escapes me at the moment, but that way of moving the disc/record/whatever a little bit forward and back to make that scatching/screeching sound. And the last place you want to annoy your audience is the first episode. Thankfully they seemed to have abandoned that particular tactic afterward. In the same manner Kaze remembers he disliked this series because it was too much modern in his samurai anime. Mugen curses pretty regularly, and while some cursing – perhaps even a lot of cursing – may have gone on during those days the degree to which it is used here makes it obvious that is is anachronistic. As an obvious example, when Mugen tells someone in episode 4 to send the toughest mofo they can find. Some of this may also be a result of bad dubbing, but given that it seems fans are increasingly tolerant of dubs, and may in fact favor them more these days, a poor dub is a serious offense.
Ironically, the best way I can think of to describe Samurai Champloo is to say it’s Cowboy Bebop only with samurai. At the same time, Spike and Mugen have the same English voice actor.