Of all the general themes in anime, one of the most thoroughly overdone ones is the “with friends, we shall prevail” motif. In these, the protagonist can only overcome some seemingly insurmountable task with the help of his or her group of friends. Even those who haven’t seen much anime can probably name at least one series that does this; they’re literally everywhere.
One trait that sets Shinichiro Watanabe’s work apart is his refusal to accept this Japanese conformity. In his anime, all of the characters define themselves by their individuality, fighting for themselves and ONLY themselves in a vast and lonely world. In Cowboy Bebop, the characters were thrown together by chance and stayed together only as long as convenience allowed. Although the anime was for the most part an action comedy, even the hilarious moments were subdued by this profoundly forlorn undercurrent of internal solitude.
Samurai Champloo has a very similar feel; in the series, three misfits who would otherwise have nothing to do with each other are thrown together by coincidental events. The characters then proceed to engage in a variety of episodic escapades, finally culminating in a suitably climactic and suspenseful conclusion. This basic plot structure, combined with Watanabe’s trademark freeform style, makes it easy to draw comparisons between the two works, despite the radically different settings. However, something that most people have not mentioned is that the anime are also subtly different. In the end of Cowboy Bebop, the characters all drew even more inward than they were in the beginning, as the ephemeral nature of life swept them into their own personal dreams. As their desire for money became more and more faint, so did their need to interact with the rest of the crew.
In Samurai Champloo, however, the characters are clearly not together for mere convenience; on the contrary, they almost constantly complain about the troubles incurred by staying together. Rather, they travel together for almost no reason at all, and find themselves continuing to do so despite each of them repeatedly threatening to leave. At the end, the reason for continuing to travel together becomes apparent; no matter how individualistic a person is, each and every one can reach out and actually recognize someone as a fellow human being. Each character eventually does exactly this, respecting each other as fellow humans and perhaps even friends.
I first thought that this contradicted the general message in Watanabe’s previous work, but after some thought I’ve decided that Samurai Champloo philosophically builds on the groundwork laid by its predecessor. The characters in SC, even as they gradually begin to trust one another, remain fiercely independent to the bitter end. However, by being forced to interact and actually understand their fellow comrades, they are able to gain a deeper wisdom together than they would ever obtain alone. Where the characters of CB were all trapped in their personal realities, the three travelers of SC are able to look beyond their own lives.
Unfortunately, while SC is more mature than CB in this respect, in many other ways it can be considered a step down from Watanabe’s (admittedly amazing) previous work. The entire series is, for one thing, a lot less tightly wound than CB in terms of storyline. SC uses an ample amount of recap, which is absurd when you consider that each episode is practically self-contained. More importantly, some of the episodes drag a bit, and the wry, sardonic humor that I loved in Bebop has been replaced with slapstick and overblown melodrama.
Even the most hard-nosed critic has to admit that this show has great fight scenes and character designs. The overall look of the series is perhaps even more stylized than CB, and as a whole works awesomely with the story.
Sadly, the soundtrack is vastly inferior to Bebop’s. Like Bebop, Watanabe tries to get the OST to match the soul of the series in a unique and noticeable way, but the overall quality of the work isn’t nearly good enough to pull this off. In particular, the OP is one of the worst that I’ve ever heard, a pathetic attempt to be cool that borders on laughable. The rest of the OST fares better, but is still repetitive and occasionally annoying. My problem is not with the genre of the music (the jazz in CB was every bit as anachronistic as the hip-hop here, and no one complained about that), but with the execution as a whole. Black Eyed Peas this ain’t.
The characters are all drawn in a few broad strokes, and as a result feel somewhat canned and unoriginal. However, theyre still remarkably likeable, and near the end gain more depth than they had in the beginning.
Even if this series is to be considered a step down, a short hop down from such lofty heights isn’t nearly enough to sink the show. Samurai Champloo is a consistently entertaining, awesomely animated and often poignant series, and a worthy follow-up to Watanabe’s original work.
Critic's Log: Earthdate - June, 12, 2012. Review # 8: Samurai Champloo
YO YO YO! Get your eyes ready! Keep it Steady! Because I have a review about Samurais and Hip Hop that is from the same guy that was directed Cowboy Bebop. I am white and nerdy and... You KNOW WHAT! I can't rap worth a damn, so let's pretend I never even started writing these written rap lyrics in the first place because... I think it was stupid from the beginning, so here's Samurai Champloo!
In the Edo period. A young woman named Fuu is working at a tea shop. A band of samurais harass her and she ends up being saved by a mysterious vagrant rogue named Mugen and a young ronin named Jin. Mugen and Jin end up fighting eachother because Mugen sees Jin as a worthy fighter and there was one casualty due to the havoc in the tea shop. Mugen and Jin end up being arrested and the jobless and homeless Fuu decides to save Mugen and Jin from execution and requests them to join her in finding a "samurai who smells of sunflowers". Fuu also tells them that they cannot duel eachother until after Fuu finds this Samurai.
To be technical, this anime was produced by Manglobe (a company that was formed by former Sunrise staff members) This was their first successful hit. This anime is also directed by Shinichiro Watanabe which most otakus know that he was the one behind Cowboy Bebop. this is also a tip of the hat for people that like Chanbara films (Sword-fighting samurai films), kinda how like Cowboy Bebop was a tip of the hat for people that like Science-fiction and Westerns.
The animation definitely has great visuals and Watanabe-san has a good eye on how to portray these visuals when it most matters. The animation is not perfect however. There are some times when the animation does not look too great. The episode "Elegy Of Entrapment (Verse 2)" is one example. That's the only bad note I have with the animation. Here's the good stuff. The action scenes are mostly spectacular in Samurai Champloo. If the story is out of whack, the animation's zany moments sure do cover that up well. Hell, Beatbox Bandits had a scene full of trippy effects. I don't think the animation is hit and miss however because there are some episodes that have the animation looking bloody well.
The soundtrack for Samurai Champloo is done by four people, Fat Jon, Force of Nature, Nujabes, and Tsutchie, all 4 of these guys didn't do a lot of musical scores from before or since. The opening is really cool in visuals and the theme really fits the visuals. May Nujabes Rap In Peace. The soundtrack for Samurai Champloo is pretty nice and contemplates the show for the most part, The strangest thing is that it works quite nicely, The average anime viewer that has tried it may wonder "How does Hip-hop music fit in with a story about samurais with The Edo period as its setting?" Now to think of it, Cowboy Bebop was a Sci-fi anime with western elements and Jazz music as it's main focus. Bebop's soundtrack is a gem, but Champloo's use of hip-hop may not make sense but the show is meant to be more entertaining and it is what it is. If you want to compare another samurai anime, look at Afro Samurai. It's about a Samurai, it has hip-hop music, Get the picture? There are a couple songs worth listening without the show but it is not too bad.
This show may also give you the impression that this show is more appropriate Subtitled, but Champloo is rich in Japanese Culture and is mixed in with Western Slang, hell... The New York Yankees are sort of in this show, so watching this in English wouldn't hurt either because both The Subbed Version and The Dubbed Version is excellent here. Kazuya Nakai and Steve Blum both make Mugen sound badass, Ginpei Sato and Kirk Thornton both make Jin calm and collected with some slight differences on vocal tones, Ayako Kawasumi and Kari Wahlgren are great as Fuu. It all comes down to personal preference.
If there is one major problem with Samurai Champloo... It is that Mugen, Jin, and Fuu don't really develop too much even though there was some development right in the middle of the show and in the 3 part finale. Then again, The show was probably made for fun since the setting and story was already hackneyed after a while. Watanabe-san probably wanted to use the same episodic approach from Bebop. There are some interesting ideas in Samurai Champloo but it is not as thought provoking as most of the episodes from Cowboy Bebop. This is one of the flaws I see with the show and...Frankly, my reader, most people don't give a damn... because this show has some kickass action scenes, if that is all you want in an action anime. This show will not disappoint you for the most part.
Samurai Champloo used to be available by Geneon, it has been rescued by Funimation and is currently available. There is a manga adaptation of Samurai Champloo but it's not really necessary to read if you already have seen the show, only 2 volumes of the manga were made and there really wasn't a ending to it.
With that said, Samurai Champloo is a fun series that is a bit over the top in some of it's action scenes, humor, and some of the episodes. It is a blast to see it with friends. It also has a couple nods to its elder cousin Cowboy Bebop.
I give Samurai Champloo a 7.8 out of 10, It is GOOD!
Feel free to leave a comment, and if you want to start breakdancing. GO RIGHT AHEAD! Just don't kill yourself over it.
Samurai Champloo is a very fun anime. When I think about it, it is the same kind of "fun" that Black Lagoon brings, or maybe Durarara. It is episodic, and I normally HATE episodic anime. Normally anime like this crush any chance of a good story developing. However, this one didnt try to be anything more then what it was. This made the anime awesome. It meant to be this way and so it was easy to enjoy. Sure there was the main story about the samurai who smells of sunflowers, but it was just a bunch of entertaining small stories along the way. It was good that way. Like I said before, this had very much the same simply fun appeal that Black Lagoon had. Just have fun with it. Sit back relax and enjoy the things they did well.
Story: like I said, episodic. It had the main story but intentionally filled itself up with other stuff in between, but nothing seemed wrong with it. Not like those anime that are episodic and then expect to be awesome. This one rose above those kinds of anime.
Animation: Really crazy, there was one episode early on with a really wierd animation style, but other than that it was pretty good. 9 for being solid and making the action seem like action.
Sound: some of the soundtracks were pretty good, but it seemed like it could use more in some places and some were out of place. misplaced and maybe a little scarce is the reason this gets a 7
Characters: being episodic doesnt mean that characters cant have development. There were small arcs for Mugen, Jean, and Fuu. It worked out well. In the end I also really enjoyed the relationship between the 3 companions. They each had their own very uniqe and rather entertaining personalities. A 10 for the great characters, development and relationships.
Overall: the end was really sad. I didnt want it to end. I loved the characters and how things turned out. Dont get me wrong, the end was just how it should have been. I think they did a great job of ending the series. I was just sad to be done. It really was a fun anime. Not perfect, but just freakin fun. 9 out of 10, go check out Samurai Champloo.
Samurai Champloo felt like a fresh breathe for me after watching all sorts of romance anime for the last 3 weeks. This anime focuses on 3 main characters, each with their own goals. We are first introduced by Mugen, a freestyle samurai or whatever you may call him. The second one is Jin, a calm-looking casual samurai with an usual ronin outfit. Finally the girl, Fuu, who was peacefully working in a tea shop, while some tough guys came in and had a fight with Mugen.
All done with the tea shop burned, the three set on a journey searching for "the samura who smells of sunflowers". I'm gonna stop there, it will be too much of a spoiler. You see, the very own reason their journey takes forever is because they don't even know a single thing about this guy.
Oh, i got to mention what i really like about this anime, the fight scenes. They're very....well made, it's like it wouldn't be impossible to actually put a real-live movie for this anime. At least, i think they're quite realistic enough and pumping at the same time.
Lots of hip-hop music, nah don't reall like hip-hop. Historical facts and events are mentioned quite a lot. I know, cause there is a guest star in that anime, a legendary real swordsman, i won't mention a name until you actually watch it.
Overall, it's quite good. Decent ending, nice animations 'till the last episode. Even though, the ending could be better, it's a little cliche? i think so. Well, i can make sure that you will at least enjoy 50% of it.