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.