Must-See TV: Samurai Champloo Complete Collection

After breaking the seal early last week, Anime reviews are erupting from within like some sort of volcanic entity. Though a little more compact and manageable in size in comparison to Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Samurai Champloo is a brilliant combination of fluid artistic style, hip-hop sensibilities with a wicked sense of humour. Throwing together the designs of Kazuto Nakazawa (Kill Bill Vol.1) under the watchful eye of Shinichiro Watanabe, director of Cowboy Bebop, they’ve created a hot-pot of Anime gold that has a different flavour to anything else out there.

The title “Champloo” is derived from the Japanese term ‘chanpuru’ and refers to a hot-pot dish created from a mash-up of leftovers and scraps thrown together with goya, a bitter melon used to balance out the flavour. It’s a fitting title and more than descriptive of what ensues with a blend of modern day sensibilities, huge hip-hop influences and a dose of real life history all meshed together. There’s also a healthy smattering of ‘goya’ with most of the tales ending bitter-sweetly for the three main characters.

Samurai Champloo tells the story of three unlikely travelers thrown together and embarking on a mysterious quest. When masterless ronin Jin and Mugen cross swords (not in that way) at a local tea house, the ensuing destruction leaves young hostess Fuu jobless and without any ties to hold her back. She has been long putting off her search for a samurai who, cryptically ‘smells of sunflowers’ and finds keeping these two ronin from slicing each other to bits the perfect catalyst to continue her journey, and thus saving their lives from each others’ blades in the process.

Each member of the trio is chalk and cheese, with the one joining thread Fuu’s quest and their love of food in copious amounts. Mugen is a loud mouthed braggart who despises authority and loves picking a fight. His sword technique incorporates breakdance floor moves and he is incredibly erratic across the board. He’s hiding a checkered past that will eventually catch up with the threesome with disastrous results. Jin is almost the polar opposite of Mugen, using superior mastery over emotion and deliberate strikes to overpower his opponents. This bespectacled warrior is wresting his own demons which frequently rear their ugly head and sidetrack the group from the task at hand.

Fuu is the most level headed, has a bottomless pit for a stomach and rivals the Dark Knight’s partner Robin for most frequently captured and kidnapped cartoon character ever. Often playing peacemaker between Mugen and Jin, she drip feeds the pair information about the samurai they’ve been entreated to track down and is the glue that holds the crew together.

The action sequences are amazing with Mugen and Jin proving they are, individually or combined, a force to be reckoned with, but the most entertaining moments come from the colourful side characters and historically accurate side missions. Based around the Edo-era of Japan certain events like the Shimabara Rebellion take centre stage, supported by missionaries converting the local populace, the restriction of foreigners on Japanese soil (told with a delightful twist through the eyes of a gay Dutch samurai) and the emergence of the blossoming of Ukiyo-e artistic style of painting.

Offset with killer hip-hop tunes, characters sporting flamed outlines on their traditional robes, or Puma stripes with the logo on the back and a hearty dash of beatboxing thrown in for good measure, these departures alleviate the tension and provide a more well-rounded experience. To describe anymore of the story would encroach on the spoilers zone, let me just say that if you like some frantic swordplay with a smidge of history and a hip-hop twist, Samurai Champloo should be at the top of your to watch list.

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Dave Kozicki

Shotgun Samurai
Video game reviewer, presenter and enthusiast. Film and TV-aholic. Pop culture geek. T-shirt and sneaker addict. All around nice guy and one hell of a sexy beast. Writer for Official PlayStation Magazine AU, AusGamers and Hyper Magazine.
  • thrillho

    I want this now…