12-Days of Anime, Day 5: Samurai Champloo

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Question:  What do samurais use to keep their hair silky smooth?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Samurai Shampoo

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Hehe, yep it’s never gonna end 😉

What’s up, everyone, my name is Ken, from thebuttonsmashers.com, and today, I present to you Day 5 of the 12-Days of Anime, featuring my immediate two-cents on Watanabe Shoichiro’s slice-and-dice showcase: Samurai Champloo

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The story takes place in a weird, anachronistic version of Edo Japan, where a young woman by the name of Fuu is working as a waitress in a tea shop.  One work day, she was about to be assaulted by a group of samurai, until a carefree rogue named Mugen and a stoic ronin named Jin save her.  The two samurai are then captured by authorities for killing one of the assaulters, who was the magistrate’s son, and are then saved by Fuu herself.  She then requests, as payment for helping them wscape, that the two samurai accompany her in her quest to find “the samurai that smells of sunflowers”.

In my opinion, I think that the first episode of Champloo is one of the best first episodes in terms of reeling the viewer in for more.  It starts off near the end of the episode, showing the situation that two of the main characters are in, and then flashbacks immediately to how they got there in the first place, all while showing the anachronism that this show’s version of Edo-period Japan has (i.e. the inclusion of hip-hop culture).  It then introduces you to the characters beautifully:  Fuu being a headstrong woman, Mugen having a too-cool-for-this-crap kind of attitude, and Jin being an aloof and disciplined practitioner of the samurai arts.

And then the fighting happens.  And then the limbs start flying.  And that’s what really pulls people in.

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What I like about the episodic nature of the show so far is the attention that it gives to both its individual episodes.  Being stand-alone for the most part, each of its episodes are in fact entertaining (so far, I’m only 8 episodes in) and some are even thought-provoking because of the themes they use.  It takes good writing to be able to make the viewer care about a new story every single time, and to the show’s credit, it accomplishes that, at least for me.

However, there is a potential problem in this:  there’s supposed to be an over-arching story.  The whole point of the plot is to find the samurai who smells of sunflowers, and NONE of these episodic stories really contribute to that.  Like, if Fuu did not have that goal of meeting the samurai and instead just, say, went on a journey with Mugen and Jin accompanying her, then it would be just fine to have these episodic stuff.  The problem is, there is still a central story, and the episodes do absolutely nothing about the main plot.  Not to say that any of them were complete shit, but in the future, I would like to at least see some semblance of plot progression, kinda like Bebop:  it had the same episodic structure built upon a broad plot, with an actual story being sprinkled in between (and a couple of episodes dedicated solely to the progression of the story).

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The characters themselves are really entertaining to watch on screen and have really believable chemistry.  Mugen, being more random and erratic, conflicts a lot with Jin’s more refined nature, with Fuu being the sensible one who can be the voice of reason whenever the two samurai decide to kill each other, which is most of the time, and this creates a nice little character dynamic between them that is a factor in my enjoyment of the show.

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As you can see from the gifs, the action is this show’s specialty, and each fight so far has been choreographed to high effectiveness.  Champloo has a way of easily portraying both polished strikes (with the general samurai) as well as really random and unorthodox movements (with Mugen).  Generally speaking, the design for the backgrounds as well as the characters were all great and really bring out both the style of Edo-era Japan and hip-hop, resulting in its own style, so to speak.

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The soundtrack for this show is amazing as well, with both influences from hip-hop and traditional Japanese music being used to great effect to bring out more of the show’s style and attitude.  And while hip-hop is not really a genre of music that I enjoy personally, I must say that I really love the use of it in this show, mainly because I’ve never heard it used in such a way before.

Also, the opening and ending themes deserve some mention just for how fitting they are AND good to listen to on their own, so there’s that.

 

So what recommendation do I give this show?

Go and watch it nooooow.  So far, this show has been an interesting experience for me.  Each episode have been nice little 22-minute stories that really gives us a deeper look into the main characters, the new ones that appear in the episode, and the setting as a whole.  The technical wonders of this show, both the animation and sound, really bring out the feel of the anachronism between two vastly different eras, and even if you don’t like hip-hop or traditional Japanese music, you would at least recognize how well-done the OST was in keeping the style of the show.  Most of all, it’s fun to watch.

Aaaaaaand, with that, I bid you all adieu.  This has been Ken for thebuttonsmashers.com Anime Reviews, and I’ll see you guys tomorrow for Day 6!

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