Why can’t more shows be like Samurai Champloo? What I mean is, why is it so hard for each show to find its individual identity and bathe in it…bask in it…become it fully? I think the answer is that not many shows manage to have the level of ambiance that Samurai Champloo has. Set in the Edo period after the fall of feudal Japan, samurai have been mostly disarmed and the government is wildly changed. Renegade Ronin Jin and Mugin are wandering the land as vagrants day to day when fate brings them into a teahouse where Fu just happens to be waitressing. It’s through this fragile twist of fate that our heroes begin their epic journey that brings each of them a sense of closure to their individual stories.
A quick plot synopsis is probably necessary as this story goes through a ton of arcs and each episode is an individual narrative that lends to the overarching story. The main story is that Fu, a young girl of sixteen (occasionally its written as nineteen, not quite sure which is accurate) is looking for her father, the Sunflower Samurai, or the Samurai who smells of sunflowers. Its through this quest that we get a glimpse into the life of an abandoned young girl who has been on her own, fending for herself throughout life. She’s not a damsel in need of rescue. She’s a strong protagonist that goes through her own arc, and ultimately doesn’t take any guff from anyone.
On the other hand, we have Jin and Mugen. Jin is a disgraced dojo inheritor, blamed for killing his master. Mugen is as rough as they come, a former outlaw/bandit/ruffian. Although Mugen is by far the favored character, and gets much more development than Jin, both characters end up very well developed and likable by the end, and it’s pretty hard not to find yourself smiling at the rivalry between the two. The plot takes them all across Japan, the people they meet and the lives they touch are never quite the same.
The way the show blends (at that time) pop culture as well as interesting styles of martial arts, sword fighting, and excellent portrayals of the characters makes this easily one of the best anime of all time. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty short show, and with about 26 episodes in total, you can easily knock the whole thing out in one sitting. This is the type of shows all anime should strive to be. The animation never dips, the characters are in legitimate danger (or, at least it feels like it) and you never know what’s going to happen next. On top of all this, each story and thread is given a satisfying conclusion as each of the characters face their demons. It’s up there with the likes of Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood as one of the best stories as well as shows ever created.
If you’re into the beat em up style anime with fantastic story, this is for you. If you want interesting and sharp art that ages like fine wine, this is still for you. If you’re looking for a show that is as captivating as it is brilliant, this is still for you. Samurai Champloo’s blend of hip hop and pop culture fused with Japan’s Edo period is a pinnacle of animation, and something that all anime should strive to be like. It’s an easy recommendation for longtime fans and newcomers to the world of anime.
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