Mild Spoilers for Samurai Champloo I hope I dont come across as snobbish by beginning this review by saying I often like to go off the beaten path when it comes to anime. It can be fun to watch anime or read manga thats obscureor the very least ones that arent heavily recommended. Especially when reviewing you feel unique and like a trailblazer. An obvious disadvantage to this is that if a lot of people havent seen something its hard to know if its good or not. Your criticallyacclaimed Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood your Evangelions and your Cowboy Bebops all have won in the court of public opinion. Samurai Champloo sees similar praise. What do I make of it? You can probably guess the answer everyone loves Samurai Champloo so why wouldnt I? I cannot answer that question because Im here to advise you to believe the hype. It might feel like Im excitedly explaining how Ive discovered that the sky is blue but what can I say Samurai Champloo is a blast. If everything is as good as people say they are I might have to stop trying to discover anime and instead stick to recommendations. Even when trying to judge Samurai Champloo on its own merits it will invariably be compared to Cowboy Bebop. For one Bebop is actually Samurai Champloos direct predecessor being the previous show of creator Shinichiro Watanabe. Both shows involve genre blending both are renowned for their soundtrack and in the Englih dubs both have main characters voiced by Steve Blum. Cowboy Bebop seems to overshadow Samurai Champloo. While Samurai Champloo is certainly wellacclaimed it doesnt seem to have as much of a presence as Cowboy Bebop its still of the silhouettes of Mugen and Jin arent as iconic as Bebops mugshot lineup of its principal cast Battlecry isnt as played as TANK and when examples of masterpieces of anime are given Samurai Champloo is curiously left out. Perhaps this is due to age with both being equally as good but Bebop rising to fandom prominence due to the being released first? Is Cowboy Bebop simply better? Maybe thats the general consensus but I found I enjoyed Samurai Champloo more. Samurai Champloo taking place in Edoperiod 1675 to be exact Japan follows Fuu a peppy determined fifteenyearold Jin a stoic nononsense warrior and Mugen a brash hothead whos always looking for a way to relieve his boredom. Mugen and Jin meet in the tea parlor that Fuu works at and immediately come to blows impressed at the others strength. Fuu helps the two warriors evade execution and after winning a coin flip has them accompany her as her bodyguards in order to find a samurai shrouded in mystery. The only thing Fuu apparently knows about this samurai is that he smells of sunflowers. Samurai Champloo features absolutely gorgeous animation and art design that looks great both during slower scenes and the fluid fight scenes. As a fan of sword fighting I really enjoyed the fastpaced stylistic fights of the series. Jin showcases your typical reserved master samurai fare while Mugens unique fighting style imploys breakdancing making it a sight to behold. Its impossible to discuss Samurai Champloo without talking about its soundtrack which is absolutely phenomenal. I actually listened to some of Samurai Champloos soundtrack well before I watched the show. Shiki no Uta was one of the mostplayed songs on my iPod and iPhone without even knowing its context. Needless to say I was giddy whenever music I recognized showed up. And naturally I almost never skipped the OP or ED. Just as Cowboy Bebops soundtrack was centered around a particular genre not commonly used in anime Samurai Champloo is based around a particular style as well hiphop. This is obvious in the first seconds of Champloos cool intro as were treated to the bass of a downbeat and our eyes feast on the mellow visuals of the opening before the rapper comes in. Sharp like an edge of a samurai sword indeed. The soundtrack is composed in part by the late and great Nujabes and as such the music is often similar to what youd hear in a lofi hiphop station While the show also has its fair share of my energetic tracks in general the music reflects the cool relaxed town of the show. For most of the show things dont get too dire and no matter the situation the gang will be absolutely cool doing it. 520 Arurian Dance One thing that pleasantly surprised me about Samurai Champloo is just how tender it is. Given that this is a comedic episodic show centered around two swordsmen who couldnt care less about others it makes sense that I didnt expect Champloo to have a lot of moments where my heart was tugged. I suppose a good rule to follow when watching this show is to expect the unexpected. From a gay who Im happy to say isnt characterized as a joke nor as a creep Dutchman unable to live in Europe nor Japan due to two types of persecution to a young man who is tragically slain after he descends to thievery in order to pay for his mothers medicne to a mother being forced into assassination in order to protect her child Samurai Champloo proves its more than capable enough of stepping away from the comedy in order to say something. Fortunately Samurai Champloo only presents its viewers with the dire scenarios not elaborating on how theyre supposed to feel thus keeping the show from dipping into hamfisted territory. Heightening these scenes is the beautiful soundtrack relaxing but so chill that it begins to feel somber with context these songs can become downright bittersweet beautiful in the instrumentation and heart wrenching in the contexts theyre presented in. I could go on and on about the shows music. The comedic moments are great but without these more introspective portions Im not sure Id have gotten the feeling Samurai Champloo will stay with me. That isnt to say that the show doesnt have its lighthearted moments. Samurai Champloo was always an absolute riot and if it didnt leave a smile on my face from how sweet it was I was smiling from guffawing at how hilarious it can be. Whether its having the protagonists and antagonists get high as kites together as the animation conks out or seeing thuggish American navy pull out brass knuckles to win a baseball game Samurai Champloo offered a lot of laughs. The show really struck a balance between seriousness and lightheartedness. The shows juxtaposition of a typical chanbara setting and modern day concepts such as beatboxing and graffiti was extremely appealing to me. In part because it was comical and it part because it was intriguing. As always the historical aspects were also very interesting. The story similar to Cowboy Bebop is told in a vignette style always moving forward but jumping to an unspecified point in the future for each episode except in the case of twoparter episodes showing a snippet of the main characters journey. I felt the anime had a consistent tone throughout something that I cant really say about Bebop as much as I love it. Bebop gets quite dark during its second half making it feel a bit disjointed and making it hard to jump in anywhere for a rewatch. Champloo on the other hand maintains its flow of sometimestakingitselfseriously sometimesjustbeinggoofy while overall always being a bit light in terms of internal darkness. I was surprised that the ending ended up being as happy as it did but I enjoyed it because it didnt make the entire journey bittersweet in retrospect. I have very few complaints about Champloo. Fuu could be a bit annoying and her getting kidnapped got old but it helped that because the main characters often couldnt care less about one another the kidnappings often didnt dominate the plot. I also wish we could have tracked the main characters development more it seemed like it was pretty heavily backloaded towards the finale. But overall my biggest complaint is that there werent more episodes. I truly did love seeing the gangs journey and was always excited to see what situation theyd get into next. It feels a bit silly considering I finished the series in less than a month but the group really did begin to feel like my friends. Some have criticized as the show as being all style no substance but maybe thats what made me connect with the characters more and added to a light mood that fet easy to return to. Or maybe thats just plain wrong due to the tender moments I loved so much. Or maybe theres nothing wrong with a bit of style. Because goddamn is this show stylish. While its unfortunate that it took me so long to post this review after finishing the show it helped me confirm that Samurai Champloo will stick with me for a long time and its not just a case of recency bias. A+ 10/10
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