A spicy dish served up hot
Zack Davisson | Seattle, WA, USA | 02/02/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It has been several years (five to be exact) since I watched "Samurai Champloo," and while I always knew it as good I somehow forgot that it is in fact one of the greatest anime series ever produced.
"Champloo" is an Okinawan word (more properly pronounced champuru) meaning "mix" or "blend," and is most often applied to traditional food dishes such as "Goya Champloo" or "Stir-fried Champloo." It's basically a mixed stir-fry with a seemly infinite number of potential ingredient, and a very fitting description of Watanabe Shinichiro's "Samurai Champloo."
An eclectic blend of ancient and modern, hip-hop and koto, and pretty much everything else thrown into the mix, this is a Japan where a wild swordfighter uses capoeira moves to slice and dice with a fury, an enormous man known as the Oni smashes skulls with his massive club, and two twin brothers compete in a match to graffiti Himeji castle. Watanabe is a heck of a chef, and manages to balance all these seemingly dissonant elements into a tasty dish that might even top his previous concoction Cowboy Bebop.
The story features a bookish but deadly ronin (Jin), a wild sword-swinging roustabout (Mugen) and a kooky but determined waitress (Fuu). The trio is pushed into an unhappy alliance, several times attempting to split up, yet always finding their destinies inexorably intertwined. Fuu leads them on a quest for the "Samurai who smells of Sunflowers," providing the McGuffin that keeps the story moving. Each episode changes in tone and character, moving effortlessly between comedy and drama, tragedy and action.
Each ingredient supports the flavor of the other perfectly, creating a variety of story possibilities that couldn't be found by following just one personality. Categorize "Samurai Champloo" as "hip-hop samurai" is too much of an easy dismissal; the series goes much deeper than that. Along with hip-hop music and culture, the series features Japanese history like the hidden Christian sects, and samurai movie mythology such as Miyomoto Musashi and the female ninjas kunoichi. Every episode is a surprise, and every episode had be glued to the screen in anticipation of what would come next.
Watanabe's trademark style is on fine display, with some of the most fluid animation you will ever see and a quick and flowing story punctuated with quiet moments of reflection. The story builds at a good pace, allowing all the characters to develop in time. With twenty-six episodes, there is plenty of time to build characterization and identity, and while Jin, Mugen and Fuu appear at first to be mere stereotypical genre characters, they deepen with each telling.
This boxset is a pretty sweet package for this amazing series. Produced by Geneon and released by Funimation, it has all twenty-six episodes on seven disks, each with its own slim case. There are four episodes per disk, meaning that no quality has been lost by squishing too many episodes on a single disk to save space. Inside each case is an essay or comments by one of the people who worked on the series, giving insight into how it was created and what goes into such a collaboration.
The only possibly thing I would have wished for this box set is that Funimation had double-packed the DVDs into the slim cases, as they have with most of their other series. With as many DVDs as I own, space can be a premium at my house and so the smaller the packaging the better.
Samurai fighting to hip-hop music? Cool.
lain4ever | Los Angeles, CA | 07/21/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's hard to take "Samurai Champloo" too seriously. The series features a breakdancing samurai, hip-hop music, beatboxing and rapping.
But "Samurai Champloo" is a masterpiece in light comedy, action and even a compelling story involving a daughter of a samurai who smells of sunflowers.
As the two samurai heroes say in episode two, there's something silly about a samurai who smells of sunflowers. However, this series truly shows off some of the best battles ever seen in an anime, embellished with the gorgeous environment of ancient Japan. There's a wide variety of stories, from a complex episode about a dying mother, an episode about the origins of Japanese manga and even an episode about a traveling geisha.
There's just one catch--the series is chock full of hip-hop references. Episode 8 alone is a goofy comedy tidbit about a samurai traveling the world with a beatboxing companion. Episode 16 features three samurai travelers rapping rumors they've heard on the road. Episode 18 gives us a closer look at the dangerous life of taggers in ancient Japan.
Okay, maybe this isn't the most realistic period piece series ever made. However, this series has so much fun with blending hip-hop, Christian missionaries and samurai fighting together that one can't resist loving this series.
It's no surprise that this is one of the most accessible action anime series around. Director Shinichiro Watanabe, responsible for the excellent series "Cowboy Bebop," has a flair for creating some of the slickest battle sequences ever made. His storylines might be more simplistic than, say, "Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex." However, this is exactly why American audiences enjoy his anime series the most. They are simple stories of men who fight for something they care for.
There's no better time to buy the box set of "Samurai Champloo." The box set is $30 cheaper than the Geneon set, so anime fans have to get this collection. Hands down, this is one of my absolute favorites."
Highly Recommended for Non-Anime Fans, Too
Whesandra | 09/03/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Samurai Champloo is a wonderful series, certainly the best anime I have ever had the pleasure of watching and is, indeed, one of the best series I've watched in any animated or filmed medium. As a person who isn't a regular anime viewer, I find this show to be very accessible and enjoyable even to people who aren't familiar with the medium.
The animation is smooth, clean, and fluid, more so than one often finds in anime, and the action is fast-paced and well-choreographed, always interesting to watch and never interrupted by lengthy dialogue. It's easy to tell that the artists worked very hard to create visually interesting and pleasing characters and settings. The animation in every single scene is infused with a sense of care and precision that is never lazy or sloppy. The level of detail ranges scene-to-scene from strikingly intricate to beautifully minimalistic, and yet the two styles blend together so well that neither ever seems out of place. Overall, the visuals are very artistic and colorful, be they contemporary graffiti art murals or traditional Japanese landscapes.
The hip hop themes and other anachronisms seem completely compatible with the old-world samurai setting, as well. The tone of the series, overall, is edgy and contemporary, and no fuss is made about what is and isn't accurate to history, so meeting characters with bleached blond hair, wearing Ray Bans, and beat boxing doesn't come across as all that outlandish.
The music is profoundly eclectic and always enjoyable. There's hip hop, of course, opening and closing nearly every episode as well as underscoring quite a few scenes, but mixed in is also a fine selection of more traditional tunes including hauntingly subdued Japanese folk songs.
And, for the pleasure of the scholars and poets in the audience, the series is packed with metaphors, symbols, motifs, and other references that add a deliciously deeper level of meaning to the goings-on in the characters' lives. Watching the series once will satisfy anyone interested in the plot, but watching it over again in order to excavate and research the references would be well worth the effort. (An excellent and highly-recommended companion to the anime is the Samurai Champloo Roman Album, full of cultural and historical notes as well as information about what inspired the series. Roman Album: Samurai Champloo)
As for this boxed set itself, it's a very nice collection, compact, clean, and handsome-looking on a shelf. Each of the seven discs is labeled and numbered according to its order in the series, and each disc comes in its own ultra-thin case. Each case, furthermore, sports its own unique collage of Samurai Champloo art on the front cover and the disc's episode listings and screen grabs on the back cover. Plus, printed on the reverse side of each case's cover are interviews with many of the show's creators which offer perspectives on different elements of the series' creation, including script writing, music recording, character design, and series direction. All of this is packaged neatly inside a glossy black cardboard box bearing the title of the series and an image of each of the three main characters.
The series has been dubbed in English and will play automatically on this setting, but I recommend going into the setup menu and enabling the original Japanese voices with English subtitles. The series is so steeped in rich Japanese culture and the Japanese actors are so superb that watching the episodes in English seems silly. In fact, the English dubs may even dull the clarity of an otherwise finely-crafted piece of art.
(Note that this collection provides audio in both Japanese and English, but subtitles only in English.)"
Truly a perfect blend of anime and hip-hop
J. Miller | 03/31/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Normally when people try to mix anime and hip-hop we get an atrocious theme song,ex. 4kids One Piece, or just a sloppy mess but when people do it right you get Samurai Champloo. What makes this blend great is that it doesn't beat you over the head with the hip-hop, the music goes with the story and the scenes. The story follows a wild, untamed vagrant named Mugen, a traditional, self-controlled samurai named Jin, and a waitress name Fuu as they try to find a samurai that smells of sunflowers. Their journey takes them to various places where they meet a variety of people and have many action-packed adventures. This is a story where the main focus is the journey, not the destination. While in most episodes they are trying to get money or Mugen and Jin are dealing with past sins the final three episodes show how the journey changed them and how each of them benefited from each other and the conclusion is very satisfying. Overall this is a great series for those who loved Cowboy Bebop as it is also directed by Shinichiro Watanabe and has his style of combining opposites into something beautiful. A must have for anime fans."