Samurai Champloo Volume 3
The characters of Samurai Champloo are certainly its most defining element. We have Mugen, the unorthodox-style fighter who is not bound by his sword to any code, but rather set free by it, and the strength that it represents. Jin is a traditional samurai, bound to the code of honor that his swords represent, but granted an incredible strength by this discipline. Fuu, finally, is all but a lost puppy who has found someone to foster her. It is her search for the Sunflower Samurai that has united these three in their journey. The details of this elusive samurai are sketchy at best, but Fuu’s resolve to find him permeates their party and strengthens everyone’s dedication to this end.
The show masterfully mixes themes from historic samurai honor to modern grafitti art, as well as a variety of other intermittent themes. It seems that Champloo, from the title of the show, means to mix or blend in some Okinawan dialect. Given this, the mixing of the themes, times, and character style, this only makes sense, and furthers the importance of the hip-hop orientation of the music and cinematic therein.
Episode 9: Beatbox Bandits
A flashback from the eyes of an elderly guardsman at the Hakone Checkpoint, the Ogre is known for never letting anyone through, with the single exception of the starring trio some 30 years prior. Having purchased poorly forged documentation from a scalper in the nearby town, Mugen, Jin, and Fuu are arrested at the checkpoint and are about to be executed. Their salvation lies in Mugen, and his ability to deliver the head of a criminal, but to do so he must pass the impassable forest, filled with dangerous warrior-priests who allow no trespassers to survive.
Episode 10: Lethal Lunacy
A vagrant samurai is stalking the streets at night and challenging the greatest fighters, destroying everyone that he encounters. The bounty on his head inspires Mugen to seek him out, but after his first taste of the mysterious wanderer’s strength, it ceases to be about the money. Mugen must prepare himself for the greatest fight of his life, for once unsure of the outcome against the obscure powers wielded by this enigmatic fighter.
Episode 11: Gamblers and Gallantry
While Mugen is busy training a beetle for beetle sumo wrestling, Jin has become enamored with one of the townswomen. When Jin learns that the subject of his newfound affection is to become a prostitute to pay back her husband’s debt, he becomes determined to free her by whatever means. Mugen’s beetle training techniques prove successful enough, granting the trio some financial freedom for the first time in a long while. Jin, on the other hand, has met with little success, and must fall back on what he knows best in order to set free the woman he loves.
Episode 12: The Disorder Diaries
A catch-up clip episode with an impressive premise: the two samurai discuss what they know of the sunflower samurai, which turns out to be nothing at all. Furious at their lack of information, Mugen finds his way into Fuu’s bag, where he discovers her diary. Jin recites from the diary her account of their wanderings together.
The music of this series goes hand in hand with the entire idea behind it. It features a blend of hip-hop and more traditional anime music, often intertwined, and always pertinent to the action on the screen. The sensation of this series comes not only from the content, or sound, or even art. The true brilliance behind it stems from the theme which is adhered to quite closely, but the theme being hip-hop is impossible to pin down. It is an open ticket, allowing near total freedom for creative decisions. The cut scenes, flashing between the two samurai’s unique fighting styles, supported by the variant beats of the music, and topped off with an artistic style which begs to be tinkered with, leave the viewer not satisfied, but wanting more and more.
I can say with confidence that this is some of the best anime I have seen to date. The characters are likeable, even when they are at their worst. The diversity of the characters gives something for virtually anybody to associate with. The action is constant, exciting, and unique, while never taking away from the story. The music adds great depth to the show, and the adherence to the theme throughout lends itself to much deeper analysis than one might expect from anime. This is the kind of show that you just can’t help but love.
The English dubbing is surprisingly intact with this series, although unfortunately, the subtitles did not follow suit. Where the spoken dialogue may be PG13, the subtitles are nearly G ratable. The extras leave something to be desired, with the highlight being the concept art(line art) of the trio.
The story, characters, dialogue, and action could easily stand alone for a great series. Shinichiro Watanabe was not satisfied with that, however, and has turned what could be great into something amazing and unforgettable. There is nothing un-entertaining about this series, from the incredible adherence to the show’s theme, to the high intensity action, to even the simplest dialogue between characters.
Although I might have asked for more extras, and I could have done without the toned down subtitles, the rest of the show more than makes up for these trivial shortcomings.
All around one of the most uniquely appealing and ultimately satisfying anime series to grace DVD, Samurai Champloo will leave you bewildered, excited, and drooling for more.
Episodes: #9: Beatbox Bandits, #10: Lethal Lunacy, #11: Gamblers and Gallantry, #12: The Disorder Diaries
DVD Features: English Dolby Digital 5.1, Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0, Japanese DTS 5.1, English Subtitles, 16X9 Anamorphic Widescreen, Scene Access, Geneon Previews, Line Art