This review is pretty badly edited, and I also really hate this review! Seriously don’t read it, I absolutely despise it, it doesn’t feel like I wrote this. In fact it pretty much is a rip off JesuOtaku’s review. Just watch that. It’s ten times better than this pile of crap.
Old Review, Commence!
On May 20th, 2004, Manglobe Studios released the first episode of Shinichiro Watanabe’s newest directorial TV show since the incredibly popular Cowboy Bebop. The show then finished off almost a year with its 26th episode, on March 19th, 2005. Now before I start, I’d like to state something that will be pretty obvious as I start reviewing… I really like this show, despite its flaws and how much it doesn’t live up to its predecessor, Cowboy Bebop, I still really love this show. So with that said, let us start the review.
So let’s start with Samurai Champloo’s story and setting, since they are some of the most interesting aspects of the show. Now Champloo’s story starts off with a teenage girl named Fu, who lives in Edo period Japan and works in a teahouse. One day, while serving some men, she gets in trouble and is about to get her fingers cut off when a nearby swordsman named Mugan saves her. Afterwards, Mugan soon gets in a fight with the bodyguard of those men, another swordsman named Jin. The two after a long fight soon get arrested and with the help of Fu escape their predicament, but now they are in debt to Fu, and are forced to go on a journey with her to find a “Samurai who smells of sunflowers”.
Now you may think that would be the plot of the entire show and you would be only half right. The show is about that, but most of the episodes are vignettes, where the characters are involved in a certain situation that they solve by the end of the episode. It’s a lot like Cowboy Bebop in that aspect, but unlike Bebop most of the vignettes are sadly not very original because of the absent of Bebop’s screenwriter. Surprisingly enough, only the director and art team went to make Samurai Champloo, but in the end Champloo is able to take these cliché events and make them amazing!
This all thanks to the stellar direction of Watanabe, and the execution of each episode. It also helps that the setting and art direction are very interesting things to behold. Of course you may be wondering what could possibly be so interesting about the setting. Well while the show takes place in the Edo period, Watanabe takes a very strange spin on the period which took place on the cusp of Japan’s modernization. Instead of looking at the period as a time of dying tradition, he looks on it as a time of unrest and warring gangs of samurai. This may sound normal at first, but trust when I say I don’t think the Edo period ever got so gangster, Champloo seems to like to intersperse the show with strangely out of place modern references, such as baseballs along with lots of hip hop and rap. To be frank, this really shouldn’t work, yet Watanabe and the shows team somehow make everything in the show work. In fact, it works so well you don’t even care about the historical inaccuracies of the whole thing.
The art direction, as I said before is very good using interesting character designs and lines and shading to make everything pop. It also helps cover up some of the moments where the animation can be very meh, in fact the animation in Champloo can be very messy at certain points. However, with the help of the art and effective use shortcuts, it makes the show a master of its budget. In fact, like the story and setting, the direction and execution really makes everything amazingly good.
This leads me to the big downside of the show, while it is very well directed and fun to watch, when comparing it to its predecessor Cowboy Bebop, it really can’t hold much of a candle. Champloo really has a lot of similarities to Bebop, but unlike Bebop it isn’t as mature and like I said before some of its vignettes can be very cliché. If you’ve watch Bebop before, you probably also can’t help but notice the character similarities, Mugan is basically a crazier, ruder version of Spike, Fu is a less sassy version of Fei, and Jin is a quieter version of Jet. Really though, I find it unfair to compare the shows like this, while it may be disappointing that the characters and stories of Champloo may not have the same amount of maturity and development as Bebop, it still is a really good show. So what if the characters of Champloo don’t really have their own individual arches and instead grow as a family, they still are compelling and have interesting back stories. Also so what if the vignettes aren’t as mature or original as Bebop’s, there executed well enough for it to not matter at all, it’s just that good.
After that comparison, I must talk about the final aspect of the show, it’s music. Now I could probably just say, “Nujabes,” and leave it at that, but I don’t think many of you probably know who Nujabes is. Now Nujabes is a producer and maker of music that blends hip-hop, rap, and classical into one song, it is amazing! This especially true of the soundtracks and openings and endings he worked on for Champloo, without this anime I probably wouldn’t know who the deceased Nujabes is and I would be much sadder without that knowledge (He died in a car accident recently leaving this to be the only anime soundtrack he’s ever done).
Some of my favorite opening and ending songs have come out of this show, let’s first start with Battlecry. At first the rapping and beat may seem awkward to this minimal animation opening, after a while though I could not stop watching the opening, it’s just so catchy! Also when I say minimal animation I mean it, there isn’t much in the opening but once again art direction makes it all amazing.
Then there are the multiple endings, some which aren’t even produced by Nujabes. Now the main ending Shiki No Uta or Song of the Seasons, while only having two seconds of animation in the whole thing is unskippable because of the beautiful song. The same goes for Who’s Theme which is played at the end of Episode 12. It also goes for all the other endings used at the end of episodes 17, 23, and 26. Even when they aren’t produced by Nujabes they all are beautiful to listen to.
I also need to mention how the show uses its musical soundtrack. Now Samurai Champloo uses its music in very weird places, for example for the first 10 minutes of episode 14 they use a very strange sounding vocal track during the scene. At first it’s unsettling but then you realize it’s a strangely amazing choice, there are a lot of moments like this is Champloo and never ceases to amaze me. Overall, Samurai Champloo has some of the best music I have heard in an anime to date.
Samurai Champloo may not be as good as Cowboy Bebop, but in the end it really doesn’t matter at all because of how well directed every aspect of this show is. The music, art, and story direction is really something to be seen, and I think this may now be one of my favorite anime I have ever seen. I can’t recommend this show enough, it somehow makes all its flaws obsolete and takes elements of things that shouldn’t work and makes it work. If you are interested in film or anime I really think you should watch this show, it is a really good example of great direction. Overall, I give Samurai Champloo a…
Thanks for reading!