All lovers of cinema and especially of anime should watch Samurai Champloo, an anime directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, the producer of the classic animated series, Cowboy Bebop, whom almost everybody indulged into the colorful world of Japan should have heard of, even if they did not watch it. Thus the important question arrives: why is Samurai Champloo the epitome of a well directed series filled with good mixed music and great characters?
First of all, let me quickly introduce what Samurai Champloo is about at first glance. Three characters unexpectedly come together. Mugen is a man who has a rather unpredictable and chaotic fighting style driven by his impulses and his desire to win. He likes to take on every person who seems to be a decent and good fighter; this being the only goal that he seems to have. During his apparently aimless path, he enters a restaurant and meets Fuu, a 15 years old waitress whose mother had died not long ago. She is rather cheerful and strong minded. She seeks the help of Mugen when she is attacked by a band of samurai. At this point, Jin, a strong quiet and thoughtful samurai enters the scene and meets with his future companions for the first time. Noticing each other’s’ strength, Mugen and Jin start fighting with each other. That results in a chaos which burns the whole restaurant down and both fighters are taken hostage by the boss of the band of samurai. Fuu plays a role in helping both men escape with the crowd when she starts a fire to create disarray. In exchange for her help she requests both of them to go on a journey with her to find the samurai who smells of sunflowers with whom she has a special connection with.
This is where their journey begins. In each episode they meet and enter different and messed up adventures which more often than not start with Fuu being kidnapped and Mugen together with Jin starting fights. Although a long journey they only begin to truly know each others’ pasts and express their feelings towards the end.
It seems like a pretty predictable plot that you can find in many anime. So what makes it unique? First of all, the direction of this anime is great. The way the scenes move from a scene to another is incredible. It is like running a movie by cutting the tape at one point or going back and forth to move from a scene to another. Sometimes, the flow of events is cut completely and the narrator, a policeman running in the shadows at the time of the current story, goes back and forth in time, introducing elements from the future that talk about a Japanese man influencing Van Gogh’s art or talking about the baseball of the 21st century.
The director also mixed many genres and introduced modern elements in the Edo Period of Japan when our three characters lived. Beat-box, rap, hip hop, graffiti and baseball are few of the modern elements introduced in the story which blend with the traditional sad songs of Goze (blind musician women) and real historical events.
Moreover, the director successfully manages to make the story run smoothly and not be repetitive considering this is a rather difficult task that many anime produces succumb to. In almost each episode the trio goes to a new city where they run into trouble but this does not generate into a dull story and neither does it make it predictable.
The two last episodes were rather intense and the ending could not be anticipated. Anything could have happened and a tragedy almost seemed probable at one point. Although the ending was a bit disappointing considering the dynamic trio that Fuu, Mugen and Jin made, it was really the brilliant ending that Samurai Champloo needed and anything else would have been too much.
Samurai Champloo is indeed one of the best anime out there and it will definitely remain in my heart as a series which made me laugh from time to time and which made me wonder and be amazed at how great it is. It is indeed the first anime that I can truly say is unique and fascinating.