Don’t get me wrong, the hip-hop theme is amazing.
Samurai Champloo is an adventure story that takes us through the historic Edo-era. We follow the story of Mugen, Jin and Fuu as they travel across Japan in search of the “samurai who smells like flowers”. While Mugen and Jin are at odds with each other’s lifestyle, both communicate with their swords. The intent of their swordsmanship is to prove to one another that one style is superior to the other. Before they get the chance to kill the other, they are brought together by Fuu. As fate would have it both end up working together to help Fuu, a girl in search of her father, find her father. While Fuu’s proposal is absurd to men wanting to kill each other, both end up agreeing to the arrangement to find Fuu’s father and put their personal differences aside.
While the story isn’t perfect, artistically and musically is on the older side, Samurai Champloo offers more than just an adventure of three individuals across Japan. Their adventures call into question the world in which they travelled. While it doesn’t idolize the Edo-era the story does a good job of telling the story of that world from a modern perspective. There are moments that it is critical of the era, but never accuses it of being backwards or unworthy. There are also moments where you appreciate the nature of the era, at least for those who have a wish to go back to a simpler time.
The story telling method of Samurai Champloo is also excellent for the story it wants to tell. We get many self-contained stories within an episode, and at the most requires 3 episodes to tell a complete story. Most of the time we get single episode stories and double episode stories. Narratively this works as the characters get strongly established at the beginning of the anime itself. The story can just place the main characters in any setting in the era, and we can have a self-contained story that is more than just filler content for the series. There is no wasted time in any episode and each story has a gem hidden within it for the viewer to find.
If you haven’t had a chance to watch this anime yet, I strongly recommend it. It’s easy to get into this anime as it only asks you to enjoy it’s historical commentary, and the fun personalities of its characters. You don’t have to suspend your disbelief entirely as its setting is historical. It’s world building is a known quantity. Even if you aren’t familiar with the Edo-era it will make you more familiar with it quickly.
Samurai Champloo is a love letter to the past that beautifully animates the story beyond the panels it’s drawn on. It contains timeless knowledge and wisdom that is passed from the anime to you. It presents moral dilemmas that have relevance even in a modern setting. Some questions never get answered as it presents more than even a modern mind is capable of answering. While the times may change, people stay the same. It’s the human element of the story that comes across loud and clear. I hope you enjoy Samurai Champloo more than I do, I love it.
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