Written by Obara Shinji & Sato Dai
Directed by Watanabe Shinichiro
Design by Nakazawa Kazuto
My Favourite Characters: Mugen and Jin
Samurai Champloo is a sometimes funny, sometimes deep series that’s set in a recreated historical Japan. It’s about a fifteen-year-girl named Fuu who manages to convince two wandering samurai to stop fighting each other long enough to help her to find the samurai who smells of sunflowers. Who is the samurai who smells of sunflowers? Fuu doesn’t give a straight answer to her companions, Jin and Mugen, and avoids the question whenever it comes up.
The offbeat old-meets-new aspect of the show makes it quite unique–a hard label to give an anime series, a category of television that in itself has thousands of unique storylines. The opening theme is an English rap song, setting a mood of fighting and independence that suits samurai Mugen and Jin. The closing theme is more soulful, deep and feminine, and suits Fuu, a strong-willed young woman who is surprisingly carefree.
While the main story is about a quest, and each episode primarily features the trio getting into some sort of trouble while looking for either food, money, passage through a border–or perhaps all three–the real story is in the characters. The first few episodes pass without learning very much
about them; we see Mugen as a strong ruffian, fascinated with his own power; Jin as strong in mind as in body, quiet and refined; and Fuu as young and surprisingly sure of herself for a fifteen-year-old, happily and fearlessly leading these two men.
Mugen, who looks like he could be anywhere from sixteen to thirty years old, is a strong samurai that carries a sword and a dagger. His loose-fitting clothing is a mess, he has scraggly hair, and at first glance he appears to be a skinny, tanned thug. His fighting style, however, is a beautiful display of martial arts when unarmed, and deadly sword-fighting when he has his blade. Like Spike from Cowboy Bebop, Mugen himself is a weapon; his senses are heightened, his reactions are fast, and he moves as smoothly as water.
Jin looks and acts older, though he is probably under thirty himself. He’s from a fighting school that taught the way of the sword, though reveals little of this early on. He wears glasses–uncommon in his time–and carries two precious swords with him. Unlike Mugen, he wears refined clothing, and keeps his hair back in a tidy ponytail. Although he can appear to be a frail man who is better equipped mentally than physically, Jin is not to be underestimated. He is a very experienced fighting, and an excellent strategist.
One downside to the series is the poor start. It’s not a slow start, certainly, as it leads to Mugen and Jin fighting each other, Fuu losing her job as her place of business is destroyed by the aforementioned brawl, and the threesome setting off on a journey based on Fuu saving the men’s lives at the toss of a coin. But compared to later episodes, the first few are lacking.
Regardless of this, once it gets started, it keeps right on going. Samurai Champloo is an excellent addition to any avid anime lover’s collection, and is a must-see for Bebop fans in particular.