Thursday, December 15, 2011

Anime review: "Samurai Champloo"

This is my second time watching "Samurai Champloo" - first time was at January 2008, short time after I started watching anime. At that time it was one of best anime I watched, and in my mind stayed that even after I watched many times more shows. I didn't have any plans to watch it again, but I didn't have idea what to watch so I decided to remind myself of its greatness.

What I didn't know at the time of my first watching, "Samurai Champloo" was made by the same guy who made "Cowboy Bebop": Watanabe Shinichiro. These two anime share much in common - mixture of genres, stress on music, humor, even design of characters. For SC, this mixture is a blending of samurai anime with slapstick comedy and history. Anime follows a journey of three main characters. Fuu is a teenage girl whose mother recently died, and after losing everything in fire (caused by two other main characters), she decided to start looking for her father, "samurai who smells on sunflowers". Jin is a young ronin, silent, careful and emaciate - we don't learn much about his past until later in show. Mugen is Jin's complete opposite - loud, flamboyant and a criminal. What they two have in common is their unmatched skill with swords and the fact that they are running from world. So without anything better to do with themselves (and with some blackmail from Fuu), they will join Fuu in search for the mysterious samurai.

This main plot actually doesn't have much importance until last three episodes (out of 26). Anime comprises of mostly unconnected episodes following the trio traveling over Edo Japan. Adventures they fall into are based either on real historic events or popular myths of that time, but colored in anime's original and extreme nature. For example, we have a story about popularization of ukiyo-e paintings in which Ukiyo-e is only a pretense for getting young girls kidnapped and sold to sexual slavery. Several of the episodes reveal more of character's past, but we never actually learn exactly what happened to them to end as they are. Anime is mostly light in tone and in bigger part consist of humorous scenes, but in several instances get very emotional and strong (in sense of shounen anime).

I must admit that I didn't like "Samurai Champloo" this time as I expected, contrary to "Baccano!" which I adored even more the second time. Don't get me wrong, I still think it is a great anime, but it didn't give me as much laugh as first time. The problem may be that it had a big impact on me so I remembered all the best scenes very clearly, so they didn't surprised me as at first watch. Also, maybe I expected too much.

Colors and animation is what you would expect from an older anime (2005), but design of characters is still over-the-top. The same can be said for music, which consist mostly of hip-hop. There is also one great Japanese old country song in episode 13 (or 14).

Still, "Samurai Champloo" is one great anime, a one of the masterpieces of famous director. Although maybe not appropriate for novice anime fans, I think this is one of anime everybody should watch eventually.

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