Champloo is (so far) a tale of two samurai who hate each other, but who are (ostensibly) helping a young girl find a mysterious third samurai who “smells of sunflowers”. It’s set in historical Japan but has giant disclaimers about historical accuracy in the title credits (which are annoyingly set to harsh hip hop music; thankfully the actual score during the episodes is much more bearable). The basic theme so far is that Japan has slipped from its moral moorings, and now power matters more than honor – with many of the secondary characters they meet (so far) being enmeshed in the transition between the older tradition and the new lawless era, particularly the two rival yakuza gangs that they deal with in episodes 3 and 4.
It’s a pretty gripping story. It’s actually quite violent, with plenty of blood and suggestive sexuality (but not overt). However it doesn’t stray into gore, but rather conveys the brutality of the era quite well in a restrained way – characters limbs are severed, but you don’t seethe actual limb, just the agony on the loser’s face, for example, or a fatal blow is inflicted below camera and the victim’s mouth fillls with blood. The characters so far have managed to distinguish themselves from each other, and the usual samurai stereotypes, quite well. The first disc has done enough to capture my interest that I’ve added the whole series to my queue.