Samurai Champloo: initial thoughts

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.

2 thoughts on “Samurai Champloo: initial thoughts”

  1. I stumbled across your blog this evening as I was Googling for anime images, specifically Tales of Earthsea pics. (I had learned only moments before that Earthsea is connected to Studio Ghibli and therefore has at least SOME merit by default!)

    It appears your tastes in anime are fairly close to my own; the other anime blogs I have seen so far do not conform to my own preferences nearly as much, so I definitely noticed yours. I look forward to reading more of your anime archives, as well as any future posts about this new habit of mine!

    I am relatively new to the anime scene, having discovered it for myself only in mid-August — about 14 short weeks ago. And talk about hooked… only another true addict would find the hours and dollars I have invested in anime since August to be anything other than insane.

    After thinking I’d seen it all, this longtime supernatural horror movie aficionado was absolutely thrilled — simply FLOORED — with the realization that there is a virtual _universe_ of titles out there just waiting to entertain me, none of which I had ever heard of (excepting a couple of Ghibli titles), much less seen!

    I, too, recently watched Samurai Champloo Vol. 1 and liked it a lot. My enjoyment was almost a given, though, considering that one of my first anime favorites was the Cowboy Bebop movie; after all, the main character Mugen is like unto a version of Spike, but in a perpetually foul mood.

    Samurai Champloo was also the first anime I had ever seen that was truly hip, in an urban American sort of way. Of course, this is in no small part due to the music, but it also applies to the dialogue and attitude.

    In addition to Cowboy Bebop, I would guess that a Samurai Champloo fan would also dig Afro Samurai; it too has a hip vibe, with some of the same highly stylized swordplay, slo-mo amputations, and blood splatter.

    Other anime samurai/ninja titles I like: Samurai 7 (excellent!), the Ninja Scroll series (I really like the supernatural aspects, such as the monsters; I also like how the female lead is drawn), Basilisk (also supernatural w/monsters)

    Samurai/ninja titles I find average: Ninja Resurrection, Wrath of the Ninja

    Samurai/ninja titles I did NOT care for: Samurai Deeper KYO, Rurouni Kenshin, Gun Sword, Saiyuki…none of these are my style at all, due to silliness or other factors. (Of course, many may find MY preferences for supernatural aspects and monsters to be silly, especially in concert with ninja action — but what the hell!)

    Berserk, Vol. 1: War Cry is also pretty good; however, with his gigantic sword, the Black Swordsman does not seem to fall neatly into the ninja or samurai categories.

    NOTE: I just now learned the difference between SAMURAI and NINJA from the Mental Floss website: “The word samurai is somewhat analogous to European knight: They were considered nobility, worked for noble higher-ups, and were renowned for their great bravery and code of honor. So much so that all the little kids wanted to grow up to be samurai! (Or so we imagine.) Ninja, on the other hand, were well-disguised mercenary assassins governed by no code save secrecy.”

    In other words, Samurai seem to have more closely followed a code of honor – Bushido – which discouraged them from stabbing others in the back and other such sneaky and/or underhanded tactics often used by those stealthy ninjas.

  2. welcome to our shared obsession 🙂 As Otaku we take our silliness seriously!

    I saw Samurai 7 and loved it, and Cowboy BeBop is on the list of things I probably need to watch eventually (but my towatch list is pretty long right now). The single best suggestion I can make though if you are into the samurai genre is to watch Samurai Jack. Thats simply unbelievably good.

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