Samurai Champloo Review

Samurai Champloo is a 2004 action adventure samurai anime directed by Shinichirō Watanabe.  Set in an alternate version of Edo-era, the story follows a brave girl named Fuu, who is on a quest across Japan to find the “samurai who smells of sunflowers”, who is accompanied, Mugen, an impudent and freedom-loving vagrant swordsman; and Jin, a composed and stoic rōnin.


Positives:

  • Great main protagonists
  • Awesome voice performances
  • Good animation style
  • Great soundtrack
  • Touches on a lot of themes
  • Intense action

Negatives:

  • Story isn’t compelling

Plot:  The story follows a young woman named Fuu who embarks on a journey to find the “samurai who smells of sunflowers”.  She ends up saving the lives of two samurai: a stoic ronin named Jin and a reckless vagabond named Mugen, both of whom accompany her as her bodyguards.  They’re travels across Japan often find them battling evil doers and getting into trouble, while dealing with their own inner demons.

The story is actually pretty good although the core story takes a back seat.  The story focuses more on the relationship between the characters.  Watching the group bicker and banter is quite enjoyable but watching as they become a unit, the lenths at which they will go to save each other, and the personal demons that they overcome is much more enjoyable.  Even the side stories of the changing society, social norms, and the various people they interact with make the story feel active. (3 out of 5)

Characters:  The main protagonists of the series are Mugen, Jin, and Fuu who are just awesome characters.  Despite their combative natures toward each other they all are rich in personality and backstory.  Jin is a ronin who killed his master in self defense and how on the run.  Mugen is a vagrant womanizer who loves to fight and drink.  Fuu is the daughter former tea house waitress who is searching for the “Samurai who smells of Sunflowers” who is actually her father.  There are a whole host of other characters that help to flesh out the world as well as flesh out the main protagonist…now depending on if they’re trying to hurt the three, use them, or help them is another story entirely. (4 out of 5)

Animation Style:  A good looking anime that looks quite stylish.  Many of the character designs look great and the Edo-era setting looks great especially with how urban it looks. (4 out of 5)

Score:  The hip-hop themes give the show an upbeat tone.  It feels just as powerful as the characters and animation.  Thumbs up to the voice performances that were well chosen.  I found little wrong with the casting who do a great job. (4 out of 5)

Writing:  Gotta give it up to the writing which is done well.  The episodes are filler but manage to feel connected to the overall story, while also exploring the depths of the characters.  There is a lot of violence and people die nearly every episode but it isn’t overly done to the point of being bland, and the more touching moments and well written humor help to make it feel well rounded.  The period also introduces various elements of history that help make the world feel unique and diverse such as; baseball, Christianity, hip hop, and graffiti; which often focuses on how society norms and authority are being rebelled against in a crappy era. (3 out of 5)


The Verdict:  In the end, Samurai Champloo is just a great anime.  Really, it’s easy to see how viewers can be turned off by the lack of story focus, but the characters are awesome, soundtrack fantastic, good animation, great action, and world building.  Samurai Champloo gets 4 out of 5.

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