Upon hearing the title “Samurai Champloo”, there are a few individuals who refuse to watch it because, “that name sounds stupid” and “I don’t even like anime, how did you get into my house?” But what exactly is a champloo? According to high-tech google researching, “champloo” comes from the phonetic saying of the word Chanpuru, a dish consisting of various ingredients. The word means, “something mixed” and it is easy to see why this term would be assigned to the characters throughout the series.
Samurai Champloo is, in essence, a show that toys with the idea of destiny and perseverance among three once-strangers-turned-allies in a world full of unique obstacles and morality-tinted life lessons. Two contrasting rogue samurais, Mugen and Jin, find themselves promising the young and optimistic Fuu on a journey to find a samurai that smells of sunflowers.
As if finding someone based off a memory of a scent wasn’t difficult enough, wild and ill-mannered Mugen is constantly fighting with his nemesis companion- cool, reserved Jin- as they ponder why they’re even on this adventure in the first place. Though they are matched in skill, their mismatched views of the world often put 15-year-old Fuu in danger (as does her own naivety) causing them to band together just when they thought they were ready to go their separate ways. These cold-hearted killers seem to develop a protective soft spot for Fuu and find her ‘nothing to lose’ spirit and bravery admirable, though they would never admit it.
This short lived 26 episode series houses a distinctive set of villains ranging from a grotesque but kind-hearted deformed giant, to skeezy Yakuza gang members who try to steal and cheat their way to the top. Every episode has a new conflict and each character has internal struggles that unfold gracefully as they develop.
This anime is chock-full of “Don’t Look Away Or You Might Miss Something” attitude, as it is fast-paced and flavored with silly jokes and facial expressions that are often on the edge of being ridiculous. Somehow, that works just fine.
This series is both captivating and inspiring, not only in storyline but in style. A splash of trendy hip hop music and Mugen’s subtle yet intense Capoeira fighting skills add an incomparable aspect to the tranquil and peaceful japanese setting. Samurai Champloo has a great way of making it seem like it’s perfectly normal for historical Japanese yakuza to be wearing tracksuits with traditional Geta (wooden sandals), or that Mugen fights like a crazed street fighter with deadly confidence (not very samurai-esque.)
Artistically speaking, some of the most beautiful parts in the series can be seen by pausing the screen at almost any given moment. The artists put a lot of time designing, researching, and creating this beautiful world that could pass for hangable artwork anywhere. Nature is in many scenes as birds, insects, streams and anyone’s camping daydream can be heard just beyond those delicate paper doors.
The addition of historical and political references and events keep the story flowing smoothly as the three of them try to avoid prosecution, prostitution, and execution while trying to secure hints about the whereabouts of this mysterious Sunflower Samurai.
Overall, Samurai Champloo is alluring and can catch even the most jaded of anime watchers off guard. With intense scenes of action and gore followed by surprisingly deep and beautifully depressing side adventures, this unlikely trio overcomes the most unique of obstacles with style, balance, and plenty of moments that will make one stop and think, long after the show has ended.