7 October 2004 | saska-3
Hip-hop stir-fry samurai action..
Samurai Champloo is the long-awaited next project from Cowboy Bebop director Shinichiro Watanabe. His two short films in the Animatrix compilation (Kid's Story and Detective Story) give American audiences a sneak peek at the phenomenal art style of this series, but they barely hint at the jaw-dropping action and unorthodox blend of history and music contained therein.
The similarities with Bebop end at the fact that the series has three protagonists: the vagrant swordsman Mugen, the rogue samurai Jin, and the tea-shop waitress Fuu. This unlikely and volatile trio begin a road journey through post-shogunate Japan (ca. 1780), brought together by circumstances best seen to be believed.
"Champloo" means mixed-up or stir-fry, and that's what this series is: a stylish blend of old school values and situations, meshed with more modern sensibilities, fighting styles, and visual design. Over the lush, dynamic art, a soundtrack of some of the best hip-hop from modern Japan plays. Though it's a noticeable device in the first few episodes, it doesn't take long before the music feels like second nature despite the anachronism.
Champloo is many things: a mature drama, an action series, an uproariously funny comedy and a visual feast. Watanabe-san demonstrates here that the success of Cowboy Bebop was uniquely his, and no fluke - fans of that series will not be disappointed, despite how radically different the two story lines are from one another.
As the title card of the first episode of Samurai Champloo says, "Just shut up and watch."