Sometime long ago (I don’t’ even remember when,) I caught the first episode of SAMURAI CHAMPLOO for this column. I liked it, but it was up against some stiff competition, so I didn’t end up following it. You lunatics are a persistent lot, though. I received a steady stream of requests to pick the series up throughout all this intervening time, so here we are, taking SAMURAI CHAMPLOO right around the time I’m tying off that other classic show. I am nothing if not a guy who's happy to oblige.
On the second go-round, I’d say I enjoyed this pilot episode a lot more; mainly because I have a larger pool of comparison to better appreciate what it does right. I’ve written at length about how soundtracks are the under-appreciated spice that gives the proverbial kick over the cliff, and Watanabe San clearly understands that. I’m sure I don’t need to explicate how he does so to you. I will, however, draw a comparison to Tarantino, but not for the obvious similarities of eclectic soundtracks, genre mashing and ultra-violence.
Rather, I’ll focus on the non-linear storytelling, which is employed pretty much to give an “All killer, no filler” experience. The secret of Tarantino’s success, as I see it, is that he won’t show you every single step needed to get from Point A to Point Z - - just the fun ones. Likewise, Mr. Watanabe freely twirs the fast forward toggle around to give us not one, but two iterations of the sort of scene that’s sure to spike anybody's thrill meters - - the whole deal where a good guy intervenes on a robbery/extortion, gives the bad guys some terse threats and then precedes to wreck everybody. It's all but guaranteed to get a pop.
This doesn’t seem like the sort of show that’s designed to be picked apart with some clinical narrative tweezers. It’s about serving you exactly what you want out of a badass adventure, and giving a double serving of it, at that. And, unlike so many other animes that take themselves too seriously (in the aforementioned comparison pool,) it’s done a kickass job of getting straight to the good stuff.
Watch this episode, "Tempestuous Temperaments” here and below, and decide for yourself.