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SAMURAI CHAMPLOO #1 -- Watch & Learn

Scratch your record and sharpen your katana, chums.

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.

Tom Pinchuk’s the writer of HYBRID BASTARDS! & UNIMAGINABLE. Order them on Amazon here & here. Follow him on Twitter: @tompinchuk

Lurkeroon July 5, 2012 at 11:55 a.m.

We're in the territory of one of my favorites. Since other members pestered you to do a Champloo W&L I will try and chime in on each column.

I loved the first episode. It set up the 3 main characters and introduced their personalities very well. Mugen is hard headed and wild, Jin is a pacifist who acts if necessary, and Fuu is mostly aloof and needs help.

As you mentioned, Samurai Champloo has a knack for showing the fun parts and not delving too much into the between parts.

I was captured by the animation style where characters had slight animation that translated into big movements. It made the sword fighting look very cool (before Champloo I had only really seen Samurai X on Toonami). Another thing that caught me was the subtle metaphor near the end when Jin killed those men. He killed them at the drop of a hat and all that was shown was the hat being tossed up, and the hat landing on the ground. Nobody had to express it out loud in typical anime fashion.

I look forward to a complete Champloo W&L.

takashichea moderator on July 5, 2012 at 2:40 p.m.

In the sixth grade, I remember watching this anime on Adult Swim. At first, I didn't like it due to the random carnage, but eventually, I loved the characters. I got used to the blood and action as I watched it. I liked how the characters complement themselves especially Mugen and Jin.

rubberluffy is online on July 5, 2012 at 9:16 p.m.

I still find it deeply upsetting that Nujabes, the guy who did the music for this show, died 2 years ago in a car crash. His non-Champloo work was amazing too, and I recommend anyone who likes this show to also check that stuff out.

vergiliuson July 5, 2012 at 9:24 p.m.

Second the Nujabes recommendation (his DJ name is just his real name, Seba Jun, backwards).

Also, this show is about as linear as I can imagine. As in, the framing device that ties the whole thing together is "we're walking in a straight line." The little vignettes that fit in the frame are fun, but they're all basically told-in-ones. I enjoyed this show, but it was clear to me that Watanabe missed the writing talent he had on board for Bebop. It feels stylish, well produced, etc, but lacks the subtle narrative substance that made Cowboy Bebop more than just a bunch of told-in-ones.

This show is in may ways a spiritual successor to Bebop. I've been told that in many ways Wolf's Rain is as well, but I've only just gotten around to starting it. After Bebop, Watanabe made Samurai Champloo, and the writers and Yoko Kanno did Wolf's Rain. If I notice anything while watching Wolf's Rain that draws an interesting comparison with Champloo, I'll be sure to bring it up.

Om1kronon July 6, 2012 at 11:50 p.m.

regardless of the straight line narrative or not, you cant deny the animation, fight scenes, and story were top notch.

zaldaron July 11, 2012 at 10:26 a.m.

Eh this one really soured me on all involved really...the story turned out to be very much of a nothing with an even more lazy ending than Bebop which I still say is very overrated. If you want to give to poster childs for anime that are all flash and no substance this is definitely the top with Bebop being a close second. The flash is nice, but much like Wendeys frosties cardboard and air can only go so far.

Basically as others have said very much just a bunch of told in ones with very minimal character development and a rather ridiculous samurai hip hop premise. Hip Hop very rarely makes anything better and samuris need no improvement and certainly not jazzing up in the over the top way it was done here.

Dig Deeper into Samurai Champloo

After a chance encounter, Fuu hires two samurai, Mugen and Jin, to assist her in her search for the samurai who smells of sunflowers.

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