Anime aficionados have been salivating in eager anticipation at the prospect of a new series from director Shinichiro Watanabe with the conclusion of his seminal space western Cowboy Bebop. The greatly anticipated Samurai Champloo has finally arrived.
Once again Watanabe infuses the piece with the sensibility of a very distinct musical genre. Shifting from the ambient bluesy rhythms and neo-noir visuals of Bebop to the bravado of Hip-Hop beats with balletic animation transposed against an atavistic setting of Meiji era Japan, Champloo is endowed with a truly unique élan.
Mujen is a vagabond warrior of elemental ferocity, totally undisciplined and volatile in polar opposition temperament wise to fellow drifter Jin, an ascetic and powerful Ronin. Providence unites the paths of these radically differing individuals in the form of scatterbrained waitress Fuu, who following our anti-heroes involvement in a bloody scrap with corrupt local government officials rescues them both from imminent execution. Constantly at each others throats, our ditzy damsel persuades Jin and Mujen to cease battling until they assist her in finding the mysterious samurai “who smells of Sunflowers”. Soon the claret flows majestically as clinical bloods-prays decorate pagoda walls during brilliantly executed fight scenes whilst the trio embark on all manner of exciting misadventures.
Samurai Champloo features a profusion of modern stylistic elements as characters wear ray-band sunglasses, sport fashionable piercings, and incorporate riotous break dance manoeuvres into their martial arts repertoires as a means of splitting some heads. The somewhat generic old world period setting of feudal Japan in all its mystique and traditional splendour is genuinely reinvigorated, an anime convention audaciously defied t. A commendable balance is struck over the first four episodes between character development, carnage and plotting that shall hopefully be maintained in subsequent volumes without the intrusion of blatant “filler” that was the bane of Cowboy Bebop. This is a series overflowing with Eastern promise.
1: Tempestuous temperaments
2: Redeye reprisal
3: Hellhounds for Hire Pt.1
4: Hellhounds for Hire Pt.2