Written by: Gabriel Castillo
Published on: December 9, 2021 at 18:00 PHT (GMT+8)
With the holidays coming in full swing, let the anime binge begin. Mix up your holiday binge with this colorful and lively title from 2004: “Samurai Champloo”. Did you know that the word "Champloo" refers to “mixing up” as the series blends various styles like modern hip-hop and traditional Japanese way of life.
This genre-blend samurai adventure was Cowboy Bebop’s spiritual successor with the famous Shinichiro Watanabe at the helm once more. Under studio Manglobe, the series ran from May 2004 to March 2005 with 26 episodes split into two halves.
There’s always something comforting about going back to shows you’ve enjoyed in the past, right? And for new viewers, this relatively short series might be the perfect addition to your holiday binge list if you want something with a unique aesthetic and fun vibe. Let’s take a quick look back into Samurai Champloo!
(Very) Brief Plot Summary
The story follows Fuu Kasumi, a young waitress in search of a samurai who smells of sunflowers. An altercation at a teahouse with some local thugs leads her to meet the outlaw Mugen and the skilled ronin Jin. The little teahouse brawl escalates and ends up burning the place down. Mugen and Jin are captured and set for execution but Fuu helps them escape in exchange for their help on her search. After a tumultuous start, the trio head out on their grand adventure!
Setting: Hip-hop, Samurais, and an Alternate Edo Period Japan
Previously, it was jazzy space cowboys. Now, it’s a blend of hip-hop, samurais, and Yakuza-style gangs set in an alternate Edo period. If you look at a few stills from the anime, the setting is quite traditional with the typical architecture and garbs from that time but a deeper look into the world reveals more modern styles thanks to the hip-hop influence. And through a ton of creative magic, the blended styles and genres absolutely work!
Charming Characters add Extra Oomph
Mugen, Jin, and Fuu are guaranteed to make a strong and lasting impression on viewers with their unique individual oddities plus a giga entertaining dynamic. The carefree, nonchalant outlaw Mugen often butts heads with authority and constantly looks for fights with the most powerful opponents. Meanwhile, the reserved, more serious ronin Jin works as the antithesis to Mugen. The young, lively Fuu comes in and brings a pop of freshness and cohesion to their entire group. The result of bringing these characters together? A ridiculously good time full of fun moments and exciting exchanges!
Short & Sweet
Sometimes it’s quite hard to find time for a good old anime binge especially if the series boasts upward of 100 episodes. Thankfully, Samurai Champloo only runs for 26 episodes, making it a series that’s quite easy to watch in a short time (especially if you can only binge during the short holiday break). On top of the relatively short length, the show also has a light, fun, and adventurous feel to most episodes making the progression smooth and each episode engaging.
The series takes cues and inspiration from hip-hop and the soundtrack reflects that while also tying in with the Edo period. The beats overflow with strong hip-hop vibes and actually adds on to the story’s overall feel and the casts’ characterization rather than take away from them. Such a fantastic soundtrack is possible through the collaboration of well-known artists like Nujabes, Fat Jon, FORCE OF NATURE, and Sutchie.
If you’re going to watch an anime about samurai, there better be ridiculously good fight scenes, right? Samurai Champloo excels in this department and the fight sequences are incredibly smooth and fun to watch; especially with Mugen’s unique fighting style that’s a mix of breakdancing and swordsmanship. Without a doubt, the show’s animation still holds up today.
It's an Action-Comedy
There’s a good bit of fighting and action given the show’s setting but they also inject genuine, natural bits of humor that make you smile and laugh. The main cast is responsible for many of the fun moments thanks to their excellent chemistry and enviable group dynamic. Samurai Champloo’s whole feel makes watching the series such a good time.
Anime First, Manga Adaptation Second
Unlike most big series nowadays, Samurai Champloo started as an anime and was later adapted into manga published on Kadokawa Shoten’s Monthly Shonen Ace. Unfortunately, the manga only ran for a short time with the first chapter covering the anime’s first episode while the rest were original stories. The original manga was published from January 26 to September 25, 2004. Interestingly, since the manga was quite short, trying to find a physical copy today is quite difficult and each issue goes for a hefty sum.
Overall, watching Samurai Champloo is a good time thanks to the gorgeous aesthetic, fantastic characters, interesting premise, and how the entire series works as a whole. If you’re looking to add an extra bit of funky, hip-hop vibes to your holiday binge, then this might be the show you’re looking for.