Cidolfas's Anime Reviews: Samurai Champloo
Samurai Champloo is an excellent example of an anime that entertains well, but without having any real ulterior motives. Rather than one long storyline, each episode is a self-contained vignette (there are a few two-parters). There's little character growth and a lot of sex, violence, and humor, but the end result is eminently watchable.
SC follows the misadventures of three extremely mismatched companions round about 16th-century Japan. There's Jin, the ice-cold, serious, quiet, wandering samurai; there's Mugen, who has a short fuse which goes off for no reason at all every so often, after which time at least one person is maimed or killed; and there's Fuu, the strong-willed and rather shrewish young woman who cajoled the two into following her in her search for a "samurai who smells like sunflowers". All three characters are wonderfully defined and the chemistry makes for some great moments.
SC is full of intentional anachronisms; there's a very strong urban/hip-hop feel to it. Yep, that's right: hip-hop samurais. You'll see rapping samurais, graffiti-tagging samurais, samurais with noserings and mohawks, samurais playing baseball... the list goes on, and there's a lot of WTF? moments. Most episodes are shot through with a funky dose of humor, which keeps the ball rolling at a brisk pace even though nothing much changes from one episode to the next. The humor is a nice change in anime - there's a lot of irony and repartee, and much less of the manic insanity that often passes for humor. I also found the swordfights interesting. Samurai fights are totally different from English-style fights; it's mostly swing-miss-jump around and very little parrying.
There are a few setbacks to the series, though. First off is the huge amount of references and story elements that only a Japanese person could get without help. The fan translation I saw was quite helpful, but it's still difficult to keep all that stuff in mind. Second off is the aforementioned lack of character development... it takes them about 18 episodes in to even discover why they're journeying, for goodness' sake. I guess they're too busy getting into hijinks to stop and think. Thirdly is the rather disturbing fixation with sex and violence; it's not exactly Kill Bill, but it still takes some getting used to.
Bottom line: SC is a good, mainly mindless watch, with some funny moments and a bit of serious drama, but don't expect grandiose sagas.
Favorite Character: Mugen
Overall Rating: 7.5