Friday, July 11, 2014

Animated Goods: Samurai Champloo

After attending Anime Expo and not knowing what the heck was going on for most of the time, I started perusing Netflix to see what options I had to catch up.  I hear Hulu has a dynamite selection of anime available but I already have two paid online streaming services and no real desire to add a third.  The Flix came through though as Attack on Titan and Samurai Champloo are both available.  Being a martial arts, medieval knights and feudal Japan nut I opted for the samurai action first.  The story sounded intriguing from the get go: a waitress saves two warriors from execution and demands that they accompany her on a journey to find the samurai who smells of sunflowers.  The opening episode introduces us to Mugen, a wild and crazy swordsman and Jin, a stoic, masterless samurai wandering the villages, starving and hungry yet utterly badass.  Mugen has a temper and gets into trouble in the restaurant waitress Fuu works in while Jin stands up for a put upon local business owner and against the fat ass province ruler by killing his top guards.  The duo then encounter each other and start to talk some shit before throwing down.  Before long, local ruler nabs them both and they're sentenced to die the next day.

Fuu saves the bickering duo with some coconut bombs stashed in her kimono and the trio are off to find the sunflower samurai.  Who that is or what he did, we don't know.  Then it's misadventures galore as they travel the countryside running into gangsters, human trafficking rings and the like.  Most episodes start with them being hungry and poor then getting mixed up with the local seedy element as they try to find work or cash to eat.  A vibrant and well produced show, the opening and closing titles are beautifully rendered pieces of art with splash pages a la a James Bond movie.  The music takes on a hip hop vibe and there's even a Psyche!  thrown into a title card which cracked me up.  Unlike American cartoons where characters fire guns and swing swords at each other with no blood or death, one of the shows signature traits is the quick and intense violent action scenes that showcase fist, feet and katana sword crime.  The odd sense of humor in the pervy yet knowing Japanese style is another memorable trait from Fuu's extremely bouncing bosom that turn out to be bombs tucked into her robe to the local investigator we think is pleasuring himself in the bushes but is actually working out with a Shake Weight style apparatus.  Episode 6 somehow manages to mix in an eating contest, reverse racism and a homosexual giant of a man from Holland who comes to Japan after reading a book on the similarities between the bond of samurai and male love.  Pretty impressive.

Upon further inspection, Samurai Champloo comes from director Shinichiro Watanabe, who brought us the awesome space adventure western/noir/jazz fueled Cowboy Bebop.  So it's no surprise that Samurai seamlessly blends historical events, modern music and attitude with old school samurai, swashbuckling mayhem.  Samurai originally aired in Japan in 2004 and 2005 for 26 episodes before being brought to the states on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. 

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