I haven’t had much time to write a blogpost recently but thought I should write about Samurai Champloo. Unlike Natsume Yuujinchou and Mushishi, this anime is definitely more fast-paced. There’s plenty of action, cool hip-hop tracks and I like how it made references to specific historical events. But most of all, it’s the character development that makes the series stand out. Here are three reasons to watch anime Samurai Champloo.
*Note: There are spoilers. The video below is Episode 1 which has been dubbed in English.
1. An action filled storyline
The series kicks off with two skilled swordsmen fighting at a dumpling shop. The shop gets burnt down and a governor’s son inadvertently gets burnt to death during the fight. The two of them are caught, tortured and will be executed the day after. They are rescued by the server at the dumpling shop, a girl name Fuu. She offers to bet with them in return for saving their lives. If she wins, they will have to travel to Nagasaki with her as bodyguards, to seek out the ‘samurai who smells of sunflowers’. No further details are provided on who is he, and why she is looking for him. She wins and they agree to follow her (not before running away several times and meeting each other again).
As they move along, they meet different characters and we learn more about their personality in a seamless way. We are almost compelled to watch to the very end because – ‘who exactly is the samurai who smells of sunflowers?’. The ending does not disappoint.
2. Character development
The three main characters are Mugen, Fuu and Jin. Mugen is a badass. He is a vagabond, fights in an unconventional way and is very strong. Jin on the other hand, is a skilled samurai who wears a pair of glasses (apparently, it’s just there for aesthetic reasons). Fuu is a straight-talking girl who tends to get into fights with Mugen.
Their personalities and darker parts of their lives unfold as the story goes along. We learn that Jin had killed the master of his dojo, while Mugen was a pirate before. Specifically, it is Mugen that deserves some sympathy because of his background – he was born in an island of captives where crime was rampant. He was betrayed while trying to escape and is once again betrayed again. He is also illiterate.
3. Historical accounts
During episode 5 of the series, it is revealed that Ukiyo-e Japenese woodblock prints have been sent to the Netherlands. For a long time, I have always wondered how did Van Gogh get access to Japanese art pieces. Well it seems that there was trade going between Japan and the Netherlands during his time. The concept of the ‘samurai who smelt of sunflowers’ is also true. A quick Wikipedia search shows that there used to be a Catholic following in Nagasaki and they were persecuted by the Shogunate. This explains why skilled swordsmen were also sent to take down Fuu and her bodyguards, Mugen and Jin, after they got to her father.
The Travelling Squid’s Take
I thoroughly enjoyed the trio’s journey to Edo, and then onwards to Nagasaki. It felt as though I was seeing the board game Tokaido come to life. I also learnt a little bit more about Japanese history and culture. The feelings that the show evokes is strong and borders on the unspoken. At the end of the series, we are not told why Mugen and Jin have voluntarily accompanied Fuu all the way to Nagasaki. We can only infer that they enjoyed each other’s company. If they were to have died along the way or at the end, I doubt they would have regretted it.
A quick note: If you’re wondering how you can watch Samurai Champloo, it’s available on Netflix Japan. You’ll get redirected if you’re in a location other than Japan, but with a Virtual Private Network (VPN), you’ll be able to connect to the internet through a server in Japan. A smooth stream of Samurai Champloo without ads awaits you! Before you start, do read up on choosing a VPN provider suitable for your needs.
*Samurai Champloo is once again a recommendation from Friend C, whom I am grateful for all the solid hours of entertainment! : )