The samurai era was a great time for sword fighting, hip hop, graffiti, baseball, and beat boxing as seen by the one hundred per cent historically accurate Samurai Champloo. Right?
Samurai Champloo blends modern society with Edo Japan, particularly the whole hip hop culture, and it is there purely to provide style to an other wise stale genre. The story follows the innocent Fuu who involves the violent samurai Mugen and the quiet proud samurai Jin in helping her track down the samurai who smells of sunflowers.
This simple plot thread allows the unlikely trio to go on a whole bunch of adventures on their journey, from traditional tales of dangerous bandits to more radical stories of zombies and drug use. Each story lasts between 1-2 episodes except for the three-part finale, so there is always new characters and ideas cropping up. It follows the successful Cowboy Bebop template and the characters here are just as entertaining and there is a true desire to see how the three change over the course of their quest.
The chilled hip hop soundtrack makes for a head bopping show, and it works with the dynamic fights and emotional drama which unfolds, creating a show like no other. It’s a shame the series plays it too straight for the most part, only a handful of episodes take the hip hop culture to their extremes. Seeing modern spray paint graffiti sprawled across the Japanese temples or receiving a history lesson on 60’s Japan before rewinding back into the series present time are moments which make the blend of past and present worthwhile.Most of the time the modern trappings are only seen with the soundtrack, and so it plays out like any other samurai show, though one with high production and quality direction.
Samurai Champloo is an outlook on samurai life with a beat. And the beat of Mugen, Jin and Fuu’s journey is one worth taking. Hip hop needs to be blended with everything. Coming up next: Tudor Tempo.