Fuu is a young woman who is saved from a rowdy band of samurai while working in a small tea shop. The two people that come to her rescue are a wandering rogue named Mugen and a calm ronin (wandering samurai) named Jin. In the process, they accidentally kill a magistrate’s son and are to be executed for their crimes. Fuu helps them escape in exchange for helping her find ‘the samurai that smells of sunflowers.’ The three embark on a journey filled with many twists and turns, all while learning more about each other and the things that changed them.
Plot and Story
Although time has passed since it finished airing, I think Samurai Champloo is still fondly remembered in certain anime circles. On the series as a whole, it’s one of my all-time favorite anime because it combines Edo style chanbara (sword-fighting movies) samurai fiction with a dash of modern hip hop. It can be fun and action packed while also really funny and bittersweet. Each episode presents different forms of storytelling that aren’t afraid to be innovative and tackle outside-the-box topics. There can be drama and tear filled moments, but also peculiar segments that are memorable and work surprisingly well.
For Samurai Champloo to be the work Watanabe released after his magnum opus Cowboy Bebop is no easy task. Thankfully, the anime holds it own style and stands out from its more well known predecessor. While Watanabe serves as chief director of the series, each episode has different directors and writers at the helm to keep things interesting. This has been a staple of every Watanabe led anime production. When you’re watching the series, you can tell they added their own distinctive qualities to the show while maintaining the story’s overall tone.
One of my favorite episodes is the eighth installment titled ‘The Art of Altercation’ where Mugen and Jin face off against a confident samurai asking them for a battle, accompanied by his beatboxing posse. Samurai Champloo blends these small touches of hip hop and rap culture seamlessly into this traditional narrative, even though it’s out of place within a historical context. Episode eighteen’s ‘War of the Words’ features modern style thugs trying to best each other through graffiti art and our main characters are somehow roped into resolving their conflict. Despite the odd timeline and influence of foreign culture, the anime does reference certain historical moments like the presence of Dutch people, the introduction of baseball, and the persecution of Christians in the country. There are many more great episodes I could go on about, but I want to avoid giving away more spoilers, so I recommend watching the series yourself and picking the one that means the most to you.
The linchpin of the series is Fuu’s search for her long lost father. Although episodes are mostly standalone like many of Watanabe’s other productions, we’re given clues in certain episodes that gradually help us understand her father’s background and why he left Fuu in the first place. The search ends on a sombre note, but Fuu receives enough closure from the experience to accept it and move on. For many characters like her, they’re given strong narrative arcs that highlights their backstory and shows how they’ve evolved from these experiences. So not only do you know more about Fuu, but you also delve into the personalities of Mugen and Jin are.
Fuu’s relationship with both Jin and Mugen is one of the strong points of the anime because she serves as the mediator between them, who are constantly bickering with each other due to their differences. Seeing all three of them together guides the overall narrative and you want to know more about them. You want to see how they deal with the many people and situations they encounter on their journey. Thus, the last episode brings their time together to a close, but you’ll feel satisfied that they finished what they needed to do.
As the saying goes, it’s not necessarily about the goal, but the journey taken to reach it. I think this message greatly fits what Samurai Champloo is all about. You can definitely enjoy it for its sword fights, music, or the diverse cast of characters. What really drives the series home, however, is the many travels taken by Mugen, Jin, and Fuu. Their long trek across Japan makes watching this anime all the more worthwhile to enjoy to its fullest.
The Historical Accuracy of ‘Samurai Champloo’