Review by: Edward Zacharias
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $69.98 US
Running Time: 650 minutes
Rating: 16 Up
Release Date: Available Now
The art of the ultra cool samurai.
A young, clumsy and cute tea house waitress has always felt that her life was missing something but dared not chase that something down on her own until the fateful day she met two very talented swordsmen who start their relationship with her by trying to kill each another. Samurai Champloo isn’t your average Edo period samurai action anime and that’s what thousands of anime fans love about a series that is wildly entertaining and way too cool.
The Complete Collection features all 26 episodes of the series in seven DVDs and if you missed the series individually and waited for a complete set like this then you will not be disappointed. Among the exciting hip-hop fused sword battles and bloody violence, there’s a sincerely poignant tale of friendship and honor that makes the trio so much damn fun to watch from start to finish. You see, as much as we love the action, it is the characters that light up the screen.
The story introduces us to the two talented swordsmen I mentioned earlier about to get executed by a local magistrate the two had angered in the wake of their destructive battle that lead to said magistrate’s son getting killed in a tea house blaze. One a rude, crude and dangerous vagabond swordsman named Mugen who would kill for a few coins or even something as simple as dumplings. The other is a quiet, polite and neatly dressed Ronin named Jin who follows the path of the samurai. To the young tea house waitress named Fuu – who manages to escape the fire – these two are the perfect candidates to help her look for a samurai who “smells of sunflowers.” That is, of course, if Jin and Mugen don’t kill each another in the process.
With that one and simply vague description, the three set on a length journey to find this samurai for reasons Fuu doesn’t go into until the very end. With no money in their pockets, the three take on odd assignments when offered such as the time Mugen works for the Yakuza for a few extra coins or when Fuu decides to pose for an artist who one day inspires Vincent Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings. They even participate in an eating contest where they meet a very unusual man who hires them on as their guide.
With each stop, Fuu learns that the man she was looking for has passed through at some point. She’s about the only one who seems concentrated on the task at hand seeing as her two swordsmen keep getting into trouble that requires them to kill a number of men. It’s downright hilarious watching Fuu try to either fix their mistakes or try to get them out of a jam. In one episode, Mugen and Jin are conned by a beautiful woman and – in another episode – Mugen convinces Jin to pawn his eye glasses with the promise he’s get them back by winning at gambling.
The trio also end up giving a helping hand in stopping crooks and, at one point, draws out a killer who slays swordsmen. Jin even helps a woman who is sold into a brothel to work out a debt owed to the brothel owners by the woman’s husband. We also get to learn more about the two men she keeps as company. In one episode, we learn a secret about Jin and why samurai who know him want to see Jin dead for a crime he may or may have not committed. In another episode, we find out a lot about Mugen’s past from those criminal scum that knows him best.
While never really trying to accurate capture the era realistically, we do learn many little interesting lessons in Japanese history such as how homosexuality is viewed or the fact that graffiti actually originated in the Edo period. There’s even the first real look at baseball in Japan. What the series does best is push the violence in a stylized way that it is never gross or gruesome. It also handles the humor perfectly throughout the series.
I won’t go into how their journey ends or whether or not Jin and Mugen finally decide to fight each another at journey’s end. What I will say is that by the final episode you really don’t want this series to end. We wish we could continue to follow them but all good things come to an end and the series ends on a good note. The brilliantly directed series and amazing animation play a big part in the storytelling seeing as it – like its characters – have their own unique style. I mean, even the music isn’t your typical soundtrack.
Samurai Champloo, The Complete Collection, is exactly what you deserve if you consider yourself an anime fan with an eye towards ultra cool action. It’s a slick, stylish and satisfyingly amazing series that should be on the very top of anyone’s Must Own list. Very few anime series makes samurais seem so amazingly cool and fun to watch like the ones in this series and trust me when I say that you will have a blast watching this series.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Inspired by the sight of two very skilled swordsmen, a young girl named Fuu asks the cool and collected Jin and the crude yet talented Mugen to help her find a samurai who “smells of sunflowers.” On their journey together, the trio gets into a number of adventures and facing the demons of their past.
VIDEO QUALITY: A
The animation is simple fluid and gorgeous enough that you can see what Quentin Tarantino saw in it when he used Kazuto Nakazawa for Kill Bill, Vol. 1. The transitions between scenes are handled uniquely and the action sequences are stellar.
AUDIO QUALITY: A
The English dub is wonderfully effective and somehow makes more sense but you’ll find that the original Japanese voice work is just as good. The soundtrack is one of the real highlights of the series with remarkable music and great closing tracks such as the Minmi closing songs.
The collection could have offered more extras but there’s conceptual art and a Bumper Gallery feature. The opening promo video of “battlecry” is simply awesome.
A hip-hop-infused samurai action series that is straight up cool in just about every way, The Complete Collection of Samurai Champloo should be on any anime fan’s wish list. With a strong cast of characters and plenty of blood splattering swordplay, this stylishly unique series has enough amazing episodes to keep action junkies satisfied.