Samurai Champloo Episode 1

Samurai Champloo

"Tempestuous Temperments"

Wow!

I had no idea what to expect from what I'd heard about this show, but what I got certainly wasn't what I expected. (That is to say that I was surprised about what the show was about, not just that it turned out to be good.)

Let's see. If I were to come up with a quick description of what Samurai Champloo is, I'd call it a "hip-hop samurai action show". My first impression of the show is that it's kind of like Cowboy Bebop with samurai instead of bounty hunters and hip-hop instead of jazz (complete with weird, scratching transitions from scene to scene).

The part that stands out the most about the first episode of Samurai Champloo would have to be the action sequences. There's more than a few fights in the first episode (it's almost like one continous fight, once the show starts rolling), and the action is actually pretty cool. Mugen fights with a spastic, breakdancing sword technique, while Jin uses a much more traditional, economy-of-movement sword style. Fighting against and with each other is extremely well realized, and fun to watch. On top of that, the show has a significant level of gore and violence, so people are getting in some serious pain.

I have no idea what this show is about, from the first episode, but there's a loose story introduced about Fuu (the last of the three protagonists), recruiting Mugen and Jin to help her find someone. Other than that, I can only hope the show continues to have the cool action, and crazy style along with whatever it brings to the table.

Rating: A-

Posted by Kei at 01:47 AM | Comments (1)

Samurai Champloo Episode 2

Samurai Champloo

"Redeye Reprisal"

After an intriguing, and overall extremely good first episode, Samurai Champloo's second effort was a tremendous letdown for me. The cool, uniqueness of the first episode seems to be completely missing, and we get a really standard story featuring our three heroes that involves (as one of the main antagonists) an enormous, hideously-scarred man (the kind that permeates in anime as stupid henchman).

As you might expect from that sort of character, he was called a monster and driven out by the prejudice of normal folks, and flies off the handle at being called a monster. Fuu is friendly towards him (maybe she's heard a story like this before), which ultimately saves her life, and Mugen's (who kills him, anyways).

Where the first episode was fresh and interesting, this episode was slow, standard and ultimately meaningless. Maybe taken into context with upcoming episodes, the few hints that were dropped about the overall story of the show will make it seem better, but I can't help feeling anything but disappointed.

Rating: C+

Posted by Kei at 11:58 PM | Comments (3)

Samurai Champloo Episode 3

Samurai Champloo

"Hellhounds for Hire (Part 1)"

It's been a long time since I've watched an episode of a series with such a cruel cliffhanger.

The fellowship is broken in this episode, as Mugen and Jin decide to split up and abandon Fuu. The three of them all eventually end up in the same town, however, in a situation that is clearly (blatantly) inspired by and an homage to Yojimbo, one of Akira Kurosawa's most well known and loved movies. The most obvious homage is the scene in which Jin's conversation in the restaurant, which is almost line for line from Yojimbo.

The plot of this episode revolves around two Yakuza clans which are battling over control of the town our heroes find themselves in. As you might expect, Mugen and Jin find themselves on opposite sides of the fight, with Fuu stuck in the middle.

The show is still fun to watch, with great animation and good fight scenes (whenever they pop up), and the stories are engaging enough. In some ways, this is the "hip hop" successor to Cowboy Bebop's jazz, but the score isn't nearly as effective or utilized as in Cowboy Bebop (not having Yoko Kanno probably has something to do with this).

Still, if you watch this episode, you're going to want to watch the next.

Rating: A

Posted by Kei at 01:34 PM | Comments (0)

Samurai Champloo Episode 4

Samurai Champloo

"Hellhounds for Hire (Part 2)"

This is the second episode in the two-part Yojimbo story. Mugen and Jin have gotten themselves firmly embroiled in a conflict between two yakuza clans (Jin trying to do good, and Mugen just being his normal self). Being on different sides of the conflict, it presents a good opportunity for the two swordsmen to go at it, though the bulk of the episode is devoted to the storyline.

With a few twists, this is a pretty standard story as you might find in Rurouni Kenshin or something like that. You've got the young kid who wants to be a man, but doesn't really get it. He learns valuable lessons about what it means to be strong, to protect others, etc. If you watch this sort of show, you probably have a good idea of what I mean.

Luckily, Samurai Champloo's unique presentation and high production values mean that even a standard, somewhat ho-hum story like this one, is still interesting.

Rating: B+

Posted by Kei at 02:30 AM | Comments (0)