List of Samurai Champloo characters
- 1 Main characters
- 2 Secondary characters
- 2.1 The Samurai who smells of sunflowers
- 2.2 Mariya Enshirou
- 2.3 Inspector Manzo
- 2.4 Oshaberi Ichiemon
- 2.5 Sasaki Ryujiro
- 2.6 Nagatomi Rikiei
- 2.7 Daigoro
- 2.8 Osuzu
- 2.9 Kawara Sōsuke
- 2.10 Kawara Heitaro
- 2.11 Ishimatsu
- 2.12 Shino
- 2.13 Zuikō
- 2.14 Ukon
- 2.15 Mukuro
- 2.16 Koza
- 2.17 Shiren
- 2.18 Yatsuha Imano
- 2.19 Okuru
- 2.20 Yukimaru
- 2.21 Tobata
- 2.22 Sara
- 2.23 Matagi
- 2.24 Heike Shige
- 2.25 The Brothers
- 2.26 Kariya Kagetoki
- 3 Notes and references
- 4 External links
Mugen (ムゲン（無限）) is a 19-year-old man who is one of the main protagonists of the series. He was born in a penal colony on the Ryukyu Islands which in the Edo period was a separate kingdom with close ties to Japan's Satsuma domain. Incidentally, Mugen writes his name using the infinity symbol (∞), a pun on his name, 無幻 which is a homophone of the Japanese word for infinite. His Japanese is quite rough and "Yankī"; and he is illiterate until later in the show. Little is known about Mugen's childhood and he states that it has been a long time since he can remember what it is like to have parents in episode 20, "Elegy of Entrapment, Verse 1." The blue tattoos on his wrists and ankles indicate that he was once in prison. The circumstances of his imprisonment are initially unclear, but it is later verified that he was to be executed for engaging in piracy.
As a boorish antihero, Mugen is fond of fighting and has a tendency to pick fights for petty reasons. It is implied in a few episodes, that he is a womanizer, with his libido getting the better of him sometimes. In spite of it all, he is shown to have some redeeming qualities throughout the show. Character designer Kazuto Nakazawa stated in an interview: "When I was doing character design, the most difficult one was Mugen, as I expected. I'm pretty sure that as far as the director's image went, he probably was thinking of someone like a 'rapper who acts like a bad guy.' But the way Mugen acts is relatively based on his core conviction."
Mugen's highly unorthodox swordplay and a fighting style based on breaking – dubbed "champuru kendo" (Champloo Kendo in English) and ostensibly developed by himself – taking bits and pieces from all forms of martial arts and making up the rest on-the-go as he fights his opponents, make him a force to be reckoned with. But despite the unpredictable nature of the fighting, it was pointed out in Episode 25, that his improvisational style, exposes his limits easily, giving experienced fighters the knowledge to beat him. He carries two blades, his principal weapon a unique sword with a curved blade and a hilt with two prongs sheathed across his back and the other a small tantō concealed at the end of his scabbard (only resorted to as a trump card). His main weapon appears to be an amalgamation of the Okinawan sai and Japanese katana. Mugen also has a tendency to parry attacks with the steel base of his geta.
Mugen often states his desire to fight and kill Jin once their quest is over, and Jin returns this desire and on the numerous occasions where Mugen is going to face a strong opponent and possibly risk his life, Jin reminds Mugen that 'I will be the one to slay you'. Mugen does likewise. In the final episode, exhausted and near death, Jin and Mugen finally do have their battle, but both their swords break when they clash. Afterwards Mugen states that he doesn't want to kill Jin, another sentiment that Jin returns.
Jin (ジン（仁）) is a 6-foot tall, 20-year-old man who is one of the main protagonists of the series. He wields a Katana and Wakizashi, and spent the majority of his life training in kenjutsu dojos. Unlike Mugen, it is legal for him to carry a daisho, as he is of the samurai class. His swords have a lightning and twin-eyed design on the tsuba. He wears traditional hakama and gi in indigo blue patterned with a white diamond kamon made up of four small white diamonds. His kamon closely resembles that of the great Takeda Clan, leading to speculation that his family origins may be of nobility. He wears glasses but Fuu states that they are "for show", indicating Jin wears them as an accessory rather than actually needing them.
When he was eighteen, he was to be assassinated in his sleep by his sensei, Mariya Enshirou, at Kariya Kagetoki's insistence. However, Jin killed Mariya in self-defense and fled the dojo, becoming a ronin. His death is sought by former classmates and other fame-seekers. Mujushin was a real sword-fighting dojo, and Mariya Enshirou is known to have been the third master — although the circumstances of his death are unclear.
Jin is highly devoted to upholding Bushido and is in fact named after jin (benevolence), one of the seven samurai virtues. Jin is usually taciturn and unusually collected. He is an extremely skilled swordsman, using swift, refined, orthodox moves of the Mujushin Kenjutsu discipline, making him the perfect foil for Mugen. Jin is also a skilled Shogi player with a sharp memory, as demonstrated when he reproduces a shogi board position after his opponent 'accidentally' upsets the board.
In the last episode of the series, he confesses to both Fuu and Kariya that he has spent his entire life without ties to others. He lived only for his sword and no master; saying that the lords of that time have no sense of honor, only caring about self-preservation. But he seems to change during his travels with Fuu and Mugen, saying that they are his "first friends."
Fuu (フウ（風） Fū) is a 5'2, 15-year-old girl and the female protagonist of the series. In her childhood before the beginning of the series, her dad left her and her mom for an (initially) unknown reason. Without her father around to support them, Fuu and her mother led a difficult life until Fuu's mom died of illness. After a not-so-successful stint as a teahouse waitress, she saves Mugen and Jin from death and recruits them as her bodyguards to help her on a quest. She is searching for the "Samurai who smells of Sunflowers", but never explains what a sunflower smells like or what the man looks like. Mugen and Jin are often reminded of their life-debt to her when they wish to fight each other, much to their chagrin.
She is a surprisingly big eater (in one episode she entered an eating contest and was one of the last two remaining, shocking all the spectators; she might have won, except for an unintentional forfeit), has a bright and compassionate personality, and is strongly prone to accidents, getting lost, and trouble although she is quite practical. She often puts on a front of being more worldly and experienced than she actually is so as not to appear completely ingenuous in front of her bodyguards. Fuu wears a deep pink kimono with a pattern of flowers and carries a matching tantō. Attached to the tantō are three netsuke: a skull (a Christian pendant from her father), a pair of dice and a dog. She's almost always seen wearing what looks like pink polish on both her nails and toenails. Her name, Fuu (フウ), is short for fuukinchou (フウキンチョウ), which is Japanese for "tanagers", small, brightly colored birds.
The Samurai who smells of sunflowers
Voiced by: Kouji Nakata (Japanese); Doug Stone (English)
The "samurai who smells of sunflowers" (向日葵の匂いのする侍 himawari no nioi no suru samurai) is Kasumi Seizō, a Christian samurai who played a leading role in the Shimabara Rebellion. His death is sought by the Shogunate as a result of this betrayal.
The objective of the trio's quest, he is revealed later on in the series to actually be Fuu's father. He left Fuu and her mother to save them from anti-Christian persecution (he was a major proponent of Christianity, considered heretical at the time). Fuu, however, thinks that his abandoning the family was unforgivable. Her only memory of him is a departing figure shifting through a field of sunflowers.
He was relentlessly pursued by the Shogunate, but succeeded in evading them. When Fuu began to search for him, the Shogunate had her followed. She led them right to him, sick and dying in a hut on Ikitsuki Island. Kariya Kagetoki arrives just after Fuu's tearful reconciliation with her father and kills him right in front of her.
The renowned "Slayer of a Thousand Men" and third master of the Muju. He has perished by the show's beginning, but features prominently in flashbacks. Both his character and the dojo were actual historical entities, albeit relatively obscure. According to Samurai Champloo, he intended to turn the dojo into an academy for training assassins, under pressure from Kariya Kagetoki, but received passionate opposition from his finest pupil and heir, Jin.
In Episode 25, Jin remembers a flashback of a conversation with Mariya about turning the Dojo into an assassins academy. Jin said if it becomes that, then Mujushin Kenjutsu would no longer be a martial art. Change was the only way to survive in this day and age, Mariya lamented. In Kariya Kagetoki's view, if Jin would not see change, he would have to be erased from the picture. Jin would have to be killed in his sleep. However, Jin killed his attacker in the dead of the night, discovering to his horror that it was Mariya. Proudly before passing away, Mariya remarked, "You've improved tremendously, Jin."
Given the identical kamon on their kimonos, Jin and Mariya were either relatives or Mariya adopted Jin.
A recurring character, Inspector Manzo, known also as "The Saw", is a lampoon of Hanzo Itami. Aside from the main trio, Momotaro and Ichiemon the announcer, he is probably the only other character shown in multiple episodes (discounting flashbacks and multiple-part episodes). His persistence and enthusiasm are not without humorous results. As he is a law enforcer, he carries a sort of billy-club with him wherever he goes and is apparently able to use it to perform calisthenics. In all three episodes in which he appears, he plays the narration for the part or all of the story. Oddly enough, his narration transcends time, as he has narrated about future events which he could not feasibly be alive long enough to know about, like Vincent van Gogh, the popularity of baseball throughout America today, the Zen movement in the 1960s, and even commentary on the modern-day Japanese views on sexuality contemporary to the show's airing.
Ichiemon, also known as "Ichiemon the Announcer", serves mostly in the role of comic relief, providing amusing commentary during the eating contest in episode 6 and the baseball game in episode 23. His name "Oshaberi" literally translates to "honorable talker" and is meant to imply that he is a gossip. He wears a strange hat that appears to be a newspaper folded up like origami.
Sasaki Ryujiro (佐々木 龍) is the mentally unbalanced subordinate to Shibui Matsunosuke, the corrupt magistrate of an oppressed town, who assigns him to protect his brat of a son, Tomonoshin. Ryujiro's arm is chopped off by Mugen after the altercation in the teahouse, driving him over the edge. He has a ruthless sadism which predates the loss of his arm, claiming to have lost his humanity a long time ago and having no problem with killing and torturing his opponents. He burns the teahouse down in retaliation, inadvertently putting Fuu out of work and Jin and Mugen in prison. While Shibui Sr. (and his son) perish, Ryujiro survives and returns later to exact revenge on Mugen. He is strangled to death by Oniwakamaru for threatening Fuu's life.
Leader of the Nagatomi yakuza, ruthless and ambitious. He enlists Mugen as his partner after the former impresses him by sitting at his men's table, eating their food and beating them up. Keeps a chinstrap and sports Ray-Bans, a distinguishing part of his appearance. Killed by his personal yojimbo Ishimatsu for his wicked ways after Ishimatsu decides enough is enough.
Daigoro is the catalyst for the events that unfurl in Episodes 3 and 4. After a dramatic loss at one of Rikiei's gambling establishments, he is pressured to give up either the deed to his business or his daughter, Osuzu, in order to cover his debt. He pleads with Kawara Heitarou for help, suggesting that Rikiei's establishments practice dishonesty. Kawara refuses, citing a lack of evidence. Daigoro has no choice but to give up his store, but Ishimatsu takes Osuzu as well after Sosuke tries to intervene.
Voiced by: Sayuri (Japanese); Karen Strassman (English)
Daigorou's demure daughter; she is quite something to look at. Before she is forcibly procured by Ishimatsu, as an excuse to make up for Sousuke's insolence, she was the latter's tutor. She is put to work with in one of Rikiei's brothels, where she meets Fuu (who is also being forced into prostitution because of bad fortune) and they become friends. Both are emancipated after Rikiei's demise. She appears in the 3rd and 4th episodes: "Hellhounds For Hire (Part 1)" and "Hellhounds For Hire (Part 2)".
Heitarō's pubescent son, heir to the Kawara Clan's leadership. He is hasty and impetuous, not a surprise for his age and the shame his father has to endure. He has strong feelings for Osuzu, and intervenes when Ishimatsu comes to collect her father's business deed, succeeding only in getting her taken away, too. Joins forces with Jin to rescue her but fail as Mugen is guarding the brothel. The night after he goes to see Osuzu again and blows a gasket when a customer puts his hands on her. The man is a Nagatomi, but Sousuke does not know that when he draws his sword and stabs him to death. Heitarō commits seppuku on his account. Rikiei mocks Heitarō, while Sousuke defends him. Upon the Nagatomi Clan's defeat and his dad's suicide, he assumes his dad's position. He, along with his dad and Osuzu, appears in the 3rd and 4th episodes: "Hellhounds For Hire (Part 1)" and "Hellhounds For Hire (Part 2)".
Known as "The Merciful" despite being a yakuza head, he is poised, level-headed and traditional, running the yakuza to take a form of foster care for its young men who would otherwise be criminals. It is because of this, the unscrupulous Rikiei easily moves in and seizes control of the town. He dotes on Sosuke, his only son. After losing a dice duel to Rikiei (who may have cheated) and in an act that moves almost everyone, he sacrifices his life to ensure the future of the Kawara Clan. He appears in the 3rd and 4th episodes: "Hellhounds For Hire (Part 1)" and "Hellhounds For Hire (Part 2)".
Ishimatsu is yojimbo to an influential yakuza boss, Rikiei. His considerable height, dark skin and a string of large Buddhist beads he wears around his neck are distinctive features. Rikiei offers Mugen a partnership after Mugen impresses him with his fighting skills. This does not sit well with Ishimatsu, and he and Mugen do not get along; barely past introductions they are attacking each other. Their duel is cut short by Rikiei, who wants to get down to business. Eventually, disillusioned by Kawara Heitarou's sacrifice, Ishimatsu cuts down Rikiei, and finishes his duel with Mugen. He suffers an honorable defeat. His manriki can be seen as a wild card, in the same light as Mugen's tantō.
Shino was married to a gambler who fell in debt, and to repay his debt, the gambler husband sold Shino to a brothel. On her last day of freedom she meets Jin and helps him sell Eel's. Jin goes to see her at the brothel but gets beaten because he has no money. He returns the next day with a gold ryo that Mugen won, and spends a night with her, and presumably has sex with her. He helps her escape the next day, and sets her off on a boat to a women's sanctuary across the river. She appears in the 11th episode "Gamblers and Gallantry".
A muscle-bound monk who gives the trio room and board in his temple in exchange for their menial services. He was once the master of the dojo that Shōryū trained in and became a monk as penance for his failure to save his pupil's soul. Makes a second prominent appearance in the Episode 12 flashbacks, possibly instructing Mugen on the art of Hakkei (how he knows anything about its workings is quite inexplicable, though it wouldn't be a stretch to assume he researched it).
It would seem that his giving room and board to the trio was not merely for their labor. In "Disorder Diaries", he provided both Jin and Fuu with spiritual guidance, and Zuikō's predictive powers (evident by his telling them to fix the doors before Mugen actually broke them) could lead the viewer to believe that he predicted that Mugen would help his quest to end Ukon's path of destruction.
Like Jin, Ukon, known also as Shōryū, was born into the samurai bloodline. He studied under Zuikou and became one of his most prized disciples. Ukon was sent on a voyage by the province's daimyo, but his ship met with disaster and capsized. Somehow, he ended up washed ashore in China. There, he encountered a 'mysterious martial art' known as Hakkei, and studied it vigorously under the tutelage of Shaolin monks. He returned to Japan a different man under a different name, Shōryū, and had become so different that he had no qualms about killing a fellow student in a simple training session, strongly believing that all fights are to the death.
After Zuikou expelled him, Shōryū wandered the continent searching for a new master, but no one would have him, labeling him a heretic. He became embittered as he felt his greatness deserved acknowledgment. He began murdering renowned samurai for sport, at the same time hoping to find a worthy opponent. The 'street killer' myth was built around him. During the duel with Mugen, Shōryū attempts to finish Mugen in the same manner; however, when Shōryū gets within striking distance to use his finishing move, Mugen springs his carefully laid trap, striking from a supposedly helpless position, killing Shōryū with a thrust from his previously concealed tantō.
Mugen's battle with Shōryū characterizes the uniqueness of his free-for-all fighting style he calls “champuru kendo”, swiping bits and pieces from all forms of martial arts thrown at him, as he was seemingly able to mimic and use Shōryū's ki technique to his own advantage, likely picked up in their first duel. This battle marks the first time Mugen ever faced an opponent he was unsure of defeating as stated by Jin. Next to Kariya Kagetoki and Sara, Shōryū is easily one of the most powerful fighters in the Champloo universe. His stance and fighting style are markedly Shaolin. His discipline, Hakkei, makes use of ki. It is unknown if Shouryuu employs ki to strengthen his defenses, but he certainly uses it to greatly augment his offensive prowess. Already as quick as Mugen, if not quicker, he is able to project ki at a distance or even channel it through his sword. Furthermore, one blow from his palm is a fatal death touch.
Wanted criminal, pirate captain, former cohort of Mugen. He carries a revolver tucked in his waistband. His clothing includes a sawtooth design, wristbands and ankle bandages, which Koza and a younger Mugen both share in appearance. Like his sister, Koza, he has a fairly swarthy complexion. He double-crossed Mugen at least once before and does it again. After their 'reunion', he convinces Mugen to rob a government ship with him, the spoils being 60,000 gold ryo. After Mugen and the pirates ram the government ship and kill most of the guards, Mukuro blows up the pirate ship with Mugen on board. He returns to shore on the (now empty) government ship, where he and his secret accomplice, a government official named Shiren, hoard the gold. Unfortunately, Koza is none too fond of her brother (according to her, he killed her mother), and engineers the double-cross into a triple-cross. He and Jin end up dueling. He fans two shots at Jin; however, Jin anticipates and evades them. Mukuro met his end when Jin sliced him across the chest, then stabbed him from behind seconds after drawing his katana.
Mukuro's perpetually gloomy younger sister. She has a fondness for Mugen that dates back to their days of piracy, though the feeling is not quite mutual. Koza isn't so much in love with Mugen as she is attached to him. This stems from her chronic dependency — she simply can't bear to be alone, which explains why she has remained with Mukuro all this time, even though he clearly repulses her. She devises a scheme to get rid of Mukuro and leave with Mugen, but as Mugen rejects her advances, she replaces him with Shiren. She neglects to inform Mugen what Mukuro has in store for him. After the ship Mugen is on explodes, she manipulates Jin and Mukuro into fighting, which ends in Mukuro's death. As she is leaving with Shiren, Mugen, having survived the explosion, confronts them and cuts Shiren down with a series of lightning-quick slashes despite being rigorously weakened. Koza begs him to kill her. He pays her no heed and continues walking, leaving her exactly as she didn't want to be: All alone.
It is disputable whether Koza is Mukuro's actual sister, as, aside from their skin tone, Fuu observes that they look nothing alike. Moreover, Koza states that Mukuro "killed her mother," not "their" mother.
A Shogunate official, infatuated with Koza. He becomes Mukuro's collaborator in double-crossing Mugen and keeping the gold for themselves. He is slashed dead by Mugen at the end of everything. As he and Mukuro are the only two people who know where the gold is hidden, it is never recovered.
Yatsuha is a skilled ninja who is always barefoot (though has some type of sock-like covering on her feet that exposes the heel and toe areas) when in her ninja outfit. She first appeared working as a prostitute in a covert mission to break up a criminal operation counterfeiting coins. She is the daughter of Imano Jinpachi, a member of the Shogunate guard staff. Yatsuha came to the brothel one year ago. She is purchased by Mugen after winning a rock-paper-scissor game with Jin to see who will stay with her instead of several of her less attractive coworkers.
While Mugen is preparing himself for Yatsuha, she overhears a conversation about the counterfeiting through a wall. After failing multiple attempts to subdue Mugen, who thinks her actions are foreplay, Yatsuha resorts to tricking Mugen into helping her stop the counterfeiting operation by promising him a night of sex. Together they defeat the counterfeiting group and its leader Momochi Ginsa, rescuing their captives. When Mugen later tries to get Yatsuha to uphold the promise at the conclusion of the episode, she knocks him out cold with a block of wood. As Yatsuha and her partner Otawa Hankichi leave Mugen outside the town limits, she confesses to Hankichi that she has fallen in love with Mugen and intends on marrying him in the future.
An Ainu warrior whose village was struck by an epidemic and torched by the Matsumae clan Han. Overcome with rage, he killed the official who authorized the burning. He was arrested and incarcerated, but escaped before he could be executed. His weapon is unique, a modified crossbow, called a Chu-Ko-Nu, that can repeatedly fire bolts. He mistakes Mugen as part of the Matsumae Han (who, ironically, later mistake Mugen for Okuru) and attacks him. He withdraws after he realizes the error. Later, he saves Fuu after she plunges off a crag. Upon encountering Mugen again, they do battle, and Mugen remarks that he has the "eyes of a dead man, like a severed head that doesn't know it's been cut off." Their fight is interrupted by agents of the Matsumae Han, led by Tobata. Okuru is riddled by flaming arrows, but miraculously remains standing. Jin and Mugen slaughter the rest of the Matsumae Han agents, while Okuru wrenches an arrow out of his gut and stabs Tobata dead with it. Engulfed in flames, he leaps off a cliff into the river below. Mugen believes that Okuru is still alive.
Yukimaru was a student of Mariya Enshirou before Jin killed him. Yukimaru contends that, unlike Ogura, he wants to take Jin's life not to avenge Enshirou but to make a name for himself. Unwilling to fight him, Jin takes a dive off the edge of a waterfall. Yukimaru is persistent and hunts him down once more. They clash katana, and Jin gives him one last chance to turn back. Yukimaru charges on. Jin runs him through. On his dying breath, shedding a tear, Yukimaru whispers that he only "wanted to be like you." Jin and Fuu bury him, and pray before his grave. When Fuu asks Jin about who he was, Jin replies Yukimaru "was like a little brother".
The crest on Yukimaru's kimono is identical to the kamon of the Hōjō clan. Though the Takeda and Hojo clan were neighboring clans that often fought, they both did battle against Tokugawa and Nobunaga. If Jin and Yukimaru are of the Takeda and Hojo clan, this might explain their more familiar relationship with each other.
Commands the band of Matsumae Han officials sent to pursue Okuru. Clearly enjoys what he is doing, as evidenced by the smirk on his face when he (thinks he) finally has Okuru cornered. His allegiance is to his daimyo and cannot be swerved, as he declares that he "has his orders," even after hearing that his superiors' motives might be less than honorable. Is stunned that Okuru is still on his feet after having been riddled by flaming arrows. He rushes forward with his katana drawn, intending to put an end to the enemy of the state. A dispassionate Okuru wrenches an arrow out his body and stabs Tobata to death with it.
A beautiful blind shamisen player and singer (Goze). Sara is always barefoot where the sense of touch in her feet help to make out the terrain because of her blindness. Mugen, Jin, and Fuu encounter Sara near the end of their journey. The quartet travel together for a while, and she reveals she has an illegitimate son that was sequestered from her, allegedly due to her blindness. She requests that one of the men to accompany her on her quest to find her son. Knowing of Mugen's unconcealed lust for Sara, Fuu reluctantly offers Jin, expecting him to reject the offer, but Jin calmly accepts out of a sense of duty. While crossing a narrow footbridge with Jin, Sara reveals that she is a Shogunate assassin and brandishes an elaborate kama-yari disguised inside her walking staff. The two engage in battle, with Sara quickly gaining the upper hand despite (or perhaps because of) her blindness, as she possesses a superhuman ability to perceive whenever an opponent telegraphs their movements. Jin is wounded twice, and finally, out of desperation, destroys the bridge's suspension, with both combatants falling into the river beneath them. After hearing of the collapse of the bridge, Fuu worries about the well-being of Jin and Sara, and she and Mugen turn around to search for their former companions. Shortly thereafter, they locate an unconscious Sara washed up on the riverbank. Mugen finds Sara's staff on the riverbank as well, and becomes suspicious of her after finding cut planks nearby.
Upon Sara's recovery, Mugen—having deduced her true nature and motives—returns her shamisen and concealed kama-yari staff with a thinly veiled remark about the "tools of [her] trade". Realizing she's been discovered, she offers to fight Mugen by the river. During their fight, Sara again grossly outmatches her opponent due to the superior range of her kama-yari vs. Mugen's katana and her ability to perceive his attacks almost even before he makes them. Mugen is badly wounded and incapacitated, but she relents from killing him when Fuu throws herself on top of him and begs Sara for mercy. That night, however, a Shogunate contact disguised as a pinwheel merchant coerces Sara into finishing her job by reminding her that her son's life hangs in the balance: if she fails to kill the trio, the Shogun's agents will kill her son instead. When one of his pinwheels stops spinning, she begins to doubt that her child is still alive. Nonetheless, Sara returns to the riverbank to engage Mugen in a final fight. Despite Jin's coaching on how to counter her sensory abilities, she proves superior once again and is presented with a window of opportunity to kill Mugen. However, she pulls back the swing of her kama-yari at the last moment, allowing Mugen's katana to strike her. In her last moments, she states that she realizes her son is long dead, and asks Mugen to continue living instead as he mourns her.
Sara is one of the strongest fighters in the series, able to split large boulders with her kama-yari and perfectly sense an opponent's movements despite her blindness. Sara's concealed yari weapon and blindness may be references to Zatoichi. She is one of the most powerful fighters in the series, one of only two (along with Kariya Kagetoki) to decisively dominate both Jin and Mugen in separate fights and the only fighter to utterly incapacitate Mugen, his death being forestalled only by Fuu's pleas for mercy.
An old hermit who rescues Jin after the latter nearly drowns from the fight with Sara. Matagi brings him back to an old hut to recuperate. As Jin awakens he is offered a bowl of food, then denied it. Only joking, the hermit then places the bowl across the room from Jin allowing him to get it for himself. Jin painfully crawls towards it only to find it empty, and Matagi again laughing at him and observing his ability to move. Later, Jin finds Matagi outside standing in the water trying to catch fish with his bare hands, who explains his methods of entrusting oneself to the flow – a method later referred to as the "Way of the Water" (although it doesn't exactly work the first time it is demonstrated).
As Jin is leaving, he thanks the hermit for the lesson (to teach a man to fish instead of to give him one), to which Matagi claims he didn't teach Jin anything. Jin is greatly surprised when he asks the hermit's name and his reply is, in a serious tone, Miyamoto Musashi. But the old man laughs it off, saying that couldn't be true and his real name is Johnny. Whether or not he is indeed the legendary swordsman is left up to the audience to decide (Samurai Champloo takes place after the Shimabara Rebellion of 1637-38, and not in the 1850s as previously speculated by others, therefore Musashi's cameo is plausible). His name has been officially given as Matagi.
Voiced by: Tony Oliver
Heike Shige is the leader of a band of zombie-like workers, who have been mining for the legendary gold of the Heike clan for 500 years. Some unearthly quality of the area's mushroom population preserved them long after their bodies expired and the consumption of the large amount of wasabi (believed to have preservative properties) staved off the inevitable rot of their bodies. Because Shige and his men are already dead, it is apparently impossible to kill them – although Shige notes it was a "close call" when Mugen nearly beheads him.
Shige, believing himself a descendant of the Heike, thought to eventually use the gold to defeat their ancient enemies the Genji clan, and claims that his biwa could summon the stars from heaven to strike his foes. When he encounters Mugen, Jin and Fuu, he offers them 10% of the treasure in exchange for their help at the quarry. Shige's quixotic quest came to an end, however, when Fuu discovered the nature of his men. During the ensuing confrontation, Jin announced his discovery that Shige was not a true descendant of the Heike, which he noticed upon examining the family tree Shige presented as evidence of his claim. This led to the zombie workers themselves turning on their would-be leader, serving him only out of the belief that he was heir to the Heike line. Seeing his plans come to nothing, Shige at last unveiled his ultimate weapon, and indeed summoned a meteor upon the entire area. Mugen, Jin and Fuu may have left by the time it arrived, since they survive for the next episode (though it's possible the mushrooms were psychedelic). The ultimate fate of Shige and his men is not known; presumably they were annihilated in the impact, though the ending credits to his episode are interrupted by a shot of him bursting from the grave—an indication that he "lives" on.
Shige is inspired by Japanese video game designer, Shigesato Itoi (the creator of EarthBound), from his name, direct quotes, and his wasting much time and money searching for, in all likelihood, a nonexistent treasure. Shige's ability to summon a meteor may be referencing Dawn of the Dead, which unofficially speculates that meteors were involved in causing the zombies.[original research?]
Three brothers whose lives were ruined by Mukuro and Mugen during a pirate raid on a sugar shipment. The three brothers, who had been charged with security, were held responsible for the loss and forced to desert their positions in Satsuma. Mugen crippled the eldest brother during the raid, and they have been seeking his death ever since. As with Ryujiro, Mugen appears to have no recollection of the damage he caused. Predictably, he doesn't care once he is reminded, lambasting that "once you point your sword at someone it's kill or be killed." Each of the three brothers' left eyes are red.
The youngest and certainly the ugliest (hunched posture, large fanatical eyes, crooked teeth) of the brothers; wears a steel claw on his left wrist. He is the least stable of the three and prone to violent fits of uncontrollable urges to kill. He carries a bisento short enough for him to wield and whines or shrieks wildly whenever he opens his mouth. He is given the task of bringing Mugen to his brothers, but loses control and attacks Mugen himself instead. He takes advantage of Mugen's inability to fight well in small spaces (they are on a boat), but Mugen overturns the boat. He is the first of the brothers to die, stabbed underwater by Mugen after Mugen grabs his clawed hand to keep him from attacking.
Umanosuke sports a hefty chonmage, is deformed in one eye (it is lidless; he wears an eye patch to compensate for this), and wields a spectacular weapon: a chain-sickle kusarigama with an incredibly long reach. He wears a daisho, indicating that he was once samurai, but relies principally on his kusarigama. It is a fearsome, highly destructive weapon. While a normal kusarigama makes use of the chain to ensnare the opponent so the wielder may attack at full advantage with the sickle, the chain of Umanosuke's kusarigama is located in the shaft and can be launched to at least forty feet and retracted, ostensibly by some sort of helix mechanism[original research?]. The sickle cuts effortlessly through solid objects like wood and rock; Umanosuke wields it with immense skill. Once retracted, it is effective as a scythe at close quarters.
When first seen, Umanosuke is cool and composed, and almost suave. He even has no problem with letting Fuu escape as long as he can kill Mugen. Upon his meeting Mugen, the composure crumbles, worse when the eye patch is cut away, and he spirals to Denkibou's level of madness. At this point, Umanosuke sports possibly the greatest destructive intent in the entire series, attacking in a berserk flurry of vicious attacks. Mugen gives up his sword in order to rescue Fuu from his clutches, but manages to reclaim it and, after a hard-fought battle, decapitates Umanosuke with his own weapon. The way he ends the battle is important; in the earlier battle against Kariya, Mugen is told that simply fighting on instinct shows everyone his limits and is soundly defeated. The manner in which Mugen works out Umanosuke's death shows Mugen overcoming his weakness.[original research?]
Toube is the eldest of the brothers and one whose lifestyle changed most after the attack: he now uses a wheelchair. Like his brothers, he lives for revenge; Mugen severed his leg in the raid on the ship he was protecting, and since then he has never uttered a word. He shoots Mugen in the back with a pistol concealed in the wheelchair's left armrest after watching Umanosuke die, then ignites a stash of dynamite concealed in the wheelchair's base, intending to take Mugen with him.
An elite samurai working for the Shogunate known as the "Divine Hand" because of his skill in combat. According to Goroujuu, a member of the Shogun's council, Kariya has not drawn his sword in quite some time since there hasn't been a worthy opponent in years. Upon learning of Sara's death, Kariya decides that Mugen and Jin are worthy adversaries, and brings himself out of retirement in order to face them.
His calm and collected demeanor hides a cold and manipulative personality. Kariya attempted to gain control of the Mujushin Dojo and is the one responsible for ordering Mariya Enshirou to kill Jin. He is ordered to seek out and kill Kasumi Seizou, the Sunflower Samurai, for his role in the Shimabara Rebellion as well as Kasumi's family — Fuu. Regarded amongst his peers as "The Hand of the Gods" for his divine skills, being said that there is possibly no one in existence capable of defeating him, he is arguably the strongest fighter in the series. He fights Mugen and Jin simultaneously, easily handling Mugen's fighting style and defeating Jin in a standoff. Similar to Shōryū, he is a master of his ki and is able to use it with great force both offensively and defensively, and to an almost supernatural level. Jin defeats Kariya by sacrificing his own body to breach Kariya's defense, utilizing a strategy that his master, Mariya Enshirou, had described as suicidal.
Notes and references
- See: サムライチャンプルー : SAMURAI CHAMPLOO (Japanese) Information on leading characters (Note: The official website is Japanese and in adobe flash format. One must click Character, Leading Part, then Mugen to get the information. Also note that he is 20 years of age, not 19, as it says on the official website).
- He and Jin fight from time to time, but there is an undercurrent of mutual understanding between the two. Despite periodic confrontations with Fuu he also seems to care for her, staging rescues of her on several occasions.
- See: Shinichiro Watanabe, "An Evening With Shinichiro Watanabe," Detroit Film Theater, Detroit, 8 Feb. 2006 (Note: Although Mugen's fighting style resembles capoeira, series creator Shinichiro Watanabe has stated that it is based on break dancing, rather than any existing martial art, in keeping with the show's hip hop theme).
- See: Zen Stories of the Samurai. Also, compare Jin's appearance to that of Takeda Sokaku: An Overview History of Daito Ryu Aikijutsu.
- The Sword of No Abiding Mind - Mujuushin Kenjutsu and Samurai Champloo
- Jonathon Delcaour - The Heart of Things, citing: Cherry, Kittredge; Womansword: What Japanese Words Say About Women
- Episode 10
- Guide to Japanese Castles - Hachigata Castle; note Hojo kamon in upper right-hand corner
- Japan and the Samurai Warrior, Buzzle.com