Title card for the anime series
|Genre||Action, Adventure, Chanbara|
|Written by||Masaru Gotsubo|
|Published by||Kadokawa Shoten|
|Magazine||Monthly Shōnen Ace|
|Original run||January 26, 2004 – September 26, 2004|
|Anime television series|
|Directed by||Shinichirō Watanabe|
|Produced by||Takatoshi Hamano
|Written by||Shinji Obara|
Force of Nature
|Original run||May 19, 2004 – March 19, 2005|
Samurai Champloo (Japanese: サムライチャンプルー Hepburn: Samurai Chanpurū?) is a Japanese anime series developed by Manglobe. It featured a production team led by director Shinichirō Watanabe, character designer Kazuto Nakazawa and mechanical designer Mahiro Maeda. Samurai Champloo was Watanabe's first directorial effort for an anime television series after the critically acclaimed Cowboy Bebop. It was first broadcast in Japan on Fuji TV on May 20, 2004 and ran for twenty-six episodes until its conclusion on March 19, 2005.
Samurai Champloo is set in an alternate version of Edo-era (1603 to 1868) Japan with an anachronistic, predominantly hip-hop, setting. It follows Mugen, an impudent and freedom-loving vagrant swordsman; Jin, a composed and stoic rōnin; and Fuu, a brave girl who asks them to accompany her in her quest across Japan to find the "samurai who smells of sunflowers".
Samurai Champloo has many similarities to Shinichirō Watanabe's other work Cowboy Bebop. Both series are critically acclaimed, focus on mixing genres, follow an episodic narrative design, and utilize contemporary music.
Samurai Champloo was dubbed in the English language and licensed by Geneon Entertainment for releases in North America. Funimation began licensing the series after Geneon ceased production of its titles. It was also licensed for English releases in the United Kingdom by MVM Films, and in Australia and New Zealand by Madman Entertainment.
A young woman named Fuu is working as a waitress in a tea shop when she is abused by a band of samurai. She is saved by a mysterious rogue named Mugen and a young rōnin named Jin. Mugen attacks Jin after he proves to be a worthy opponent. The pair begin fighting one another and inadvertently cause the death of Shibui Tomonoshina, the magistrate's son. For this crime, they are to be executed. With help from Fuu, they are able to escape execution. In return, Fuu asks them to travel with her to find "the samurai who smells of sunflowers".
Setting and style
Samurai Champloo employs a blend of historical Edo period backdrops with modern styles and references. The show relies on factual events of Edo-era Japan such as the Shimabara Rebellion ("Unholy Union"; "Evanescent Encounter, Part I"), Dutch exclusivity in an era in which an edict restricted Japanese foreign relations ("Stranger Searching"), ukiyo-e paintings ("Artistic Anarchy"), and fictionalized versions of real-life Edo personalities like Mariya Enshirou and Miyamoto Musashi ("Elegy of Entrapment, Verse 2"). The content and accuracy of the historical content is often distorted via artistic license.
Historical context and Western influence
Samurai Champloo contains many scenes and episodes relating to historical occurrences in Japan's Edo period. In episode 5 ("Artistic Anarchy"), Fuu is kidnapped by the famous ukiyo-e painter Hishikawa Moronobu, a figure prominent in the Edo period's art scene. Episode 23 ("Baseball Blues") pins the main characters in a baseball game against Alexander Cartwright and a team of American baseball players trying to declare war on Japan. As for Western influences, the opening of the show as well as many of the soundtracks are influenced by hip hop. In episode 5, Vincent van Gogh is referenced at the end in relation to Hishikawa Moronobu's ukiyo-e paintings. A hip hop singer challenges the main characters in episode 8 (The Art of Altercation) and uses break dance throughout. Episode 18 (War of the Words), graffiti tagging, a culturally Western art form, is performed by characters as an artistic expression and form of writing. The ending of the episode has Mugen writing his name on the roof of Hiroshima Castle, the palace of the daimyo in Edo Japan.
The topics of sex and sexual orientation are shown multiple times in Samurai Champloo. One topic that is frequently shown regarding sexuality is the use of brothels and prostitution. Brothels are seen in multiple episodes and are significant to the plot. The show includes Yakuza brothel ownership, characters being sold into prostitution, and other issues regarding the subject. Another topic in the show is homosexuality, with one episode revolving around a homosexual Dutchman. This episode makes the claim that Edo period Japan had liberal expressions of homosexuality that can most easily be compared to ancient Greece. The character Fuu can be seen as object of sexual desire, as one episode has her in being painted half-naked and is later nearly sold into the sex trade.
- Mugen: A brash vagabond from the penal colony Ryukyu Islands, Mugen is a 19-year-old wanderer with a wildly unconventional fighting style. Rude, lewd, vulgar, conceited, temperamental and psychotic, he is something of an antihero. He is fond of fighting and has a tendency to pick fights for petty reasons. It is implied in a few episodes that he is also a womanizer, with his libido sometimes getting the better of him. He wears metal-soled geta and carries an exotic sword on his back. In Japanese, the word mugen means "infinite" (literally, "without limit" or "limitless"). He was a former pirate. In the title cards, his totem is the rooster.
- Jin: Jin is a 20-year-old reserved ronin who carries himself in the conventionally stoic manner of a samurai of the Tokugawa era. Using his waist-strung daishō, he fights in the traditional kenjutsu style of a samurai trained in a prominent, sanctioned dojo. He is pursued by several members of his dojo as he had killed their master in self-defense. He wears glasses, an available but uncommon accessory in Edo era Japan. Spectacles, called "Dutch glass merchandise" ("Oranda gyoku shinajina" in Japanese) at the time, were imported from the Netherlands early in the Tokugawa period and became more widely available as the 17th century progressed. His pair of glasses is purely ornamental, as Mugen later found out after getting a chance to peer through them. Although pictured in advertisements as smoking a kiseru, he was never depicted with one in the series. In the title cards his totem is a koi fish. He is named after one of the seven virtues of the samurai in Bushido, "Jin" (Benevolence).
- Fuu: A spirited 15-year-old girl, Fuu asks Mugen and Jin to help her find a sparsely described man she calls "the samurai who smells of sunflowers." Her father left her and her mother for an unknown reason. Without her father around to support them, Fuu and her mother led a difficult life until her mother died of illness. After a not-so-successful stint as a teahouse waitress/dancer she saves Mugen and Jin from execution and recruits them as her bodyguards. A flying squirrel named "Momo" (short for momonga, "flying squirrel") accompanies her, inhabiting her kimono and frequently leaping out to her rescue. Her name, Fuu, is the character for "wind."
Apart from this trio, other characters tend to appear only once or twice throughout the series.
The episodes of the anime series Samurai Champloo were produced by Manglobe and written and directed by Shinichirō Watanabe. The first episode premiered in Japan on Fuji Television on May 20, 2004 where it ran for 26 episodes until its conclusion on March 19, 2005.
Samurai Champloo is considered to be an example of the popular chanbara film and television genre. Trademarks include the Edo setting, a focus on samurai or other swordsman characters, and lots of thrilling, dramatic fights. Chanbara was used in the early days of Japanese cinema (when government political censorship ran high) as a way of expressing veiled social critiques.
- Director: Shinichirō Watanabe
- Chief Writer: Shinji Obara
- Character Design: Kazuto Nakazawa
- Chief Animator: Kazuto Nakazawa
- Weapon Design: Mahiro Maeda
- Opening Director: Mamoru Hosoda
- Opening Animation: Takeshi Koike
- Art Director: Takeshi Waki
- Color Design: Eri Suzuki
- Director of Photography: Kazuhiro Yamada
- Editing: Shuichi Kakesu
- Dubbing Director: Tsutomu Kashiwakura
- Music: Tsutchie, Fat Jon, Nujabes, Forces of Nature
- Producer: Takatoshi Hamano, Takashi Kochiyama, Tetsuro Satomi
- Animation Production: Manglobe
Geneon licensed the show for distribution in North America almost a year prior to the show's airing in Japan. An English dub of the series premiered in the United States on the Adult Swim anime block on May 14, 2005. The version aired was edited and had foul language replaced with sound effects, in addition to cutting out blood and nudity. The final first run of the episodes concluded on March 18, 2006. Samurai Champloo debuted in Canada on December 24, 2006, on the digital station Razer. The series has also aired in the United Kingdom, France, Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, Poland, Mexico, Portugal, Spain and Germany. Funimation has recently announced to distribute Samurai Champloo for Geneon since they have ceased in-house distribution of their titles in 2007. Geneon, in association with Funimation, re-released the entire 26-episode anime series in a box set in June 2009 and on Blu-ray in November 2009. As of November 26, 2010, Funimation has fully licensed the series and once again released the series under the Classics line on May 24, 2011.
The anime series made its return to US television on FUNimation Channel starting March 21, 2011. The series returned to Adult Swim on January 2, 2016, this time part of the revived Toonami block, replacing Michiko & Hatchin.
The episodes use six pieces of theme music. "Battlecry", performed by Nujabes and Shing02, is the opening theme for all twenty six episodes. "四季ノ唄 (Shiki no Uta Song of Four Seasons?)" by Nujabes and Minmi is the primary ending theme, except for four episodes. Episode 12 uses Minmi's "Who's Theme" as its ending, episode 17 uses "You" by Kazami, 23 uses "Fly" by Tsutchie, and the final episode uses the song "San Francisco" by Midicronica.
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A Samurai Champloo manga debuted in Shōnen Ace on January 26, 2004 and ended on September 26, 2004. Tokyopop licensed the manga in an English-language release in North America and Madman Entertainment lit for an English release in Australia and New Zealand. It is also licensed for a Portuguese-language and Spanish-language release in Brazil and Spain by Panini. There are 2 volumes in this series.
Music used in the series was released across four CD soundtracks by Victor Entertainment. The first, Samurai Champloo Music Record: Masta, was released on June 23, 2004. Produced by Shinichirō Watanabe's longtime friend DJ Tsutchie and the Japanese hip hop duo Forces of Nature,[verification needed] the album features 18 instrumental tracks and one mid-tempo ballad sung by R&B songstress Kazami. Samurai Champloo Music Record: Departure was released on the same date, containing 17 tracks, with two being vocal pieces performed by rap artist Shing02 and R&B singer Minmi. The album was produced by Japanese DJ/producer Nujabes and American MC/producer Fat Jon.
Two additional soundtracks followed on September 22, 2004. Samurai Champloo Music Record: Playlist contained an additional 18 tracks, all created by Tsutchie, with only one being a vocal piece: a remix of the first album's song "Fly," performed by Azuma Riki of the hip hop group Small Circle of Friends. The final album, Samurai Champloo Music Record: Impression, features 23 tracks from Force of Nature, Nujabes, and Fat Jon. Rap artists Suiken and S-word, members of Tokyo rap group Nitro Microphone Underground, provide guest vocals and Minmi performs the final song on the album.
Two separate soundtracks, Samurai Champloo Music Record: Katana as well as Samurai Champloo Music Record: Playlist, were released in 2004 by Geneon Entertainment only in North America. They bear most of the same tracks as the Japanese albums.
Grasshopper Manufacture developed a video game for the PlayStation 2 based on the series entitled Samurai Champloo: Sidetracked; however, the manufacturer has stated that the game has no relation to the events depicted in the show. The soundtrack was composed by Masafumi Takada and Jun Fukuda, while it was written by Goichi Suda. It was released on February 23, 2006 in Japan and on April 11, 2006 in the United States. It received mixed reviews. The game is notable for giving Mugen's distinctive sword a name, "Typhoon Swell"; it was never called by this name in the anime or manga series.
Samurai Champloo received critical acclaim, with many critics and scholars praising the unique blend of genres and influence of music within the series. The ambient soundtrack recorded by artists Fat Jon, Force of Nature, Tsutchie and the late Nujabes received very high critical acclaim, ranking among the Top Ten Anime Themes and Soundtracks of All Time. Samurai Champloo was listed at #10, with Cowboy Bebop taking the #1 spot.
A scholastic essay was penned by writer Jiwon Ahn about the series and its relationship to western culture, as well as various television and film genres. The essay was published in the textbook How to Watch Television, and is currently used at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. In her essay, Ahn refers to the series as "a rich text to examine within the analytical framework of auteurism and genre theory."
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