|Written by||Masaru Gotsubo|
|Published by||Kadokawa Shoten|
|Magazine||Monthly Shōnen Ace|
|Original run||January 26, 2004 – September 25, 2004|
|Anime television series|
|Directed by||Shinichirō Watanabe|
|Written by||Shinji Obara|
|Original network||Fuji TV|
|Original run||May 19, 2004 – March 19, 2005|
Samurai Champloo (Japanese: サムライチャンプルー, Hepburn: Samurai Chanpurū), stylized as SAMURAI CHAMPLOO, is a Japanese anime television 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. The series ran for twenty-six episodes on Fuji Television from May 2004 to March 2005.
Samurai Champloo is set in an alternate version of Edo-era (1603–1868) Japan with an anachronistic, mainly 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 was licensed by Geneon Entertainment for English releases in North America. It was later licensed by Funimation 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 girl 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
According to the director, the series is set during the Edo period, roughly sixty years after the end of the Sengoku period. 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") pits 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. In 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 daimyō in Edo Japan.
- 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". In the title cards, her totem is Sunflowers.
- Mugen: A brash vagabond from the penal colony of the 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 sai-handled 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 rōnin 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).
Apart from this trio, other characters tend to appear only once or twice throughout the series.
The series originated during production of Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, when Watanabe wanted to create something antithetical to that series’ largely calm and mature atmosphere. He thought of Mugen as young and a little stupid, putting him in stark contrast with Cowboy Bebop’s Spike Spiegel. Jin was created as a foil for Mugen to stop the story becoming one-dimensional. Watanabe also said in an interview that he was interested in hip hop music since it first appeared: "the fact that it was born not in the music industry but on the street, the idea of using a turntable as an instrument, singing vividly about reality instead of typical love songs, and its links to graffiti and dance". He added: "I believe samurai in the Edo period and modern hip-hop artists have something in common. Rappers open the way to their future with one microphone; samurai decided their fate with one sword". The word champloo comes from the Okinawan word chanpurū (as in gōyā chanpurū, the Okinawan stir-fry dish containing bitter melon). Chanpurū, alone, simply means "to mix" or "to hash"; this would suggest that the series title means something more akin to "Samurai Remix", further reflecting its hip-hop aesthetics.
The soundtrack for the series was primarily hip-hop based and was produced by Japanese hip-hop producer Tsutchie of the rap group Shakkazombie (whose music was previously featured in the Cowboy Bebop episode "Mish-Mash Blues"), American hip-hop producer & emcee Fat Jon of the rap group Five Deez, Japanese hip-hop producer Nujabes, and Japanese DJ & production duo FORCE OF NATURE. "Battlecry", produced by Nujabes and featuring Japanese emcee Shing02, is the opening theme for all twenty six episodes. "四季ノ唄 (Shiki no Uta, Song of Four Seasons)", performed by Japanese singer Minmi and produced by Nujabes, is the ending theme for twenty two of the twenty six episodes. Alternate ending themes include "Who's Theme" by Minmi as the ending for Episode 12, "You" by Tsutchie featuring Japanese singer Kazami for Episode 17, "Fly" by Tsutchie featuring Riki Azuma of the multi-genre artist and production duo Small Circle of Friends for Episode 23, and "San Francisco" performed by the rap group Midicronica as the ending for Episode 26. Episode 18 features "Hiji Zuru Style" by FORCE OF NATURE featuring hip-hop duo SUIKEN x S-WORD and Episode 20 features "Obokuri-Eeumi" by Japanese folk singer Ikue Asazaki.
Broadcast and release
Samurai Champloo premiered on Fuji Television on May 20, 2004. The series ran for seventeen episodes on the network until September 22, 2004, when they decided to cancel its broadcast. The series resumed airing on BS Fuji; the remaining 18th–26th episodes aired from January 22 to March 19, 2005.
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 8, 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 distributed Samurai Champloo for Geneon since they 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.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (January 2009)
A manga adaptation was serialized in Kadokawa Shoten's Monthly Shōnen Ace from January 26 to September 25, 2004. Its chapters were collected in two tankōbon volumes, released on July 28 and October 26, 2004. Tokyopop licensed the manga for English-language release in North America.
- 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 Force 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.
- 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 were released in 2004 by Geneon Entertainment only in North America. They bear most of the same tracks as the Japanese albums.
A vinyl collection of previously released music from the series was released in 2007 by Ample Soul.
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 game was directed and written by Goichi Suda and the soundtrack was composed by Masafumi Takada and Jun Fukuda. 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 has been praised for its 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 was ranked by IGN at #10 among their Top Ten Anime Themes and Soundtracks of All Time.
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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