Title card for the anime series
|Genre||Action, Adventure, Chanbara, Comedy-drama|
|Anime television series|
|Directed by||Shinichirō Watanabe|
|Produced by||Takatoshi Hamano
|Written by||Shinji Obara|
Force of Nature
|Network||Fuji TV, BS Fuji, Fuji TV Two|
|Original run||May 19, 2004 – March 19, 2005|
|Written by||Masaru Gotsubo|
|Published by||Kadokawa Shoten|
|Original run||August 2, 2004 – October 29, 2004|
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 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".
Like Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo was critically acclaimed, and the series was dubbed in the English language and licensed by Geneon Entertainment for releases in North America. Funimation Entertainment 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 ronin named Jin. Mugen attacks Jin after he proves to be a worthy opponent and they begin fighting one another and inadvertently cause the death of Shibui Tomonoshina, the magistrate's son. For this crime, they are to be executed. But with some help from Fuu, they escape and 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 exact placement within world history is questionable, however, and is likely somewhat distorted by artistic license. For instance, the appearance of a six shooter in the episode of Misguided Miscreants Part I suggests that the story takes place after 1814, which is when that style of weapon was first invented, yet in the episode Stranger Searching it is explicitly stated that trade relations between Japan and the Dutch East India Company exist, the latter of which went defunct in 1798. Also, the samurai who smells of sunflowers is said to have taken part in the Shimabara Rebellion, which historically occurred between 1637 and 1638.
Incorporated within this scheme are signature elements of modernity, especially hip hop culture, such as rapping ("Lullabies of the Lost, Verse 1"), bandits behaving like "gangstas" (both parts of "Misguided Miscreants"), censorship bleeps replaced with record scratching, and much of Mugen's character design. Samurai Champloo's musical score predominantly features hip hop music produced by Tsutchie, Nujabes, Fat Jon, and Force of Nature. Shing02 and MINMI are also featured in the opening and ending themes, respectively.
- 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, and nihilistic, Mugen 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 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.
|This section requires expansion. (January 2009)|
A Samurai Champloo manga debuted in Shōnen Ace on August 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 series was named by IGN as one of the "Top 100 Anime You Should Watch Before You Die". Samurai Champloo was placed at #26 on a list of 100 titles. Cowboy Bebop was ranked #1. 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 his essay, Ahn refers to the series as "a rich text to examine within the analytical framework of auteurism and genre theory."
- Bonaminio, Salvan. "Anime Review: Samurai Champloo". Anime UK. Retrieved 2012-04-18.
- Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook, Secrets of the Samurai: A survey of the Martial Arts of Feudal Japan (Castle Books, 1999) p. 83
- Silver, Alain, "The Samurai Film", The Overlook Press, New York, 1977, pg. 37. 0-87951-175-3
- "Funimation Entertainment to Distribute Samurai Champloo". Anime News Network. 2008-12-31.
- "Samurai Champloo DVD Complete Collection (Classic Line)". Rightstuf.com. Retrieved 2011-02-14.
- "VOD & Network Updates – FUNimation Channel (3/4 Weekend)".
- ROMAN ALBUM: Samurai Champloo. Mangaglobe/Shimoigusa Champloos, Dark Horse Comics Inc., p. 50-54
- Official Samurai Champloo web site (Japanese)
- Official Fuji TV Samurai Champloo web site (Japanese)
- Samurai Champloo || Anime Website from FUNimation
- Official Madman Entertainment Samurai Champloo web site (Archive)
- Samurai Champloo (anime) at Anime News Network's encyclopedia
- Samurai Champloo at the Internet Movie Database