Samurai Champloo is a story of 3 very different people, a street thug, a masterless samurai, and Fuu. The story is set in Edo-era Japan, and the setting gets progressively weirder as they travel further west, with increasing ‘Western’ influence.
I deem this to be the Barney Stinson of anime. In the beginning, this was because of the utterly absurd (for a supposedly ‘historical’ setting) plot points like rappers, graffiti artists and even baseball: in Edo Japan! But on further thinking, the comparison seems rather STUPID and yet legen– wait for it…
The visual quality of the show is really good but it shows its age. The colour palette is a bit towards the faded-and-bland side like many anime of the time, like Bleach. But the artistry for the swordsmanship is far superior. Jin’s elegant fighting style is well-animated and beautiful. But you can see a slight frame drop when Mugen is jumping around like a saru.
The voice acting is great in Japanese as usual (although Jin’s voice can seem bland at times, but it gives a good flavour to some situations). I’ve even heard the English dub is great, possibly even better (check my colleagues’ reviews for more details on that). What elevates the aural experience is the well-blended hip-hop background score, which sets the tone of a scene well. The OP is good and the EDs are great.
The characters are not really developed and they stick to their defined traits throughout the series and don’t grow at all. In terms of characters, Mugen is the most fun and unorthodox in a cast full of cliches. Where else would you see a breakdancing thug who spends more time on this head than on his legs while fighting? Jin is your cliched honourable samurai who has a dark past, nothing much to say here. Fuu, on the other hand, is a complex character with multifaceted emotions — nah just messing with ya! Fuu is a human plot device. She is there so the series has a story and acts as a damsel in distress. And also stop the other two from fighting, I guess — why do they even listen to her? Especially Mugen, he’s a badass thug! Why would some stupid promise keep him restrained? That was one plot hole. The story has quite a few of them, but such is the case when writing historical fiction, I suppose. Especially when it’s such a weird flavour of historical fiction.
But the story must be good, right? Again, not that great. The series is essentially a slice-of-life featuring a group of travelers but in an absurd fictional feudal Japan. Each episode has a predictable story, or is massively stupid, and sometimes both. But it’s not the story that defines this anime, it’s the unique setting and aesthetic. A baseball episode might not seem unique, we all know how it goes. But the settings and the characters give it a unique delivery unlike any other.
I don’t have much to say about the anime as I tend to focus more on characters and plot, which is not the focus of this anime. It's more about the cool vibes and gnarly fights. And those are damn fun to watch. It is a must-watch for anime noobs and vets alike.
Good animation but it shows its age, and may feel bland and low frame-rate to the SAO generation.
Good voice acting, great background score.
Apart from Mugen, Manzou the Saw (the “secret” police officer) was the only great recurring cast member. Some villains were good but others suffered from DBZ syndrome.
The story is in there, for the most part. But the overarching story is neglected in favour of the episodic narrative.
A point for being a heat sink (i.e. damn cool).
A point for “to hell with vegetarianism”