Samurai Champloo (サムライチャンプルー Samurai Chanpurū?) is a Japanese animated television series consisting of twenty-six episodes. It was broadcast in Japan from May 20, 2004, through March 19, 2005, on the television network, Fuji TV. Samurai Champloo was created and directed by Shinichirō Watanabe, whose previous work, Cowboy Bebop, earned him renown in the anime and Japanese television communities. The show was produced by studio Manglobe.
The series is a cross-genre work of media, blending the action and samurai genres with elements of slapstick comedy. It is also a period piece, taking place during Japan's Edo period. The series is interwoven with revisionist historical facts and anachronistic elements of mise-en-scene, dialogue and soundtrack. The series' most frequent anachronism is its use of elements of hip hop culture, particularly hip hop music and the music it has influenced, break dancing, turntablism, hip hop slang, and graffiti. The show also contains anachronistic elements from the punk subculture and modernism, but less prominently. It is one of the first anime TV shows based on hip-hop (Afro Samurai is the other, having been released in 2007).
A young lady named Fuu is working as a waitress in a tea house when she is harassed by a band of ruffians. Another customer, Mugen, offers to take care of them in exchange for food, but ends up instigating a brawl. Jin, a stoic young ronin in samurai garb, enters the tea house in the midst of the fight. Mugen attacks Jin after he proves to be a worthy opponent and they begin fighting one another, ignoring a fire that started during the brawl. They both faint from smoke inhalation. When they awaken, they find they have been arrested for the murder of Shibui Tomonoshina, the magistrate's son who had burned to death in the fire, and are to be executed. With help from Fuu, they escape and Fuu asks them to travel with her to find "the samurai who smells of sunflowers," a mysterious man Fuu can give little description of, but who she insists she must find as she thinks he's her long lost father. They agree to join her, with Fuu making only one condition: they are not to duel one another until the journey is done.
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 where edict restricted Japanese foreign relations ("Stranger Searching"), Ukiyo-e paintings ("Artistic Anarchy"), and fictionalized versions of real-life Edo personalities Mariya Enshirou and Miyamoto Musashi ("Elegy of Entrapment, Verse 2").
Incorporated within this 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.
Samurai Champloo tells the story of three strangers in the Tokugawa era (also known as the Edo Period) who come together on a journey across Japan.
- Mugen: A brash, nineteen-year-old vagabond from the Ryukyu Islands, Mugen is a wanderer with a wildly unconventional fighting style. He wears metal-soled geta and wears an exotic sword on his back. In Japanese, the word "Mugen" means "infinite" (literally, "without limit" or "limitless").
- Jin: Jin is a reserved, twenty-year-old 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. Jin 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 Holland early in the Tokugawa period and became more widely available as the 17th century progressed. In Japanese the word "Jin" means "benevolence" or "compassion."
- Fuu: A feisty young girl of fifteen years of age, Fuu recruits Mugen and Jin to help her find a sparsely-described man she calls "the samurai who smells of sunflowers." A flying squirrel named "Momo" (meaning "peach" in Japanese and also short for "momonga," meaning "flying squirrel") accompanies her, inhabiting her kimono and frequently leaping out to her rescue.
Apart from this trio, other characters tend to appear only once or twice throughout the series.
Samurai Champloo is considered to be an example of the popular chanbara film and television genre—the trademarks are a setting in the Edo period, 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.
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."
Samurai Champloo premiered in Japan on May 20, 2004 on Fuji Television, and concluded on March 19, 2005, spanning a total of 26 episodes. It was also aired in Japan on Animax. Viewing Time: 5-14-2005 to 3-9-2006 U.S. Broadcast- [adult swim]
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, 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.
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 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 Azuma Riki, and the final episode uses the song "San Francisco" by Midicronica.
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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 licensed it 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 only 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 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 the late 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," now 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.
A separate soundtrack, Samurai Champloo Music Record: Katana, was released in 2004 by Geneon Entertainment only in North America. It bares most of the same tracks as the Departure album, additionally having the same number of tracks.
Grasshopper Manufacture developed a video game for the PlayStation 2 entitled Samurai Champloo: Sidetracked; however, the manufacturer has stated that the game has no relation to the show. It was released on April 11, 2006, in the United States and 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.
- Anime UK News :: Press :: Samurai Champloo Box Set release details
- 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.
- ROMAN ALBUM: Samurai Champloo. Mangaglobe/Shimoigusa Champloos, Dark Horse Comics Inc., p. 50-54
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- 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
- Samurai Champloo at the Internet Movie Database
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