Cowboy Bebop, Space Dandy, Cowboy Bebop: Heaven’s Door, and Samurai Champloo. What is the common thread? They were all directed by Shinichirō Watanabe. Like Cowboy Bebop, I bypassed this one at first and not even sure why but after watching Cowboy Bebop, I just had to go back and watch it.
This show again has the same episodic style of the other Watanabe shows though there are a few 2 parters, and just like the others there is a musical theme. In Samurai Champloo it’s hip hop. There’s a samurai who has a lacky who beatboxes for him, a group of travelling guys who rap and a bunch of other characters who pick up a mic. Some of the scene transitions are actual record scratches. You even have a few hip hop references too. Who knew that the Edo period had so much soul.
The story follows Fuu, Mugen and Jin on their quest to find the samurai who smells like sunflowers. Fuu enlisted two samurais, Mugen and Jin after she witnessed their swordsmanship but the problem is Mugen and Jin hate each other and always end up trying to kill each other. The adventure becomes a nomadic journey across Japan while looking for this samurai that Fuu has no info on. Since the 3 have no belongings or money, they end up picking up odd jobs, trying to collect bounties and other jobs just to be able to eat.
These 3 make for one of the oddest teams I’ve seen in a long time. Watanabe’s shows tend to have odd crews but this one seems to be the oddest. Fuu is a 15 year old girl who seems full of live, feisty and maybe a bit naive. She does have a “pet” flying squirrel named “Momo” who seems to live in her kimono, he pops out every once in a while to help her. Mugen is a 20 year old wanderer who is rude, lewd and ready to fight everyone, all the time. Jin is a 20 year old ronin, he’s much more reserved, stoic even, and keeps details about his past to himself. He’s a traditional dojo trained samurai where Mugen is a former criminal and pirate and learned to fight through other means. The interactions between the 3 are definitely worth a few laughs and they truly stand out, you don’t ever feel like they’re blending into the background.
With all the years separating the shows, you would expect there to be a dropoff or some change to the format but there isn’t and it shows. Just like Cowboy Bebop and Space Dandy, this goes to the top of my list of recommendations. I’ll be checking out the other 2 that Watanabe produced Kids on the Slope and Terror in Resonance, plus watching Michiko to Hatchin on Toonami for one of my weekly watches instead of binge watching it like I planned to before I saw that it’s coming to Toonami.