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Feudal Funk

image by Veronica V. Jones

Kickin’ It Old School with Samurai Champloo

Jin, Fuu, and Mugen
Jin, the cold fish.
Fuu, the delicate flower.
Mugen, the proud rooster.

Few things in life are more gratifying than coming across an unexpected combination that’s far more than the sum of its parts. Firefly‘s western drawls and Cowboy Bebop‘s jazz cool both put a wicked spin on science fiction stereotypes, but ultimately rewarded those who took the unusual fusions in stride. If you can overcome the collision of cultures, you’ll find the same happy accident among the hip-hop ronin and trash-talking yakuza of Samurai Champloo.

Adult Swim’s latest anime offering features an unlikely trio of wanderers: two master swordsmen with radically opposed styles, and a ditzy waitress searching for a samurai with a peculiar odor. Joined by a promise, they wander a feudal Japan not found in any history book, making the occasional friend — and a multitude of enemies.

Samurai Champloo has a lot in common with Cowboy Bebop, and that’s almost entirely a good thing. Shinchiro Watanabe directed both projects, and you’ll be quickly convinced that you’re seeing Spike Spiegel’s ancient ancestor in action, as Mugen cuts a path through his world with suicidal abandon. The group dynamic, however, is decidedly different. After the first few episodes, the deja-vu will dwindle to only an occasional tickle. You’ve actually never seen anything like this, so just do like they tell you: “Shut up and enjoy the show”.

Written by in May of 2005. Last edited May 2017.

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