Genre: Action/Adventure, Comedy
Notes: Collaborative effort by creators of Cowboy Bebop, Witch Hunter Robin...
Mugen and Jin, two expert swordsmen with clashing temperaments and contrasting personalities, travel with Fuu, a 15 year old girl, in search of the sunflower samurai. As they wind their way through ancient Japan, they fight amongst themselves, encounter and kill lots of villains, while also helping those in need. But has destiny brought them together for a purpose? And what in their past still haunts them in the present?
Animation fluidity and backgrounds are very good but often the colors are washed out, not the vibrant colors of most anime. There's a lot of night and interior scenes which are more realistically depicted in the darker washed out tones since there were no electrical lights back then. Overall there's a nice realistic dusty atmosphere. The character designs are good, mostly realistic, or slightly exaggerated caricatures. The main male characters look familiar. Mugen looks like a skinny angry unwashed Spike from Cowboy Bebop, Jin looks like Amon from Witch Hunter Robin but with glasses and his hair pulled back. There's a reason for this as it's a collaboration between their creators along with several other famous creators. At first the characters look a bit too thin with very skinny arms and legs, but it turns out that it's because they're always starving! The opening theme is a cool hip-hop song about being a samurai, the ending themes are more standard ballards. Overall score is very good especially in a few episodes where old Japanese folk songs and operas are sung. There's also more hip-hop music throughout, mostly for comic effect.
Do you know how a show just screams "Look at me! See how clever and stylish I am! Maybe you won't notice the unoriginal plot lines! Wink wink!" (think Cowboy Bebop) But once in a blue moon, a show is really that clever and stylish and fun and entertaining without lapsing into all style but no substance, a very pleasant surprise.
The series is mostly episodic, with a few two-part stories. The setting is Japan's Edo period, late 18th century, not that it matters since there's lots of anachronisms with characters making scratchy record sounds and rapping. The first episode starts off with Mugen and Jin, both expert swordsman (not really samurais, which is actually a societal class, well, maybe Jin is a ronin, but Mugen is definitely not) about to be decapitated. Then the story flashes back to tell how they and Fuu, a 15 year old waitress, all met. She helps save them and they reluctantly sort of agree to help her find the samurai who smells of sunflowers. Of course, they get in and out of all sorts of trouble during their quest.
The basic story is fairly typical, a couple of deadly cool guys with clashing personalities, one stoic (Jin), one temperamental (Mugen), traveling with a naïve but spunky girl who constantly plays the role of damsel in distress. The characters are quite likeable and each has his/her own mysterious and tragic past. There is quite a lot of swearing since half of what Mugen is swearing, but instead of being offensive or annoying, it's hilarious. The humor is mostly deadpan and satirical with some slapstick. The character interactions are wonderful in the way they argue and pretend (or maybe it's not pretend) to not care about each other. There's also drama and serious story lines, which play out just as well as the comedic episodes.
Champloo apparently means a bunch of stuff thrown together which is sort of like what this anime is like, with well done comedy and drama, anachronisms, and music ranging from traditional Japanese folk to hip hop, all for a very effective and enjoyable ride. Recommended for those 13 and older, either gender. Rated PG-13 for language, sexual situations, violence (includes maiming).