What Jazz music did for Cowboy Bebop, Hip Hop did for Samurai Champloo.Samurai Champloo is an anime series created by Bebop's Shinichiro Watanabe and produced by Manglobe (it was their first series). The show is set in a Schizo Tech version of Edo period Japan, featuring elements of action, adventure and comedy blended with an anachronistic, predominantly hip-hop soundtrack. The animation is extremely dynamic - several poor episodes excepted - and the action scenes are a joy to watch.The show begins with three people who happen to meet during a bar brawl: a brash vagabond called Mugen, a stoic Ronin called Jin, and a young waitress named Fuu. Mugen and Jin are outstanding swordsmen who consider each other Worthy Opponents and just want to duel it out, but Fuu manages to rope them into her own personal quest to find a mysterious samurai who "smells of sunflowers". And so the unlikely trio begin a journey across Japan, encountering dangerous enemies, dark secrets and extreme oddities along the way.Like Cowboy Bebop, the episodes are often self-contained, and the show has an extensive cast. Apart from the main trio, though, most characters only appear once or twice; rarely more than three times. Since the three main characters don't care about each other's lives in any meaningful way, they tend to remain entirely oblivious to each other's plotlines over the course of episodes and arcs — often until it's too late.The show is very nearly unique in that it matches traditional Japanese culture to Hip Hop music with a stylized form of samurai swordplay known as chambara, much in the same way Cowboy Bebop married Science Fiction to blues and Jeet Kun Do. Champloo's score features hip-hop beats by Japanese hip hop artists such as the late Nujabes, Force of Nature, Tsutchie, and Fat Jon, among others. It also features many traditional Japanese songs, accompanied by shamisen music. For another, darker, take on this theme, see Afro Samurai.The world of Samurai Champloo is often anachronistic. Characters' costume design, attitudes and editing methods reflect heavily towards international hip-hop culture. Mugen fights in a style that resembles both Capoeira and break-dancing. Also, despite its alleged setting in the Edo period (though difficult to pinpoint due to a mixture of historical events and anachronisms) many of the expressions used by the characters are modern slang or English-influenced.The show's name comes from the Okinawan word "chanpurū" (e.g. goya champuru), which means to mix or blend. Thus, the title may be translated as "Samurai Remix" or "Samurai Mashup", keeping with the series' blended theme. (Indeed, even the time frame is mashed up, as episodes in the series will freely mention events 200 years apart as if both were current).Most likely due to the popularity of Cowboy Bebop, it was licensed for North American distribution nearly a year before it even aired in Japan. The show can now be viewed on Hulu, Youtube, and Netflix. (Rated TV-MA)A two-volume manga debuted in Shōnen Ace on August 2004. Tokyopop licensed the manga in an English-language release in North America and Madman Entertainment lit for an English release in Australia and New Zealand.
This show provides examples of:
A-Cup Angst: Fuu is noticeably frustrated when Jin and Mugen pay attention to a woman at a bar who is fairly well endowed.
Animal Athlete Loophole: In a baseball game against the Eagleland Navy, ninja Kagemaru is a little shorthanded. Even after conscripting Mugen, Jin and Fuu, he needs five more players. So he gets a really old man (who dies in his first at-bat), Fuu's pet flying squirrel Momo, and a dog. When one of the American sailors objects, the umpire consults a rulebook, and rules that "I can't find anything about dogs in the rulebook. He's good." note The American team was led by Alexander Joy Cartwright and his translator, Abner Doubleday. The former is the likely inventor of baseball, and the latter is its inventor in a widespread myth.
Animation Bump: In one episode there is a dude with the Fred Flintstone beard trick to save money. Ten minutes later they cut the rain. Yeah.
Anime Accent Absence: Averted. Both the Dutchman in Edo and the priest in episode 19 have very, very bad Japanese pronunciation.
And delightfully, the other Dutchmen actually sound (southern) Dutch rather than German like many 'Dutch' characters in English works of fiction do.
How fans of Fuugen often justify the pairing; based primarily on their constant arguing/making fun of/insulting each other despite repeatedly rescuing (Mugen, moreso)/crying over (Fuu, obviously) each other. It also helps that there's this gem by Word of God:
Watanabe: "Spike and Mugen aren't very straightforward in expressing themselves. For example, even if there's a girl they like standing right in front of them, they don't pursue her directly - in fact, they do the opposite, they ignore her almost. I think that part is kind of like me. If I was to sum it up, it's kind of like being a little contradictory or rebellious."
Entirely canonical example with Mugen and Yatsuha: Mugen spends the entire episode trying to have sex with her, she divides her time between manipulating him through this and beating the crap out of him when he gets too forward. At the very end of the episode, however, she cheerfully tells her brother that she intends to marry Mugen once they're both finished with their respective quests.
Blood Knight: Mugen and Shōryū mainly, though Kariya Kagetoki has shades of it.
Bloodstained Glass Windows: Okay, so the church in episodes 25-26 doesn't have any glass windows, and the one in episode 19 has none at all, but they are churches, and people are fighting in them, so...
Bodyguard Crush: Fuu seems to idolize both Jin and Mugen at different points in the series. Jin is very protective of Fuu, but whether this is a romantic interest, a brotherly/fatherly interest or just yojimbo dutifulness is difficult to say. His emotional restraint makes this even more difficult to fathom, even though he seems to be more in tune with Fuu's emotions, as he's usually the one who notices when Fuu feels down or the one who runs after her when she leaves. On the other hand, brash Mugen is often argued to be in denial of a crush on Fuu; he rushes to her rescue very noticeably in numerous episodes while Jin engages a different enemy. This tends to make him a more popular choice for Shipping with Fuu than Jin.
Bowdlerization: The original [adult swim] broadcast was edited to remove blood and nudity, and had swear words bleeped out with sound effects. This was back in 2006, and now that Toonami is back on [adult swim] hours and airing shows that are much worse in terms of blood and swears (still edited, mind you, but now able to get away with much more), fans are hoping that Toonami gives the show an uncut airing.
Break the Cutie: Koza in "Misguided Miscreants" is already broken before the episode begins, because she's been living on a destitute island all her life with no family or friends, only sticking around Mukuro because there was nobody else, and she knows she can't survive on her own. This trope is kicked Up to Eleven as her situation only gets worse.
Brick Joke: At the end of the last episode, Fuu reveals that the coin she had flipped had actually landed on heads, meaning Mugen and Jin had been free to fight each other the whole time.
Broke Episode: One of the three major episode situations of Samurai Champloo. Usually the responsibility for getting money/food/other necessary items fell on Jin; Mugen and Fuu forced him to pawn his swords at least twice, and his glasses once.
But in episode 11 Jin borrows at least one Ryō from Mugen (won it on beetle sumo wrestling) to "buy a woman", so it might be warranted in the rest of the series.
But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Mugen doesn't remember many of the people who come after him in the series in a rare heroic (sort of) example of this trope.
One Armed Man: I'm not going to let you say you forgot about this arm. Mugen: Sorry...who are you?
Cameo/Take That: Mugen admits he killed some "weird old guy", who happens to be Mito Komon. Hilarious, if you know the context. note The man Mugen killed was Mito Komon, the star of the longest-running TV show in Japanese history. Though a fictional character, Komon is based on a real person, Tokugawa Ieyasu's grandson Tokugawa Mitsukuni (1628-1700). His fictional counterpart travels the country in the guise of a retired merchant, giving him regular reasons to right wrongs and aid the oppressed. The signature moment of every episode comes near the end, when in the middle of a violent struggle with the villain of the week, Komon's attendants interrupt to flash in the evil-doer's face their master's inro - a lacquered case bearing the Tokugawa crest (just as happens in the story Mugen recounts) - and proclaim that the man he's fighting is none other than the current Shogun's uncle, Lord Mitsukuni of Mito. ("Down! Can you not see this emblem?") - Normally, the villains realize they're in deep trouble and surrender at once. But not Mugen...
Credits Gag: The zombie episode. The closing credit start as usual but then the music suddenly slows to a crawl and stops before being replaced by a very eerie tone as the pictures continue to roll. Until it suddenly reaches a grave stone and hand suddenly pops out of it before going full screen to show the lead zombie of the episode pulling himself out and roaring at the camera. A fitting way to end such a bizarre episode.
Deliberate Injury Gambit: That's how Jin finally manages to defeat Kariya Kagetoki. As Jin's sensei explained, this is the only way to injure an opponent much stronger than yourself.
Determinator: Mugen, but only when enticed by hot ninja nookie. Jin as well in the very last episode. Okuru definitely counts in Episode 17. He is shot twice by flaming arrows, but instead of falling over and dying, he pulls one of the arrows out of his chest and stabs a soldier to death with it before jumping off a cliff into the waterfall basin. Mugen is convinced he's still alive.
Not just when enticed by hot ninja nookie: Mugen survives being stabbed, falling of a cliff, and getting shot and blown up, all at about the same time! And then he pretty much comes back from the dead afterward.
That's not even the first time he's shown straddling the line between life and death, and it's implied he does so on a regular basis. It's gotten to the point that instead of showing fear or curiosity concerning the afterlife, he's just annoyed he might not make it to the next fight.
Deus ex Machina: In Episode 9 Mugen and The Unnamed Government Official attempt to escape from Tengu by starting a fire and escaping as they attempt to put it out. They get caught anyway, but during the fight the Tengu's marijuana crops burn up and everyone gets high off the smoke, and by sheer luck, the smoke crosses over to the checkpoint where Jin and Fuu are about to be executed, allowing them to escape.
Usually avoided with Momo-san. Although the critter could be a Deus ex Machina in a lot of situations, it tends to just sit there or run away scared. It only really helps out twice or thrice.
Disability Superpower: Sara. With the exception of Kagetoki, she is easily the most dangerous fighter in the series.
Truth in Television. In Edo period Japan it was not only incredebly dangerous, but actually illegal for teenage girl to travel without some sort of legal guardian like Fuu does. She would be stopped and questioned by law enforcement on sight. Unless brothel "recruiters" got her first (like one of the episodes shows).
Does This Remind You of Anything?: In his introductory episode, there are a couple of scenes where it looks/sounds like Manzo the Saw is masturbating, but it turns out to be something innocent (i.e. exercising with his unique weapon). This is probably because he's a parody of Hanzo the Razor, who engaged in some...unique sexual practices.
Double Entendre: A conversation during Isaac Kitching's (aka, the guy from Holland's) last scenes goes a little something like this:
Isaac: Maybe one day, I will be able to return to this country, when the people are not so tight-assed! Mugen: As if anyone's ass is safe with you around!
In the first episode, Mugen offers, unprompted, to help Fuu with her teahouse's thug problem... in exchange for food. When said thugs actually threaten to cut off her fingers, Mugen lounges on his table until Fuu promises him an absurd amount of dumplings to save her.
However, as early as the second episode, Mugen nearly verges into Always Save the Girl status, barely reacting to the woman who poisoned him until she mentions that Fuu is in danger and killing anyone who gets in between himself and Fuu (including Oniwakamaru, who would have surrendered).
Played perfectly straight in the episode eleven with Shino, whom Jin immediately falls in love with.
Eagleland: The baseball episode. The Americans, which include the people who invented the sport, are portrayed as blatantly cheating, violent, murderous thugs who consider the Japanese team to be ignorant savages. When the game dissolves into a beaning match which ends with Mugen as the last man standing, he then yells "Go back to your own damn country!" The narrator then helpfully adds that the Americans went home in shame, with a profound fear of the Japanese people.
Earn Your Happy Ending: Fuu finally meets her father, in time to see him killed by Kariya, who is in turn killed by Jin. While recovering from their injuries, Mugen admits that he doesn't want to kill Jin anymore, and Jin admits that after spending years as a loner, he was glad to have friends to travel with. Fuu suggests they should meet again sometime, and they all go their separate ways. This is a threeway Crowning Moment Of Awesome, Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, and Tear Jerker.
Should probably mention that they earned their happy ending by the fact that Fuu was kidnapped and actually BEATEN UP a bit (only time in the show she's injured), Jin nearly dies by severe stab/slash wounds stalling Kariya, and Mugen nearly dies after fighting the three brothers and getting repeatedly stabbed, then shot, then BLOWN UP. They kinda deserved it at that point.
Evil Colonialist: "Francisco Xavier", who claims to be a descendant of the original (eventually Saint) Francis Xavier, the Portugese monk who brought Christianity to Japan. His constant condescension and firearms that are impressive by today's standards mark him as a Western-style villain... until it's revealed that he's actually a Japanese guy who was taking advantage of the Christian underground for his own profit.
Expository Hairstyle Change: An example that requires knowledge of Edo-era fashion: Jin's very long bangs/sideburns plus long ponytail are a strange hairstyle for a samurai. Most other samurai in the series either have the short bangs plus ponytail style suitable for teenagers and apprentices or the tonsured style favored by older men, especially bureaucrats. When we start seeing Jin's backstory flashbacks, it becomes clear that he used to have the apprentice style, but stopped cutting it after he became a ronin. His bangs have gone from above his eyebrows to his jawline, suggesting that the time between the flashbacks and the main series timeline is about 3-6 months.
Genocide from the Inside: The samurai that Mugen interrogates about Okuru believes that Okuru killed his own clan before attacking other samurai from the Matsumae clan. It's not true. Okuru's clan was wiped out by disease, and he attacked the samurai in the middle of a Heroic BSOD when he saw them destroying and setting fire to his village to contain the epidemic rather than try to help survivors.
Gonk: Once in a while, especially the guy who hits on Fuu while she's making scary faces.
Government Conspiracy: Although it isn't discussed much, the driving force behind the series is essentially the shogunate's attempts to drive the Christians, of whom Fuu's father is the leader, out of Japan.
High Dive Escape: An early episode has an assassin dueling with Jin. After Mugen kills his employer, he tells Jin that there's now no need for him to kill, and gives a We Will Meet Again before calmly walking away.
Mugen possibly qualifies for this as well, in a flashback scene where he escaped a justifiable execution by leaping backward off the cliff to fall into the ocean below, complete with manic wide-eyed grin all the way down. However, this might have been more of an attempted suicide than escape - it was a high cliff - given the speech just before when he claimed he didn't accept help from anyone, least of all into his grave. That he survived was apparently just a lucky coincidence.
Hollywood Healing: Jin, and especially Mugen numerous times get very deep cuts, bruised, cough up copious amounts of blood, lose teeth and usually in one episodes' time are just fine. Their numerous injuries are never mentioned or seen in the following episode.
Somewhat justifiable, given that they're making a long journey on foot, and some time may be presumed to pass between one episode and the next.
Honorifics: Seen in the third episode between a Yakuza boss and his former employee.
Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The original Japanese titles are all yojijukugo, four-kanji idioms that have to be translated as a single unit (ex: Episode 24 is Seishiryuten, which translates most closely as "The Circle of Transmigration"). The closest English literary device would be a cliche idiom like "the sound and the fury", but that really misses out on the classically poetic connotations of yojijukugo. The English episode titles try to get some of that poetic mojo back with full-on Beowulf-style alliteration, one of the oldest poetic forms in the English language (ex: Episode 24 becomes "Evanescent Encounter").
Instrument of Murder: In the first part of "Hellhounds for Hire", Jin is disguised as a woman carrying a shamisen (a traditional Japanese instrument similar to a guitar). When asked to play a song on it, he pulls his katana from the neck, and reveals that he is actually a samurai. He also happened to have smoke bombs hidden in the body of the instrument. Sara's shamisen is a slightly more traditional example of this trope, with a spear serving as the neck and the tuning heads doubling as throwing darts.
Invincible Hero: Mugen and Jin are pretty overpowered until much later on...
Jump Scare: Happens in "Cosmic Collisions", right at the end of the closing credits.
Ki Attacks: With a twist: the main characters don't use them (save for Mugen on one single, lucky occasion), and your garden-variety bad guy doesn't, either. Only a handful of villains have them, and they're the toughest mofos in the Champloo universe.
Knight, Knave and Squire: Jin is The Knight, a Ronin Samurai who was taught swordsmanship in a dojo, he is chivalrous and only battles worthy opponents considering everyone else beneath his notice. Mugen is The Knave, and is completely self taught, with a battle style that is all over the place, he's a Combat Pragmatist and has a bad attitude, he'll pretty much fight with anyone. Fuu is The Squire, she has pretty much no fighting abilities and often ends up being a Distressed Damsel.
Locked Out of the Loop: Jin and Mugen spend 99% of the series without a clue what Fuu is really looking for. Jin just doesn't care, and Mugen can't bring himself to pay attention. They eventually steal Fuu's diary to get a better idea of what's going on, but that plan fails fairly quickly. Mugen doesn't even realize that Fuu has a pet squirrel until halfway through season 2.
Made of Iron: Jin and Mugen are pretty damn persistent. While they can't entirely shrug off serious injury, Mugen survives being stabbed, falling of a cliff and getting shot. Jin should have drowned twice and survives a freakin' suicide technique.
Marijuana Is LSD: In "Beatbox Bandits", Mugen's fight scene with the warrior priests is quite colorful and non-euclidean.
Mistaken for Gay: At one point, an old man comes across Jin in a hot spring. They have a (largely one sided) conversation about fireflies, until the stranger gives a suggestive smile and comments that sometimes the male fireflies can attract other male fireflies instead of females. Jin promptly excuses himself.
Motivational Lie: Yatsuha gets Mugen to help her battle ninjas by promising to have sex with him, afterwards she knocks him out.
Learning to read and "Beetle Sumo". While the latter at least sounds weird, it's really just two bugs on a rock trying to push each other off. But, you throw in mood lighting and sparks when they push against each other...
Eating Contest. Complete with commentators and asking important existential questions.
Mushroom Samba: An incident involving a burning field of pot, and maybe the episode where they ate mushrooms and were attacked by zombies, died, and got hit with a nuke. Maybe, because so far no-one has a concrete explanation for what the hell happened. Most believe the mushrooms they ate were bad. It's worth noting that Fuu didn't eat any of the mushrooms.
Also, the assassin Hotaru passes a poisonous mushroom to Mugen via kiss - it's called "the single night mushroom" because that's how long you're expected to last if you eat it with sake.
My Master, Right or Wrong: Many unnamed characters. In a variation, they don't seem sickened by the evilness of their actions. Nevertheless they justify their actions on the basis that a samurai must always follow orders. Jin calls them out on it in the first episode.
Myth Arc: Trio's search for samurai who smells of sunflowers.
Narrator: Detective Manzou - a.k.a. "The Saw" - in three episodes.
Negative Continuity: The two episodes right before the 3-part finale show everyone getting either severely injured or possibly killed while the finale shows everyone in perfect health.
Never Found the Body: Repeatedly. On several occasions, the opponent was Genre Savvy enough not to fall for it either. Oddly enough, it seems to be inversely proportional to actual combat strength. The more powerful enemies seemed to completely fall for it, while relatively weak ones did not.
Not So Different: Jin and Mugen, who are both morally ambiguous drifters. Although at first glance Jin appears to be the Standard Good Guy and Mugen appears to be the Token Evil Teammate, the series quickly establishes that Jin is also cold, irritable, and arrogant (esp. in regards to Mugen) despite his noble bearing and fine words, while by the second episode Mugen is already showing some heroic tendencies and concern for Fuu despite his claims of being a loner and hating everyone. Additionally, both Mugen and Jin (to some extent) enjoy the company of prostitutes, both Jin and Mugen love to fight and never back down from a challenge, both Jin and Mugen become better people as a result of Fuu's quest... the list goes on.
Pirate: Mugen, formerly. Mukuro and Kohza as well.
Platonic Prostitution: Played straight and later subverted in the same scene, in that Jin pays for time with a prostitute to rescue her. And then they make love (completely implied and not shown of course).
Progressive Era Montage: The first one does it backwards as a gag, as the "three days earlier" scene first mistakenly shows a bustling modern city, then "rewinds" through 200-odd years of development and urbanization, until finally arriving at a sleepy post-town of the mid-to-late Edo Period.
Purely Aesthetic Era: The series opens with a title card declaring that it is not historically accurate. It then gleefully throws everything it can get its hands on, from hip-hop to baseball, into the Edo period of Japan.
Shown Their Work: Despite the Anachronism Stew, several parts of the show, including everything mentioned about the Shimabara Rebellion, are historically accurate. More can be found under the Trivia tab.
Shrouded in Myth: The Ghost of Yoshitsune. Sort of. It all turned out to be a combination of rumors about Anti-Villain Okuru and Jin (including one about howhandsome he is), deliberately spread by Yukimaru.
Snapback: All three of the main characters die in an explosion at the end of Episode 22, complete with a resolute "The End." In the remaining four episodes of the series, this is never mentioned again. The general consensus is that they ate bad mushrooms and the whole episode was a hallucination.
Spiritual Successor: Of Cowboy Bebop. Created by much of the same production team, stylistically the shows aren't too far removed. The fluid animation, episodic nature, the Dark and Troubled Past of each character and the way the music is integrated into the story makes these shows practically siblings. Casting Steve Blum as Mugen in the English version helps even more.
Stealth Pun: When the illiterate Mugen learns to write, he writes his name with the ∞ symbol. His name means "Infinity" in Japanese.
The Stinger: Shige rising from the grave during the end credits of Episode 22.
The Stoic: Jin. Sara too, enough to give Jin a run for his money and his life. The Kawara boss as well. The two engage themselves in a very charming conversation in the fourth episode.
The baseball episode (at least for the commanding officers) and the opening song "Battlecry".
The commanders in the baseball episode sound like native speakers of American English (or close enough; no worse than a lot of dubs). The one who can speak Japanese does so correctly, but with a hilariously heavy American accent.
Also Surprisingly Good Dutch: Though red-haired foreigner Isaac is played by a Japanese voice actor, his lines in Dutch are grammatically correct. The other Dutchmen in the episode are played by native (southern) Dutchmen delivering lines in their own language. (Including a smart bit of research - Isaac is addressed as opperhoofd, a historical gubernatorial title for the CEO of a Dutch overseas trading post.)
Fuu: Huh?! Of course I'm not jealous! What in the world would lead you to believe I'm jealous?! Nope! Lone wolf wannabes like Jin with that far-off look of theirs, the kind that doesn't let you know at all what they're thinking, are so not my type. (Mugen rolls over, asleep and snoring, and she grimaces and snaps) Andtheysnore!!
Flynning was notably averted. It's the speed of the action that adds excitement to the fight scenes, not the amount of movements. The movements used were often very carefully choreographed into the script, making each fight scene very different and unique.
Barehanded Blade Block: A subversion, in the 25th episode Mugen kills the first of the three brothers by allowing his claws to go through Mugen's hand in order to deliver the killing blow.
True Art Is Incomprehensible: In-universe example: Fuu meets a struggling artist named Hishikawa Moronobu (an actual historical figure who helped make the Ukiyo-e art style famous), who can't seem to find a good inspiration for his works. He sees Fuu, and is inspired to create a famous painting called "Backwards Beauty". Fuu said she liked the painting because he gave her very large breasts.
Mugen and Jin: "He did?"
True Companions: The main trio of Jin, Mugen, and Fuu. In some ways, they seem to hate each other. But underneath it all, they're steadfast companions.
Wham Line: Jin to Mugen: "Take care of Fuu" leaves Mugen completely blank for a second.
Mugen's "I have lived through every form of misery you can imagine; I have nothing to learn from you" to the middle brother makes him cut all the semantics and finally snap.
Fuu's final line of dialogue in the last episode also applies.
Wrecked Weapon: A double instance is the result of Mugen and Jin finally having their to-the-death duel in Ep. 26. It's a somewhat unusual use of the trope, since instead of magnifying their rage, this gives both guys an honorable exit pass from a promise they now recognize as foolish and destructive.