As for Cowboy Bebop, Watanabe proves that he does not really know how to be content with a single universe to create revolutionary series. So after the space opera jazz, here is the road movie samurai / hip hop. In a medieval Japan of the Edo era, the Samurai are no longer really necessities for a country in peace coveted by the Europeans and are therefore doomed to a long decline. So much for the context. Starting from three rather simple characters and caricatures, Watanabe presents us with the band of broken arms most unlikely of all the archipelago.
There is Fuu, the stubborn and capricious girl, who will reunite the two others in search of the enigmatic “samurai who smells sunflower”. A script based on a postage stamp and which will serve as a thread for 26 episodes rather well written despite their apparent simplicity. The other two characters providing the secondary stories. Mugen, the least complex character of the trio but cool deposit of the show. Choleric, impetuous, disordered, vulgar, stupid, self-taught, stubborn … And Jin, classy and stoical ronin, who has been on the run since the death of his master. It is of course the opposition between these two characters the main engine of the series.
All the tricks of the classic buddy movie are used without that hindering too much. Behind relatively simple stories and episodes that follow one another without too much relationship, the series ends up forging his universe little by little, revealing his stakes at the turn of a sentence or a fight. Watanabe allows himself to do history lessons without seeming boring while sprinkling all the delicious anachronisms related to contemporary culture. Hip hop, we find the neat music, but also all related arts (breakdance, tag, improv, DJing) in the middle of a lot of references to Japanese and Western culture. The whole strength of the series lies in this desire to focus on simple stories based on deadly clashes, vengeance and honor while relying on a complex, personal and intelligent universe.
The fights are of a rare violence, without making tons, just reflection of an era just as violent and cruel. Mugen and Jin obviously win the prize for the coolest samurai on earth while allowing themselves to be cleverly kicking ass a good dozen times per episode. A bit like Cowboy Bebop, they are the best in their field but they fear in all others (the relationship, politeness, politics) and are therefore totally unsuited to their world.
Unfortunately, the unfolding of the main plot struggles to take off, focusing on the second part of the series. We could complain about the irregularity of the series (much slower towards the end) but it is the sequence of stupid episodes, serious, nervous and even a hairy glaucous (the zombies of the mine) that makes the salt .
Samurai Champloo talks about travel, friendship, courage, honor, cowardice, sex, revenge, flight, samurai … but mostly food. If we had to summarize in a few words: Samurai Champloo, this is the story of a trio like no other who seeks to eat.