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Samurai Champloo – The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 21, 2009 by  



Humrous, action packed and stylishly hip!  From the director of “Cowboy Bebop” and “Macross Plus”, Shinichiro Watanabe wowed anime fans with the stylish “Samurai Champloo”.  Now the popular samurai action anime series receives its first entry to Blu-ray!

Images courtesy of © manglobe Shimoigusa Champloo. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Samurai Champloo – The Complete Series

 

DURATION: 26 Episodes (650 Minutes)

 

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition 16×9, Dolby True HD English 5.1 and Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0, Subtitles: English

 

RATED: TV PG

 

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: December 8, 2009

 

Originally Created by CLAMP

Directed by Shinichiro Watanabe

Script by Dai Sato, Keiko Nobumoto, Ryoto Sugi, Seiko Takagi, Shinichiro Watanabe, Shinji OBara, Touko Machida, Uwadan, Shimofuwato

Music by Fat John, Force of Nature, Nujabes, Tsutchie

Character Design by Hideto Komori, Kazuto Nakazawa

Art Director: Takeshi Waki

Mechanical Design by Mahiro Maeda

Anime Production by Studio Manglobe

 

 

Featuring the voices of:

Kazuya Nakai/Daniel Andrews as Mugen

Ayako Kawasumi/Kari Wahlgren as Fuu

Ginpei Sato/Kirk Thornton as Jin

Check it. The notorious Champloo crew is straight carving up the competition on Blu-Ray. Be the first one on your block to catch these buck willd samurais abusing their license to ill in high def!

Let’s break it down. Mugen’s a reckless sword-slinger with a style that’s more b-boy than Shaolin. He’s got a nasty streak that makes people want to stick a knife in his throat. The there’s Jin, a deadbeat ronin who speaks softly but carries a big blade. He runs game old-school style, but can make your blood spray with the quickness. When these roughnecks bring the ruckus, it ain’t good for anybody, especially them. Enter Fuu, the ditzy waitress who springs her new friends from a deadly jam. All she wants in return is help solving a riddle from her past. She and the boys are tracking the scent, but there’s ninety-nine ways to die between them and the sunflower samurai.

 

In 2004, Shinichiro Watanabe known for his directorial work on the anime “Cowboy Bebop” and “Macross Plus” returned with his latest anime “Samurai Champloo”.    The 26-episode anime series was no doubt highly anticipated due to Watanabe’s work with “Cowboy Bebop” and featured anime production by Studio Manglobe (“Sengoku BASARA”, “Ergo Proxy”).  The series spawned a manga series right after and also a Sony PlayStation 2 video game.

The anime series would receive rave reviews for its stylish presentation but also how it would be a samurai action series with slapstick comedy.  Also, featuring a hip-hop soundtrack courtesy of Watanabe’s friend DJ Tsutchie and the Japanese hip hop duo Forces of Nature, Fat Jon, Nujabes and other talented artists who would contribute to the series and have involvement in the various album soundtracks.

In terms of its stylish presentation, it helps when the series has talents such as veteran Kazuto Nakazawa (who worked on “Kill Bill Vol. 1” and anime series such as “El Hazard”, “Blood+”, “Fatal Fury”, “Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko”) working on character designs and Mahiro Maeda (“Blue Submarine No. 6”, “Final Fantasy: Unlimited”, “Gunbuster”, “Gunsmith Cats”, “Last Exile”) working on the weapons (mechanical design) for the series.

In America, the series would debut a year later on the Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” featuring a censored (due to profanity) version and also eliminating any blood or nudity.    The anime series was released in the US by Geneon and on December 2009, the complete series is being re-released on Blu-ray courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment.

In the first episode of “Samurai Champloo”, Mugen goes into a tea house where a group of samurai thugs and a politician’s son try to intimidate patrons including waitress Fuu.  Mugen offers to take on the men if she will feed him 50 dumplings.  At first, Fuu resists but when she starts getting hassled by the men, she agrees to Mugen’s demands.  Mugen, meanwhile takes on the samurai thugs and easily defeats them.

Meanwhile, Jin is a ronin samurai had taken on the local magistrates men who were about to slay an innocent man who didn’t have enough money to pay them.  Jin then enters the tea house to get something to eat/drink but sees a fight between Mugen and the thugs.  Mugen thinks Jin is part of the group of thugs and attacks him but Jin is able to counter him.

Both Mugen and Jin start fighting to the death but with the tea house in shambles after the fight and burning down, the two are caught after they faint from smoke inhalation and now face execution for the murder of the magistrate’s son.  Meanwhile, Fuu who no longer has her job because the place had burned down now wants to focus on finding this samurai who smells like sunflowers and feels that she needs some help.  She decides that Mugen and Jin would be the perfect choice but to get them to join her, she must rescue them.

And because she is able to rescue them, the two must join her but also promise that they can not duel one another until they help her find the samurai who smells like sunflowers.  “Samurai Champloo” features a storyline which features the three as they travel from village to village, getting into trouble and also helping those in need.

“Samurai Champloo” is a series that focuses on three individuals who join together in order to find the sunflower samurai.  Their adventures take place during the Edo Period.  The main characters are:

Mugen: The wild hair, foul-mouthed wandering samurai who sports a metal-soled geta (traditional Japanese wooden sandals) and a samurai sword and wanders from village to village.  Wants to fight the best and so far, his biggest challenge has been Jin but knows he can’t fight him until they finish their quest.

Jin: The quiet, mild-mannered ronin  who wears eyeglasses and fights via the traditional kenjutsu style of the samurai.  Slow to anger but easily gets aggravated by Mugen.

Fuu: The 15-year-old girl who recruits both Mugen and Jin to find a samurai who smells like sunflowers.   She is accompanied by her pet flying squirrel named Momo.

Each of the three individuals tend to get themselves in trouble but in each episode which features an adventure as they go from village to village to find this sunflower-smelling samurai and try to make it to Nagasaki in order to find the sunflower samurai

“Samurai Champloo – The Complete Series” features the following 26-episodes on 3 Blu-ray discs.  Here is a spoilerless summary of each episode:

Disc 1:

  • EPISODE 1 – Tempestuous Temperaments: An introduction to how Mugen, Jin and Fuu and how they united with each other.
  • EPISODE 2 – Redeye Reprisal: A horrible ogre is supposedly killing people, is it true?
  • EPISODE 3 – Hellhounds for Hire Part 1: Mugen and Jin ditch Fuu and somehow end up working for rival gangs.
  • EPISODE 4 – Hellhounds for Hire Part 2: Part 2 of the storyline featuring Mugen and Jin working for rival gangs.
  • EPISODE 5 – Artistic Anarchy: A kidnapper posing as an artist has Fuu on his list for his next victim.
  • EPISODE 6 – Stranger Searching: Fuu takes part in an eating competition.
  • EPISODE 7 – A Risky Racket: A thief has stolen Fuu’s money and the group tries to search for him.
  • EPISODE 8 – The Art of Altercation: A man has been looking everywhere for a samurai wearing eyeglasses (Jin) and is out for revenge.
  • EPISODE 9 – Beatbox Bandits: The group encounters a group of bandits that beatbox?

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 10 – Lethal Lunacy: Mugen takes on the Shaolin-trianed swordsman.
  • EPISODE 11 – Gamblers and Gallantry: Jin saves a woman and ends up falling for her.
  • EPISODE 12 – The Disorder Diaries – Mugen steals Fuu’s diary and reads what she has written about their adventures together.
  • EPISODE 13 – Misguided Miscreants Part 1: Mugen’s past catches up to him.
  • EPISODE 14 – Misguided Miscreants Part 2: Mugen gets his revenge on the pirate!
  • EPISODE 15 – Bogus Booty: Mugen and Jin take on the beautiful ninja.
  • EPISODE 16 – Lullabies of the Lost Verse 1: The three have an argument and end up splitting from each other.
  • EPISODE 17 – Lullabies of the Lost Verse 2: Part two of the episode of where the three go on their separate ways after an argument.
  • EPISODE 18 – War of the Worlds: Each of the three have their own storyline as Fuu gets a facelift, Jin keeps his promise for a friend and Mugen learns how to read.

DISC 3:

  • EPISODE 19: Unholy Union – Fuu gets closer to finding the sunflower samurai.
  • EPISODE 20: Elegy of Entrapment Verse 1 – What happens when the three encounter a blind musician.
  • EPISODE 21: Elegy of Entrapment Verse 2 – Jin and Mugen learn new techniques.
  • EPISODE 22: Cosmic Collissions – The three go on to Nagasaki and somehow ends up in a mine that may have treasure.
  • EPISODE 23: Baseball Blues – What happens when the three encounter a group of American thugs…how about a game of baseball?
  • EPISODE 24: Evanescent Encounter Part 1 – The three have arrived in Nagasaki and now go to look for the sunflower samurai.
  • EPISODE 25: Evanescent Encounter Part 2 – Jin must take on the most powerful man in the Shogunate, Kagetoki Kariya.
  • EPISODE 26: Evanescent Encounter Part 3 – The final episode as Fuu finally finds the sunflower samurai and both Mugen and Jin are put to a test.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Samurai Champloo” is featured in 1080p High Definition 16×9.  Before I go into discussion about picture quality, I just want to emphasize that this is an upconvert of a 2004 anime TV series.  Television series in Japan are not exactly the best in quality compared to a Japanese OVA and a film.  With that being said, “Samurai Champloo” was produced by Manglobe who had a lot of time to work on this stylishly cool looking anime series.  When this anime series first came out, you can’t help but think how awesome the look of the series was courtesy of veterans Kazuto Nakazawa and Mahiro Maeda.   The series looks absolutely fresh and cool!

Here we are five years later and the Blu-ray release is out and there are positives and negatives.  The positive is that the series looks beautiful especially when you see the oranges and reds, lush green plants looking quite vibrant.  Painted backgrounds and homes look very detailed and beautiful.

The negative in terms of picture quality is that this series has its share of compression artifacts and also it has some coloration problems that is quite evident from episode-to-episode.   For example, you can see someone’s clothing that is purple or blue but then see this glob of dark green showing up and I know for HD videophiles, this is unacceptable.

As for anime fans, many see this as a problem that will happen with an older anime TV series that was meant for DVD and problems that are more evident when upconverted to Blu-ray.  Granted, those who will see the artifacting are those who watch these anime series with a larger screen.

With that being said, the series does has its share of moments where PQ is just really, nice and colorful but in terms of this coloration problem, it was evident on the “Tsubasa” Blu-ray release from FUNimation but this time around, it’s much more noticeable.

As for audio, “Samurai Champloo” is a series that is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English and Japanese.   The fact that we get the lossless Japanese audio track is actually pretty big considering the recent prior FUNimation Entertainment Blu-ray anime TV series have only featured a 2.0 track.

For both lossless audio soundtrack, the series is front and center channel driven.  Dialogue is clear and the music comes out of the front and surround channels with nice bass.  There is some surround channel usage with crowd ambiance and special effects that fill up each channel at times but it is important to note that this is a samurai action series and is mostly swordplay.  Also, there is action at the end of nearly each episode, the series is primarily front and center channel driven, especially when you reach the final episodes.

Optional subtitles are available in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Samurai Champloo – The Complete Series” comes with the following special features:

  • “Battlecry” (Opening) Promo Video – (1:44) The opening theme promo video.
  • Promo Video – (:60) A promo for the second season of “Samurai Champloo” (which was aired on television).
  • Teaser Trailer – (:49) Two animated teaser trailers featuring all three characters.  Very artistic, stylish and cool!
  • Conceptual Art – Using your remote, you can cycle through various conceptual art of the characters and several designs.
  • Bumper Gallery – Using your remote, you can cycle through various bumper gallery artwork.
  • Textless Opening and Closing Songs
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers

“Samurai Champloo” was an anime series that really came with a lot of hype because of Shinichiro Watanabe’s involvement.  Questions many people had was how can he follow up from “Cowboy Bebop”.  Will it be a smart anime?  Will it be a stylish anime?  And similar to CB, would “Samurai Champloo” feature an awesome musical soundtrack?

When I first saw the anime series, I was very impressed with the animation and character designs.  First, for a samurai anime series, you get all the action but also this combination with slapstick comedy which was pretty awesome!  But also, this gorgeous, fresh looking anime series that was really different from any samurai-related anime that came before it (and there have been many).

The character designs were pretty cool but it’s the characters that are different than previous series.  For example, Mugen…sports a wild hair cut and steel-soled geta.  Definitely not your typical looking samurai!   And where “Cowboy Bebop” went a more jazz route, “Samurai Champloo” goes for a more Japanese hip-hop route.

But the series also had a touch of historical information such as the Shimabara Rebellion, Van Gogh’s appreciation for Ukiyo-e paintings and fictionalized versions of Mariya Enshirou and Miyamoto Musashi.

But of course, the series doesn’t take itself too seriously as a period-driven samurai series such as a “Hakkenden” or even “Rurouni Kenshin” as the group encounters bandits that beat box and blue-eyed Europeans who can pretend they are Japanese. Sure, the series is a bit farfetched if one is expecting a serious storyline but that’s what makes this series a bit unique from it’s look, music and its overall presentation.  The series although is action and comedy driven, definitely gets serious as the series approaches its final three episodes.

As for the Blu-ray release, its unfortunate that the series is not one of FUNimation Entertainments better looking anime series on Blu-ray but considering that this is a TV series and it’s an older 2004 anime series, it all comes down to if the PQ is good enough for the viewer, their setup (especially how large their monitor/screen is) and if you want to watch the series with a lossless soundtrack.

But overall, “Samurai Champloo – The Complete Series” was a fun and entertaining series which I really enjoyed even before it came out on Blu-ray.  It was a unique style of anime series (and sure enough, the hip hop and samurai style was revisted with “Afro Samurai” a few years later) at the time and although not as deep as “Hakkenden”, nor does it feature a large cast such as a “Samurai 7” but it manages to captivate you with its quirkiness, action, its hip style and bass-driven hip hop music in the background.

Overall, for those with their original DVD’s, you’re probably good with those and may want to upgrade to Blu-ray for the lossless audio.   But If you are a fan of Shinichiro Watanabe’s work or if you are looking for an entertaining anime series to have on Blu-ray, “Samurai Champloo – The Complete Series” is worth having in your collection.

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Comments

  • ber31

    Thx for this accurate review !

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