Samurai Champloo: Volume 2 - Episodes 5-8
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No cash! Mugen, Jin and Fuu need money fast. Fuu tries to model, but it turns out to be a trap. When they arrive in the capital city, they delay their quest to join an eating contest, but find out the hard way they need to watch who they hang with! If some guy they meet isnt wanted by the cops, then hes trying to kill them or take their wallet- either way, you know theyre going to wind up in the middle of a fight... The outstanding animation directed by SHINICHIRO WATANABE (Cowboy Bebop, Animatrix), designed by KAZUTO NAKAZAWA (Kill Bill Vol.1) and MAHIRO MAEDA (Last Exile, Blue Submarine No.6) and powered by fresh sounds from Tsutchie, fat jon, Nujabes and FORCE OF NATURE! Outstanding animation and music done right with anamorphic widescreen video and surround sound audio (5.1 English, 5.1 Japanese)!
The mayhem and imagination never flag in director Shinchiro Watanabe's first series since Cowboy Bebop. Fuu poses for a Ukiyo-e (woodblock print) artist, only to discover he's tied to a criminal ring that traffics in young girls. She joins Mugen and Jin to escort gay Dutch trader Izaak Titsingh on a tour of Edo. Izaak tries to pass himself off as Japanese--despite an Ahnold-esque accent. The clever, well-researched visuals in these episodes play off Van Gogh's paintings, shunga (erotic) prints, Kabuki costumes, and the 17th-century anthology The Great Mirror of Male Love. "The Art of Altercation" reveals just enough of Jinn's past to explain why the taciturn swordsman has so many enemies. All four episodes offer plenty of the outrageous mixture of traditional martial arts and cutting-edge hip-hop moves that have made Samurai Champloo a fan favorite. (Rated 16 and older: violence, profanity, brief nudity, sexual situations, alcohol and tobacco use) --Charles Solomon
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But don't let this stop you from getting the series... it's still worth watching by a great measure!
This series is NOT TO MISS! One of the BEST Animated Series that I have ever seen!
But I have to say that it feels a little flat after Bebop. And it's *soooo* full of hip-hop post-modern self-referential riffs - these little excursions, while stimulating in a MTV /cable-network-identity-package kind of way, actually detract from the storytelling and pull me out of the characters and situations.
The trio of characters here has nothing like the chemistry of the tripod of Spike, Jet and Faye. Although we go through a similar multi-episodic dribble of information of their pasts, the two male leads, supposedly such opposites, feel cut from the same cloth, while the pubescent Fuu is unable to muster the strong counterpoint that helped make Faye so memorable.
Perhaps the self-consciousness comes purely from riding in Cowboy Bebop's wake. Watanabe's trying hard not to repeat himself, and that's honorable, right?
What's not to love? Someone's making tight, reasonably mature anime with the highest of production values. I just wish I liked it more.
We follow the adventure of three fascinating characters in pre-modern Japan: Mugen, a wild and unruly vagrant; Jin, a reticent, highly-disciplined ronin (masterless samurai) with a dark past; and Fuu, a quick-thinking 15-year old waitress. Having saved Mugen and Jin from wrongful execution by a corrupt official, Fuu made them promise to help her find a samurai that smells of sunflower. The three set out on a journey that takes them all over Japan, an unlikely trio on an even more unlikely quest. Mugen and Jin, both extremely skillful with the katana, cannot be more opposite in nature. They're eager to battle to determine which one is the better swordsman. But Fuu forbids them to kill each other until the samurai is found, and has her hands full trying to stop them from doing that en route. The three, however, complement each other perfectly, and as the story develops, so does the bond between them.
Their journey is not an easy one. Although it is not the warring era, life in late 18th century Japan is harsh and often lawless. There are plenty of fighting and slashing (especially in vol. 1), with Mugen and Jin raking up body counts everywhere they go. The violence is consistent with the samurai theme, but makes the show unsuitable for younger viewers. Even so, this anime is not dark or depressing; episode 7 is a sad one, but all in all the stories are a marvelous blend of suspense, human drama and offbeat humor (my favorite: Jin dressing up as a beautiful woman to infiltrate a yakuza brothel).
Interestingly as well, although the producers made a point of stating that the show bears no historical accuracy, watching it I felt transported back into the past, witnessing the opening of Japan to the West. The settings are meticulously drawn to reflect the era, spiced here and there with anachronistic modern touches (like sporty sunglasses, blonde hair and adidas-like stripes on the kimono). Eps. 5 and 6 relate to actual historical facts: the ukiyo-e picture that inspired van Gogh to paint his sunflowers, and the arrival of the Dutch East Indies ships in Japan that did take place in late 18th century. Although the stories are clearly fiction, they offer a glimpse into what might be the reason for the Japanese enamorment with van Gogh.
This anime is one of a kind (and dare we hope - the first of its kind?) It has acquired such popularity in so short time, I believe, because of the great care that went into making it, that the audience can immediately see and appreciate. Episode 6, for instance, goes so far as using authentic Dutch dialogue. Added to that is the excellent voice cast, both Japanese and English. I especially enjoyed Shinichiro Miki (Asato Tsuzuki in Descendants of Darkness) as the ukiyo-e artist in ep. 5. His style of mixing seriousness and goofiness is always refreshing to watch. Unfortunately, there are only 26 episodes in the series. Perhaps the rationale has something to do with the difficulties of sustaining high-quality production in a long-running series (such as the case with Inuyasha), that the SC producers did not want to risk. Let's hope this is merely a creative break, and that more episodes will be produced in the not too distant future.
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Watanabe brings his audience exactly what they expect: quality.Read more