Samurai Champloo is set during the latter days of an anachronistic Tokugawa Shogunate. Main character is Fuu, a girl who is looking for the samurai who smells of sunflowers. During the first episode, she saves the hides of two samurai, Jin and Mugen. Jin is calm, cool and collected, while Mugen is a wild boy who likes to do outrageous things. They both got into trouble with the local (corrupt) government officials and were about to lose their heads when Fuu saves them.
Thus their journey begins -- taking them all the way to Edo and to Nagasaki. During their travels, they meet many interesting characters and get into lots of trouble...
This series has been described as 'Cowboy Bebop with samurai', and I can see how one would draw that conclusion. The main characters don't particularly like each other but are forced to cooperate due to the circumstances, they are perpetually hungry, and the music of the series plays a large part in setting the tone and style of the series (hip-hop in this case). Ah yes, the music: there are rapping peasants, graffiti-painting Yakuza, and it is all set to a snazzy hip-hop beat. Transitions are frequently accompanied by scratching.
So, this being like Cowboy Bebop, there's a lot of good stuff there. But it has also the bad attributes from Cowboy Bebop: it's episodical, and some of the episodes are a bit repetitive: Fuu gets into trouble, Mugen and Jin quarrel, and then go and save her.
That is not to say that the series is dull: there are quite a few enjoyable moments there, and some episodes are brilliant -- but apparently the writers found it hard to maintain the high standard of quality. The narratives are uneven.
However, the setting is pretty interesting: we see how people travelled the highway, or what the Hakone checkpoint is like -- a bit in the style we saw at Tsumago when we were there. Without being preachy or inserting a long lecture about the everyday life of the period, we get quite a lot of backgroun information.
Unlike Cowboy Bebop, this series doesn't have a definitive ending, which is, to me, the major weak point of the series.
- Animation and character designs;
- Music adds to the style;
- Lots of background information.
- Some episodes are a tad repetitive;
- No definitive ending;
- Uneven quality of the episodes.
In the end, I find it very hard to be very enthousiastic about this series, while I do recognize the quality. I'll give it a 7 -- it just hasn't got that 'wow-factor'.