There are so many things to love about Samurai Champloo. First of all, it is a historical anime (Edo-era) with a modern day urban flare to it. The theme music for the show is in the hip hop genre, and the stylings of some of the characters in the episodes follow this mix.
But before I get down to the synopsis of this anime, I want you to understand why this was easily a great anime of its season (2004 – 2005) that is worth more than one watch, years later.
It is not your typical historical anime. You get a slice of life in this anime that makes the characters so relatable, yet so overdramatized, it is hard to not like them, even though they don’t have the best personalities. The thing I loved the most about this anime is they ‘kept it real.’
- The characters were not afraid to swear when the moments called for it
- Their strengths and weaknesses were clearly visible and identifiable
- They had very strong personalities with fundamental flaws that they embraced
- Slicing someone up with a sword was like child’s play
- The red light district (area of the city with brothels) and other pervy moments were not sugar-coated or glossed over
- There were real internal and external struggles with these characters
- Above all, the laugh out loud moments were refreshing
Now, let’s get down to the synopsis of the story.
The three main characters are Fuu, Mugen and Jin. Fuu is a young, clumsy girl who has quite a big appetite for food. Mugen is a rough-around-the-edges swordsman whose fighting style is very open and unpredictable. Jin is a ronin whose sword skills are smooth and calculated from his many years of professional training.
When the story begins, Mugen and Jin both appear to be wanderers who in the very first episode end up getting into trouble. Fuu is a waitress at a restaurant and the first of the two she encounters is Mugen. She ends up getting in some trouble with an official and Mugen offers to help her. Mugen defeats the men but doesn’t stop there. Things quickly escalate out of control in the eatery and somewhere in that time, Jin ends up in the same place as them. Mugen decides to pick a fight with Jin and between the two of them they end up burning the place down.
With nowhere left to live or work, Fuu decides to go on a journey and sets out to enlist Mugen and Jin as her companions/bodyguards. Her main goal is to travel through the country in search of a samurai that smells like sunflowers. Mugen and Jin begrudgingly agree to help her and the three set off on a journey filled with drama, obstacles, chaos, and a lot of sword clashing.
During their journey they do end up becoming somewhat dysfunctional friends. There are also times when it becomes apparent that they do care about each other. Fuu ends up being saved by them quite a few times and she also helps Mugen and Jin in her own way too.
Every episode brings the characters further along this journey and they end up meeting a lot of different people on the way, both friends and foes. There are even a few times they veer off course but end up finding each other again.
This story is a great example of unexpected friendship between three very different characters. It shows how tight bonds can be formed between people even when they least expect it. It also shows loyalty and trust. Of course, the ending leaves a bit to be desired, but they still end up making it out OK.
Side note: I have watched this anime 3 times now in the span of a decade, counting the most recent a few weeks before this blog post was written. I still enjoyed it just the same, if not more than the first time, since you notice more things when you look at something multiple times.
Here’s a video of the opening credits: