I haven’t really told this to anyone, but I’m an anime fan. I just love the out there worlds that they can create and when the good ones are good, they are REALLY FREAKING GOOD. It’s actually kind of hard to talk about what good anime really is unless you’re some kind of anime critic with a YouTube critic, which I’m not. However, I can tell you what my favorite anime of all time is. That particular title goes to Shinichiro Watanabe’s 2004 work Samurai Champloo. A year ago, I presented my case to the r/anime subreddit. If you don’t want to go there and read the comments, I’ll put my case here,
If you read a lot of “Best/Greatest Anime of All Time” lists, Cowboy Bebop will surely be a regular fixture. But I’m not here to talk about Cowboy Bebop or how cool Spike Spiegel is or anything that can be summed up with “See you, Space Cowboy”. I’m here to talk about another anime directed by Shinichiro Wantanabe. An anime that is one of the only two anime that I have given a 10/10 on MyAnimeList. And my favorite anime of all time. I am talking about Samurai Champloo.
What’s This About?
The story takes place in Japan during the Edo period. The first episode introduces us to the three main characters: A wandering swordsman named Mugen, a ronin named Jin, and a waitress named Fuu. The setup is that Mugen and Jin meet at the tea house where Fuu works, and they get into a fight. In the process, a magistrate’s son is murdered and Fuu’s tea house is burned to the ground, resulting in Mugen and Jin being sentenced to death. However, the two are saved from death by Fuu. And Episode 1 ends with the setup of the anime: Fuu asks Mugen and Jin to accompany her to find a “samurai who smells of sunflowers”. And over the course of 26 episodes, we see their journey.
Why Should You See This?
You ever hear of the saying “It’s the journey, not the destination”? That’s one of the best ways I can describe this anime. Because the fun of watching this anime comes from seeing a Japan that isn’t like the one from history. We have a version of Edo-era Japan that has rap, graffiti taggers, and in Mugen, a swordsman that isn’t a swordsman that’s unlike anything you’ve seen before (at least I haven’t). Not only that, but you get to watch the development of the friendship between the three main characters on what’s basically an awesome road trip.
But let’s talk about what’s the strongest asset Samurai Champloo has going for it: THE MUSIC. This has one of the best scores I have heard in anything ever, not just in anime. The soundtrack was headed by the late Nujabes, who helps to bring the hip hop feel of Samurai Champloo to life. Music has always been one of the high points of any Shinichiro Wantanabe work, and this is no exception. And just like how jazz, blues, science fiction, and film noir mesh together seamlessly in Cowboy Bebop, we see hip hop and samurai mesh seamlessly here.
But don’t just take my word for it, here are some tracks:
The opening track, “Battlecry” by Nujabes featuring Shing02
The main ending track, “Shiki no Uta”, by Nujabes featuring Minmi
The ending track from the final episode, “San Francisco” by Midicronica Personal Note: listening to this while rewatching this solidified Samurai Champloo as my favorite anime of all time.
Where Can You Watch This?
Samurai Champloo can be watched both subbed and dubbed on Hulu, subbed and dubbed on Netflix (at the time of me writing this, Febuary 16th, 2016), and episodes can be bought on iTunes (though I can’t find any information regarding being subbed or dubbed on iTunes).
Samurai Champloo is my favorite anime of all time. And at the very least I hope you find this to be a great anime and a great title from a great director. It’s very rare that I come across something that I want to see again and again without getting tired, but this is one of those things. So if you want to see a great tale of swordsmen, a great tale of samurai, a great character driven journey, watch something with great music, or any combination of the aforementioned things, check out this anime. You’ll like what you find.
In the time I made that post to Reddit and now, I must sadly report that Samurai Champloo is no longer streaming on Netflix.com and is DVD only. It’s still on Hulu though, but Hulu has gone to the point where you HAVE to create an account and create a plan, so if you want to take that plunge, that’s up to you. The series can still be bought on iTunes.
Another thing I forgot to write originally is that in episode 12, there’s a recap of what’s happened in the show so far…and the final scene is so funny and unlike anything I’ve seen before that I’m not going to spoil it here.
What I WILL say is that Samurai Champloo is an amazing anime (it’s one of the few things I’ve given 10/10 on MyAnimeList) and everyone needs to see it. That’s when you know something is good: when you have to tell everyone to go see it.
So yeah, I’m an anime fan. And Samurai Champloo is my favorite anime