Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Looks like I’m in a posting mood right now — hey, it beats sleeping or getting stuff packed! — so now’s as good a time as any to ramble a bit about the recent addition to Adult Swim‘s Saturday lineup: the oddly-named Samurai Champloo.

For one thing, it has little to do with hair-care products for feudal-era Japanese warriors. At least, not yet.

From the opening credits sequence, you can tell this isn’t going to be your typical anime show. (Whether or not this warrants a sigh of relief is left as an exercise for the reader.) The opening theme is, well, hip-hop.

There’s a combo you don’t find every day.1

That’s the first thing you notice. The second thing you notice about the intro is the style. You probably won’t need to wait until seeing his name to guess that Shinichiro Watanabe is involved. Or, if you don’t know his name, guess that “that guy who did Cowboy Bebop” is involved.

Which certainly is encouraging. Cowboy Bebop managed to expertly combine science ficition, westerns, and jazz into one of the best anime shows I’ve ever seen. Could he do the same with samurais and hip-hop?

It’ll take more than the two episodes I’ve seen to judge, but early results are encouraging. Samurai Champloo (still a weird name2) oozes style. The hip-hop influence is there, but manages not to feel too out of place. For example, the dialogue sounds closer to something you might hear on the street than you’d hear in the time period where the story ostensibly takes place — instead of a character disparaging another’s honor, he’ll call him a bitch. Sort of like how you’d expect them to talk if this were all happening today. Also, in the first episode, the scene transitions between two concurrent storylines are done like record scratching on two turntables, with the image rapidly switching from one scene to another.

Needless to say, you don’t need the “disclaimer” at the beginning of the first episode to inform you that historical accuracy isn’t going to be one of the goals here.

Which isn’t to say that there weren’t a few worrisome things in these first episodes. Most notably, there’s one scene where Fuu fights a prison guard, and she’s aided by a white flying squirrel that comes out of nowhere and attacks the guard’s face. Fuu then thanks the squirrel by name. I really hope that isn’t a sign of things to come. Though if they managed to keep Ed on a short leash in Cowboy Bebop, they might be able to get away with this here.

So to sum up, I went in without much expectations or knowledge about Samurai Champloo, and came back entertained. Being unexpectedly entertained is always a good thing, and I’m curious to see how the rest of the series plays out.

If only they had picked a name without the obvious connotations to a native English speaker.

[1] I can only think of one other time when I saw an attempt to combine anime with hip-hop/rap, and it resulted in one of the worst albums I’ve ever heard.

[2] Of course weird names aren’t exactly unusual when it comes to anime. For example, a glance at Wikipedia’s anime category turns up this gem.

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