published in Empire No.63, Sydney
As many anthropologists critical of the Japanese point out, Japan is weighted by history. Anime and manga - the key voices of Jap pop culture - testify otherwise. A surprisingly large proportion of anime is set in historical epochs. Sometimes they rewrite history, other times they jettison the past into freak futures.
Samurai Champloo hysterically improvises with history. Set in the Edo period - an epoch of heightened artistry and chaotic social networking - we follow a trio of ragged yet captivating outsiders as they roam Japan. Their road trip is spurred by cute waif Fuu, who dreams of finding a fantasised lover who smells of sunflower seeds. Okinawan aggro street-fighter Mugin crosses paths with the ice-cool superior-toned samurai Jin. They mix like sushi and marmalade, but once hired by Fuu, the three embark on some outrageous adventures.
History comes to life with wonder throughout Samurai Champloo. The trio traipse across numerous Japanese regions not commonly sited in anime. Folklore, traditions and regional ways are all enlivened. But best of all is this series' flagrant wild-style mix of scintillating brushwork and genuinely funky beats. It almost makes you believe that Old Skool started in Edo Japan. The Complete Collection of Samurai Champloo will grant repeat plays like your DVD player is a turntable.