What do a crazed priest, duelling graffiti artists, an overzealous teacher and a mysterious blind singer with inhuman fighting abilities all have in common? They’re just some of the people that Mugen, Jin and Fuu encounter as they travel ever westwards, still looking for the Sunflower Samurai.
More hip-hop samurai antics abound in volume five of Samurai Champloo, with another four episodes that cover pretty much every base you can think of. Cool swordplay, comedy, drama and even some romance all find their way into this unique mixture of genres as the series continues to prove it can serve up anything with the same self-assured style and confidence. Of course, this can also lead to the series feeling somewhat unfocused and meandering, and some elements are left a bit underdeveloped.
The second episode on the disc is where Samurai Champloo’s unique style really shines. Jin and Fuu get caught up with two brothers quarrelling over their art – the catch it that it’s not the art of the sword, as you might expect, but rather street art. The typical samurai showdown is given a new twist as they battle to tag the most dangerous area in the town, with some hilarious consequences. It quite cleverly shows the similarities between old Japan and modern street culture, and helping to bridge the gap a bit more and proving that the two aren’t so different after all.
Champloo continues to impress with its visuals, boasting some incredible animation during its fight sequences and a rich ambience in its quieter moments. There’s some great attention to detail too, with some nice little touches reinforcing its sense of humour (the police carrying boxes with the black and white paint scheme of Japanese police cars are a prime example). The soundtrack remains as tight as ever, with the hip-hop beats lending a unique feel that somehow still manages to compliment the action and mood perfectly. There are a couple of standout tracks too that, if you’re not careful, will have you nodding along to the beat.
If you’ve seen any Samurai Champloo before, you’ll know what to expect – volume 5 delivers more of the same. This is both its strength and its weakness; while it’s immensely entertaining stuff that redefines anime cool, it’s also a bit on the shallow side, and nothing has really changed since the early episodes. Of course, when it’s this much fun to watch, it doesn’t really matter.