Samurai Champloo

Karin and I finished the first DVD of Samurai Champloo tonight. It's the first four episodes and the next R1 DVD doesn't come out until March 29th (sigh).

So far I like it although it probably comes up a bit short in the inevitable comparisons against Cowboy Bebop. Four episodes in the characters aren't as likeable as Spike, Jet or Faye. Also, there's not much mystery about the characters - early into Bebop we wanted to know much more about the past of the principals (indeed a lot of the denser Bebop information was all flashbacks). Although Fuu's quest for the "samurai who smells of sunflowers" is unclear right now - the characters haven't really hinted at a complicated past to uncover. Most of what I've read about Champloo really over-emphasizes the hip-hop soundtrack. While it's there it's not really that prominent (no vocals except for the intro and outro track). Music just isn't at the forefront the way it was for Bebop. (Yoko Kanno isn't involved in this project, sadly.)

Where I'd say Champloo shines is the fight scenes - they are very minimalist but effective. Several fights have spent more frames on the protagonists prior to blades being drawn than the fight itself, evoking a very western "draw" sort of feeling. Once the swords come out the fights tend to end quickly

It's a bit hard to comment on the tone of the series - it seems lighter than Bebop but I think that might be an illusion. By that I mean that watching the first (R1) DVD of Bebop would give you a very different tonal impression than the entire series does. And of course that's the interesting thing about watching a series as the discs dribble out - it will be next year before Champloo finishes it's R1 release. (Hey Bwana - is there a movie being worked on, or is it just the series thus far?)

I'm definitely looking forward to more Samurai Champloo - shame it's almost two months away still.