Since I'm not following that many new anime series this season, I thought I'd go and watch some older series that have received a lot of praise: the so-called "classics". Samurai Champloo is one such series, but to be honest I finished the series more than a year ago, but just never got around to writing about it. I thought Samurai Champloo was excellent with its mix of action and comedy, and here are my thoughts about the series.
Samurai Champloo, set in the Edo Period of Japan, is about Mugen, a brash wanderer with a strange but effective fighting style, and Jin, an extremely skilled young ronin samurai, accompanying a spunky and resourceful girl named Fuu on a journey across the land looking for"a samurai who smells of sunflowers". Having met by chance, the three main characters get into various intrigues and adventures as they travel through historical Japan.
So why is Samurai Champloo so well received? After watching the series, I think the main reason is that the series is consistently good. There is the central story about Fuu's search for the samurai that loosely ties the series together, but many of the episodes are stand-alone stories, ranging from purely comedic episodes to those with heavy action and/or drama. The thing about all of the episodes is that they are all entertaining. Obviously some episodes are more memorable than others, but there wasn't episode where I thought "this was merely okay" or worse.
Samurai Champloo achieves this consistency through several elements. The show is a great mix of comedy, action and drama, and all of these are done very well. The fights are extremely dynamic and fluid, and production quality as a whole is excellent. Both Jin and Mugen are badass fighters, and it's great to see their contrasting fighting styles on display against both weak grunts and strong opponents. The comedy can be absolutely hilarious. For example, the episode about playing baseball with Americans had me laughing for the whole duration of the baseball game sequence. That was probably the most entertaining game of baseball I've ever watched, real or fictional. All of the hip-hop related elements were pretty funny too. While I care more about action and comedy the most, Samurai Champloo does a fine job with the drama and storytelling.
Lastly, the three lead characters have great dynamics together with their contrasting personalities. Mugen is rude, direct and brash, while Jin is quiet and stoic and the two don't like each other very much (at least not initially). Fuu serves as the voice of reason to keep Mugen and Jin from killing each other or ditching her, but she has her own set of quirks, and as a whole the lead trio is a lively group that audiences can care about.
So overall, I liked Samurai Champloo a lot. Definitely one of the better anime series I've watched, and highly recommended for those who are into samurai sword-fighting action and comedy.