As a creative I learnt from early on never to fall in love with an idea so wholeheartedly that it gives you tunnel vision. This tacit however eluded me when I saw the Samurai Champloo series for the first time. I was a bit behind at this time as all the episodes were officially released.
I watched and instantaneously became hooked. All characters were beautifully-flawed and stubborn, the elegance and rich history (with the occasional creative license) of the Edo-Period in Japan merged effortlessly with pop and hip-hop culture via soundtrack. Better than, dare I say, the likes of similar anime title Afro Samurai. It was a deftly-executed series that, to this day, is considered one of the greatest anime series of all time. With good reason.The story followed a trio of mismatched vagabonds; Mugen, a wild heart who craved a fight with anyone, Jin, a the reserved but equally stubborn ronin and Fuu, a girl on a mission to find a ‘samurai that smells like sunflowers’. Fuu rescued the two swordsmen from certain death. Now indebted to her, Mugen and Jin agree ever so reluctantly, to act as bodyguard for Fuu on her quest that would span far and wide across various lands.
The animation was lithe and fluid, fight sequences very well choreographed, capturing the frenzy and power particularly in Mugen’s duels, parallel to the the speed, power and precision of Jin fighting style. The characters, mismatched in many ways, were common in one: a stubborn determination that would both see them find solace in each other’s presence and simultaneously fight among themselves. Watanabe’s directorial prowess, if ever doubted with Cowboy Bebop (who would dare!? show yourself!), was surely silenced with Samurai Champloo.
So after those amazing episode binge, with a bit of a cliffhanger, to my distress, I was hit with the fact there were no follow up seasons. Nothing. A black hole at the end of the rainbow. Google searches turned up nothing on any spin-offs, productions in progress, or even rumours of rumours. It was done.Then, like the stages of mourning, I became super-nostalgic, reminiscing over the many potent scenes from Mugen’s out-of-body sequence (right in the feels) and his fight with the blind assassin Sara who’s words pegged Mugen’s wild, feral-spirit:
“Inside of you looms a simmering storm of hatred and rage, but perhaps what I’m actually sensing is sadness. It’s as if you’ve never once been loved by anyone; it’s as if you’re just like me.”
It’s beyond me what such a thoroughly-entertaining and epic series like Samurai Champloo hasn’t gone on to make further episodes. It’s a real disservice if you ask me. We hope by some miracle that the trio come back in at least a feature-length animation in the same way Cowboy Bebop did. You can’t leave all the fun to Space Dandy. So many places to start… an older Fuu, an impulsive wildman, a ronin who’s the reserved, brooding tall dark and handsome type… Just think of all the mischief we could get up to…