23.7.2020

‘Samurai Champloo’ sets a high bar for anime soundtracks with legendary producer Nujabes.

Despite lasting just one season, Samurai Champloo has quickly become one of the most memorable animes I have seen. A great deal of credit can go to Nujabes, who created the music for the series together with his friends Fat Jon, Force of Nature, and Tsutchie.

For an anime rather complex in theme, it’s plot is a straightforward one of a journey, perhaps featuring detours, but little twists and turns. Set in Edo-period Japan, Fuu, a waitress at a teahouse rescues two talented samurai Mugen and Jin, and enlists them to help her search the lands for “the samurai who smells of sunflowers.”

Jin and Mugen were created as different as two people can possibly get. On one hand, Jin represents restraint: he’s a reserved swordsman who speaks the minimum amount of words necessary to get his point across. Driven by morals and discipline, he has trained under a master for years and has risen to be the top in his class. On the other hand, Mugen stands for impulse: he speaks his mind freely, which often gets him into trouble, and fights for greed and self-interest. Having grown up in a fight-or-die environment, his sword technique is self-taught, unique, and unpredictable.

The character creation of Jin and Mugen are ingenious as I still struggle to decide to this date who I like better, as the two are much more alike than they would care to admit. The journey that the three have set on is also one of self-discovery as Fuu effectively “tames” Jin and Mugen, who claim that they serve no one and fight only for themselves. What initially began as a “truce” quickly becomes a bromance as the two get to know each other. Despite being lone swordsmen, both seem to indulge themselves in simar things and enjoy food, women, and most of all, each other’s company. The three together make each other better people, drawing the two extremes into a middle ground where the perfect samurai is one that is passionate about life but still principle-driven. Perhaps two negatives can make a positive, and Samurai Champloo clearly demonstrates the power of symbiotic relationships, and why one should always surround oneself with people who have a positive impact on them, inspiring them to be better and do better.

As this is a relatively short and straightforward show, I cannot say much more without ruining the experience for you. What I can say is whether you like anime or not, Samurai Champloo should be on your watch-list, even if it’s just for the music, and nothing else. I consider Nujabes one of the most legendary music producers, and it’s unfortunate that he passed away at the young age of 36. Often credited as the godfather of low-fi music, his art was far beyond his time. I consider his true innovation the fusion of hip-hop and jazz, which less people know about. Those who know Nujabes would immediately recognize his signature style within the soundtrack. It is without a doubt that his music in Samurai Champloo sets this show from any other anime that you have seen.

Rest in peace, Nujabes.


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