Samurai Champloo vol 1 (Ongoing series)

UK Distributor:  Tokyopop

Author:  Masaru Gotsubo (Created by manglobe)

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  £6.99

Number of Pages:  192

ISBN:  1-5918-2282-3

Reviewed:  8th June 2006

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)


Of all the things to come out of Japan, by far the coolest is the samurai. Highly skilled swordsmen bound by honour, helping the oppressed and standing unmoving against insurmountable odds.  So not much like the main characters of Samurai Champloo then.

Mugen is a wild swordsman, unpredictable, short tempered and fighting for the thrill of it.  Jin is a cold calculating samurai, a man who has abandoned the samurai code of honour and fights simply to find a purpose.  When they met they expected a good fight, what they didnít expect was for the feisty barmaid Fuu to drag them off on a quest to find a mysterious samurai who smells of sunflowers.  So begins an action packed journey as the antagonistic trio travel through feudal Japan, a time of deadly swordsmen and a crime, a time of authoritarianism and, errr, hip-hop.  Yes, I said hip-hop.

Samurai Champloo is pretty much like no other samurai series you have read, packing its pages with tonnes of modern references and anachronistic urban cool which belies itís feudal setting.  However, before you grab your katana and storm the authorís house wait, because Samurai Champloo is also one of the finest manga series available in the UK.  Despite the modern references Samurai Champloo vol 1 is a solid and extremely cool samurai actioner, with great characters and distinctive artwork that really delivers a feeling of speed and power in the frequent fight scenes.  Instead of acting like a millstone around the storyís neck all of the modern aspects blend in near seamlessly, it seems hard to believe that hip-hop culture would combine well with feudal Japan but it does.  Hip-hop is cool and samurai are cooler, putting them together is a marriage made in heaven.

The manga is based on the superb anime of the same name, and the problem with anime adaptations is that they either follow the anime to the letter, which makes them a bit redundant, or try to reinterpret the existing story, often to mixed effect.  The advantage Samurai Champloo has is that the anime has a start and an end but the middle is pretty episodic with little continuous story.  This gives the manga series an immense amount of freedom Ė as long as it starts and ends in the right place what it does in between is up to the author, and with such great characters and ideas to work with the quality equals that of the anime.

As you would expect with any series featuring samurai the action quota is very high and Mugenís break-dancing inspired fighting style is brilliant, but it also has itís fair share of laughs too.  Mugen and Jinís mutual antagonism often leads to some very funny scenes, but itís the trioís desperate attempts to keep above the breadline that draws the majority of the comedy.  Bickering over food is the order of the day, but my favourite moment had to be Fuuís humble request for a job at an inn, itís amazing how many job opportunities open up for you when you are flanked by two starving and extremely short tempered swordsmenÖ

Itís this balance of humour and action served with a hefty dollop of drama that makes Samurai Champloo so damn readable.  The short story arcs make it a really easy book to pick up and the fact that all of them are good enough to have walked right out of the anime is incredibly high praise.  In fact in some ways it exceeds the anime, some of the animeís slower earlier episodes are replaced with fast paced new ones in the manga and the added insight that is given into Jinís motivations - or struggle to find some - is brilliantly done.  To cut a long story short, Samurai Champloo vol 1 is a real 5 star manga.  It's easy to read, hugely entertaining, insanely cool and packed with a perfect mix of action, drama and comedy.  Itís one of the best manga I have read for a long while and I canít recommend it highly enough, itís an absolutely essential purchase.


The book starts with colour pages, which is something I always like in manga, and is capped off with an explanation of some of the historical setting and background info about the story.  On top of this there are the usual adverts for other Tokyopop titles and longer 'spotlights', which provide a synopsis and some additional info for a number of forthcoming series.


Feature:   Extras:

Back To Reviews Archive