Let’s break it down. Mugen’s a reckless sword-slinger with a style that’s more b-boy than Shaolin. He’s got a nasty streak that makes people want to stick a knife in his throat. Then there’s Jin, a deadbeat ronin who speaks softly but carries a big blade. He runs game old-school style, but he can make your blood spray with the quickness. When these roughnecks bring the ruckus, it ain’t good for anybody, especially them. Enter Fuu, the dizzy waitress who springs her new friends from a deadly jam. All she wants in return is help solving a riddle from her past. She and the boys are tracking the scent, but there’s ninety-nine ways to die between them and the sunflower samurai.
Shinichiro Watanabe's film noir-ish sci-fi adventure Cowboy Bebop set a new standard for cool in anime in 1998, and Samurai Champloo, an edgy mix of Edo-era martial arts and hip-hop irreverence, is a worthy follow-up. A string of coincidences brings together three misfits in a two-bit tea house: Mugen, a rebellious vagabond; Jin, a taciturn ronin; and Fuu, a nutty waitress. The sardonic Mugen lacks the polish that distinguishes a classic martial artist--he uses break dance spins and flips against his foes. Jin moves with a polish that approaches iciness: When he unsheathes his sword, he becomes a lethal work of art in motion. Fuu forces Jin and Mugen to help her find a mysterious samurai "who smells of sun flowers." As the ill-assorted trio wanders towards Nagasaki, Watanabe treats the audiences to a string of outrageous, anachronistic adventures. In Episode 18, Mugen belatedly learns to read at a smackdown elementary school, while Jin tries to settle the rivalry between the heirs to the dojo of his former sensei. The seemingly unrelated storylines collide in a no-holds-barred graffiti contest featuring Tokugawa rap lyrics, ink-brush tagging, Hiroshima homeboys, and a caricature of Andy Warhol. But Watanabe reveals the hidden significance of these nutty interludes when he brings his picaresque adventure-comedy to a close. Like Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo leaves the viewer wanting more. (Rated 16 and older: violence, violence against women, profanity, brief nudity, sexual situations, alcohol and tobacco use) --Charles Solomon