ANIME & MANGA - Review
08:49 - 16th April 2013, by Rob Burman

Samurai Champloo 1

You've got to wonder about your morality sometimes when you're laughing out loud while reading a manga that on the last page had people's decapitated heads flying off like blood-soaked party poppers. But that's exactly what you're going to find in Samurai Champloo. It's a smart, hip, violent and very funny cocktail that's been mixed with a sword.

Those who've seen the MVM anime will be familiar with the characters here but, although the plot begins in the same way in both, the manga branches off into new territory. Each chapter (there are five in total) features either all or one of the leads - Mugen (an unconventional food-obsessed samurai), Jin (a quiet but skilled swordsman) and Fuu (a long suffering ex-waitress who's on the search for a samurai that smells of sunflowers). The three characters are thrown together by Fuu's quest to find the samurai, and she hires Mugen and Jin to be her bodyguards. (Although they spend most of their time trying to kill each other.)

The five chapters rocket along at a fair pace, propelling the three characters along the main story arc, but also pulling them into various sub-plots. After being introduced to Mugen, Jin and Fuu in the first chapter, and seeing Mugen already get the group into trouble, the second chapter sees our 'heroes' on the run from the law, and subsequent chapters just mean more trouble. Luckily, Mugen loves a fight, and he's more than happy with their predicament. Although Mugen does make an amusing lead, it's often hard to be interested in a samurai that revels in killing for no reason and lets his stomach lead his life. In fact the three leads, at least in this first volume, do seem to be very typical manga stars, with the crazy one, the quiet one and the sweet-natured girl all present and correct.

But there's a lot more to the manga than just the characters. The artwork, although varied in some panels, has a lot of movement that just about manages to be contained within the pages. The fight sequences are particularly powerful and, in some ways, you come to relish them just as much as Mugen does. Where this manga really shines is the many amusing asides spoken by the characters, which poke fun at modern Japanese culture. There are references to video games like Dragon Quest, J-rock stars and cosplay. In fact it's not even clear what period the manga's meant to be set in - but who cares when you're having fun?

It's worth pointing out that although Samurai Champloo is a fairly light-hearted look at the life of samurai, it doesn't go easy on the gore. Within the first few pages, Mugen chops a rival samurai's hand off before going on to slice people in half, cut off their heads and even accidentally stab a shogun in between the eyes. If you weren't laughing at the rest of the manga, you'd probably be throwing up!
SCORE: 4/5
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