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Samurai Champloo concerns the ongoing adventures of three very different individuals—two ronin (masterless samurai) with disparate attitudes (mainly due to their age difference and upbringing) and a young girl who they foolishly agreed to accompany on her mysterious quest to find the elusive ‘samurai who smells of sunflowers’.

Samurai Champloo: Volume 3

Feature


This third volume in the series contains four more episodes charting their adventures. The first one sees the older, more restrained samurai, Jin, and the girl, Fuu, due to be executed unless the younger rogue, Mugen, can enter a forbidden village and return before sunset. Although a rather strange tale, involving indefeasible warriors and psychotropic drugs, this is the first of two episodes that basically focus on Mugen’s character.

The second episode is about a disillusioned samurai-turned-samurai-killer who practices a strange art of energy-kills that is distinctly reminiscent of the jedi force powers in Star Wars. Featuring more of the samurai standoffs that we have come to expect from the earlier instalments, it is one of the better episodes on the disc, but suffers slightly again from focussing a little too much on Mugen’s fairly two-dimensional character.

The third episode follows Jin, for a change, as he meets and becomes intrigued by a beautiful stranger who looks like she is about to jump off a bridge. When he finds out the truth about her plight, he sets about doing whatever it takes to help her to find happiness again. At the same time, Mugen hones his beetle-sumo skills so that he can win money betting on battling beetles and we see the girl, Fuu, showing signs of being jealous over the new lady in Jin’s life. My personal favourite episode on this disc, I admire the selflessness exhibited by Jin’s character in this solid tale of sacrifice and freedom.

Samurai Champloo: Volume 3
The final episode is a true disappointment—one of those filler episodes that features the main characters going over their previous exploits in brief detail. Although I would normally recommend this kind of tale to those who would want to catch up on what has come before, this one presents a particularly skewed—and frankly mundane—version of previous events, since it is told solely from the fairly food-orientated viewpoint of the young girl.

Although it is probably worth giving a miss to the last episode and overall this collection is not quite as good as the previous instalments, it is still a decent enough addition that is unlikely to seriously disappoint fans of the series. If you’re a newcomer to Samurai Champloo then you should probably start at the beginning as these episodes certainly take for granted your knowing the characters quite well, but you could do worse than watching this collection of fun exploits.

Video


The presentation is immaculate. The show has been given a 1.78:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer that glistens at every opportunity. The detail is superb throughout, with a crystal clear image that does occasionally display softness—but only when it is intentionally trying to bring certain aspects into focus. There is no grain and the animation practically comes to life in this transfer, purple haze during the drug-induced sequences and electric blue slashes tracing the paths of the deadly samurai blades that are wielded. The colour scheme is broad and beautiful, not least the wondrous red sunsets and dreamy blue skies. Of course the transfer exhibits no print damage whatsoever and overall it looks simply fabulous.

Samurai Champloo: Volume 3

Audio


We get several good audio tracks with this release, although it does make it difficult to chose which one is best because the DTS is only available in the original Japanese language, whereas the Dolby 5.1 is only available for the English dub. Both tracks are superb, with dialogue being given significant directionality, and always clear and coherent, effects coming fast and furious from all around—particularly during the sword-fighting—and an interesting soundtrack that utilises everything from hip hop and rap to standard HK ballad. The trouble lies in the voice actors they chose for the parts. Normally I would advocate the original Japanese soundtrack for any production, but with animation you can seldom notice lip-synch issues no matter what language it is in, and with productions like Ghost in the Shell, the English alternative is often superior. Here the Japanese track sounds the most natural for all of the side characters and the lead female, but the two lead males come across as almost indistinguishable—primarily in age—something which does not ring true in the story. In particular, the young rogue Mugen seems desperately misrepresented.

Samurai Champloo: Volume 3
Conversely, on the English dub, the dialogue seems slightly less natural, more forced, and the side characters slightly of-kilter, but the two male leads are spot on. Mugen sounds suitably young and brash, whilst Jin comes across as more mature and cultured. The biggest downside though, is that the girl sounds just plain irritating—we're talking irritating like the bubble-gum blowing prostitute from the Steve Martin comedy The Man with Two Brains. Still, if you're prepared to take her screechy, grating twelve-year-old schoolgirl voice for the duration (which isn't that bad when you consider her screen-time is not as much as that of the male leads) then I would recommend the English Dolby 5.1 dub. The Japanese 2.0 track is clearly inferior to both other offerings, but is a nice touch for those without DTS who may like to hear it in its original language. The English subtitles are fairly good throughout, for those who do chose to go down that road.

Extras


All we get is a limited set of trailers.

Samurai Champloo: Volume 3

Overall


I don't care what it means, it is a silly title for western audiences—if poo meant 'sword' in Japanese, calling the show Samurai Poo would still be a silly idea. The same is the case—although to a lesser extent—with something very close to Shampoo. And believe me, the show is not about samurai hair products. Still, don't be put off by the title, Samurai Champloo is definitely worth a look. The video and audio presentations are pretty good, although there is a shameful lack of extras. Ideally this volume would be added to the others in your collection and I would advise against making this your first purchase out of the series, but overall it is a nice, fun addition to a solid samurai animated show.


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