Samurai Champloo Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Sunday, October 30, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Writer/Artist:Masaru Gotsubo and manglobe
What They Say
In a world full of evil, a hardworking waitress, an arrogant mercenary and a mysterious samurai meet. Through a series of misunderstandings, Fuu, Mugen and Jin find themselves running from officials and wanted by the law. Together they form an uneasy alliance to search for the enigmatic Sunflower Samurai. Along the way they come across misleading characters, ninjas, assassins and a prince in disguise. Their journey proves to be nothing less than a roller coaster ride of battles, danger, desperation and companionship.
Manga adaptations never sit well with me, and Samurai Champloo is no exception as it fails to capture the hipness and style of the original anime.
Since this is an advance uncorrected proof, I will be unable to grade the packaging. However, there are a couple items that I will be able to comment on. The proof has a color cover that looks very much like the anime DVD covers--the urban style, bright orange colors, and the patchwork of tones and patterns. Even though they are not a part of this proof, there should be 4 color pages with the final release.
The artwork here is pretty crude overall, especially so in the latter chapters. The character designs are similar to the original anime designs, but the quality gets a little sloppy as the characters go more into the background. The style features a lot of short, angular line work that is not the cleanest looking artwork, even in the background art. The quality also takes quite a dive during the action sequences.
Since this is an advance uncorrected proof, I will be unable to grade the SFX and translation. However, I will comment on a couple of details that I am seeing in this proof. The SFX are not translated as of this proof, and I would not expect them to be with the final version since that is TOKYOPOP’s stance. There are quite a few editor’s notes in the margin explaining cultural and inside jokes.
Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
The Samurai Champloo manga is an adaptation of the original anime which is currently licensed for R1 by Geneon Entertainment and airs on Cartoon Network during its Adult Swim block of programming. The original concept is an interesting blend of hip hop beats and samurai action, creating an anime that definitely had a lot of fun moments from the few episodes that I had seen. The manga adaptation definitely tries hard to capture the same feeling but falls really flat.
This first volume contains 5 chapters, with the first being almost the same as the first episode in the anime (although with a different ending). The rest of the chapters, from what I can tell by reading episode summaries online, are different stand-alone chapters that feature our band of misfits getting in their own share of trouble. Mugen is the breakdancing mercenary who spends most of his time thieving, drinking, and fighting, not necessarily in that order. Jin is the calm samurai with a past the he is unwilling to talk about, but possibly includes being a sword instructor within the shogunate. Together they become the bodyguards (by force) for Fuu, the cute young girl who is looking for a samurai that smells of sunflowers.
The stories are mildly entertaining with Chapter 4, “It’s Because You Go Crazy, Shogun: A Love Story”, being the most so with it’s twist of an end that I found actually pretty funny in a dark humor kind of way. As a whole though, there is nothing really to chew on here. The stories really do nothing to develop the characters or the sunflower samurai plot. I also felt like the chemistry between the three just wasn’t there as it was in the anime version. I’ll also have to admit that I miss the hip-hop music and stylish record-scratching transitions from the anime. The writer tries to keep up the anachronistic appeal by adding in modern day jokes about Japanese actors, idols, and John Travolta, but it is really missing those important pieces of the original concept that made it interesting to me in the first place.
I rarely have much luck with manga adaptations of an anime, so it is no surprise here that the Samurai Champloo manga did not grab my interest. I do appreciate that the writer of the manga came up with new stories for the manga, instead of recycling its anime counterpart, but the chemistry between the characters and all the pieces from the anime that made it so much fun are missing. The anachronistic hip-hop isn’t there and the crude artwork does not give off the same stylish appeal. Fans of Champloo may enjoy the new stories, but for others I would recommend plenty of other samurai titles.
Mania Grade: C
Art Rating: C
Packaging Rating: N/A
Text/Translatin Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: TOKYOPOP
Orientation: Right to Left