Samurai Champloo Vol. #01 - Roman Album (

By:Sakura Eries
Review Date: Friday, March 02, 2007
Release Date: Thursday, November 30, 2006

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Originally produced by Manglobe/Shimoigusa Champloos
Translated by:Matthew Johnson
Adapted by:

What They Say
This Samurai Champloo art book was directly translated from the original Roman Album edition. Main characters Mugen, Jin, and Fuu are each profiled at length, all twenty-six episodes are summarized and illustrated with screen captures, and the "Backstage Champloo" chapter features interviews with Director Shinichiro Watanabe, Character Designer and Chief Animator Kazuto Nakazawa, and Art Director Takeshi Waki.

The Review
This A4 softbound Roman Album has a wraparound cover design. At the top left hand corner of the front cover is the Samurai Champloo anime logo in red with the words "Roman Album" placed just above it. Moving clockwise from that corner logo, we have Fuu, Jin, and Mugen in their trademark outfits. Superimposed on the lower foreground of the wraparound cover is a field of swords similar to that seen in the anime opener. The cover backdrop has the words "Samurai Champloo" and the image of a Japanese sword on a stand in a light gray against a beige background with pink highlights. The back cover portion of the cover also includes grayed images of Mugen fighting, Jin looking threatening, and Fuu being silly.

All 104 pages are printed on glossy paper. The images reprinted from the anime as well as the splashy layouts for the episode synopses are crisp and sharp. Most of the text is crisp; however, the heaviness of the print was uneven in a few places where red or green ink was used for the text. This Roman Album does not include a dust cover, foldout pages, posters, or other such extras.

The most glaring error of this Roman Album is the missing synopsis for Episode 8 (the one where Nagamitsu's trying to impress Fuu with his "big" dreams while Budokiba's out to rob Jin and Mugen for all they're worth). While the page layout, images, and headers are all correct for Episode 8, the actual_text_of the synopsis is that for Episode 10. That snafu aside, I counted around ten typos and grammatical errors throughout the album. While the translation is certainly sufficient to get the gist of the synopses and interviews, it is not particularly polished. The "Idle Travel Diary" by Obara, Sasaki, and Kobayashi is especially rough and even shifts from third to first person in the middle of the article.

One of the things that I did appreciate about this release though is the explanation of title idioms on page 78. In the episode synopsis pages, the English language episode title is shown alongside the Japanese title in kanji characters. However, the English titles have little or nothing to do with the original Japanese titles, each of which is a four-character Japanese idiom, and page 78 provides a guide to those idioms.

This is Dark Horse's translation of Manglobe's Samurai Champloo Roman Album. It includes just about everything you would expect from an anime art book and maybe a few things you didn't. Among the contents are the following:

Battle Cry (opening song) lyrics in both English and Japanese
Main Character Profiles
Episode Synopses
Interviews in question-and-answer format with Director Watanabe, Character Design and Chief Animator Nakazawa, Art Director Waki, Contributing Hip-Hop Artist Tsutchie, and the main voice cast
"Idle Travel Diary of Samurai Champloo": an article detailing the creative process and production of the anime
Samurai Champloo: A Roundabout Trip to Ikitsuki Island -- a "board" game
Translation of original Japanese episode titles
Words and illustrations from Masaru Gotsubo, mangaka of the Samurai Champloo comic
Conceptual Design Sketches
Commercial break stills from the anime
Samurai Champloo inspired album jackets

With its fast action and hip hopping samurai, Samurai Champloo is one of those anime that leaves an impression no matter who the audience. I remember watching Mugen's breakdance "fighting" and thinking how clever the idea was. However, I had no idea how much effort went into getting Champloo from concept to actual production.
"Champloo" is a word from the Ryukyu area (Mugen's place of origin) that means "to mix," and to mix a historical samurai-style drama with hip-hop using a soundtrack comprised almost entirely of hip-hop was way out of the mainstream at the time director Watanabe came up with the idea. However, he was able to bring others on board with his vision, and as the articles in the Roman Album document, "champloo" permeated throughout the entire project, from the nonstructured production process to the mishmash of highly talented artists that contributed to its making. Many of the project participants commented that Samurai Champloo felt more like "creating a 'work of art' than an anime."

As such, in addition to the interviews with the key creators of the anime, there are several pages in the Roman Album devoted to contributing musical artists and even an article on the origins of hip-hop on page 62 (Hip-hop from a Japanese viewpoint? Why not?). Not a big hip-hop connoisseur myself (I enjoy watching the dances, but I am absolutely clueless when it comes to music), I can't really argue for or against any of the viewpoints of hip-hop presented in the Roman Album, but if you are, you might find it interesting to find out what the Japanese animators felt about what they were "representing."
While the main emphasis of this Roman Album seems to be documenting the all-encompassing spirit of "champloo" that characterized its production, it also does contain the standard artbook elements of conceptual drawings and episode synopses. Synopses pages are beautifully done, each having a two page design and each exhibiting a different graphic style or visual effect. My favorite of these is the spread for Episode 26 which features Fuu against a hazy background of sunlight sunflowers. These pages also include inserts with fun and interesting facts regarding Edo period life, culture, and the all-important food that our Samurai Champloo heroes always seem to be running short of. Some of these food factoids are also incorporated into the "A Roundabout Trip to Ikitsuki Island" "board" game.

The conceptual design pages are a little less impressive than the gorgeous synopses pages. Instead of separating sketches by category, characters, weapons, and buildings are all champlooed together with a few descriptive blurbs here and there on pages 82 through 96.

Overall, this is an art book that I think Samurai Champloo fans will appreciate though it felt almost as much a tribute to the spirit of hip-hop as it was a tribute to the anime.

There is no age rating, but I would probably rate it as "teen" due to the violent nature of some of the episode summaries.

Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: N/A
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: C
Age Rating: All
Released By: Dark Horse
MSRP: 17.95
Pages: 104
ISBN: 1-59307-642-8
Size: A4
Orientation: Right to Left