Mania Grade: B
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- Audio Rating: A
- Video Rating: A
- Packaging Rating: N/A
- Menus Rating: B-
- Extras Rating: C
- Age Rating: 12 & Up
- Region: 2 - Europe
- Released By: MVM Entertainment
- MSRP: £19.99
- Running time: 100
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Samurai Champloo
Samurai Champloo Vol. #2
By Bryan Morton
December 14, 2005
Release Date: November 07, 2005
Samurai Champloo Vol. #2
What They Say
© MVM Entertainment
No cash! Mugen, Jin and Fuu need money fast. Fuu tries to model, but it turns out to be a trap. When they arrive in the capital city, they delay their quest to join an eating contest, but find out the hard way they need to watch who they hang with! If some guy they meet isn’t wanted by the cops, then he’s trying to kill them or take their wallet- either way, you know they’re going to wind up in the middle of a fight...The Review!
There's a common thread running through these episodes: food, and the need for money to buy it. Much as I appreciate the need to eat, I'm sure there's more to life...Audio:
A good selection of audio options are provided here. The Japanese audio is provided in both DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 formats, while the English dub is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. I listened primarily to the Japanese DTS track, which was a joy to behold - while dialogue doesn't make too much use of the surround channels, background effects make good use of the soundstage and provide depth and atmosphere to the audio. Most of the music also makes use of the full soundstage, although there doesn't appear to be as much background music on these episodes as there was with volume one. There were no obvious problems with the audio track. I spot-checked the Japanese 2.0 and English 5.1 tracks at various stages - these appeared to be similarly free of problems.Video:
Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, Samurai Champloo looks as good as it sounds, with vivid colours, nicely details backgrounds and nothing obvious in the way of problems or encoding defects. Subtitles are provided in both song-and-signs and full translation tracks - MVM's standard yellow-on-black font is clear, although possibly a little on the small side. Packaging:
No packaging was provided with our review copyMenu:
Menus are similar in style to volume one's, only this time with a light-blue background that's whole lot easier to read. A clip from the show's soundtrack plays in the background. Episode Select, Extras and Setup sub-menus are provided. There are no transition animations, so everything is quick to use.Extras:
The only extra provided is a creditless closing animation.Content:
(please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Everywhere Fuu, Mugen and Jin go, their first task seems to be to scrounge up some money, be it for a ferry trip, a night's lodgings, or the eternal problem of food. There are four episodes on this volume of Samurai Champloo, and each adventure begins when something goes wrong with the gang's quest for a quick buck.
As the disc begins, while Mugen and Jin resort to bullying and gambling to raise some cash, Fuu tries her hand at something altogether more tasteful - posing for ukiyo-e prints. What she doesn't know is that the artist is tied up in a local slave-smuggling operation with the local yakuza, and his models have a habit of ending up as cargo on ships headed to Europe. Fortunately for Fuu, her charms are enough to persuade him to try and free her from the gang's clutches, while over-the-top policeman Manzou the Saw is also closing in on the smugglers. Manzou provides a large dose of comic relief here - his general attitude is just so brash and outrageous you just have to love him, and it's a shame he didn't get more screen time. Otherwise, this episode is maybe a little on the slow side - fun to watch, but definitely with something missing.
There's more comedy from "guest" stars in the next episode, where the gang arrive in Edo just in time to take part in the annual Big Eater contest. Fuu's on a roll, easily out-eating everyone except a mysterious stranger, but a passing fly unfortunately marks the end of her participation - and the passing of their entry fee (Jin's swords) into the mysterious stranger's ownership. Jin wants them back, but there's a price - the stranger wants to see the sights of Edo and needs a tour guide. Meanwhile, the authorities are on the lookout for a European who's illegally in the city. Given Jin's new boss has red hair, blue eyes, wears clogs & has a strange accent, there are no prizes for guessing who the target is. While the stranger's "amazed tourist" routine provides a few laughs, there's a fairly serious back-story to how he's come to be in Japan, and he also supplies Fuu with her first clue to the location of the sunflower-scented samurai she's seeking - a rare reminder that there's a reason the three main characters are travelling together.
Next up, a run-in with a pickpocket (there goes their money again) brings a more serious tone to proceedings. The pickpocket, a young man named Shinsuke, isn't stealing for his own benefit, but to buy medicine for his ill mother. When Fuu discovers this after tailing him home, she begins to feel sorry for him, but Shinsuke's latest hit has landed him in some trouble after he inadvertently steals opium from a local thug. The lure of the money he can make from selling the drug is very tempting, but getting rid of it without getting caught is easier said than done. This episode's quite unusual by Samurai Champloo's standards so far, as it's noticeably darker in tone than usual and doesn't have a happy ending, but that's quite refreshing in its own way. It shows that the series is prepared to do something different from time to time, rather than just stick to the usual need-more-money formula.
After a run of episodes where Fuu got most of the focus, the final episode moves Jin to centre-stage, and mixes the comic & the serious to provide the best episode on the disc. When Jin and Mugen fall for the charms of Budou Kiba, a local woman looking for a good time, and leave Fuu on her own, she's inclined to take up an offer she's received from Nagamitsu - a local wannabe hot-shot who won't take no for an answer. If the men can have some fun, why can't she? Both Nagamitsu and Budou have their secrets, though - Nagamitsu and his obsession for stealing glasses, and Budou and her tendency to drug her dates and rob them blind, meaning Mugen and Jin don't have as good a night out as they had hoped for. The fun comes when Nagamitsu finally meets Jin: there's some history there, and Nagamitsu is out for revenge.
It's good to see Jin finally get some depth added to his character - he's been the strong & silent type so far who never really did much other than swing his sword when required, but the reasons behind Nagamitsu's desire for revenge add a lot to him, even if the revelations weren't exactly surprising. Nagamitsu himself is another larger-than-life comic character, and his supporting gang of hangers-on (complete with mirrors and stage show to help him look good) make him almost a surreal character.
Overall, these episodes are essentially stand-alone stories, with only token progress made towards Fuu's stated goal of finding her samurai. There are some small moments of character development, especially for Fuu and Jin, but for the most part the search for money and food rules events.In Summary:
I can't help but wish Samurai Champloo had more to it than the “find money, end up in trouble, repeat” routine. The characters are a likeable bunch and the scrapes they get themselves into are admittedly great fun to watch, but the carry the series for a full 26 episodes I think there'll need to be a change in direction sometime soon. This is still a good show, but it's going to find it hard keeping the attention if it simply sticks to the same formula.
Japanese Language DTS 5.1,Japanese Language DD 2.0,English Language DD 5.1,English Subtitles,Creditless Closing Sequence
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.