Mania Grade: B+
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- Audio Rating: A
- Video Rating: A
- Packaging Rating: N/A
- Menus Rating: B-
- Extras Rating: N/A
- Age Rating: 15 & 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. #3
By Bryan Morton
February 24, 2006
Release Date: February 06, 2006
Samurai Champloo Vol. #3
What They Say
© MVM Entertainment
Money & Blood! Whether a fake promisory note or an empty wallet, a variety of challenges face Mugen, Jin and Fuu in their struggle to survive. Not even monsters of legend, murderers or never-ending rain can shake their iron will and confidence! Then Mugen and Jin find Fuu's diary…
9 - Beatbox Bandits
10 - Lethal Lunacy
11 - Gamblers and Gallantry
12 - The Disorder DiariesThe Review!
Three new episodes and a recap episode make up this volume of Samurai Champloo, which surprises in two significant ways: it's not all about food anymore, and the recap episode is actually good…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. There's not a huge amount of background music, but what there is makes full use of the soundstage. There were no obvious problems with the audio track. 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 copy.Menu:
Menus are in the same general style as previous volumes, this time with a patterened brown background with options for Play, Episodes, Extras and Setup. A clip from the show's soundtrack plays in the background. With no transition animations, everything is quick to use.Extras:
(please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Fuu, Mugen and Jin continue their journey to Nagasaki, which involves crossing the Hakone border checkpoint out of Edo. With no papers to allow them to pass legally, the gang have to resort to buying forged papers and hoping they'll do the job – but the border guards at Hakone are very proud of their reputation of not allowing anyone to pass illegally, and the penalty for those caught trying is death.
This is a fun little episode. It's told from the point of view of "Yamane the Ogre", who 30 years after the gang tried to pass through Hakone is about to retire and is looking back at past events. At this time, the official records still show Hakone's faultless record, but there's one day that's not covered by the records when all hell broke loose & anyone who wanted to cross the border could do so with no fear of being caught. Guess when that was. Yamane was a minor official at the time Fuu & the others appeared and played a part in making sure they weren't executed for trying to cross the border without proper papers, but his plans didn't work out quite as he'd planned.
Mugen gets the most of the screen time in this episode as he tries to complete a mission for Yamane while the local bandits keep getting in his way. There are some good action sequences here, since Mugen really can't pass up a fight if one's going, and the episode has quite a light-hearted fell about it. Although not as light-hearted as most of the characters would have been feeling at the end of the episode (you'll see what I mean when you watch it).
Mugen again is the focus of the second episode, which sees the gang working their keep at a Bhuddist temple in a town where a series of brutal killings has the locals worried. While Fuu and Jin stick to the temple work, Mugen decides that the price on the killer's head is too tempting to pass up. Since the killer seems only to attack skilled swordsmen, in theory all Mugen has to do is flash his skills around and wait for the killer to come to him, but it seems Mugen may have underestimated his opponent. Back at the temple, Jin begins to suspect their friendly monk may know more about the killer than he's letting on.
This is an altogether darker episode that takes a look at human nature and how power – in this case the power to kill with little more than a touch – can warp a man's mind. For Mugen and his almost unshakeable belief in his own abilities, such matters of life and death are almost a game, but for his opponent it's a lot more serious than that, and his attitude sets the tone for a lot of the episode.
The darker tone continues with the final "original" episode on the disc, which finds Jin developing an attraction to a woman he meets while working on a food stall. His own cooking skills aren't up to much (he was just told the job involved blade-work and wasn't expecting to be gutting eels), so he's happy enough when she starts helping him out. It turns out to be her last night of freedom, though, as thanks to her husband's unpaid debts she's been sold off to the local brothel. This doesn't sit well with Jin, who begins looking for ways to free her from what's really nothing more than a life in slavery.
This is the first time I can remember Jin showing that he's cared for anyone, although it's shown through his actions rather than any visible emotion – on the surface, he's as cold as he ever was. The episode is a great character piece and helps to cast Jin in a slightly different light. There are a few fun moments here as well, as Mugen takes one of his flights of fancy & begins training his pet beetle to sumo wrestle.
The disc ends with a recap episode, where Jin and Mugen take a sneaky look at Fuu's diary, hoping to find out just why she's looking for her samurai who smells of sunflowers. Normally, I'm no fan of recaps and would tend to just skip over them, but this one is done quite well – the excerpts from Fuu's diary are presented by her giving a voiceover & telling the story. Personally, it's a voice I could listen to all day and helps make the episode far more enjoyable to watch than the average recap.In Summary:
With this volume, Samurai Champloo begins to move away from the "find money, end up in trouble, repeat" type of story that was beginning to bother me by the end of volume two. The three new episodes on this release are all good pieces that begin to move the series in a more serious direction & allow the characters to shine, although there are still funnier moments here to stop the feel of the show becoming too dark. I definitely like the way things are progressing – hopefully the next volume will continue the good work.
Japanese Language DTS 5.1,Japanese Language DD 2.0,English Language DD 5.1,English Subtitles
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.