Samurai Champloo Vol. #5 -

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Mania Grade: A-

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  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • 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. #5

By Bryan Morton     July 10, 2006
Release Date: June 19, 2006

Samurai Champloo Vol. #5
© MVM Entertainment

What They Say
After all, fate brings Jin, Mugen and Fuu back together. They meet a mysterious man, Okuru, a wanted man who has destroyed his own village, but Mugen sees something common in him. While travelling further to the south, the three are involved in a graffiti competition. Who can "tag" the most dangerous place? Can Mugen finally learn how to read?

In a small village, Fuu saves a girl who happens to know "sunflower samurai." With a more reliable clue, they continue travelling to Nagasaki, however, they don't know a deadly trap awaits them.

Episodes Comprise
17 - Lullabies of the Lost, Verse II
18 - War of the Words
19 - Unholy Union
20 - Elegy of Entrapment, Verse I

The Review!
The gang are briefly reunited again, before Fuu finally finds herself on the trail of her sunflower-scented samurai and Jin finds himself a new travelling companion.

A good selection of audio options is 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 the 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.

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.

No packaging was provided with our review copy.

Menus are in the same general style as previous volumes, this time with a patterned red background with a few flies dotted about, and with the usual 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.

As with previous volumes, extras are pretty thin on the ground. Another slideshow of conceptual artwork is provided, along with a 1-minute English-language promo clip that's almost in MST3K-style.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
This disc picks up from where volume four left off, with part 2 of Lullabies of the Lost. Mugen's attackers finally realise he's not Okuru and retreat, but not before Mugen gets his hands on one in the hope of extracting some information. Apparently, Okuru is insane, driven mad by illness, and has slaughtered both the inhabitants of his village and the soldiers who were initially sent to bring him in - in other words, not exactly the ideal travelling companion, but the truth is somewhat different from what Mugen's been told. Okuru, meanwhile, refuses Fuu's request to tag along with him, telling her to go back to the others - once you travel with someone, he says, they become like family, and shouldn't be left behind. He's about to meet one of Fuu's "family", too, as Mugen decides he'd quite like to take on a man with Okuru's reputation.

No real surprise, then, that events conspire to keep the gang together for a while longer yet. Somehow, Samurai Champloo just wouldn't be the same if one of them were missing. Mugen and Jin get some good opportunities to show off their fighting skills here, but Okuru's the star of the episode. He turns out to be something of a tragic character - having been blamed for something he didn't do and facing death because of it, he's just doing his best to live for as long as he can, and it's easy to cheer him on when his pursuers finally catch up with him. The end of the episode is left so that you can't really be sure whether he survived or not, and lets you put your own spin on what's happened to him, and that's a good way to leave it. I do like the way that Samurai Champloo gives its "guest" characters so much emphasis " this is just one of several episodes in the series where Fuu and the gang are elements in someone else's story, rather than the main focus of the story themselves.

The best comedy on the disc comes from episode 18, when Fuu realises that Mugen always seems to order the same meal as she or Jin does, and is a bit curious as to why. Simple answer, really - he can't read (and isn't inclined to learn), and letting the others pick his meal for him saves him the bother of trying to read the menu. A fellow diner at the restaurant they're visiting when this little nugget is revealed is outraged at Mugen's lack of motivation to improve himself, and tries to persuade him that life as an illiterate idiot is no life at all - and is going to teach him to read, whether Mugen likes it or not. Add in the tale of some Edo-period graffiti artists, and you get a very fast-paced episode with some good laugh-out-loud moments, even if the idea of Mugen being press-ganged into anything doesn't seem quite right.

The rest of the disc is considerably more serious, as Fuu finally gets some evidence that she's on the trail of her sunflower-scented samurai after helping a young woman deal with a fake priest who's using religion as a cover for his gun-running operation. After so much of the series with barely even a hint about him, getting some real information " even a name, now " is definitely not before time.

The disc ends on another cliffhanger, when a blind entertainer named Sara invites Jin and the others to join her on her travels for a while. Faced with the prospect of free board and lodgings, they're not about to refuse, and it's a journey that turns into a learning experience - but eventually the time comes for Sara to go her own way, and she wants to take one of the boys with her.

Sara's another guest character that steals the show. She quickly strikes up a friendship with Fuu, and is constantly trying to find out from her exactly what she feels about Mugen and Jin. Is it companionship, or more than that? She turns out to be considerably more dangerous than she at first appears to be, though. This episode keeps you guessing about where it's going right up until the last moment, with the final scenes a genuine surprise as, having seen how Sara behaves through the episode to that point, there's little or no hint about what she's planning. Unfortunately, we're left with another cliffhanger and will have to wait until the next volume to find out what happens next.

In Summary:
Another batch of good episodes from Samurai Champloo, even allowing for the frustration of another cliffhanger, and finally some movement in the search for Fuu's samurai. For most of the disc, the main characters play second fiddle to the guest parts, a genuinely interesting bunch of people who each bring something different to the show, and are a large part of what makes this an enjoyable series to watch.

Japanese Language DTS 5.1,Japanese Language DD 2.0,English Language DD 5.1,English Subtitles,Conceptual Artwork,Promo Video

Review Equipment
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.


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