A young woman named Fuu is working as a waitress in a tea shop when she is abused by a band of samurai. She is saved by a mysterious rogue named Mugen and a young rōnin named Jin. Mugen attacks Jin after he proves to be a worthy opponent. The pair begin fighting one another and inadvertently cause the death of Shibui Tomonoshina, the magistrate's son. For this crime, they are to be executed. With help from Fuu, they are able to escape execution. In return, Fuu asks them to travel with her to find "the samurai who smells of sunflowers".
Setting and style
Samurai Champloo employs a blend of historical Edo-period backdrops with modern styles and references. The show relies on factual events of Edo-era Japan, such as the Shimabara Rebellion ("Unholy Union"; "Evanescent Encounter, Part I"); Dutch exclusivity in an era in which an edict restricted Japanese foreign relations ("Stranger Searching"); ukiyo-e paintings ("Artistic Anarchy"); and fictionalized versions of real-life Edo personalities like Mariya Enshirou and Miyamoto Musashi ("Elegy of Entrapment, Verse 2"). The content and accuracy of the historical content is often distorted via artistic license.
Historical context and Western influence
Samurai Champloo contains many scenes and episodes relating to historical occurrences in Japan's Edo period. In episode 5 ("Artistic Anarchy"), Fuu is kidnapped by the famous ukiyo-e painter Hishikawa Moronobu, a figure prominent in the Edo period's art scene. Episode 23 ("Baseball Blues") pits the main characters in a baseball game against Alexander Cartwright and a team of American baseball players trying to declare war on Japan. As for Western influences, the opening of the show as well as many of the soundtracks are influenced by hip hop. In episode 5, Vincent van Gogh is referenced at the end in relation to Hishikawa Moronobu's ukiyo-e paintings. A hip hop singer challenges the main characters in episode 8 ("The Art of Altercation") and uses break dance throughout. In episode 18 ("War of the Words"), graffiti tagging, a culturally Western art form, is performed by characters as an artistic expression and form of writing. The ending of the episode has Mugen writing his name on the roof of Hiroshima Castle, the palace of the daimyō in Edo Japan.