kate_nepveu: Fuu, Jin, and Mugen looking down, seen from below against sky (Samurai Champloo)

Now that I've seen the entire series, I feel the need to say something about it that doesn't have to be hidden behind spoiler cuts. So:

Samurai Champloo is a 26-episode anime by Shinichiro Watanabe, the director of Cowboy Bebop, set in a deliberately anachronistic Edo-era Japan. It shares some similarities with Bebop, but I like it much better, for reasons I will get to shortly.

This is basically a trio road trip. Fuu is a teenaged girl, bubbly but not brainless, who has been marking time since her mother died. Jin is a cool controlled ronin; Mugen is a quick-tempered smartass from a prison colony. One day Jin and Mugen crash into Fuu's life, wreck the tearoom where she works, and get sentenced to execution; Fuu rescues them and makes them come with her on a quest to find a samurai who smells of sunflowers. They travel, they snark at each other, they fight a whole lot of people in both silly and serious circumstances, they deal with backstory, and they quietly, in small ways, grow up.

(My cold-addled brain has just tossed up a comparison between Mugen and Jayne from Firefly; which would make Jin = Zoe, I think, and Fuu = Kaylee, more or less. Probably less. Bad brain, no biscuit.)

Its similarities with Bebop are in the mixing of backstory exploration with lighter episodes, the riffing on genres, and the uneasy partnerships among the main characters as they travel together. Here's why I like Champloo better than Bebop:

  1. Lower expectations. I'd heard a lot about Bebop before I watched it, and ended up not finding those expectations fulfilled, which made me cranky.
  2. Just as importantly: No Faye or Ed. It's hard to really love a series when you can't stand half of the main characters. In contrast, I like all three of Champloo's main characters.
  3. The quest format. The series benefits by the characters having a goal, as it provides more coherence and direction; a very loose direction at times, but I was always aware of it.
  4. A somewhat less uneven tone. I ended up being annoyed by the disjunct between Bebop's silly filler episodes and angsty backstory episodes. There are certainly some very silly Champloo episodes, but the episodes on the first DVD have enough seriousness mixed in (particularly the deaths of some people who I rather sympathized with) that they established a sort of middle baseline, from which I found it easier to go silly or harsh.

This is a series that rather grew on me; I started out with very low expectations, and found myself liking it more and more as I watched. It doesn't have the depth of Fullmetal Alchemist—or, if it does, it's in cultural commentary (particularly though not exclusively via its hip-hop anachronisms), which I don't have enough context to really recognize. But the characters and the inventive energy of it kept me watching.

[ETA: that is, I suspect it of cultural commentary on present-day Japan. The series explicitly considers cultural changes of the late Edo period: the decline of the samurai, the rise of the shogunate, and the influence of the West, particularly Christianity.]

The major episodes, after the first few, are: 13 and 14, "Misguided Miscreants"; 16 and 17, "Lullabies of the Lost"; 20 and 21, "Elegy of Entrapment"; and 24-26, "Evanescent Encounter." Exceedingly skippable episodes are: 12, "The Disorder Diaries," which is just a recap of the series to date in the form of Fuu's diary; and 22 and 23, "Cosmic Collisions" and "Baseball Blues," which apparently take place in an alternate universe where the writers were smoking the really, really good crack. Otherwise there's ongoing plot and character development scattered throughout, so that I'd have to re-watch all of them to further refine which you could safely skip.

This is airing on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block; all of the DVDs are available from NetFlix. A very thorough fan site is Amalgam.

kate_nepveu: Fuu, Jin, and Mugen looking down, seen from below against sky (Samurai Champloo)

We watched the end of Samurai Champloo last night. I don't know if I can drag anything coherent out of my restless, short-attention-span, cold-addled brain, but I'll give it a shot.

Spoilers for the entire series, obviously.

Samurai Champloo, end-of-series spoilers )

kate_nepveu: Fuu, Jin, and Mugen looking down, seen from below against sky (Samurai Champloo)

The thoughts at the top of my mind after watching. Spoilers for episodes 21-23 of Samurai Champloo:

spoilers )

kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

Too tired for an actual post, so have icons and links instead. The Samurai Champloo ones are dead simple, but I'm pleased with the Saiyuki Gaiden butterfly ones; they aren't fancy either, but I did a fair bit of cleanup on the images, since the originals weren't scans but pictures of the book being held open. For public use with credit to me; a comment to say you're taking is nice too.

six new icons )

Link dump:

  • [livejournal.com profile] ajhalluk reviews Brokeback Mountain from a different perspective than any review I've seen:

    . . . the sheep make their first appearance, and very scary this is, too, for anyone who knows anything about sheep. [livejournal.com profile] sollersuk is Welsh, and I grew up on the fringe of the Lake District, so both of us can reasonably be said to have a reasonable familiarity with sheep - in fact, there's probably ewe in our mitochondrial DNA, and both of us concluded that them there sheep were not natural (and, in parathesis, I think a director whose pacing is such as to leave members of the audience discussing whether the sheep are OOC is getting something seriously wrong).

    (I haven't seen it; I don't like downer movies, basically.)

  • Slate cooks the NYT's no-white-sauce macaroni and cheese and concludes it's not all that; I'm pleased to hear it, because I thought it sounded weird when I read the article. (My baked mac & cheese uses [livejournal.com profile] papersky's non-roux method for cheese sauce, though with different proportions (1/4 cup each of flour and butter; 2 cups each of milk, cheese, pasta (before cooking).)
  • Scientist jokes at Uncertain Principles: physicist, engineer, and mathematician variants in comments, and mostly physicist in another post.
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

Last weekend, I got most of my Christmas shopping done and saw Rent (ridiculously long post on that forthcoming). (We still have to see the new Harry Potter movie, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and so forth, but I figured that they'd be in theaters a lot longer than Rent.) I finished the rest of my shopping today, then went into work and cleared up a bunch of stuff while checking the Patriots-Bills score online (go, Pats, even if the Bills aren't very good).

Yesterday, we went to our first event of the season, a Physics Department party. That was fun, and started and ended early, so we got home in time to decorate the tree we'd bought earlier in the day. It looks lovely, even if Chad was disappointed by my refusal to follow his family tradition of examining every tree in the lot minutely and agonizing over them (actually, it occurs to me that they treat trees the way I treat, say, shoes, or suits). I was minorly disappointed that all the baked mac & cheese we brought got eaten—I'd been hoping for leftovers—but I am flattered (also, there were a lot of kids there, and it's a very safe food for them. Have to remember that for the future.).

In household news, our roof has been fixed. Actually it was mostly fixed before we even noticed—this is what happens when you come home in the dark, you don't see the new roof until the next morning. We'll have to get the plaster in the entryway repaired too, but that can wait until after the holidays.

I also made peposa in the crockpot last week, a good winter dish; the recipe and notes follow. peppery beef stew )

In DVDs, we watched the first two discs of Samurai Champloo. Surprisingly, I'm enjoying this a lot; I had basically no expectations, unlike Cowboy Bebop, and so far the tone is more consistent too. It is silly, with just enough seriousness to keep it from floating away; the snark amuses me, and you know I love Jin. (The first disc was somewhat distracting; I don't know if any of the voice actors are actually the same as Cowboy Bebop, but I kept hearing them as such. This passed fairly quickly.)

Oh, and the preview on disc one for the Saiyuki Reload anime was absolutely hilairious. It was just a sequence of character poses, without (I think) a single word of dialogue; I can't imagine that it would sell a single person on it who didn't already know the story. Well, I'd heard the anime was terrible anyway, and that preview certainly didn't make me doubt that opinion.

We're also watching season one of HBO's The Wire, which is well-done but not entirely my kind of thing. However, so far there have been two great scenes that entirely justify the series' existence, the chess explanation from the drug dealer to the pawns low-level flunkies ("the king, he stay the king"), and the working of a cold murder scene conducted solely in variants of "fuck."

Finally, I don't think I actually want an Avenging Unicorn, but the idea really amuses me.

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