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Samurai Champloo - volume three

voice cast: Ayako Kawasumi, and Ginpei Sato

director: Shinichirô Watanabe

100 minutes (15) 2004
MVM DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
Hip-hop and samurais don't seem to mix at first glance. However, this slick, funny series manages to combine the irreverence and cool of rap with historical drama in a way that is both unique and very entertaining.

Volume three opens 30 years in the future with a border guard, on the verge of retirement, remembering the day that his post let anyone and everyone through unchallenged. Needless to say our heroes are involved, and the story then flashes back to show how they end up causing this chaos. Having been sold a fake travel permit and then been arrested for it, our heroes are faced with a choice. Get executed on the spot or, if Mugen can deliver a message and return before sunset, go free. Of course, there is the small point of the bandits who live in the woods...

Following this, Lethal Lunacy sees the three penniless and homeless until a local priest offers to put them up. Whilst Jin and Fuu are glad of the roof over their heads and the food in their bellies, Mugen quickly bores of the whole thing and becomes interested by a murderer preying on the locals. Able to kill without breaking the skin, he's terrorised local samurais and, when Jin discovers the link between the killer and their host, Mugen decides to collect the bounty on his head. Both these episodes neatly balance character development and humour with some fantastic action scenes, in particular the brutal fight between Mugen and the killer that closes Lethal Lunacy.

Gamblers And Gallantry focuses on the quiet, studious Ed as he strikes up a friendship with a young woman being sold into prostitution to pay off her husband's debts. His quiet determination to help her costs the three almost all their savings and drives a wedge between them, but he persists and the end result is a story that is poignant and sweet natured without ever seeming forced. The final scene is a perfect character moment, underplayed and all the more affecting for that.

Finally, The Disorder Diaries sees the three finally catching a break. As Fuu relaxes at a local hot spring, Jin and Mugen decide to read her diary and the resulting story acts as the series' own take on that old TV staple; the clip show. Whilst it serves as little more than a recap of the series to date, it's easily the funniest episode on this volume. Fuu's wry observations (she gets kidnapped, a lot and has started to notice this) are neatly balanced by Mugen's rage at what she's written about him and the final joke in particular is fantastic. It doesn't accomplish much as a story but it's still hugely entertaining.

Smart, funny and action-packed Samurai Champloo is one of the strongest anime series available. Great fun and well worth your time.

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