Ross founded the UK Anime Network back in 1995 and works in and around the anime industry.
Samurai Champloo Vol. 3-5
It seems like an age since I last sat down to watch this series, and getting re-acquainted with the cast, it really does seem like too long. The tale of wandering Samurai's Jin and Mugen, and their quest to find the Samurai who smells of sunflowers in order to repay a debt to cute and precocious teen Fuu is never anything less than utterly beautiful.
The stylised designs and jaunty direction create a cracking pace, but it's the writing that really excels. Always tightly plotted and with minimal filler, Samurai Champloo unveils each mystery with a distinctly emotional undercurrent, despite the occasional "modern" flourish. Unlike Otogi Zoshi, which sticks doggedly to period detail, Samurai Champloo is more concerned with capturing the feel of the times, and is far more accessible for it.
The tales are also splendidly diverse. Each disc contains several stand out episodes, with my personal favourite found on disc 3, entitled Gamblers and Gallantry. Jin befriends a woman whose husband has a gambling problem, and is sold into prostitution to cover her husband's debts. The tale is told at a languid pace, but is beautifully realised and very moving.
Surprisingly across the 5 discs we've had so far, there has only been one clip show, cleverly framed in a sub-story involving Fuu's diary - this kind of inventive storytelling really saves the episode, and by God could Wolf's Rain learn a thing or two from this show!
The battles, when they come, are superbly choreographed and a pure joy to watch. With Mugen's breakdance style fighting and Jin's lightning fast and studied style, there's plenty of variety, and no shortage of opponents.
As a distinctly Japanese series with action as well as genuine laughs, Champloo could be just what you're looking for.
Apart from the clean opening and closing animations, absoloutely nothing.
Intelligent, witty and action packed. What more could you ask for?