The Complete Guide to Anachronisms in Samurai Champloo--
Cosmic Collisions

Let's start with the biggie...
Zombies. Right. THE most bizarre anachronism in the entirety of Champloo, in my experienced opinion. --Although the venom of the deadly Japanese fugu ("pufferfish") is frequently quoted as an ingredient in zombie-making potions-- and there are cases of people eating improperly prepared fugu who fell into a deathlike sleep for several days and then returned to life--there is absolutely no tradition of zombies in Japanese folklore. None: neither the traditional Haitian "walking-dead slave" nor the film-style "cannibal corpse". Shige's flesh-eating revenant laborers are a wild combination of 20th Century American film zombies of the "Night of the Living Dead" school, genuine traditions about the restless spirits of the Heike/Taira warriors, and the modern-day use of zombies in Japanese plays and fiction as a metaphor for the cost of forgetting the lessons of the past and of past wars, especially World War II.

--If you haven't, please go back to the Episode Guide summary for this episode and read the footnotes.

The two zombies called "Sabini" and "Upa" [image above] bear a very close resemblance to famed horror-film professionals Tom Savini (makeup and special effects whiz who has worked on many zombie projects including "Dawn of the Dead" and "Land of the Dead"), and Tobe Hooper (renowned director of cannibalism classic "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and many more--note the saw-bladed weapon this zombie carries).

--We're still unraveling the complicated in-joke involving the well-known freelance writer and videogame designer Shigesato Itoi. (He's connected to anime through his extensive work as a copywriter for Miyazawa's Studio Ghibli; he even did a character voice in "My Neighbor Totoro".) Itoi, creator of several popular games including the runaway Japanese hit series Mother and EarthBound, has apparently sunk a large sum of money into excavating the legendary Tokugawa treasure, a horde of gold which legend says is buried under Mount Ikagi. His excavation has so far failed (at least, as far as we've heard) and made Itoi the brunt of jokes on Japanese comedy programs. (The game EarthBound, one might mention, begins with a giant meteor crashing near the hero's house--actually an alien vehicle--and involves the discovery of a fabulous but deadly golden statue buried under the house as well..)

And just to get every one of the probable jokes in, Gecko adds: "This episode takes place in the vicinity of Asahi, which just so happens to be the place where the meteor came to earth and triggered off lots of zombies in the Guitar Wolf movie Wild Zero (2000). Coincidence? Somehow I don't think so…."

Shige's line to our trio about the whereabouts of the treasure-- "I can tell you only that it exists exactly. Therefore I can't tell you that it doesn't." (Aru to shika ienai. Dakara koso nai to ii kire nai. ) is a direct quote from Shigesato Itoi in reference to the Tokugawa treasure, and the name " Shige" could very well be a reference to him also.
As Itoi is well known to be a huge fan of the Beatles and 1960s rock music, he may even have some bearing on the appearance of Shige, who many have noted has a "rock star" presence and attitude, and whose haircut and biwa lute give him a particular resemblance to the late Rolling Stones' founder Brian Jones.

(images right==> Brian and Shige.)

Fuu quoting the newspaper horoscope. Edo apparently did have newspapers of a sort, but we found no evidence they contained horoscopes or fortunes (or even advertising). "A long tradition of news publication existed in Japan in the form of yomiuri (“sell and read,” as the papers were sold by reading them aloud) or kawara-ban (“tile-block printing,” the method of production). The kawara-ban broadsheets appeared continuously throughout the Tokugawa period (1603–1867), reporting popular festivals, personal scandals—-notably the double suicides then fashionable… Kawara-ban were one-off fact sheets reporting a particular event two or three days later, often as a way of making a bit of extra money for the printer. They would be posted on a wall or fence for common perusal. [As we see in ep. 1, with the news of Jin and Mugen's pending execution, and in ep. 10 with the news of the tsugiri and the reward for him. Hmm..scandals and murders eh? maybe appearances of the infamous Thousand-Man-Killer?...] The only other news media at the time was the town crier. --- What could be called the first newspaper appeared much later--in 1850--in weekly form, made up largely of translations from Dutch newspapers--the Dutch being the only foreigners permitted to trade in Japan, albeit from their base on an offshore island. In spite of carrying little local news, [this newspaper] was snapped up by a populace that had till then been denied knowledge of almost anything deemed foreign."

The Eclectic Astrology message board says: " is almost certain that newspaper horoscopes are very much a twentieth century invention. In the US, Evangeline Adams (1865-1932) is generally regarded as the first newspaper columnist, as well as being a serious practioner. Her columns and articles ran during the last thirty years of her life....It was primarily [the 1930s magazine] "American Astrology" that brought about the popularity of daily and/or weekly astrological horoscope columns, with readings of the twelve signs, to appear in the newspapers and periodicals throughout the United States and Europe."

So while the kawara-ban counted as newspapers, and are the direct ancestors of really lurid tabloids, horoscopes appear to be no-- from what we can find they appeared in the West, and spread East only after WWII.

Shige's dowsing rods. The use of dowsing to find something underground is not at all anachronistic; it's what Shige uses that puts this one on the list. Zantetsuken reports: "The use of dowsing tools goes back in China to at least 2500 years ago, 4000+ in Egypt. No idea if they were used in ancient Japan, but being in China that early I'd think it likely. Traditionally, pendulums and forked rods ("Y-rods") appear to be the oldest forms: note the Chinese rods were of the forked variety. ---What Shige is using, however, is called an "L-rod" or "resonator" (occasionally refered to as a "Spanish rod"--leads me to wonder if we've another reference to the Portuguese here) and a suspiciously modern looking metal example (go to, about 2/3 of the way down page--labeled "deluxe swing rod") L-rods are the preferred tool when you're looking for something deep underground--something that frequently isn't water. They're typically made from a coat hanger or braising rod. Frequently used in searches that are concerned with locating linear features such as water veins, energy lines or archaeological features, underground pipes and streams, etc. they're helpful when covering any distance out of doors. The military also uses L-rods to find hidden mines, and they have, indeed, been used by seekers of buried treasure. I have been unable to find info of the date of origin of the L-rod, but considering the earliest seem to be made out of coat hangers..." (The invention of the wire coat hanger is attributed to the American Albert J. Parkhouse, in 1903; they may have gotten to the east as early as 1906, but no sooner.)

Shige's helmet. Anachronistic not for the series but for the character wearing it. It's a jingasa (the word "jingasa" literally means "war hat"), a common samurai accoutrement of the Edo Period. Lots more about the different styles with pictures at this site: Jingasa Samurai Hats. --Note that Shige's is decorated, as was indeed the custom, with the heraldic butterfly mon of his alleged clan, the Heike/Taira. However, if Shige does indeed come from the time period of the Ginpei Wars, this Edo-style accessory is unlikely on him.

(This does raise the question: how far out-of-time is Shige himself? Even though not Heike, he is a zombie, and he's angrily taken aback when Fuu tells him the truth about the era he's in. How old is he? What's the source of his powers? How did he become an undead and why is he fixated on the Heike/Taira treasure? Exactly what sort of mushrooms have these people been eating?....)

And speaking of mushrooms...

Enough said.

--Go back to Compete Guide to Anachronisms main page.