The Complete Guide to Anachronisms in Samurai Champloo--
Evanescent Encounter (parts 1-3)

Episodes 24/25/26: Evanescent Encounter (parts 1-3):

Very little here and most of it hardware:
Umanosuke's chain scythe.

This nasty item is essentially the on-steroids version of a standard ninja weapon, the Kusari-gama (see picture)-- in this case, a Kusari-gama with the chain attached to the blade instead of the hilt, and seemingly spring loaded (if not downright rocket-launched) so that the blade can both be fired and retracted with great force. I think it is perfectly reasonable to say that no such thing existed in Edo Japan. (and I don't think there's enough room in the shaft for all that chain, either...)

(Footnote 2007:--It's since come to my attention that there are similarities between this and the weapon used by Sha Gojyo of the long-running Saiyuki anime. Based on a Chinese polearm called a yueyachan ("moon-tooth spade", also known as a Shaolin spade or monk's spade), Gojyo's weapon has cutting blades on both ends, one of which--unlike a real yueyachan, but quite like Umanosuke's scythe--is attached to an outlandish amount of chain supposedly concealed inside the shaft and can both fire and retract with considerable force. Saiyuki has been around in manga form since 1997 and as an anime since 1999, so it's not impossible that this device caught the eye of the Champloo artists-- it's certainly as impossible as Umanosuke's!--but that's only an idle speculation, no more.)

Denkibou's metal claws.

Looks like it might be anachronistic, but I'm not 100% sure. Essentially it's another ninja weapon--Iga ninja, to be exact--called a tekko-kagi. Worn on the back of the hand, just as this set is. (Likely the inspiration for Wolverine's.) However, I do not know that tekko-kagi were ever made with folding claws like these; the only examples I can find images of look to have been cast in a single piece. So I'll tentatively say these are probably anachronistic; they're based on something of the time, but their technology may be too extreme for the Edo Period.

That heavy-artillery wheelchair.

That there's a wheelchair here at all is not anachronistic. The earliest known image of a wheelchair appears on a Chinese sarcophagus from the 6th Century (what didn't the Chinese have first?), and in the 16th Century King Philip of Spain used an elaborate custom rolling chair. Moreover, this one is plainly made of wood. The design is probably too advanced for the time --this looks like the ones built in the U.K. in the 18th century--but if it were just a wheelchair, it wouldn't be impossible. I can even excuse the amount of storage space under the seat and in the hollow arm, since those could, after all, be used for innocent purposes. However: the gun mounted in the armrest definitely takes it out of the "nothing unusual for the time" category. Again, like his brothers' weaponry, Toube's chair is a plausible device amped into implausibility.

"I got in an argument and killed this weird old guy..."

The man Mugen killed was Mito Komon, the star of the longest-running TV show in Japanese history, which began in 1969 and is still running in 2005, after more than 1000 episodes. Though a fictional character, Komon is based on a real person, Tokugawa Ieyasu's grandson Tokugawa Mitsukuni (1628-1700). The real Mitsukuni was the lord of Mito Province (now Ibaraki prefecture), a reclusive scholar best known for the amount of research he contributed to a very important and influential history, the Dai-Nihon-Shi ("Great History of Japan"). He was called by his literary pen-name, Komon ("yellow gate")--hence "Mito Komon". His fictional counterpart travels the country in the guise of a retired merchant, giving him regular reasons to right wrongs and aid the oppressed. The signature moment of every episode, apparently, comes near the end, when in the middle of a violent struggle with the villain of the week, Komon's attendants interrupt to flash in the evil-doer's face their master's inro--a lacquered case bearing the Tokugawa crest (just as happens in the story Mugen recounts)-- and proclaim that the man he's fighting is none other than the current Shogun's uncle, Lord Mitsukuni of Mito. ("Hikae! Kono mondokoro ga me ni hairan ka?" "Down! Can you not see this emblem?")--Normally, the villains realize they're in deep trouble and surrender at once. But not our Mugen...

Fron "During the latter half of the Edo period and the Meiji period, a kodan (narrative tale) named "Mito Mitsukuni Man'yuki" fictionalized the travels of Tokugawa Mitsukuni. This tradition of dramatizing his life continued with a novel and, in 1951, the first television series to portray him as a wanderer, masquerading as a commoner, who castigated the evil powers in every corner of the nation. [There have been several Komon TV series.]--the series "Mito Komon" ...continues to attract audiences in 2005."

The joke here, of course, is that the real Tokugawa Mitsukuni is alive at the time of Champloo, but is pretty certainly not roaming the countryside as an avenging folk hero--he didn't acquire that alter-ego until rather later on. So it's the fictional Komon that Mugen met and killed--the one from the TV series--not the real person, though he and Mugen actually co-exist. An absolute beauty of an anachronism. =)

More at this link, including a shot of the inro used in the show: Mito Komon.
Wikipedia page on Tokugawa Mitsukuni.

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