The Complete Guide to Anachronisms in Samurai Champloo--
Stranger Searching/ Redheaded Foreigner

Episode 6: Stranger Searching/ Redheaded Foreigner:

A few elements that I can spot: plus additions below.

1: As in the first and a few other episodes, scene transitions are handled in a hip-hop "scratched" style.

2: The running commentary at the eating contest, certainly intended to echo sports broadcasting and Iron Chef (which is so popular in Japan that the night's winner is covered in the next day's paper as if it were indeed a sports competition).

3: Tani Teshima suggests that the traveling dotted line on the map following the trio's road suggests a train or subway routemap.

4: Fuu's tanto charms:

This is the first episode to call attention to Fuu's sidearm, so it's a good chance to discuss it in detail. This cute pink tanto with its dangle of little ornaments is both Edo Period and 21st century; it's as decorated as any kid's backpack or cellphone on the DC Metro. Not only is the convention of "pink for girls" completely modern, but the decorating of one's portables with cute little dangles has only been a major craze in the past four years or so. [Peter Payne from Japan, however, points out an important historical precedent: the Japanese use of carved bone or wooden figures and charms called netsuke, which were traditionally used to secure the drawstring of a pouch holding money or valuables, dated to the 17th century. He writes: "..recast as cell phone straps (sutorappu, in Japanese), still called netsuke even though the function is quite different...(there are) a ton of these charms on Lucy Liu's character's phone in Kill Bill vol. 1. --You can see some examples of modern day netsuke here." --And some traditional netsuke here and here.]--- Plus, in a perfect new/old/new mixture, the red knot and tassel the charms are hung from is a completely traditional hanamusubi lucky charm, like the Chinese knots you see everywhere to this very day.
It's a safe bet that colored lacquer scabbards were made before the modern era, since lacquered decoration has been used in Japan for 4000+ years, but I do think we can safely call pink an anachronistic color for it; lacquer tends to be gold and vermilion red, not pastel. --though *ugh* even a brief stroll on eBay will show you the garishly colored "authentic samurai sword" sets one can buy today...

(BTW, this might be a good time to wonder out loud: the dice, we can assume, have something to do with Fuu-chan's proven skill in the gambling hall; the little skull is shrouded in mystery and portent, as seen in this same episode. What about the little animal? It seems to be a black-and-white dog,with lop ears and a short tail, and a collar. What's it mean? Why a dog? Will we ever know?)

==2010 update: Dee Anna Lau suggests that it may be an older style of maneki neko that is still seen "quite frequently around Japan. Here's an example at, [or it] might be a dog, like an inu hariko (pic at WasabiDou Antiques & Folk Crafts. Note their description mentions the popularity of these little dogs with travelers in the Edo Period.) "The shape is the same style as the inu hariko, [but] I've seen that style used for all kinds of animals, so I thought it was a cat, b/c of the coloring. (Pic here: This is that rounded style..."

(Just as a side note: Pink, as a lighter shade of the strong masculine red, was a usual color for boys to wear (in the West, at least) until about late 1930s-early 1940s; blue was the feminine color, being considered more delicate, and also by association with the conventional depiction of the Virgin Mary in blue and white robes. The shift appears to have come dramatically after WWII, though apparently no one can link it to anything more definite than the Audrey Hepburn film "Funny Face". It's been speculated, though not documented, that the Nazi use of pink to denote male homosexuals derives from the intent to mark them as "watered-down men"--not masculine enough to wear pure red. Of course the red-fire-masc-yang vs. blue-water-fem-yin thing plays into Mugen and Jin's designs too, but that should be discussed elsewhere.)

--Jin's comment about being known as a guidebook to Edo is not an anachronism (a lie, yes; an anachronism, no =): the publishing of travel guides was a pretty big business. --JapPub, a very useful site about Edo and publishing/information/mail/advertising, etc., says this: "TOHKAIDOCYU HIZAKURIGE--Sight-seeing Information (Travel Guidebook). In order for people to travel without restrictions, a country must be peaceful and politically stable with no worry of war or invasion from other countries. The fact that traveling was very popular during the Edo period tends to show that this era was very peaceful and politically stable. During the development of the city of Edo, large numbers of people visited the city from around the country. The city of Edo prepared many sight-seeing tours for all visitors, regardless of class. In those days, not only Edo, but other areas in Japan had famous sight-seeing spots and historical sites. .. Best-selling books served to heighten and enhance this traveling fever. One of those books was called the "Tohkaidochu Hizakurige" (See above) by Juppensha Ikku. This story tells about the travel of two men and their funny mistakes, unique customs and local dialects that they came across during the course of their travel. Also books about travel and travel guides like "EDO MEISHO ZUKAI" (Edo sight-seeing guide) and "MIYAKO MEISHO ZUKAI" (Capitol sight-seeing guide) accelerated the travel boom of this period." --once again, everything we think is new....

From VLN on the Adult Swim board: " 'Tamaya' is a famous fireworks shop back in the Edo period. Tamaya and Kagiya were the two biggest names in the industry, and that's why Japanese people today still call out "tamaya!" and "kagiya!" when they see fireworks in the sky (as the crowd does at the display in this episode). Kagiya, the first shop to mass produce fireworks in Japan, was founded in 1659 (already in the mid-1600s...), but it wasn't until 1751 that bottle-rocket-type fireworks or "uchiagehanabi" in Japanese were produced. as for Tamaya, it was founded in 1810. (1789 was apparently the year that the first-ever fireworks festival featuring uchiagehanabi took place.)"

Samurai chambara!--Isaac delightedly refers to the possibility of his witnessing a real sword fight with this phrase. Although I think it can be translated just as "swordplay", the term "chambara" generally refers to the genre of films and TV shows set in the Warring States Era (Sengoku Jidai) and featuring, like the present adventure, the exploits of samurai, ronin, ninja and the rest. The first such film, however, wasn't made until 1905...

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