SC FAQ--Some Frequently Asked Champloo Questions

((c) 2005, Paula O'Keefe, based on characters owned by Manglobe/Shimoigusa Champloos)
=+=====Revised and updated July 2012=====+=

This is going to be a slightly different FAQ--instead of just a general listing of info about the show, I'm going to address what I've actually found to be the most often-asked questions so far. So this will be a fairly short list to begin with, but should grow with time =)

Q: What does "champloo" mean?
A: Champloo, also spelled Champuru, is an Okinawan word meaning "mixed up" or "stirred together". It's usually applied to a kind of stir-fry dish, but in a more general sense it's used to mean "improvised, made up as you go along". In the context of the show it's probably intended to evoke the sampled, scratched sound of hip-hop music and the show's own combination of old, new and invented elements into an entirely original whole.

It's also been pointed out (by takkun) that the titles "Cowboy Bebop" and "Samurai Champloo" are exact counterparts to each other. Both "cowboy" and "samurai" are romantic, solitary warrior figures with a strong mystique and mythology attached to them; "bebop" is a form of jazz music characterized by improvisation and free-form experimentation with much importance given to the player's individual style, and "champloo", as described above, has a lot to do with improvising and mix-and-matching disparate elements into a new creation.

Q: What's this I keep hearing about a second season of Samurai Champloo? Aren't there only 26 episodes?
A: Yes, there are only 26 episodes and no more to come. However, all the official sources, including the series' Japanese homepage, press releases, and Fuji TV's advertising at the time, have consistently referred to episodes 18-26 as the Second Season--this can be seen even in the prelude to Episode 18 itself.

Basically it went like this: Fuji TV, as co-producer of the show, had the right to air SC both on its network station, Fuji TV, and on its satellite channel, BS Fuji (Broadcast Satellite Fuji). Fuji TV aired the first episode on May 20, 2004. When they reached episode 17 (September 23), they announced that they were dropping the show from the network station (leading to a flurry of panicky anime forum posts worldwide about the show's "cancellation") and switching it to the satellite channel, basically equivalent to a show moving from network TV to cable here in the US. Unfortunately, this meant that SC restarted with Episode 1 on BS Fuji, and we had to wait seventeen weeks while the satellite channel re-aired all the episodes before finally beginning new shows--with Ep. 18--on January 22, 2005. (Since, as we mentioned, Fuji is a co-producer of the show, and since almost an exactly identical course was followed by Cowboy Bebop in its initial TV run, one must wonder if this hadn't been the plan all along.)
At any rate, it's probably (a) the switch in on-air venues, and (b) the over-three-month break between segments of the season, that led to the official designation of Episodes 1-17 as the First Season and 18-26 as the Second Season. Don't believe anyone who thinks this means more episodes are being made and tries to convince you of it. Sorry, it's done.

For a more detailed breakdown of the series' broadcast history, look here: Champloo TV Timeline.

Q: What is the piece of music played in episode 14 while Mugen is having his near-drowning experience? Where can I get it?
A: That is "Obokuri-Eeumi" (Babel Fish translation: "Obtain Bearing"), performed by traditional Okinawan singer Ikue Asazaki, from her 2002 album "Utabautayun" (Babel Fish translation: "Morning Promontory"). It became an instant favorite of Champloo fans when the episode was aired and has been made available as a sound file through various fan forums; it may be again at any time. However, we do honestly recommend that you buy the album, which is all just as hauntingly beautiful as "Obokuri-Eeumi". It can be found through a number of online music dealers, including CD Japan (they have the best price), Amazon Japan, HMV Japan and elsewhere. It has not appeared on any of the Champloo soundtrack albums, and it probably will not do so in future.

Or, if you'd just like to hear it again by itself, here you go.

Q: OK then, what about the piece of music played in Episode 11 when Jin and Shino are escaping to the river?

A: We have finally answered this question!! Our friend and Champloo music expert Silent_Edge on 13 Nov. 07 wrote: "I'm proud to say that on the HydeOut Productions: 2nd Collection, track 6 entitled 'Counting Stars', is officially the mystery track on episode 11. My work is done." ---hydeout productions is a project headed by Nujabes, co-creator of the Champloo OST album Departure. Buy it thru Amazon Japan: hydeout productions 2nd Collection.

Q: That conversation between Jin and Fuu by the riverside in episode 24...what's that all about?

A: Second to the Ep. 11 music query above, THE most asked question in Champloo history to date. There are many, many theories about this cryptic little chat. I personally think that, though it might lead one to think Fuu is trying to make an emotional choice between Jin and Mugen, this can't be so, since there's simply nothing in the series anywhere else that points to it. But we have no way to know, so your guess will always be as good as mine.

My guess, if you'd like to hear it--though it took me a year to come up with it--is simple: by the time Jin finds her, Fuu has already made up her mind to leave them and go on alone, which she does in the next episode. That's why she seems so wistful, that's why she tells Jin she's sorry, that's why she doesn't want to discuss any future plans or concerns of Jin's: she believes that by this time tomorrow they'll be separated for good. She knows it will hurt them, and she's sorry, but she's made her decision. I think this is the simplest explanation that fits all the facts and doesn't go out of character for anyone, and as far as I'm concerned, I'm sticking with it.

Q: What time period is the show set in?
A:From Newtype, October 2003, article/interview with series director/creator Shinichiro Watanabe:
"The show is set during the Edo era some 60 years after the confusion of civil war lifted. But forget the historical details. Think of it basically like some period in time 60 years after the end of a war."

What's referred to as the Civil War period in Japan is (obviously) not the age of the American Civil War, but the Sengoku Jidai or "Warring States Era". The latest generally listed date for the ending of the Sengoku Jidai is 1615; it spanned through the middle 15th to the early 17th centuries. It started in the late Muromachi period in 1467 with the Onin War (Onin no Ran 1467-1478), lasting through the entire Azuchi-Momoyama period, until final peace and order was achieved in 1615 of the Edo period.
SO: We can pretty safely assume that Champloo is meant to be taking place in roughly 1675. Not (evidently) quite the 1675 we know here, but some other "alternate reality" 1675, where police palanquins have flashing lights on top, and baseball has popped into existence a bit early. --Or, in other words, approximately a hundred years after the time of Inuyasha. =)

Q: "But that's what I was asking about!" cries Confused Viewer. "If it's the 1600s, what's with the breakdancing moves and guys beatboxing? And Jin's fancy glasses, and the yakuza guy's Oakley shades, and..."
A: OK, CV, take a deep breath. These details are anachronisms: things deliberately shown in a time period at which they didn't exist. Anachronism is at the very core of Champloo's "everything old is new again" spirit, and many, many examples of it will appear. There's still more than enough solid evidence and historical detail in the series--even beyond Watanabe-sensei's statement above--to set the series solidly in the late 1600s, so the mental trick is to accept that while still being able to roll with the appearance of these anachronistic oddities. Many of us think that's the fun part. =)

If you'd like a crash course in the out-of-their-time elements of the show, we have it right here:
Dating Champloo.
The Complete Guide to Anachronisms in Samurai Champloo.

Q: The show's called "Samurai Champloo," so both Jin and Mugen must be samurai. Right?
A: Sorry, wrong. Jin is (formerly), but Mugen definitely isn't.

One of the commonest mistakes in anime fandom is the assumption that any swordsman can be referred to as a samurai. The word has nothing to do with your fighting style, your appearance, or or your skill as a fighter. The samurai were a particular social class in Japanese society, a warrior nobility, and you had to be born into a noble samurai family to become a samurai (even women of such families were considered samurai to a degree, and were trained to fight; though they were more likely to learn the bow or the naginata--long lance--than the sword, there were noted female swordfighters as well). Samurai are often compared to European knights, and to some extent they are similar, but the crucial difference is that any warrior can distingush himself in battle and eventually be knighted, while no amount of brilliance on the battlefield can earn a non-noble the name of samurai. (The only time this was ever waived was in the period 1588-1591, when the shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi enacted two ordinances absolutely dividing the warrior and farmer classes. The part-time warriors called ashigaru, who fought with the bow and lance --later, the matchlock pistol--and were farmers when not at war, were redefined as warriors by these ordinances and thus entered the social class of samurai, even though not born there.)

Jin is certainly a samurai by birthright, made most clear by his daisho--set of two swords--which only members of that class were permitted to wear. His formal manners, dojo training, the family crest on his clothing, and even his expensive eyewear all suggest his origins in a noble family. Having become ronin, he has fallen in status and is not likely to regain full samurai standing, but is still permitted to wear the daisho which gives him some measure of respect. As for Mugen, he's just plain one of a kind. --Seriously, there's no way to call him a samurai. He's not even Japanese by birth, coming from Ryuukyuu, which was an independent kingdom at the time with much closer ties to China than to Japan. It's not an insult to him to say this and I'm sure he wouldn't take it that way, because it's just the same as telling him he's not an aristocrat, and he knows that =)

Q: So if a samurai can become a ronin, what's a ronin?
A: --Quick answer: A ronin is an unemployed samurai.
--Better answer: The term "ronin" means a samurai without a master to serve, that is, one not presently employed by the household of a ruler or lord. This is more than just being out of work: the importance of service and loyalty was so deeply engrained in the bushido philosophy that being masterless was not only a drop in status but a deeply distressing experience, as can be guessed from the literal translation of the word "ronin" (literally "wave men"/ "men of the wave"; "men without direction or home, tossed about like a leaf on the sea"). However, even an unemployed samurai has noble status and is entitled to be recognized as such, hence the existence of the ronin title; in fact several famous samurai --including Sekiun Hiragaya, the founder of the Mujuushin Kenjutsu school--remained ronin all their lives. This is pointed out in the opening scene of episode 1: though Jin and Mugen are both wandering, freelance swordsmen, Jin is still plainly a former samurai and so is referred to as a ronin, while Mugen, who has no discernable status or social class, is simply an armed vagrant.

Q: Didn't the same director who does this show also work on "Cowboy Bebop" and "Wolf's Rain"?
A: Cartoon Network started this one by putting that "from the Creators of Cowboy Bebop" banner on their trailers for "Wolf's Rain"; they'll pay big karma points for that fib somewhere down the line. It is true that Shinichiro Watanabe was the director of "Cowboy Bebop" and should be regarded as the creator of that classic series, and of Champloo. However, Watanabe did NOT work in any capacity on "Wolf's Rain" and had nothing to do with it whatever. The series creator of "Wolf's Rain" is Keiko Nobumoto, also screenplay writer for the Bebop series and movie, and WR's director is Tensai Okamura, whose closest affiliation with Bebop is having directed one segment in the Bebop feature film "Knockin' on Heaven's Door".

For the record, here's a rundown of who did what:

Worked on both Bebop and WR:
Tensai Okamura (Bebop (see above)--movie only; WR--director/storyboards/continuity)
Keiko Nobumoto (Bebop--screenplay; Bebop movie--screenplay; WR--series creator/screenplay/scriptwriter)
Toshihiro Kawamoto (Bebop and WR--character design; Bebop movie--storyboards; WR--animation director)
Atsushi Morikawa (Bebop--art director, movie only; WR--art director)
Dai Sato (Bebop--scriptwriter/stage setting; WR--screenplay)
Masahiko Minami (both--producer)

Worked on both Bebop and Champloo:
Shinichiro Watanabe (Bebop and Champloo--director; Bebop--scriptwriter)
Dai Sato (Bebop--scriptwriter/stage setting; Champloo--scriptwriter)

Writer Dai Sato is the only principal to work on all three series.

--I have rec'd a note from one "duckroll" who argues that this is incorrect: that in fact Nobumoto-san, as screenplay writer, should be credited as the true creator of Bebop, and furthermore that "Wolf's Rain" has more claim to be described as "from the creators of Cowboy Bebop" than Champloo has, since WR shares more creative entities with Bebop than SC does, including the same screenplay writer. I respect this person's ideas, but I believe our dispute hinges on a difference of opinion as to who is the real "creator" of a movie or series. It is the opinion of this website and its writers that a director with as distinct a vision and style as Watanabe, which pervades and gives form to the entire production, deserves primary creator credit on his projects, just as has long been the tradition in live-action film; and that "Wolf's Rain" cannot be properly considered as "from the creators of Bebop" without his input. (The email I get testifies that this is a common feeling: many people made the assumption that Watanabe must be the director of WR after seeing Cartoon Network's trailers.) --However, if we have understated Nobumoto-san's contribution to "Cowboy Bebop", we apologize, and hope the updated information above gives her the credit she deserves.

Q: What was the DVD release schedule for this show in America?
A: The complete series has now been released on DVD in the USA. The first English dubbed DVD, Volume 01, containing episodes 1-4, went on sale in the USA on January 11th, 2005. The release schedule for the remaining six discs in the set was:

Volume 02--March 29, 2005
Volume 03--May 31, 2005
Volume 04--July 2005
Volume 05--September 2005
Volume 06--November 2005
Volume 07--January 2006

Q: Can we see it on American TV?
Not at present. Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block acquired the US broadcast rights to Champloo in January 2005; its debut USA airing ran from May 2005 to March 2006. (--for details on why it took ten months to run a 26-episode series through just once, see Champloo TV Timeline link above.)
Despite everyone's fondest wishes and hopes for subtitles, the version aired is Geneon's (actually pretty dandy!) English dub.

The license has lapsed, but I believe you can still see all the episodes on YouTube, on FUNImation's website, and elsewhere online. ---more to come---

--Go back to Amalgam main page.