Neko-san's Guide to the Characters of Samurai Champloo
Episodes 20 & 21--Elegy of Entrapment (verses 1 & 2)

(all text written by and property of Neko-san.
Any note you see in italics--like this one--is by me, Kyuketsuki/Paula, the proprietor of this site.)

Episodes 20 & 21--Elegy of Entrapment (verses 1 & 2)
This is my annotated character list for episodes 20-21. People are listed in order of appearance, with names (where given), first appearance, and significant details. Main characters are referred to as J, M, and F. I note their first appearance in the episode, but don't bother to gloss them. Unnamed flunkies are grouped together at the bottom.[Note: Many supporting characters' names are never given in the episode, but have been posted to the show's official website,, thanks to which they appear here.]

Sara—Beautiful goze' (blind shamisen player), deadly lance-wielding shogunate assassin, and single mother. Her shamisen has a charm of Kishibojin—-a female Buddhist deity who destroyed others’ children to protect her own, until shown the error of her ways. [Anyone who thinks this wasn’t deliberately done is on the wrong site.] Glimpsed briefly in the first shot of 20, playing the shamisen; we get a better look at her a few shots on, and hear her play and sing a sad tune. The trio is impressed by her skill, and after her set she sits down next to them. M’s offer of sake' is rebuffed as charity. A couple of toughs come over and threaten her for moving into their territory, but M makes short work of them, then tries to come on to Sara. [Note that J nods in agreement when M says he has an ulterior motive.] J and F forcefully register their disapproval.

It comes out in talking that they are traveling in the same direction, and Sara pays for their room and board in exchange for protection. The four of them travel together for what appears to be at least a few weeks, very contentedly. One day J comments on the charm, and Sara reveals that she has a child, born out of wedlock and taken from her because of her blindness. That night M tries to corner Sara in the hot spring of the inn, but she senses his presence and his plans [Such as they are…] are foiled. She says that being blind has not made her helpless or stupid, and that is why she hates pity. F is horrified to find them together, and M leaves to forestall further screeching. Sara asks F what M looks like, and she stutters that he’s awful. Later that night, in bed, F tells Sara about her quest to find her father, and Sara tells F that the child is a boy, and that she cannot do anything to get him back. She asks if F has ever considered giving up the quest (the answer is apparently yes), and which of the boys she would be willing to part with. F doesn’t really know what to say to that. The next day, she asks F to send one of the guys with her to find her child, and then asks M to pick out something for her son at the street fair. They have a conversation about M’s orphanhood, and she says they are alike in their discontent. In the morning, F picks J to go with her, because he’s less likely to be “interested” in her [—or in women, period]; he agrees, and they leave at sunset.

While crossing a rope bridge, Sara suddenly shoots the lantern from J’s hand, drops her luggage, and snaps the blades out of her staff. [Her weapon is a kama-yari, an ancient type of lance used by both samurai men and women; the retractable blades are apparently not anachronistic (see footnotes to Episode 21 in Episode Guide). Her skill with this weapon raises the possibility that she may be of noble family, and received the traditional samurai daughter's weapons training even though degraded by her blindness.] He asks who sent her, and she says “someone too powerful to stand against”. [Notice that J doesn’t draw until she’s already come at him. He’s reluctant to fight a woman.] She attacks him, and seems to be able to predict his moves—-though she says she does not see with her eyes. He is wounded all down his left side, and in desperation slashes the ropes of the bridge; they both tumble into the river below.

She’s found the next morning, unconscious, by the rescue party, and M and F take her to a hut to recover. Once conscious, she asks F again if she will continue her journey. M finds her staff in the river, realizes what happened to J, and calls her out. They fight by the river, and Sara reveals that her son’s life is on the line. She slashes M in the chest, and is just about to deliver the killing blow when F intervenes. Sara is about to skip town when she is again confronted by the Pinwheel Man, and realizes that her child is already dead. She meets M again by the riverbed in the wee hours of the morning, and nearly defeats him again (although J’s advice about fish has helped him). She intentionally fails to dodge one of his charges, because she no longer has any reason to live, and dies after revealing that it is the shogunate that is after them.

[In the Champloo Roman Album, character designer and artist Kazuto Nakazawa notes that he didn't know until he had completed work on the episode that Sara was supposed to be blind.]

Innkeeper—Appears early in 20 only. Invites the trio in, free of charge, because he likes travelers' tales, but M rather takes advantage of his hospitality. He’s quite fond of Sara’s music.
Kikumaru and Suzukichi--Two thugs who try to extort from Sara in the restaurant (and are promptly shown the door by M). Also, a couple of other (unnamed) hecklers appear in the traveling montage; J and M deal with them quite efficiently. 20 only.
Sara's son (passim)--First mentioned in 20 when J comments on her Kishiboujin charm; we learn the gender in her nighttime conversation with F. He was born out of wedlock [It’s entirely possible that the pregnancy was the result of rape…] and the father is absent. The shogunate took him from Sara as a hostage to ensure her cooperation, but killed him anyway after she walked away from an opportunity to kill both Mugen and Fuu. (Sara figures this out before the end, and reveals it in her last fight with Mugen.) Sara talks about him with F, and the pinwheel man mentions him obliquely while threatening Sara.
Momo--In her night conversation with Fuu, Sara describes her ability to perceive what she cannot see, including the presence of animals, and says she can sense "your little friend" hiding in Fuu's clothing. Fuu is impressed.
Merchant--Sara’s handler; a pinwheel vendor, who wears a bizarre mask and is always pursued by at least two little kids. First appears running past J and F at the shrine in 20, then at the street festival, where he threatens Sara with her son’s death if she does not complete her mission. Appears in 21 when she tries to walk away from the whole mess, and the sudden stop of one of his pinwheels tells her the child is already dead. [According to the series' website, "Merchant" is his only name.]
Kid at the Festival—A little boy that M grabs to ask about what kids want. He gives the wrong answer (M’s sword) and gets frightened off. 20 only.
Rescue Squad--First appear in 21. A group of villagers who are sweeping the river for wreckage and survivors from the bridge collapse. They haul Sara out, and set her up in a hut with M and F to recover.
Matagi; or Miyamoto Musashi/"Johnny"—Seemingly a crazy old hermit with really ugly teeth; may actually be Musashi, the famous author of the samurai philosophical tract The Book of Five Rings, which lists the seven virtues of the samurai--one of which J is named after. --[A little time-crunching would be necessary if Champloo takes place exactly in 1675, since Musashi died exactly thirty years before that. But we've allowed some room to maneuver in the chronology before this, and, no doubt, we will again...] First appears in 21; offscreen, he found J in the river and brought him back to his primitive hut, which is rather liberally festooned with dead fish. When J wakes, the old man tells him that he can’t move yet, and sets a bowl of food on the other side of the hut. After painfully dragging himself over, J discovers the bowl to be empty. The old man points out that he was at least able to move that much, and heads down to the river to fish. [In this scene J is wearing only his white juban, and his hair is down. Did the fanservice HAVE to be in the episode with the craptastic animation?!][*sigh* I concur with Neko-san's disappointment here...)] Musashi's up to his knees in the water, calmly observing the fish, when J hobbles down, dressed [Dangit!] and leaning on a stick. He tells J that fish have eyes in the water itself, and you must entrust yourself to the flow to catch them. He lunges—and comes up with nothing. “Well, it doesn’t always work.” J looks gobsmacked. [It’s not a good look on him, especially with the bad art…] When J gets ready to go, he thanks the old man for his lesson, quoting that annoying proverb about teaching a man to fish. The old man denies being any help whatsoever. J asks his name, and he replies (with great pomp and circumstance) “Miyamoto Musashi”. J obviously recognizes the name, and the geezer laughs it off as he walks away, saying that’s impossible! and his name’s really Johnny. J looks gobsmacked again. ["Matagi" is given as his name on the series' website.]

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--Go on to Neko-san's Guide to the Characters of Samurai Champloo--Episode 22.