Neko-san's Guide to the Characters of Samurai Champloo
Episodes Three and Four--Hellhounds for Hire (Parts 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 Three and Four--Hellhounds for Hire (Parts 1 & 2)
This is my annotated character list for episodes 3 & 4. 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.

Restaurant owner Skinny old man with ponytail. First appearance in Restaurant Fight #1, warning M not to mess with the yakuza customers. In Restaurant Fight #2, he gives J the town history, a free bowl of soup, and some advice about getting hired. J returns in episode 4 to repay him, and he gives J an umbrella. [Odd how umbrella-as-gift turns up again in ep. 11.](..And how regularly Jin loses or leaves behind such gifts. Like his hats...)
Rikiei--Nagatomi yakuza boss with Ray-Bans. First appears in Restaurant Fight #1, where he offers M a job, later announces M will be his partner. M eventually chafes under his control and leaves. Constantly scheming to get control of the town without loss of profit; his crooked gambling parlor robs townspeople of their businesses and daughters, who get carted off to his brothel. Uses Susuke's crime to try and take over the Kawaras, but is thwarted by F. Killed by Ishimatsu after the takeover fails. [In the Champloo Roman album, character designer and artist Kazuto Nakazawa says that both he and Ishimatsu were drawn as black men.]
Daigorou--Unlucky elderly carpenter. First appears in the gambling parlor scene, losing like crazy. Appeals to Heitarou for help, but is denied. Chooses to give up his deed rather than his daughter, but she gets carted off after Susuke tries to intervene.
Osuzu--Daigorou's lovely daughter. First appears tutoring Susuke. After he takes back Daigorou's deed, Osuzu is carted off to the brothel by Ishimatsu, where she meets F, but refuses to try to escape for fear of what will happen to her father. Freed from the brothel after Rikiei's death.
Kawara Susuke--12 year-old son of Heitarou. First appears being tutored by Osuzu, then turns up in Restaurant Fight #2 trying to get the deed back. J saves him from a beating and becomes his bodyguard. Takes matters into his own hand after his father refuses to get Osuzu out of the brothel, and he and J infiltrate dressed as an old man and a woman (= potential brothel employee), respectively. [Note the guard who shouts "Hentai!" ("Pervert!") when the ruse is revealed.] They fail to free Osuzu, and the next day Susuke kills a Nagatomi who tries to molest her, precipitating a showdown between the clans. Susuke becomes the Nagatomis' hostage-wager, and is freed after Heitarou commits seppuku to atone for the murder, leaving his son as the head of the Kawara clan.
Ishimatsu--Tall, ponytailed Nagatomi yojimbo, used to work for the Kawara until he became disillusioned. First appears hounding Daigorou for payment of his debt. His high standing in the clan is threatened by M's appearance, and they have a nice little rumble. Gets sent to take Osuzu to the brothel, despite his protests. Comes to distrust Rikiei, and kills him after the wager. Challenges M to finish their duel, and dies honorably.[Drawn as a Black man; see artist note on Rikiei above.]
Kawara Heitarou--Elderly clan head, known as "The Merciful" despite being a yakuza. First appears listening to Daigorou and Osuzu make their plea. Refuses to hire J, saying that it will only lead to more bloodshed. Tries several times to prevent escalation, having seen too much bloodshed in the past. After Susuke is taken hostage, agrees to settle by wager. Loses the wager and commits seppuku.
Oryuu Creepy old lady fortune-teller. First appears in F's arrival scene. For a (very) small coin, she gives F a hint--"Beware of pots." Acts as witness during the crucial dice roll.
Pot guy The ceramic kind, not the drug. First appears in F's arrival scene. She bumps into him and he drops his pot. Demands 100 ryou in payment, tells her he knows a great place to earn the money, kidnaps her, and sells her to the Nagatomi brothel.
Brothel madam Very sour-looking older woman. [It's interesting to note the differences between the brothels from 3/4 and 11 and the one from 15.] Locks F into a cell, and tries to force her to work. Tells the girls about the crucial wager, and that they shouldn't hope to get out if the Kawaras win.
Icky guy--Ugly brothel customer. First appears in F's escape scene. F has been making angry faces to scare customers away, but he finds them erotic. Takes her upstairs, where Momo-san the Furry Chastity Belt springs into action and F clocks him with a pot.
Nagatomi flunkies Wear maroon and purple, first appear in Restaurant Fight #1. One is killed by M during the brothel fight [I think J takes out a couple, too], and one is killed by Susuke for messing with Osuzu. J and M kill dozens during the fight in the gambling parlour.
Kawara flunkies Wear green and brown. First appear during Daigorou's appeal (one tells Heitarou that many townspeople have been similarly duped). Also seen standing outside gambling parlour awaiting the dealer, and in the last big fight scene.

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