Samurai Champloo is simply an outstanding anime and whilst every anime is different and I have many I love which all represent different things to me, this is perhaps the best I've ever watched. Usually, I don't make reviews, but seeing as someone decided to give it 3 stars, I couldn't help but make a counter-argument, just so people wont be put off by a single opinion, which is, as I see it, entirely un-representative of how most people feel. What's important in this anime is the characters, much like in Cowboy Bebop, the story-line itself isn't entirely the focus. Instead, you get to see wonderful, complex characters develop throughout, characters you are drawn to despite their flaws, characters, which, in the end are connected to you very deeply. The artwork is brilliant and whilst the story isn't, as I've said, entirely the focus, it is still wonderful and quite subtle. It is the mark of any good series that you reach the end and cannot bear the fact that the last episode is all that's left. Of course, it's not entirely without flaws, but what is? This is a series I'd recommend for any anime fan, or even someone new to the world of anime, you have to start somewhere and this is a great series for you to do that.
I feel kind of bad about giving Samurai Champloo only three stars because, for most of it's episodes, it's a wildly entertaining romp. Unfortunately there is an emptiness at the heart of the series which it never manages to fill and for all the style and epic cool of the events the viewer is left asking themselves: yes, but what of it far to often. It is in relation to its older sister of a series Cowboy Bebop in which this problem can be seen most readily. Like that show, Champloo is, for most of its run, filler, but unlike Bebop the filler never amounts to more than a good time. In Bebop social, political and personal issues were always being aired and explored, often in ways and with conclusions which would surprise the watcher, which is part of what made it such good television. When Champloo tries the same trick the issues often feel forced and the conclusions pedestrian, it almost never tells us something we wouldn't have expected it to say. Worse though the few plot episodes are, largely, even more of a let down. The plot holes and even greater obviousness of the conclusions leaves a bad taste in the mouth, 'there was all that build up for this?'. And again that stands out in stark contrast to Bebop whose five plot episodes comprise one of the most compelling, memorable and moving stories in anime.
Still, despite my negativity, this is a gorgeous show, it's beautifully drawn and has a brilliant score. There are even moments when the tension some of the episodes creates is utterly visceral and compelling. This is most obviously true in the dual episodes which deal with Mugen's, one of the three principal protagonist's, back story and he comes to a degree of resolution with his past. That said that standard of story telling is the exception rather than the rule. Which is a huge shame, as otherwise this would be an anime to stand up alongside Bebop and those few other titles which actually could mean something outside the tiny audience they actually get here in the UK.