Anime: more Samurai Champloo サムライチャンプルー: Beatbox & the Opening

Samurai Champloo サムライチャンプルー, as posted earlier, is one of my favorite anime of recent times.  Mostly this is because of its ground-breaking genre/time-bending mix of samurai historical accuracy and storylines with present-day hip-hop, trip-hop and rap dance and music mixes.  It is a fantastic piece of work.  Of course, the violent fight scenes and attitudes reflect both the historical realities of warrior-clan and individualistic feudal violence along with the present-day disenfranchisement and attitudes of today’s Japanese youth.  Although violence in entertainment is problematic, at the same time the violence reflects reality and is ‘not-new’ and can  be placed in contexts of reflection and thought, and perhaps change.  The issue is perhaps to bring certain violences into visual/aural realities that are distanced from many mainstream people, although violence is everywhere.

Samurai Champloo is an often pleasant, brutal, aesthetically incredible and inspiring, horrific and amusing piece of modern, ‘new’ anime-making.

The first video is of the character ‘Beatbox’ and presents clips of his presence in the anime.

The second video is of the opening credits.  Enjoy for the aesthetics of Japanese/hip-hop/samurai historical cultures.

Samurai Champloo サムライチャンプルー : Hip-hop; indigenous Ryukyu Anime

Samurai Champloo サムライチャンプルー is the name of the Anime television series in 2004-2005 that has proven to be one of the most globally popular in Japanese entertainment history. For one reason, anime–the Japanese animation story-telling genre, is now more global. It is one of the few things that are recognizably Japanese and enjoyed by Europeans, much of Eastern Asia and in the United States and Central and South America.

However, another element that has made it popular is its use of hip-hop music and cultural themes, along with Okinawan indigenous traditions including spiritual themes. It is truly a fusion work. And like much of anime in Japan, there are commentaries on the past and the future in the present, spiritual paths, human and spiritual and ecological values, tradition and modernity.

Samurai Champloo is ground-breaking in some ways, combining the traditional story-telling with slapstick comedy and hip-hop with indigeneity. The story unfolds–during the Edo period, or Tokugawa era (1603-1868), mixing punk culture references; censorship issues of the period–for example: by DJ hip-hop ‘scratching’ replacing the topics that were censored during the Tokugawa government; and  graffiti art and rap with hip-hop beats accompanying the scenes, bringing different histories into harmony. Past and present, youth and ancestors, ‘history as now’ play together for a modern young audience. Factual historical events, people and ideas of the Tokugawa period are the backdrop.

The story: Two independent warrior-men, very different from each other: One a wild and rough-hewn man and the other one who is refined and graceful and was trained by one of the top samurai teachers of the period, are thrown together in a fight where they are sentenced by the authorities for execution. They are helped to escape by a flighty woman Fuu, who tells them of a man she must find who ‘has the fragrance of sunflowers.” This fascinates the two fighters and they are made to promise her not to fight and to help her find him. The incredible journey begins…..

The story is filled with nature spirits who assist and watch them, guides and other aspects of indigenous spiritualities of the Ryukyu and Southern Japanese histories, long suppressed by dominant powers in Japanese history from before the Edo period. Life and death, secrets, transformations, violence, memory……..

Obokuri Eeumi おぼくり ええうみ (from the anime: Samurai Champloo) by Ikue Asazaki 朝崎郁恵

This is a traditional folk song by Japanese folk singer and legend from Kagoshima, Ikue Asazaki 朝崎郁恵 entitled: Obokuri Eeumi おぼくり ええうみ, (Obtain Our Bearings). The song proved to be quite popular amongst anime fans the world over after it was featured in one of the most touching scenes (scene #14) in the anime Samurai Champloo サムライチャンプルー . The anime television series was broadcast from May 2004 to March 2005 on Fuji TV network.

As one can tell from the music, it is a song of sadness, poverty and longing.

Asazaki-san sings this in her traditional Kagoshima/Okinawan/Japanese style, accompanied by piano. Some say that Ikue Asazaki is Okinawan and from Okinawa. Some say she’s from Kyushu, the southernmost large island of Japan, where Kagoshima, her birthplace is. This is a testament to the complexity of history and who claims what. Some say she sings in Okinawan. Some say she sings in the Kyushu dialect. Both and none may be true. Most mainstream Japanese do not understand what she is singing. Dialect? Another language? Okinawan? Japanese? Kyushu language or dialect? In the end, we listen to the beautiful language and song, to reflect, enjoy, feel.

As in most nation-states, the dominant state language is demanded. When I was growing up in Japan, those who spoke the language that she speaks, were ridiculed and often called stupid and primitive and unsophistocated. Nowadays, the young Japanese are more fascinated with these languages. The stigma of it has changed. In destruction, while languages and cultures become museum pieces for us, are we then appreciative? Let us listen and appreciate.

For the BEST ONLINE SELECTION in the English language, of Ikue Asazaki recordings go to:

Farside Music located in the UK.

Lyrics are below the video.

The video contains mostly photos/images of mainland Japan and should not be confused with indigenous Okinawan/Ryukyu culture.

Arayashikiku no dei
Harasaku baku no dei
Hare fushigyurasa nejyuku
Surajifushiro yondo
Hare fushigyurasa nejyuku
Fushigyurasa nejyuku
Surajifusero yondo

Kirishigaki ku no dei
Kuganeya be tatei tei
Hare momo tobyuru wakya
Ya uriba yuwa o yondo
Hare momo to byuru wakya
Momo to byuru wakya
Ya uriba yuwa o yondo

Hateigachi ya naryuri
Tobibani ya neranu
Hare utou katabani
Ya karachitabore
Hitotsu aru bani ya
Kanasha se ni kusuitei –
Hare wanu ya okuyama
Nu kazuradasuki –

Ojyuugoya no teiki ya
Kami gyurasa teryuri
Hare kana ga jyo ni tataba kumo tei taborei


In search of new lands, I build a new house
I thatch the house with reed stalks, gathered neatly in bundles
I thatch the house with reed stalks, gathered neatly in bundles
At the stone wall, let us celebrate the golden house, that was built by a hundred carpenters.
At the stone wall, let us celebrate the golden house, that was built by a hundred carpenters.
Let us celebrate the golden house, that was built by a hundred carpenters.

The eighth month is fast approaching, and yet I have nothing to wear
I want to dress up, so brother, will you lend me just one sleeve?
I wish to dress my children and loved ones… in the one kimono that I own
As for me, I will wear vines… that I plucked deep in the mountains

The light of the full moon shines down,
illuminating the world with its divine light
When my lover sneaks in to visit me,
I wish that the clouds would hide that light just a little.

Lyrics translated by silmanaro on YouTube and myself