Finally! My trio from Samurai Champloo is complete!
I’ve been wanting to render these knuckleheads in paper for a long time. My first thought was to try to find my favorite stills of each character from various episodes of the anime, but I ended up choosing the default, iconic assembly here. This so perfectly encapsulates the core personality of each of these characters.
Mugen, front and center, looking ragged yet ready, challenging you to take him on in the most unconventional fight that you will, ultimately, lose.
Fuu on the right, a painted finger on her chin as she tries her best to think of how to get herself and her companions out of whatever pickle they’re all in, with all sorts of secret skills and wisdom bound within her sakura kimono.
And Jin on the left, a deeply sad and stoic ronin who, despite his unusual (for the time) eyeglasses, cannot see a peaceful future for himself. I adore them all.
This has been the most difficult, complex, and time-consuming anime-related papercut I’ve completed, and, although it’s not capital P perfect, I’m really pleased with how it turned out.
Fuu’s details were probably the hardest because there were so many and they were all so tiny and fiddly. Her eyes have like four or five different parts to them, and the little beads on the end of her hair sticks are made up of three colors each. Her hands were also pretty tricky, especially those itty-bitty painted fingernails.
For Jin, it was his glasses that didn’t quite come out right -- the paper just kind of shredded when I tried to cut it. But, like all of these, at arm’s distance, you don’t or can’t notice it. I do like the sort of lifeless coloring of his skin, as if he’s already died and the whole story is a sort of purgatory setting for him. He can’t cook very well, but he’s such a softie.
It was fun to watch Mugen come to life as I added more details. He looked a little demonic before I was able to “put his eyes in,” but once they were there, he almost seemed to breathe. I’m especially happy with the little stubble on his chin, and how his rude yet confident stare translated into paper as well as it did. Because of the “lighting” in this illustration, I had to cut his little blue earrings out of different shades of blue. Even the light catches on each are different shades of light blue.
Samurai Champloo is one of my all time favorite shows, created and directed by my favorite anime director, Shinichirō Watanabe. The characters, as I hope you can see, are wonderfully multi-dimensional, the story is sweet, action-packed, poignant, and hilarious, and the soundtrack… the soundtrack is amaze-balls. One of the things I love most about Samurai Champloo is that it manages to tell a story set in the Edo Period of Japan, backed up with a hiphop soundtrack composed by DJs and rappers who essentially spawned the lofi hiphop era of today. It’s so good. I’ll blog about it, and my love for Shinichirō Watanabe another time.
Like other Watanabe anime (Cowboy Bebop, Kids on the Slope, and Terror in Resonance to name a few), Samurai Champloo is a great “gateway” anime. It’s got plenty of anime tropes to establish itself well and truly within the genre, but I believe it would be a great introduction to anime for someone who’s never watched anime before. For the love of all things anime, please watch it in the original Japanese with English subtitles. No dub can fully match the brilliance of Kazuya Nakai’s voice acting for Mugen, trilled r’s, whininess, and all.