Album: Love Mugen
I was at the perfect age for Adult Swim, which premiered its first original shows in September 2001 (unfortunately the same week as 9/11). Adult Swim is still going strong, but it’s hard to beat those few years that included Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Robot Chicken, and the rebroadcasting of FLCL, Dragon Ball Z, and many more international shows that essentially found its American audience through AS. It also saved Family Guy and Futurama from cancellation purgatory and was resurrected on Fox and Comedy Central respectively, no doubt by its popularity on AS. MTV had already transformed into a reality channel, and MTV2 would premiere the occasional My Chemical Romance music video to keep me interested, but to me Adult Swim was the great TV inside joke that MTV was to the previous generation.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force might have been the definitive AS show (if you don’t believe me, read Tim O’Neil’s excellent profile of the show’s history), Samurai Champloo is how I’ll always remember AS. Never before had I seen a show that so perfectly blended cool music, violent animation, and taboo topics (sex, drugs, and hip-hop music, all things my sweet Midwestern mom did not want young me to know about) and made it fun and enlightening to watch.
Samurai Champloo, directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, the same director of Cowboy Bebop, follows two samurais and the girl who hires them to help her find “the samurai who smells of sunflowers.” But I don’t remember the show for its plot – it’s the music that made me care. The soundtrack features only DJs and hip-hop producers who created tracks to accompany the show’s sword fights and other settings. It was a seemingly unlikely marriage that worked, and it recreated Japanese history in a playful way.
I went back recently to watch Samurai Champloo and was disappointed with the show’s weak plot, but the music still made me smile. Long live Samurai Champloo, and long live Adult Swim.