Friday, January 21, 2005

Champloo: Bebop's Madlax?

Subject: Noir
"Samurai Champloo" is awesome!!!

I made a big deal last week of wanting to buy it on the spot even though I hadn't previewed it yet. And I wanted to watch it too, but I was so tired that night that I really couldn't start it. Tonight I had my chance.

"Madlax", in a lot of ways, is considered the "sequel" to "Noir". My take on that is that "Madlax" is more fun where "Noir" is more serious. Now, seeing as "Cowboy Bebop" was already a lot of fun to begin with, it's kind of difficult to make the same parallel with Champloo. Which is pretty damn well fun too!

I suppose where I get this impression is that the two shows (Madlax and Champloo, that is) are both very much self aware -- that is to say, they both know that they're a show. They both know their medium, the language of the medium, and the buttons to push. And that makes them all the more loveable. Noir & Bebop were both different -- they broke the mold of the medium they were in; they tried and be something unique unto themselves. They set the bar higher.

But back to Champloo. Medieval Japanese Samurai action with a hip-hop beat (and a few modern character touches). It's dripping with attitude, style, detail, and character. The action is top-notch, the dialogue is tight, and the whole thing abounds with life. There's a lot going on in these scant 4 episodes, and it's a credit to Wantanabe that he could put his hooks in to me so quickly.

Since this is a modern digitally-produced show, it lacks a bit of the hand-crafted quality that Bebop had. The line quality sometimes looked a tad artificial, and there were some noticeable post-production shortcuts. But there were some totally excellent additions that technology added: primarily the camerawork. A lot of "active" shots simulating a hand-held unsteady feeling. Which I usually hate when it's excessive, but I thought worked marvelously in this context. Plus the color, mise en scene, and editing/timing is absolutely perfect. The swordfight action is fabulous, and the pacing is dead-on.

Bebop was "cool". And Champloo is, also, "cool".

My only problem is that in the liner notes, the schedule of DVD releases was displayed. The final disc will be release over a year from now!!!! Holy crap! It's going to take me over a year to work through this series?? You've got to be kidding me! I hope that was only a worst-case guess in order to cover their, uh, assets, and they are able to pick up the pace a little. This show's too good to be sitting on!

Anyway, enough gushing over this one. I think I've found my new #5!

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