Parted Roads: The Ending of Samurai Champloo

The ending of Samurai Champloo is a mix of emotions. The journey is over. Trials are completed. Fuu, Jin, and Mugen part down their separate roads. It is a happy yet also sad ending. Despite everything they faced, and the friendship they forged with each other, they walk away without even a glance.

That is exactly the point of the ending, and the show.

People come and go throughout the characters’ journey. Each leave a mark on them, and the road carries everyone away.  Life is full of meetings and partings. Each of us has a road only we can walk, just like Fuu, Jin, and Mugen. Sometimes the roads are the same, but eventually everyone will  find their own. It is a very Zen message.

The ending leaves us viewers feeling off; we expect a ending where everyone lives together happily ever after. Instead the anime ends like it began: 3 people….alone.

The ending is far too realistic for viewers to accept. Relationships are more tenuous than we like to admit. Like the characters Fuu and the guys meet on their journey, we too meet hundreds of people only once.  We too just walk away.

It is simply a fact: all things must end. Even the best of friends or lovers must someday walk their own path alone. Death, like life, is a personal experience.  The truth of ending is distorted by our illusions of continued connection through email, social media, movies, anime, and other media. Samurai Champloo, despite its odd mash of hip-hop, Edo period and reggae, is a great allegory for how life works.

Most of us like to think Mugen finds the detective woman who claimed him as a husband. Jin will return to the island and live with his redeemed prostitute. Fuu will…well, get kidnapped and pulled into some other adventure. But happy endings are not certain in the violent world of Samurai Champloo.  Only this short part of their individual journeys are remembered. They walk away from us, leaving us only with our memory of them.

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