Samurai Champloo, Episode 23 Recap: “Baseball Blues”

Original Toonami Airdate: June 11th, 2016

If you’re expecting witty baseball references here, prepare to be sorely disappointed.

The episode opens with a familiar narrator informing us about his investigation of a foreign ship spotted somewhere around Nagasaki, with said narrator being none other than our old friend Manzo the Saw.

Baseball Blues - KagemaruOur heroes are in a restaurant charting their progress, deducing that they don’t have too far to go before they reach the Ikitsuki Islands. They are then brought their food, which includes some extraneous items ordered by Mugen. After the group polishes off all the food (which leads to the return of Fat Fuu), they ask Mugen how he plans to pay for the meal, to which he responds with the time-honored tradition of the “dine and dash”. As he makes his escape, Mugen eventually gets knocked in the head by a baseball thrown by an unknown man who later captures the whole group and strikes up a deal with them. The man needs a team to help him play a game of baseball against another team composed entirely of American travelers. Evidently, an American trade company was looking to do business with the area (chiefly by force), but Japan’s isolationist policies outright forbid this. The representatives of the company then notice the strange man (named Kagemaru) with a baseball as he then challenges them to a game to decide whether or not they get to stay. In an unfortunate turn of events, Kagemaru’s initial team bails on him almost immediately, hence needing to ask our heroes to help him out, to which Mugen agrees almost immediately. Kagemaru spends the night training our heroes in the art of baseball, and while this is happening, Manzo attempts to sneak into the American ship dressed as an American himself, but this ends up backfiring on him.

Baseball Blues - American Hanzo
BASEBALL! APPLE PIE! WRESTLING!

The day of the game is upon us, and the Japanese team consists of Kagemaru, our heroes, a village elder, Momo, and a cute doggie. The game starts with Kagemaru and Jin getting things off to a nice start, but Mugen gets an out due to running bases past his teammates and Fuu gets struck out in her turn. The village elder breaks his back just getting up to bat and is out of the game, and when the dog goes up to bat, it gets struck with the ball and runs away. With the team low on players, Kagemaru happens upon Manzo watching over the game and makes him play for them. As the game goes on, the American team eventually resorts to playing dirty, doing everything they can to injure and incapacitate the Japanese team, even managing to kill Hanzo at one point. Jin manages to duck and dodge nearly every attack thrown his way as he tries to go for a home run, but an unseen last-minute trap prevents him from doing so. Eventually Kagemaru goes up to pitch, but on his second throw, one of the American batters’ bat breaks into pieces, stabbing Kagemaru in various places and killing him.Baseball Blues - Kagemaru dies This leaves Mugen as the only viable player on the Japanese team, and given his knack for always playing dirty, he decides to give the Americans a taste of their own medicine, throwing viciously powerful pitches that knock out all but one of the American players. In a one-on-one standoff, Mugen throws another hard pitch at the same time that the batter swings and lets go of the bat, both hitting their targets at the same time. Miraculously, Mugen survives and scares off the Americans back to where they came from, ending the episode there.

 

Quick tangent: the first time I ever heard about Samurai Champloo was in relation to one of my all-time favorite series, The Boondocks. In that instance, it was in reference to the kickball episode of the latter, evidently a direct nod to this particular episode of Champloo. I can definitely see how, with the entire absurdist nature of pinning important economic decisions on the fate of a freakin’ sports game. I’m not sure if there’s anything deep to go into with this episode since most of it is just a comical take on America’s pastime, although it does seem to be hinting at something larger in terms of Japan’s historical isolationism and how our two countries relate to one another. The American traders try to force themselves onto Japan, which wants nothing to do with them, and historically speaking a conflict like that doesn’t end well. This would make sense given the mushroom cloud sendoff that capped off last week’s zombie episode. Then again, I could just be stretching since filling up an entire paragraph with “this is one of the funniest goddamn things I’ve ever seen in my life” typed over and over again wouldn’t make for an interesting read. These last two episodes are Champloo at peak absurdity, and with three more episodes left, I’m guessing our heroes are about to find themselves in some seriously deep trouble, likely near Nagasaki at this point. I give this episode 10 baseball-playing doggos/10.

What did you think of the episode? Let us know down in the comments below.

 

Samurai Champloo airs every Saturday at 1:00 AM, only on Toonami.

 

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One thought on “Samurai Champloo, Episode 23 Recap: “Baseball Blues”

  1. I love this series! I just found your blog when looking for something about this episode (just rewatched) in relation to Japanese- American relations. Samurai Champloo has always been a bit tongue-and-cheek but I thought it too uncanny that when the American decided to unexpectedly thow his bat at Mugen’s face, it looked like a little like a missile lol
    There are some other clues of course..but at the risk of being too wordy, maybe I’ll include them in a separate post. Cheers!

    Like

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