Samurai Champloo, Fuji TV
ACDB; Anime Galleries; ANN; IMDb; Madman; TV Tropes; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; Funimation; Hulu; iTunes
For more links see anime links.
First off, I'll mention that "champloo" comes from the Okinawan word "champuru," which means "mix" or "blend," normally applied to certain dishes, like stir-fry. I'm not sure why it's used in this show's title, but there could be a few reasons. For one thing, there's an interesting mix of disparate characters (more on them soon). It could also be because there are lots of intentional anachronisms thrown in for fun, most notably hip-hop (and a definite hip-hop sensibility); but these anachronisms are mixed with real historical Japanese elements (the show is set in the 17th century, during Japan's Edo Period). Of course, given the inclusion of hip-hop, I wouldn't be surprised if "mix" might also be used in a musical sense. In any event, the show is really very cool, and stylized... which isn't at all surprising, considering it was created by Shinichiro Watanabe, who also created Cowboy Bebop.
Anyway, the show's about two "samurai" (or more like ronin) Mugen and Jin, and a girl named Fuu. Mugen is or has been a criminal, and never actually a samurai, even if he is really good with a sword (not to mention fists and feet). Jin is definitely a ronin, meaning at some point he was a genuine samurai. Mugen basically just seems to do whatever the hell he feels like at any given moment, without much concern for what others might think or how they'll react. Although he also often seems to be specifically looking for a fight. Jin, on the other hand, is more of your typical anime wandering samurai: calm, cool, serene, quiet, reserved, polite. And, of course, terribly handy with a sword. But they both obviously have a problem with authority. Jin's problem seems to be more about principles, given that alot of authorities in Japan's Edo period are corrupt. Mugen's problem is just a sort of general bad attitude. We'll eventually learn a bit about each of their pasts. In any event, they both seem to want to prove they're the best fighters around, and even get into a fight with each other the first time they meet.
Their battle against each other is interrupted when they're both arrested, as they had both recently, independently, pissed off a local daikan (governor). When they're about to be executed, they attempt to escape, and are aided by a teahouse worker named Fuu. In return, she wants them to help her find a samurai who smells like sunflowers, though she won't let Mugen and Jin know why she's looking for him for quite some time. She has to constantly remind them they agreed to help her, and also often prevent them from killing each other. I should also say she's a bit of a klutz, gets kidnapped a lot, gets annoyed a lot (mostly at her companions), is fairly bossy, and too secretive, but basically kind-hearted, I'd say.
So, the series will be about random stuff that happens to these three while they're searching for the Sunflower Samurai. They rarely have much money, and often get into trouble (especially Mugen, of course). None of them seem particularly happy to be traveling together or to like one another. I like them all, though, each in their own way, but I think Fuu is my favorite (but that might partly be because I think she's so cute). I won't say how it ends... but I will say the series is ultimately more about the journey than the destination. Not sure what else to say, but it's all very interesting and entertaining...