Cowboy Bebop Vol. #1 (of 6) (

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, April 04, 2000
Release Date: Tuesday, April 04, 2000

What They Say
Meet Spike and Jet, a drifter and a retired cyborg cop who have formed a partnership in a bounty hunting enterprise. In the converted fishing ship the Bebop, Spike and Jet search the galaxy for criminals with bounties on their heads. They meet a lot of unusual characters, including the unusually intelligent dog. Ein, and the voluptuous and vexing femme fatale, Faye Valentine. See why Cowboy Bebop was Japan's best-selling anime title in 1998. Contains Episodes 1-5.

The Review!
It's been quite some time since it was announced as coming to DVD in the summer of 1999, but it's definitely been worth the wait.

The disc contains both Japanese and English audio tracks in 2 channel stereo. Dialogue is clean and clear. There's some amount of directionality across the front soundstage, but not a huge amount. Music is very rich and sounds wonderful. Sound effects and ambient sounds are all distinct and are undistorted.

The video is excellent here as well. We could detect only a few faint moments of line noise or moire patterns on our main setup. We noticed quite a few moire moments on our uncalibrated 19" TV, which again stresses the importance of a well tuned system. The animation in this series goes from fairly static to some extremely fluid sequences. Lots of darks to dazzling vibrant colors. One episode is the bright lights of a casino while the next is the dark gothic of an abandoned church. Colors all stay solid with no breakup. For a TV series, even one broadcast on satellite, this is a very good looking transfer. The five episodes all look great on this dual layered disc. The only nitpick I'm sure some people will have is that during the end credit sequence, the songs are hard subtitled on the video. The odd episodes have the English translation while the even episodes have the Romanji version.

Curiously, each episode is set up as its own title, which we've seen on only one release before. The only real effect that this has is that search time between each episode takes a bit longer. Audio and subtitle selections stay intact between each. The disc does give you the option to "Play All" episodes or play them singly. If you select them one at a time, it takes you into a submenu to select which chapter to start.

Ever since I saw the cover artwork that was going to be used for the domestic DVD release, I was thrilled. That's not to say I have something against what was used on the VHS releases, but when I first saw the Japanese covers in our region 2 reviews, I really hoped that they'd be used here. They're stylish, they're different. They're definitely not what you see here for covers on anime releases. It really does have that retro look and feel of an old LP release. The back cover contains lots of background on the universe the characters inhabit as well as going into Spikes profile. All the episode names are listed as well as the creative teams behind it. I was also glad to see a credit for the cover artwork. The insert contains a two page listing of each episode, a short summary, a picture and a list of the chapters for each one. Very well put together. There's also a postage free card asking the usual questions with a couple of DVD related ones as well. Definitely take the time to fill that out. The final great thing about the packaging; the disc cover artwork makes it look like an old 45 LP record. Very hip!

During an advance preview at a recent convention, one of the things people were wowed by was the menu design. I have to agree, it's very well done and very in synch with the show. The menu is designed similar to the one used in the show by Jet. The menus play with full animation on most of them as well as background music. Selections are made quickly and accurately. Language selection works great as well as you can tell easily which language you have selected. Curiously, the default on this disc is English audio and English subtitles. Whoops.

The disc also contains a couple of extras from the Japanese "Session 0" release, which was a 30 minute behind the scenes/making of/omake disc. For this release, we have character information for a couple of the main cast as well as a 3 1/2 minute full music clip set to the opening song, "Tank!". This is a fun song to begin with and we get to see a lot of animation from episodes that aren't on this disc, so it's a treat. There are also trailers for other Bandai titles (though not all slated for DVD).

So with all this in mind, you've already got a great disc. Audio is snazzy, video is excellent, we've got keen menus and even some hip extras.

We've also got some excellent episodes here. Containing the first five episodes of this twenty six episode series, we get introduced to the main characters, Spike and Jet. The solar system has been opened up with warp gates to get around easily, which makes things easier for criminals to hide out in more places. So the solar system now has 300,000 bounty hunters. We get to follow the story of a couple of them.

Through the early episode adventures, as the main storyline doesn't begin till later, we meet the worlds that they inhabit and the growing cast members. We also start to get tidbits about the past lives of our two main guys which will surely lead into things in the future. There's lots going on in these episodes that more shows up in repeated viewings. Especially in paying attention to all the details in the background.

One of the many highlights of this series is the music by Yoko Kanno. The music really goes all over the place with songs in several languages, different styles and more. It really does stand out and accentuate the animation nicely.

Another highlight is the absolutely wonderful dubbing job done here. The main characters all seem to be pretty on target with the mannerisms and all. The script doesn't stray far at all and sounds just as well recorded as the original.

Need more? The third episode is entitled "Honky Tonk Women". C'mon, how can you resist?

Cowboy Bebop is definitely one of a recent number of anime titles that has a great master material to be used on DVD and comes out looking excellent on the format. It's also a solid release in that it offers more over the VHS releases and a couple of spiffy extras.

And there's five more after this. I can't wait!

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Character Information,"Tank!" full length music clip

Review Equipment
Toshiba CF36H50 36" TV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster S-Video cable and Sony speakers.

Mania Grade: A
Maniac Grade: A
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A+
Packaging Rating: A+
Menus Rating: A+
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Cowboy Bebop