Cowboy Bebop Best Sessions (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, November 13, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, November 19, 2002
What They Say
The hit anime series on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim now available in a special collector’s edition – ONLY on DVD home video! ‘Best Sessions’ features six completely remixed episodes chosen by acclaimed director Shinichi Watanabe and fans of Cowboy Bebop! Experience the adventures of the Bebop and her crew like never before!
Meet Spike and Jet, a drifter and a retired cyborg cop who have formed a partnership in a bounty hunting enterprise. In a converted fishing ship the Bebop, with the help of the intelligent data dog, Ein, and the voluptuous and vexing femme fatale, Faye Valentine - Spike and Jet scour the galaxy in search of wanted criminals. They’re going to clean up space, one bounty at a time!
The Best Of collections from Japan get the rare stateside release and we make out even better, getting something that’s unique for this side of the ocean. Besides, it’s more Bebop love!
For our primary viewing session, we watched these collected episodes in their original language of Japanese but in the US exclusive DTS remix track. I’ve pretty much admitted my whoring for DTS in the past, so it’s little surprise that I enjoyed this track quite a lot. While these episodes weren’t originally intended for 5.1 remixing, there’s plenty of room to move to get some excellent sounding pieces out of it. Each episode is really going to vary, since they weren’t chosen for sound quality at first. Some are much better than others, but all benefit from greater clarity, noticeably in dialogue and in most of the music.
In addition to the audio remaster, the video here gets some tweaking done to it as well. Most of this comes from a few years of gained authoring knowledge and only three episodes per disc, these look noticeably better than their original releases. Cross coloration is the main difference, which is reduced greatly in most of these episodes to practically non-existent. Colors look great, blacks are solid and there’s hardly any aliasing either. These episodes look great.
Filling up the space of a double keepcase, but opening up to have a lot of open room with a single disc sized flippy hinge in the center, the idea behind the packaging is to create the illusion of a betamax tape, though not necessarily in exacting size as anyone who has seen one of these rare beasts will attest. The initial release comes with a limited run slipcover, which essentially has the image of a betamax tape on the front of it, down to the handwritten labels and simple black and white artwork. The back side mimics the bottom of the tape with some amusing post-it notes on it. The keepcase itself has the same black and white artwork of the four cast members reaching into something while the back cover talks about the shows premise and the choice to do the audio remixes. The episodes are broken down into directors choice and fan favorites, with titles and original episode numbers included. The reversible cover has essentially the same information but is done in a completely different style that I can’t quite put my finger on. The insert replicates the front cover artwork while it opens up reveal information from Watanabe about the remixes (such as his own lack of owning a DVD player, never mind not having 5.1 equipment of his own!).
The menu layout is nicely done, using part of the opening sequence where the boxes expand and close to move animation and text around before settling into a nice layout with music playing from various episodes, presumably ones that are on the episodes we’ve got on the disc. Selections are quick and easy to access and moving about the menus is nice and fast with a simple easy layout.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
These compilations were originally released in Japan back in the fall of 2001, around the time I believe the US release of the TV series itself was wrapping up. There was a lot of interest in these compilations, since we had three episodes of Watanabe’s picks and three fan favorite episodes being remixed into Japanese 5.1 sound. I’d heard an interesting experiment earlier than that where someone had taken the stereo mix from the US release and faked it into a 5.1, and was really impressed at how much could be done with it. And now with the episodes being brought over here, the US fans make out even better than the Japanese.
This release gets that existing 5.1 mix, but English dialogue fans also get an upgrade with an English 5.1 mix, something that often gets ignored on projects like this. But to really try and get every last potential sale, they went right for that harder to please crowd and went so far as to create a new Japanese DTS 5.1 mix. That just has me completely in love with the set.
Being able to listen to Mushroom Samba in 5.1 regardless, but in DTS is just like a dream. The way the episode widens up in front of you is great, adding some more depth to it but without the entire full circle whiz-bang sound effects you get in a lot of remixes. Watanabe talks about that in the booklet, and I definitely have to agree. Remixes can often go horribly bad, as many early DVD adopters will remember some 5.1 remixes being, but others can come out fantastic by adding a nice level of depth to it.
Watanabe’s picks for episodes are interesting, with him noting that Asteroid Blues was poorly received in Japan. When we first saw this episode, by itself during Otakon’s panel with folks from the production, we were blown away. It was the epitome of what Bebop was all about, and Watanabe found that Japanese fans just couldn’t connect or understand it. While it’s too bad that didn’t happen, I’m glad because it means we get this one in the mix and done up beautifully. It’s the episode to show someone for the first time to let them get a feel for the Bebop universe, the smooth animation, the music… it really does symbolize just about everything.
Of course, the natural inclusion of Ballad of Fallen Angels was a given, especially given how great the sonics are during the church shootout sequence with so many different weapons and areas of sound to play with. Wild Horses is an interesting choice, but hey, he’s the director, who am I to say.
The fans favorites tend to be a bit stranger, where in the US, I would expect something like Pierre le Fou, but we instead get Mushroom Samba. Don’t get me wrong, I love Samba for what it represents, but you wouldn’t think it would be higher rated. Fae’s self discovery of her past is a natural inclusion as a favorite, considering how well the character has gone over, and it allows the Best Sessions to get the kind of packaging that it has as well. Waltz for Venus proved to be an interesting one for me, as it was an episode that I barely even remembered seeing during the original release, so it was almost like a lost episode for me. But I think that’s what makes the set work so well, in that there’s such a good mix of episodes that it provides a solid balance of material to enjoy.
Best Sessions is the set you pick up that you keep next to your door, where when someone comes over and is getting ready to leave, you toss that to them and insist they check it out if they haven’t seen it before. It’s a set to pop into the player to enjoy a good mix of episodes without feeling the need to go through the entire series again. This one is getting some good play in my setup just for the opening sequence alone.
Japanese 2.0 Language,Japanese DD 5.1 Language,Japanese 5.1 DTS Language,English 2.0 Language,English DD 5.1 Language,English Subtitles
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Running time: 180
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Cowboy Bebop