Cowboy Bebop Vol. #1 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, February 07, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, April 04, 2000
This is one of those titles that I occasionally buy into, sight unseen. While such an approach will net me an occasional bad (as in "what the hell was I thinking when I bought this" bad) title, Cowboy Bebop is pure gold from the get-go.
Audio - A *surprisingly* expansive mix for a stereo title. Not only was there great imaging across the front soundstage, the Pro-Logic (just about every a/v receiver that does DD and DTS will default to Pro-Logic when the requisite mixes for discrete-channel sound are not present) steering to the rear surrounds for certain ambient and effects sequences (like the hyperspace and combat segments) is top-notch and solid. Granted, varying receivers are wont to decode Pro-Logic effects according to the vagaries of their differing decoders, so this may be more apparent to some and not to others. I'm wondering if Bandai actually had a Dolby Surround mix for the original TV broadcasts as opposed to a "true" flat Stereo mix...
I made a first pass of the disc listening to the Japanese track only with the English subs on (minor note: anyone else notice that the first episode's title, Asteroid Blues, was subtitled while the rest weren't? not that the titles needed to be subtitled since they made use of romajii anyway...). The second pass was made with the English dub track on. There is a difference in the recording level between the two tracks. The dub has a higher default volume than the Japanese track. Either way, the aforementioned Pro-Logic steering effects were identical between the two tracks. And the music! I can't think of any other title that melds an excellent selection of music with the matter at hand. You could leave the disc playing just for the music! Looks (sounds) like I'll need to drop some extra woolongs on the soundtrack too...
Video - Solid throughout. Wonderful use of color to change the ambience of any given scene - from the stark sunlight in Asteroid Blues to the muted palette in Ballad. The blending of CG elements were very unobtrusive compared to other titles I've seen. I chalk it up to careful planning in the overall color layout of the scenes they appear in.
Packaging - No complaints, although there is that oddly short cover again... I thought the decision to press the DVD with a retro LP-type artwork was great! Definitely in keeping with the musical aspect of the contents. I do, however, find that the artwork on the jacket itself was rather muted. Reminds me of a Criterion LD jacket, not a bad thing, but I'd have expected the jacket to also reflect the vibrance of the episodes.
Menus - As noted in yesterday's News, Bandai has addressed the Blue No. 6 menu glitch I mentioned. I still need to test that suggested fix. In the Blue No. 6 alternate review, I made mention of glitches on this title as well. It manifests itself as an odd looping problem on my copy of Bebop. For instance, upon playing the disc all the way through (inclusive of the DVD mastering title card that comes up at the end), the Main Menu loads up again. When I select the Play Movie option, it does one of three things: 1) Goes back to the DVD mastering title card; 2) Goes back to a random location within the closing credits of the last episode; 3) Goes back to a random location within an episode (can't recall if it's the last episode or one of the earlier episodes on the disc). This behavior was consistently displayed on the Toshiba 2109, and to a lesser extent on the Sony 7000 (haven't tried it on the Pioneer 919 yet). I've reported the issue to Bandai via the address posted by Chris; I'll plan on sending them a more comprehensive overview as soon as I manage to get some uninterrupted time for multiple checks across the 3 players. I also found the persistent "re-loading" of the Main Menu interstitial after every Menu selection quite annoying. In any case, a hearty KUDOS goes out to Bandai for actually e-mailing me directly about the menu glitches, and for providing a contact e-mail for further reports. That's excellent customer and fan service (no, not THAT kind of fan service)!
Content - Definitely aces! Kept reminding me of Dirty Pair episodes for some reason (perhaps due to the Nippon Sunrise connection?). As I mentioned at the beginning, I had never seen an episode of this series before and was quite glad to find that it does not disappoint in the least! If you don't have this title yet, do yourself a favor and pick it up. Can't wait for the rest of the series to be released. Five episodes is a serving size that will adequately feed your Bebop craving in between releases. Down with the one-episode-per-disc format of Blue No. 6! (BTW, Bandai's site shows that the next installment of Blue No. 6 will have two episodes on the disc -- still on the slim side IMHO) And did I mention that the music was great?
Got friends thinking about getting into anime but haven't made the plunge? Get them to come over to your place and put this disc on and crank it up! Humor, mayhem, action, drama, titillation - and did I mention the music? Get thee off thine proverbial butt and snap up a copy if you haven't already.
Hey Bandai, when can we expect to see Faye Valentine vinyl models? = )
ISF-calibrated Sony 32XBR100 32" Monitor via Monster S-Video3, Mitsubishi CS-2058R 20" TV via Monster S-Video3; Pioneer DVL-919 codefree DVD/LD player via Monster Datalink 100 Coaxial digital audio, Sony DVP-S7000 DVD player via Monster Datalink 100 Coaxial digital audio, Toshiba
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: C
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Cowboy Bebop