Cowboy Bebop Vol. #1 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, February 07, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, April 04, 2000
This disc is God's gift to anime fans. After only five episodes, I'm already in love with this series. Anyone who is at all into anime should at least give Cowboy Bebop a try. Chances are you'll become hopelessly addicted.
Just watching the brilliant intro will prove two things: 1) this show is unlike anything else out there; and 2) the production values are through the roof. The intro is very stylized, but once you've seen some episodes you'll be able to easily recognize the main characters and their vehicles. Almost every beat of Yoko Kanno's amazing "Tank!" is matched with some sort of animation. It's great.
After "Tank!," the actual episodes start, and I was blown away. Not only are they all amazing, there's five of them on this disc. Talk about value! Not only that, but each episode sports an amazing transfer that really shows off the animation quality. On top of this absolutely excellent video is the great-sounding audio in both languages. Oh yeah, and Cowboy Bebop has THE BEST DUB EVER! I actually prefer the dub to the Japanese track (blasphemy!) because the Japanese Faye just seems miscast.
The first episode on this disc, "Asteroid Blues," is a true work of art. It does a good job of introducing you to the two main characters, Spike and Jet, and the world they live in. Bounty hunters by trade, Spike and Jet end up on a small asteroid trying to track down a man named Asimov who deals in a new drug called "Bloody Eye." While we're on the subject, the actual Bloody Eye shows off how creative the writers got, as this is the first drug I've ever heard of that comes in the form of eyedrops.
Complicating matters is Asimov's pregnant girlfriend. She wants the money from the eyedrops to be able to afford a decent life, and in that respect both she and Asimov aren't at all evil. The episode ends in a gorgeous fist fight between Spike and Asimov. The animation is OVA quality and Yoko Kanno's music really adds to the scene.
Session #2 is "Stray Dog Strut," which gives a hint at how seamlessly Cowboy Bebop combines different genres. Whereas "Asteroid Blues" was a pretty grim and gritty detective story, "Stray Dog Strut" is absolutely hilarious. Spike ends up trying to track down Ein, a mysterious data dog who has been stolen from a top secret lab. By the end of the episode, he's involved in a hilarious three-way chase between himself, the thief, and Ein's original owners.
"Honky Tonk Woman" introduces us to the series' sexy femme fatale, Faye Valentine. It turns out Faye has somehow racked up an enormous debt and will do anything to repay it. She takes a job in a casino, where Spike and Jet are trying to earn some cash. Thanks to a mix up, Spike winds up holding a very valuable poker chip, and Faye's boss wants it back.
Session #4 really shows off how tight the writing in Cowboy Bebop is. Not a line of dialogue in "Gateway Shuffle" is wasted, with seemingly unimportant small talk providing useful information to understanding the back story. Spike and Jet find themselves on the trail of a group of eco-terrorists called the Planet Warriors, who have manufactured a virus to turn all of Ganymede into monkeys.
The last episode on the disc is undisputedly the best, and a masterpiece in my book. "Ballad of Fallen Angels" gives us a tantalizing glimpse into Spike's past, but will likely leave more questions than answers. An old friend of Spike's, Viscious, has apparently gone off the deep end and is killing all of his old comrades. But things aren't so black and white, and we are left with what is surely on of the coolest villains in all of anime. I won't spoil any more than that, but know that the shootout in the cathedral is an cinema masterpiece.
A boxed set may be on the way, but I wouldn't wait. Grab this disc now if you have any interest at all in the show. Besides, its hard to imagine how any boxed set will offer an extra that's better than those already spread out among the six discs already available.
An instant classic.
KLH DVD 221, RCA 21" TV
Mania 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
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Cowboy Bebop