Cowboy Bebop Vol. #4 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, February 07, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, August 01, 2000
Overall Rating: 4.4 (on a scale of 1-5)
-Disc Ratings- Sound: 5 Picture: 5 Menu: 4 Presentation: 4 Goodies: 3 Overall: 4.2
-Artistic Ratings- Animation: 5 Sound: 5 Plot: 3 English Acting: 5 Music: 5 Overall: 4.6
Intro It's the 4th disc. It's got 4 episodes. It's cover is the middle color of the spectrum. The same color as a four leaf clover. But will all that be enough to push Cowboy Bebop forward and past pure entertainment and into the realm of art? (Yeah I was reaching with the first four sentences, but I couldn't think of a good intro. Please forgive me. [bows]).
Session 4 continues to deliver in the technical department. Picture and sound were great. The menus are the same. I did notice that if you pick the trailers you can't go back to the extras menu. I realized this when I accidentally hit the trailers button instead of the music video. I was forced to go to the main menu and go all the way, click by agonizing click to the extra menu (yes I'm exaggerating on purpose). It wasn't that bad, just an observation really. I did like the green cover on this one. It does stand out the most of the covers so far. There is still no list of extras on the cover, but there is one on the insert. You get a Remix of Tank! music video. Cowboy keeps up with the solid technical score here.
We are now into the second half of the series. Finally we are hitting some character development, for people other than Spike. In fact Spike pretty much only appears in cameo on this disc. The focus is on Faye for two episodes, Jet for one episode and Ed for one episode. The show is still ranging from gritty action, to drama, to comedy, and sometimes all three. It's all balanced pretty well in its episodic way, but something is still missing in my book.
We start the show off with Faye in "My Funny Valentine." The first half of the show has Faye telling Ein a bit of her mysterious past. This all starts because Ein's eyebrows remind her of an old flame. The second half brings this mysterious past back to Faye, but just like our heroine, it isn't all it appears to be. It also tells you how to get a fat implant in the world of Bebop.
Jet Black gets his shot in the spotlight in "Black Dog Serenade". Seems that the man who caused Jet to lose his arm is about to escape from prison. Jet's old partner comes to obtain Jet's help in catching this master killer again. But Jet wants to let his past go. The question is, will the past let go of Jet?
"Mushroom Samba" is all about wacky antics and fun. Not only do you get to see the crew of the Bebop high after making a meal of some very special mushrooms, but you get an episode that seems to be a tribute of sorts to movies like "Shaft" and "Jackie Brown". You also get to see Ein in his most death-defying stunt ever. I heard that Ein is the Jackie Chan of the anime world. He does all his own stunts. In fact the last Bebop disc will have lots of goofy outtakes of Ein performing these stunts ;-).
The final episode on the disc, "Speak Like a Child" brings us back to Faye. When a mysterious package arrives for Faye (who's convinced it's from one of many people she owes money to), Jet and Spike discover an ancient piece of technology known as a videocassette. A beta cassette to be exact (remember these little guys?). Well, the quest is on to find a player and get a peek at the contents. But what does this ancient technology have to do with Faye?
Cowboy Bebop still looks great and sounds great. But the actual substance is still lacking even with three episodes that deal with character backgrounds. Faye and Jet are now more 3D than 2D, but the important question is will these characters change? We now know why Jet is who he is and we get a much better understanding of Faye, but is this only back story without a payoff?
Let's look at the good points of the disc first before I start asking some tough questions about the show. The animation is still some of the best I've seen from a television series. It's all very fluid and beautiful to watch. The character design is still great. And the production design, from the ships to the buildings and locales is all very imaginative and great to watch. The prison ship in the second episode was very cool looking. I also enjoyed the ruined museum on earth in the fourth episode. The sound work on the dub track has kept up the great work. All those added little touches, the static on the radios, the slight background sounds on the "quiet" ship, they all add an extra dimension to the world.
The acting is still top notch. Our mains have all hit their marks. They can all handle the rough parts. We can feel Jet's anguish at the end of the second episode and we can feel Faye's despair at the end of the fourth episode. And when it comes to the comedy they can pull that off too. Ed's actress is wonderful, and the whole main cast gets to have fun in the third episode (gotta love the mushrooms). These actors are doing a bang up job.
The score is still well done. It's got enough variety in it to not be boring or cliche. Funny thing is, there are plenty of similarities in this score and the score to Trigun. Wonder which score came first, or which composer got to hear a demo track to the other show first. But Bebop's score still manages to be unique to its world and the vocals are fitting as well.
O.K. so what is my big gripe about this show? Well a couple of days ago I was asked to name my favorite DVDs of this year. I said Perfect Blue right off the bat. I was about to follow it up with Cowboy Bebop and Trigun but I paused. Both those shows look great, they have lots of creative visual, audio, and acting work in them. But they are weak in the writing department. The material that should hold the show together is lacking, more so in Bebop than Trigun. I had to say that Key the Metal Idol looked more promising as did Sakura Diaries.
I've been finding myself with each consecutive release of Bebop feeling excited by the animation and action. Laughing at the delivery of the funny lines. But at the same time I'm wondering where this is all going. At this point each episode of Bebop seems to have a key scene in it that the whole episode was written around. A good example of this occurs in the last episode.
O.K., see if you agree with me here. The key to this episode is the ending. We need to have Faye watch the tape and feel the emotion. I admit that on its own this episode works great, especially in that moment. Now to get to that moment we need the tape and the player. O.K. so someone gives Faye the tape. And for comedic value we'll have Jet pay for it and know full well he's not going to get his money back. Then they have to get a player...
Well there are a couple of big, huge problems with this. First of all, we have established that Spike and Jet are sick of Faye. They find her annoying, and more of a hazard than a help. Why in the name of God would Jet pay for something that belonged to Faye, knowing he wasn't going to get the money back. Why would he, the one that seems to handle the money matters of the group, waste money that could have been used for food (something they never have enough of) or fuel (in the last episode they ran out of that). With the way the character of Jet is, he would not have picked up Faye's tab for the tape. He would have, at the most, gotten the address of the post office and have her pick it up with her own cash.
But then the whole story wouldn't have happened. We need for Jet to get the tape and then be resentful about getting it, so it becomes a matter of pride to go and see what's on this thing (since he paid for it). But would it be worth the time, effort and fuel to go earth and explore a dilapidated building to find the VCR. No way. Jet would have just found another buyer for the item. Again, we can't have that happen or else the cool moment at the end won't happen.
Bebop is filled with plot devices like this. Things are bent all out of shape just to get that "cool moment" into the show. And usually that moment is very cool. But when the whole series thus far (with the exception of a few episodes) is just a string of "cool moments" with filler to get to them, there is serious meat missing here.
And while I'm speaking of Faye, I have to bring up another point from LadyCat (yes she was the one who put her finger on the problem I was having with the series). What is the point of Faye? She's basically there to provide fan service and comic relief. She's the "cool moment" in just about every show. She looks and sounds good, but all in all she's just filler at this point.
Once again characters and ideas are bent out of shape to accommodate the fan service she provides. In this tough world, two bounty hunters like Spike and Jet would not put up with her. She would have been ditched a long time ago. She gets them into trouble, lies to them constantly, gets captured at the drop of a hat, she's lost bounties for them more than once, she's rather inept at the most inopportune moments, and to top it off she's mean to Ein. At least Ed and Ein try and succeed in helping out. Faye seems to be content to do what she wants, how she wants, and when she wants.
She's not part of the team, unless she has to be and then she usually botches it all up. Real bounty hunters would have dropped off this waste of resources a long time ago. But for the sake of the show, she remains.
Now I'm sure that later in the series Faye's past becomes more of a plot point and she won't be doing nothing but getting the rest of the crew in trouble. But at this point Faye is just another "cool moment" to add in the line of "cool moments" in this show.
Am I the only one that feels this way? Or do you think I'm way out of line with this one. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let's hear what you think. If you want I'll put up your response on my personal web page.
Anyway, this disc is more of the same Bebop we've come to expect. It's entertaining and it's not a bad way to spend 100 minutes of your life. But I think Trigun is slowly gaining the edge on it, and I found 3 hours worth of Key to be more satisfying than the last four discs of Bebop.
Panasonic A110 Pioneer Elite Pro-107 (45 inch screen) Kenwood THX certified 4.1 receiver Boston Acoustics (5 speakers and 2 subs)
Mania Grade: NA
Audio Rating: N/A
Video Rating: N/A
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: N/A
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Cowboy Bebop