Cowboy Bebop Vol. #5 (Mania.com)

By:Roman Martel
Review Date: Thursday, February 07, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, September 05, 2000



The Review!
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
Well we are almost done with Cowboy Bebop and I don't know how it can pull out of the funk (no pun intended... well at least not totally) it's in. I think I still feel the same way I've felt about this show since I saw the first disc. I know I haven't been looking forward to each disc since around the second one. Did this disc change my mind?

Technical Review
Bebop has been solid in the technical department since the beginning. It looked great on my computer and the sound has also been top notch. The menu is still the same. It's a bit annoying but nothing more than that, but it works fine. The presentation... well this is my favorite cover yet. I love Ein, and I think he's one of the most likeable characters. So this cover and its copy on the back are my favorites so far. We still don't get to know what extras come with this disc (creditless closing) but the rest of the info is on there. The extra is standard. Bebop hasn't ever had a problem in the technical department, so lets move on to the juicer stuff... the content.

Content Review
Well, we're almost there. The end of this series is coming out in the next disc. And as I said above, I'm pretty ambivalent about that. When this disc got delayed I wasn't really in a hurry to get it; I was more concerned that Sol Bianca and Trigun got delayed. But now that Bebop has shown up and I've watched it, well all I can say is "at least its consistent".

We have a mix of great and good animation here with the four stories presented in this disc. In the first, "Wild Horses", space pirates make trouble for the gang. In the end, it's up to the creator of Spikes Ship (the "swordfish" I believe) and Spike himself to save the day. But can they really get that huge piece of ancient technology to actually work? In the next episode, "Pierrot Le Fou" Spike takes on a deadly killer who has been enhanced with telekinesis. For once, Spike's martial arts skill is not enough to save him. Is this gonna be Spikes last ride? In the 3rd episode on this disc "Boogie Woogie Feng-Shui" Jet's in the spotlight again and this time he has to help the daughter of an old friend. But what is really going on between those two... inquiring minds want to know (like Ein!). In the final episode on the disc, "Cowboy Funk" Spike attempts to catch the criminal mastermind... the Teddy Bomber, only to be interrupted every time by the bounty hunting master... Andy (no relation to Bad Andy). After screwing up the bounty twice, Spike goes on a rampage. Andy becomes the target... and Teddy Bomber just wants to be heard!

With the brilliant creative team behind Bebop still working in high gear these episodes contain some of the best animation yet! "Pierrot Le Fou" contains not only awesome fluid fight scenes and a disturbing dark atmosphere, but it uses several intriguing camera shots and angles. The opening point of view shot sent a chill through me. And the whole flash back involving Mad Pierrot's past is just plain creepy. This episode has the best direction so far. It combines the visuals, music and sound perfectly to make this the best episode I've seen from Cowboy Bebop yet. The other episodes, aren't as dark or as fluid (I'm assuming "Pierrot Le Fou" was an OAV episode) but they still look great. Character design as well as vehicle and production design is still top notch. This has the best animation of any TV show I've yet seen. I doubt that we will see any change in that by the end of last disc. The sound has also kept up with the visuals, and the dub sound is still better than the original sound track.

Once again, I'm gonna leave the plot discussion for the end of the review and I'll go on about the dub cast. They have all hit their marks in the last disc and have kept up the great work. This is one of the best dubs I've heard for TV show and it seems that the cast has gotten into the parts and is having a blast. We have been running into the problem of having some characters do multiple voices and so it sounds like Jet is talking to Jet in a couple of episodes, but all in all the main characters are excellent. I still think that the woman doing the dub for Faye is excellent and does a better job than the original actress (I know that will be blasphemy to some). And the dub actress for Ed is also doing a bang up job!

The music is still interesting and well done. Most of the time it works with the visuals (it works to great effect in "Pierrot Le Fou") and some times it's a bit much in places. But overall the music works wonderful on a CD. These soundtracks are great and show off just how skilled Yoko Kanno is at her craft.

Well, now we get to the weak point of the series. It's still a problem that after 4 more beautiful looking and sounding episodes we have no character development at all! We've got character background and that's all well and good, but still none of the characters has changed in the least. Spike is still super cool, devil-may-care bounty hunter. Jet's still the tough guy with a heart of gold. Faye is still a bitch. Ed is still a spazzy super genius and Ein is still Data-dog extraordinaire! That's all well and good, but quite frankly I don't care a damn about any of them, except for Ein. The only character I'd feel slightly bad for would be Jet. He seems like a nice guy deep down and doesn't deserve all the crap he's had to put up with in this show.

Of the four episodes "Wild Horses" is the weakest. I forgot what it was about when I was writing this review and had to rewatch a bit of it. It's definitely a filler episode from beginning to end and while it's entertaining, it isn't much else. "Pierrot Le Fou" is the visual shining jewel of the disc, albeit a dark one. But the plot is pretty standard for this type of episode. And I didn't care if Spike got his ass kicked or not. The visuals and the style outshine the plot and make the episode. But once again we are left with a hollow feeling as the next episode starts without even a change in anyone personality. "Boogie Woogi Feng-Shui" I enjoyed the most in the plot department. We got to see more about Jet and confirm that he's just a nice tough guy. It's got a great ending and gives you a glimmer of hope. Have the writers hit upon something here! Nope, in the next episode Lain's Reset button was hit and everyone is back to their same old same old. With the introduction of Andy, "Cowboy Funk" is a fun episode. I felt sorry for the Teddy Bomber (one of the best villains yet) and got a good laugh out of the episode, but there still wasn't much else going on.

This show exists in its own world, and works well there. For a collection of short stories Cowboy Bebop is well done. But for a whole TV show, episode after episode of this is wearing very thin. It's all style and very little substance. I don't care how fancy looking the plate is, if it's empty, then what's the point? Well I'll leave my rant about plot for the review of the next disc, although I'm pretty sure this series is beyond hope at this point. But it sure as hell looks and sounds excellent.

As a brief side note, Faye once again proved totally useless and just made me like her even less with each passing episode. LadyCat cheered when Ein shut off the relay on her, and made the comment, "You know you're a bitch when even the dog doesn't like you." We actually saw Faye do something useful (and accidentally blowing up the pirate ship doesn't count) in the last episode, but that's only because Andy was already screwing things up so much that at that point even Faye could do no wrong. I still stand by the fact that since we've seen the way Spike reacts to people who mess up his bounty (of course Andy was also giving Spike a run for the money in other areas too), Faye would have been ditched somewhere a long time ago. Now maybe the only reason they tolerate her now is because of her past. Oh my god is that character development?!?! Well yes, but they still would have ditched her about 3 episodes after they picked her up (well before "My Funny Valentine"). Faye is still our source for bitchy fan service and nothing else. I might even cheer if she buys it in the next disc ;-)

Well I'm gonna reserve my judgement of the series for the last disc (as well I should). There still might be a glimmer of hope left, but I don't think that will be the case. This series is reminding me of a Hollywood movie, it looks and sounds great, but under all the style you aren't left with very much, but some fun and a couple of smiles. Not a bad thing, but it's still not enough to make this an anime great by any means.

Roman J. Martel
Think I'm a loon? Let's hear what you have to say! E-mail me at...
roman@animeondvd.com



Review Equipment
Hitachi GD-2000 DVD ROM, Cinemaster QI DVD Player (application), Dell Model UltraScan D1025HTX Color Monitor, ACS295 Atltec Lansing Speakers (right, left, Subwoofer)



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
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Cowboy Bebop