Cowboy Bebop Vol. #6 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, February 07, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, November 07, 2000
Picture - 5
Sound - 5
Menu - 4
Presentation - 4
Extras - 4 (5)
Animation - 5
Sound - 5
Plot - 3
Acting - 5
Music - 5
We've come to the end of another series. This is one that I bought on a whim and turned out to enjoy it more than I thought. As the series progressed I started to get a little disappointed in the way the show was playing out. Well now that there has been some conclusion to the series I'll give my opinion on the finished product.
The Bebop discs have been some of the best ones I've come across. They've done a great job of highlighting the top-notch animation and sound. True to form, Bandai has made this final disc of Bebop look great on my set up. The sound has also been great, especially when it comes to accenting the excellent sound work done on the dub track of the show. The menus have always been a minor gripe with me. Mostly because of the fact that you have to wait 3 whole seconds (just kidding) when you go to the main menu. I did enjoy the change of music on this menu after a little tinkering from a mystery hacker ;-) I've also been one of the few that thought the understated work on the covers was interesting but not eye-catching enough. Still these are classy looking discs even if the keepcase doesn't include all the info (still missing what extras are on the disc, until you read the insert). As to extras, this disc has a nice gallery of all the DVD and VHS covers used by Bandai U.S. for the release. It would have been nice to seen some of the covers from the Laserdiscs that we didn't get (don't know if Bandai U.S. didn't have the rights to those). There is also a secret special gallery dedicated to my favorite character from the series... Ein! On the extra menu, push the left button until you see the visor on Ein's face change color, then hit select. You will enter the many faces of Ein. This was a great hidden extra; all us Ein fans thank you.
The final disc of Cowboy Bebop keeps up the high artistic standards in all the areas its excelled in. But the story, while wrapping things up nicely and ending on a perfect note is still lacking especially when you look back at the series as a whole. I'll explore the series itself after I comment on this disc alone.
Basically we have the grand finale to the show with these four episodes. In the first episode the crew of the Bebop has to find and capture the leader of a cult called SCRATCH. This cult was established to free everyone from their desires by freeing them of their bodies. But when cult members start turning up dead, the police want the leader tracked down. Can the crew of the Bebop catch the leader with their brains intact (watch for some awesome displays of brains from Ein!).
In the second episode Ed and Faye return to earth (with Spike and Jet in tiw) and discover that their past is waiting for them. This episode resolves the girl's backstory. We get to see Faye remember just what happened to her. But does she have a chance to return to her past? Ed finds someone who wants her back... her father. But is this man really who he claims to be?
In the final set of episodes The Real Folk Blues Parts 1 and 2, Spike gets his resolution along with Vicious and Julia. We get to see more of Spike's mysterious past. We also are taken for our final trip on the Bebop. It's the build up you've been waiting for and I must say all the episodes on this disc were equally entertaining.
The animation of Bebop has been some of the best I've seen in almost any form of anime. The whole look and feel of the show is very distinctive. I've commented in all my reviews on the excellent character, vehicle and production design. Not only that but there have been excellent use of camera movement and angles in this show. Bebop has lots and lots of style, and that helps it a great deal. These episodes continue in the same tradition and the animation especially in our final battle between Spike and Vicious is top notch.
The sound design and execution has also been top of its class. Again I'll mention that the depth of the soundtrack seems to really work in the dub version of the show. It adds too and supports the animation superbly.
Usually the plot is the weak point of Bebop. This disc has 4 entertaining episodes and it ties the story together very well. On it's own it's a very good disc story wise. Again there were some minor problems in character development. I must say that this disc might contain the best mix of stories. It's got action, laughs, and even a poignant moment or two.
The acting for this show has been great and I really want to give the English voice actors a big hand. They really made the characters work. In some ways I found the English dub a superior job than the original. Some of these roles were not easy (Ed was a very difficult character to pull off), but I think it was a job well done, even when some actors got stuck playing multiple rolls in the same episode.
Finally, the music. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Yoko Kanno is a master at adapting styles of music and making them into her own work. This disc has some new music that I hadn't heard in the series and it works so well. I think this series would have really suffered if her music hadn't been used. Another top notch job by Yoko.
Overall this disc is exactly what you'd expect from the rest of the show. It's a pretty good bet that if you watched up to this point in the series that you like it already. So this is a no-brainer buy. But I think that this is the best disc overall of the whole series. It does a great job of using all the elements to make it work. It has enough of everything to make it a great conclusion to a good series.
*** Series Review ***
From this point on there might be spoilers so I'm just warning you from the beginning. I'm gonna talk about the series and probably give a bit away. Just warning you.
Looking back on the whole series of Cowboy Bebop, I realized that as much as this show tried to be something new and different, and succeeded on so many levels, it seemed to have missed a simple element that would take it from being a good show to a great show. That element is character development. I'm not talking about characters with backstory, because Bebop's characters all have backstory to spare. I'm talking about characters changing over time to become something else.
Now I know people will point to the last three episodes and say, "Hey Look! Ed changes and so does Faye in that last episode. And how about Jet and Spike, they evolve." Well, yes and no. What Bebop does is give you four characters and set them in a series of adventures, giving you a little bit of history every once in a while. You get to see how they got to be who they are. But in the end, the only character that really seems to change is Faye. And that is right at the end of Real Folk Blues. In the final two episodes it seems that Faye is coming to grips with what life has handed her.
Ed doesn't really change; it just seems that her story changes settings. She has gone off with Ein to find her father and continue her life. Jet is Jet. He will not change. His arm is a reminder of his past, but he has managed to let go of his past and move on. But this happened before the series started. In a way Jet is the stability to the characters around him. He is also the one we get to see the most from. To me he is a well-rounded character who manages to be likable and well written. His only flaw is his steady nature. It makes him less interesting than Spike or Faye.
Spike is the opposite of Jet in many ways. Like Jet his eye is a constant reminder of his past. But he can't let it go, even when it comes knocking for him. Spike is the doomed character and that is why his end is fitting. It's a good ending, but there is something lacking over all.
The characters are well written but they are missing something that makes you care about them. Jet and Ein were the only ones I could connect with. I'd sympathize with Faye but she was running so hot and cold that I was unable to like her. Ed was kinda there for comic relief and fun. Spike was just a brooding hero, doomed to die.
Did the episodic nature of the show hurt it? Yes. There is no way to develop characters if they have to reset at the beginning of each new episode. I mentioned that this works for comedies (UY and Ranma rely on stock characters). But if you are going for a drama, then you need to have a continuous story with developing characters. Otherwise no one cares what happens to any of them. That was my major problem with this show.
But was this show going for drama, or comedy, or action, or what? Where they trying for a combination of all of these elements. That's the idea I got from the show. It's supposed to be serious and fun at the same time. Is this a possible goal, or was this something that is a good theory but hard to pull off? I think that the task was a tough one and that's why they picked all the top-notch actors, musicians and designers they could. But what started out as an awesome project became a showpiece for each person working on it. The result was a loss in the story department and characters suffered.
Cowboy Bebop looks and sounds great, and each element on it's own stands out. But together it makes a show that just couldn't live up to the ideals its creators had. It's an entertaining show. It's got moments, but it's not the best show I've seen all year or even in a collection of years. Bebop is worth seeing and even owning but it lacks something that keeps it out of the league of the top-notch shows.
Roman J. Martel
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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