Cowboy Bebop Perfect Collection (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, February 07, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, November 20, 2001
Going into this set, I admit I had never actually seen any of Bebop at all; I'd only ever heard comments (mostly good) from others here. But it seemed like a show I'd like, so I bit the bullet and dived straight in, ordering the set. And all I can say is I am glad I did, as the show did not disappoint me one bit.
OK, I admit it - I've only seen the first episode in Japanese. While I enjoyed it a lot, something just seemed to click for me with the English dub. It's definitely one of the best dubs I've ever heard; the voice actors clearly went to great depths to get into character and try and make the English track work, and I think it works really, really well. I thought all the characters were well cast, and the dub just sat really well with me.
As for the technical side of the audio, well, I don't have the best setup, but I didn't notice any problems.
After watching the first couple of episodes using my old composite cables, I finally went out and bought a new RGB connector, and I have to say it really allowed me to see how great this transfer is. The size of my TV doesn't exactly lend itself well to spotting many errors, but compared to some of the other shows I've checked out recently the video transfer is definitely very well done.
Ah, let us all salivate! The individual discs are wonderfully packaged, with fantastic covers (lifted from the Japanese releases), and they have a great retro style to them (which carries over to the prints on the discs themselves). But the thing everyone will scrutinise is the much sought-after box. And it's magnificent! OK, so it's just a box, but it's pretty much the best box I've seen before. It's nice and thick, has a great piece of artwork on the front, is individually numbered (well, for those who bought the box with the discs, anyway) and has room for seven keepcases; just enough to hold all the discs plus the movie when that's released. All round, I think it's one of the best DVD packages I've seen.
The extras spread across the six discs come from a special "session 0" release in Japan, and the meat of the extras are put on the first few discs. These are very nice, with interviews with the Japanese production staff and a few other behind the scenes snippets. These are very well done, it's just a shame that they generally don't run for very long. But they are rather insightful, and I did really enjoy the interviews with Yoko Kanno and the director.
Cowboy Bebop is fun! Well, it's actually many things and fun is only one of them. Thankfully, going into it I did know it was generally an episodic show with not much of an arc. There is an arc there, it's just more in the background in most episodes in which a fun adventure takes centre stage for the most part. Generally, I prefer arc-centric shows over episodic ones, but I found myself really getting in to Bebop and its characters, and the adventures they had.
The characters are great, and very, very likeable. I always find myself enjoying shows more when I sympathise with and get into the characters, and in Bebop they're just so much fun. Spike is a fantastic character, with his background shrouded in mystery, and he comes off as a very cool person who is quite care free. Jet also has a pretty downbeat past, but he and Spike joined up to become bounty hunters, and the pair of them play off each other perfectly. Their interplay is fantastic, but then the same goes for all the characters really; another of the most enjoyable things is just how well the crewmembers interact with one another. Faye is another great character; again she's very likeable, and yet very antagonistic, but you also get a feel for how vulnerable she can be, and that the way she acts now has to do with covering up her real emotions and what she felt in the past. Ed is a maniac! Absolutely crazy, but just wonderful. She lights up every scene she's in, and it also helped for me that much of her interaction was with possibly my favourite character, Ein. Yes, Ein is a dog. But quite possibly the most well-presented dog this side of Disney. Ein manages to be a scene-stealer, and Ein's reactions to what the rest of the crew are up to are just marvellous, particularly said interplay with Ed; they make a great pair! Yes, for me Ein was that loveable!
Despite most episodes being episodic, there is an underlying arc and it deals with the character's pasts, in particular Spike's. Starting out, all the character's pasts are a complete mystery, but through the course of the show we get to glare into their pasts, often with shocking results. We get a couple of episodes that deal mostly with Faye and who she is and where she comes from, and a couple of episodes deal with Jet's past. But arguably the best episodes, and definitely up their with my personal favourites, are those that deal with Spike's past, the man named Vicious and the mysterious Julia. "Ballad of Fallen Angels", "Jupiter Jazz 1 & 2" and "The Real Folk Blues 1 & 2" are the key episodes that deal with this arc, and as a contrast to the episodic episode's light-hearted, fun-filled nature, they are very dark themed and are very bloody. And yet they are just wonderful. The resolution to the arc comes at the end of the series, in which the story is brought to its logical, and yet still surprising conclusion. Yes, there's an end, and I for one was quite sad to see the credits roll as the thought of no more Bebop (bar the movie) was somewhat saddening. But as I say, those episodes are all outstanding and present some really great twists and turns, and are definitely in the must-see category.
There are plenty of other episodes I really enjoyed too, most notable would have to be "Mushroom Samba" - an absolutely, insanely hilarious episode focussing on the adventures of Ed and Ein that is quite simply a laugh-a-minute; "Pierrot Le Fou" - a very violent episode which sees Spike almost constantly getting his butt kicked, but provides some great action and is highly enjoyable; "Cowboy Funk" - another comedy episode, in which we have a bounty hunter who literally is a cowboy, horse 'n all and "Hard Luck Woman" - the episode that precedes the two-part finale and sees some of the final revelations of Faye's past and also deals with Ed and her past, and also her departure. In addition to those essential episodes, most of the other episodes are highly enjoyable too. The only episodes which I didn't really enjoy that much were "Heavy Metal Queen", "Wild Horses" and "Boogie-Woogie Feng-Shui", although they're all still quite enjoyable and worth watching at least once. All in all, Bebop is one of the most well-rounded series in terms of the number of very good episodes throughout its run.
The mixture of genres throughout the episodes really helped sustain my enjoyment, and if I was to find one fault in the show it would have to be that the characters don't really go anywhere, they're just there. That's to be expected of an episodic show (and the reason why I tend to not like them as much), but for me the show's overall quality shined through.
The music for this series deserves a special mention as well - the score from Yoko Kanno is absolutely superb, and really fits the retro-nature of the show itself, much like the animation, which is also fantastic. Bebop definitely has very high production values.
I feel I must also mention the next episode previews for this show. While they're only 30 seconds of clips from the next episode with voice-overs, these are the funniest previews I've seen in any anime. Every single one just made me laugh out loud, and I think the Bebop team deserve credit for doing something inventive with next episode previews.
So yes, I like Bebop - a lot. It's one of the best anime series I've seen, and was thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. It had great, likeable, fun characters and some absolutely hilarious, some violent and some dramatic stories to go along with them. It's highly recommended from me as a show everyone should at least take a look at and try - I think it'd be worth it.
Pioneer DV-530 Multi-Region, 14 Inch TV, RGB output, mono sound
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A+
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Running time: 650
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Cowboy Bebop