Cowboy Bebop Vol. #4 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: C
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Beez
  • MSRP: £19.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Cowboy Bebop

Cowboy Bebop Vol. #4

By Bryan Morton     June 06, 2005
Release Date: May 23, 2005



What They Say
The crew of the Bebop unravels more mysteries in their quest for making a living. Faye and Jet learn that the past isn't always what you remember, and Ed and Ein strike out on their own in one of the funniest adventures yet.

The Review!
Bebop returns with possibly its best volume yet content-wise, although a number of production niggles combine to spoil the overall package.

Audio:
The soundtrack is provided in both English & Japanese stereo versions. I listened mainly in the original Japanese, dipping into the English track from time to time. Both soundtracks are clean and clear, with no obvious problems. Good use is made of the front channels to give a decent amount of direction to both vocals and effects.

Video:
Rainbowing and edge noise makes an unwelcome return this volume after a relatively clean volume 3, and can be quite distracting at times. There's also some noticeable blocking during episode 17. Add in the appearance of French placeholder text such as (#NOM?) in the subtitles, the usual subtitle formatting glitches, and the small amounts missing from the beginning of the opening credits in each episode, and it all adds up to a disappointing release, video-wise.

Packaging:
Faye makes another appearance on this volume's cover, looking particularly sophisticated & ready for a night out. The back cover features a smaller version of the same image, along with episode summaries, screenshots & a technical information panel.

Menu:
Menus are the same as on the previous volumes, mimicking the style of the Cowboy Bebop opening credits, and are backed by the opening theme. Submenus are provided for 'Bonus' material (a few Beez trailers), language setup & chapter select, using the same background music & presentational style as the main menu. They're responsive & intuitive to use, although as before the background music cuts out very suddenly after about 20 seconds, which feels a bit untidy.

Extras:
None

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Faye gets the lion's share of the attention on this disc, with two episodes that give a look into her past. In My Funny Valentine, she does some reminiscing back to when she was awoken from cold-sleep a few years earlier, and to her relationship with insurance company rep Whitney Hagas Matsumoto. While it seemed good while it lasted, Whitney's apparent death left her with his substantial debts (his will turned out to be one she really didn't want to be named in), so it comes as something of a surprise when Jet brings in his latest bounty - Whitney, and he's very much alive and kicking. After her initial outrage at being tricked, Faye can't forget the good times they had and decides to let him go, but Spike and Jet aren't about to let their bounty go without a fight.

In Speak Like a Child, a package arrives for Faye. While she's not hanging about to see what it is or pay the cash-on-delivery charge, Jet & Spike let their curiosity get the better of them & open it to find an old Betamax video cassette. Cue a search to find a working Beta deck that will let them watch the tape, although the first one they find has an unfortunate encounter with Spike's foot that leaves it unlikely to ever work again. A trip to Earth proves equally fruitless, as Jet and Spike fail to understand the subtle differences between Beta and VHS. When a follow-up package is finally delivered containing the elusive Beta player, they find that the tape is a message to Faye from her high-school self.

Black Dog Serenade has to be one of the more gory episodes of Bebop, as Jet and former colleague Fad take on the case of a prison transport that's been hijacked by the inmates it was carrying. One of the prisoners on board, syndicate assassin Udai, is an old adversary of Jet's and the person responsible for his artificial arm, but Fad has an ulterior motive for this job.

Finally, Bebop gets its finest comedy moment in Mushroom Samba. With no food left on board and the ship needing repair after a hit-and-run incident, Ed's sent out in search of food, taking Ein with her. The first town she comes across seems to have escaped from a 70's blaxploitation movie, and the only food she can find is mushrooms. Magic mushrooms.

Between them, these episodes managed to pull the full range of emotions out of me, even though this wasn't the first time I'd seen them - from the laugh-out-loud moments as Ein goes bouncing down the street under magic-mushroom-power or Spike puts his boot through an antique video recorder, to the more touching scenes where Faye watches her younger self giving her "Go! Me!" cheer, or Jet's final words to Fad. Throughout it all you keep learning little bits more about the characters and what makes them tick. It's all classic stuff.

If you're an AV nut, keep an eye out for the detailed - and accurate! - history of Beta -vs- VHS that gets delivered in episode 18. It even plays a part in the story, as Spike and Jet fail to pay attention to the video store owner when searching for a Beta player on Earth & instead bring home a VHS deck - "Bigger is better, right?". It's those little things that make the difference between an average show and a great one.

The quality of the show, though, makes it doubly annoying that Beez's Bebop releases continue to suffer from a number of annoying glitches. While each glitch is a minor problem on its own, there are enough of them that together they become a real distraction - by the end of these episodes I found myself more waiting for the next visible problem to crop up than watching the show itself. Thankfully, it seems Beez's other current releases don't suffer from quite the same problems, but they're something to bear in mind with this series.

In summary:
The best volume of Cowboy Bebop so far, content-wise, that would be an easy recommendation if the release wasn't marred by a number of annoying and mostly avoidable glitches. Watching the disc dubbed instead of subtitled will work around some of them, but it's a shame a little more care wasn't taken during the production stage.

Features
Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (2.0),English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

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