The best way of seeing…and saying…see you space cowboy…
What They Say :
The crew of the Bebop is once again ready to clean up space by bringing bad guys to justice and trying to make some cash while doing it! Now for the first time ever this Anime classic is available in amazing high-definition Blu-Ray and packaged in a limited edition slipcase and containing bonus content never available outside of Japan before including the “Ein’s Summer Holiday” short and a 40 page booklet. Join the always-cool Spike Spiegel, investigative genius Jet Black, the alluring Faye Valentine, the amazing (but weird) Ed and the super-smart Welsh Corgi named Ein as they try to make a buck in the year 2071. How do they do it? They’re bounty hunters!
The Blu-Ray release makes me happy as it includes a 5.1 Dolby Surround sound both in English and Japanese. Cowboy Bebop is constantly praised for being one of the best dubs of all time, so having time combined with the super Japanese acting as well in clean 5.1 already makes it a great release. Some of the extras unfortunately have stereo instead (the commentaries) which does mean a quick raise of the volume but otherwise you cannot fault it. No issues with synching, subtitles, etc – and with a Blu Ray release of this nature the visual quality is perfectly recaptured and remastered for high definition. I had it both set up in widescreen and full screen (disc 1 and 2 respectively) and the images are so clear watching the series it is one of those series that feels like a cinematic experience, and the way the visuals are presented, it compliments that perfectly. No issues with slowdown, pausing images or glitches, resolution is perfect – no problems whatsoever.
The menu is identical on both discs – it is basically the legendary TANK opening with a menu on the side of Play All, Episodes, Extras and Set Up on a black background. The menu as per most Blu-Ray releases doesn’t interrupt the menu loading making selection easy and again I like the feature that when you want to go back to the main menu from the show, the menu just pops up on the right hand side and the episode you are watching still continues which I haven’t yet noticed in any other Blu-Ray review I’ve done so far. As the menu is pretty much the opening, whilst nice, you see the opening every episode so feel a little redundant, but easily accessible and nice feature to get back to the main menu.
We get two commentaries in Japanese for the second Blu-Ray set. The first one is on episode 17 (a.k.a. the Ed episode, Mushroom Samba) featuring director Shinchiro Watanabe and legendary music creator Yoko Kanno. – it’s not really an informative interview but it is a lot of fun, especially as Kanno has to recreate the music for the episodes without knowing what the episode was about…all she knew was it had something to do with mushrooms, and she loves mushrooms! There is some talk about how the group wanted to make an Ed episode, and how the location was visually very different because of the location and drug issues.
The second episode commentary is on episode 24, a.k.a. the episode where Ed and Faye leave the Bebop. It features Megumi Hayashibara(Faye) and Aoi Tada(Ed) – it is more of a nostalgia trip for the two as Megumi as a veteran and Tada who was only 16 when she recorded it (23 in this interview) gives them both memories of this surprisingly sad episode. They speak about how well layered the episode is, how Faye’s character changes in this episode, and of course the fun moments with Ed’s dad. There is a nice story as well about Aoi Tada staying with the other cast members as they finished dubbing the last two episodes despite Ed not being in them, almost like a family atmosphere and how everyone was into the show.
On the first disc there is a small sketch movie called Ein’s Summer Holiday, which is basically a picture book of Ein on holiday…which is just a dream. Short, simple and silly.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Cowboy Bebop was a series I enjoyed a lot when I was getting into anime, being one of the few series that was available in the UK on satellite back in the early 2000s. Relieving the episodes and the memories of the first Blu-Ray release was a treat and the same can be said for the second half, as the infamous ending certainly hasn’t got worse in time – in fact it may have been better in this day and age.
The only minor weakness I will get out of the way is that outside of the last 3 episodes, this set is very episodic – this works for quite a few series like Kino’s Journey for example, and for the most part it doesn’t really effect the show as we are enjoying just how these characters develop. And it all does lead to the final confrontation with Vicious, but during some of these episodes we get some development for Faye as we see a bit of her past come to light, a very humorous episode with Ed, some history with Jet and of course, the return of the mysterious Julia to Spike’s life…
With the episodic nature, each episode has a set theme and usually a set story and/or character it focuses on. It really isn’t until the end when Vicious returns but to get to that we do actually get some interesting background on Jet and in particular Faye, which definitely affects her character and decision making by the end of the series. However, it starts off for example with a bounty case which actually has some fun moments with Ed as the other three have found chess pieces connected to a bounty and some related incidents of the past…whilst the villain in question now old and senile just seems happy that he has a decent opponent in Ed playing chess. It’s actually quite a funny episode and for those who love Ed and her quirkiness it’s a good appetizer before her main episode, the infamous Mushroom Samba, where the cast are starving and get sidetracked on a nearby planet, so Ed heads off into the unknown to find food…and finds mushrooms and a bounty hunter dealing in mushrooms. It leads into some wacky chases and Ed ‘testing’ the mushrooms on her three victims (Spike, Jet and Faye) before the climax where the bounty pays Ed off with mushrooms, just as they worry when a police officer inspect, the predictable but still funny ending occurs.
Jet gets a couple of episodes to himself as well – he learn about how he got his cybernetic arm during a mission as he goes up against an old enemy…both a murderer, and potentially his past organization. An old friend of the past may not who he appears to be and may have been the cause of Jet’s destruction, whilst in a more light hearted episode, helps out the daughter of an old friend of his who is a specialist in Feng Shui as Spike and Faye snicker about Jet having a younger girl as a friend. Jet I’ve always felt was underappreciated as a character and was my second favourite after Spike back then and nowadays that hasn’t changed.
What I do appreciate though is how well the series develops Faye. Faye at first was a conniving sort of character who basically thought for herself and used the Bebop and her crew to her advantage. However, whilst she definitely is still there, as things about her past are revealed, you notice all the subtle changes about her character. The source of her debt is revealed through some flashbacks and when the guy who saddled her with that debt reappears in her life, it brings back old feelings and it is the start of Faye’s changes. A later episode when an old Betamax video of her as a child when she and some friends filmed it as a time capsule like experiment for them to watch in the future, you see her face change and her mind almost twists as she begins wondering in her mind things she is unsure if she wants to know or not…
In between the final three episodes, we get some bounty episodes and some very popular one off standouts. I liked the SCRATCH episode where Faye tries to infiltrate a cult and it shows that Spike and Jet do see her as a member of the crew, but the two that most fans will remember which isn’t part of the story is the one with the real cowboy character named Andy. It is a hilarious episode because Spike hates him…because the two are way too alike and it bugs him as he keeps interrupting the bounty that he is after. To say the comedy between the two along with the violence is amusing, including the ending when Andy ‘concedes’…
But the one infamous stand alone episode which is one of my favourites as well is the Pierrot Le Fou episode. This is infamous for its bloodshed, and seriously creepy and strange one episode villain. Most people remember him, an old man with a top hat, and with very strange paranormal abilities, he is someone who was experimented on to get this abilities at the cost of his sanity, with him now loving to kill. Spike sees him kill a group of thugs, and is next on the hit list. Pierrot stalks him both in the open and via the web, so Spike faces him in an amusement park, which is easily my favourite battle sequence of the show. And whilst the deus ex machina with his fear of cats comes into play and the way it concludes does seem a bit silly, the rest is something you don’t forget.
The final three episodes though the story returns to play, as whilst the distractions and development are great, we get the infamous episode with Ed’s dad returning, which actually makes her little strange girl actually think if she actually needs to leave the Bebop. This also factors into Faye thinking about her past and such (in one of the commentaries, it is said that this is the first time Faye says ‘sorry’ when Spike bumps into her accidentally, which is a test to her development) as Faye looks at landmarks of her past when the crew is diverted to Earth. Both do leave, but only Ed’s is permanent, as Faye actually finds Julia during a car chase whilst Jet and Spike are being attacked by members of the Red Dragon. It leads to Faye returning to the Bebop, her own feelings very conflicted, whilst Julia and Spike reunite after several flashback and scenes from earlier episodes, Julia’s mystery seems to somehow be added more when she is reintroduced. It doesn’t help considering what happens to her shortly, but it leads to the final showdown between Spike and Vicious, and the phrase ‘one man army’ couldn’t be more appropriate with how Spike is prepared…which leaves to the legendary final scene which for anybody who hasn’t seen it, I won’t spoil but it is still one of the most iconic anime endings of all time.
Cowboy Bebop as a series just gels incredibly well – the story whilst it is spread out all links together, the characters are all different (Spike with his calmness, Faye with her femme fatale ways, Jet with his team dad atmosphere, and Ed with…well, just Ed) and whilst it definitely has its weaknesses (plot only hits near the end and the villain, whilst distinctive, isn’t showcased much overall), there is a reason why it is considered a classic. From episode 1 to the final episode, I remembered loving this series when I first saw it, and it has aged incredibly well so today I still love it. And in Blu-Ray, it’s currently the best way to see it for fans and newcomers.
Cowboy Bebop Part 2 is simply a conclusion to a great series. Whilst the episodic nature of the set may be a tad disappointing for those wanting more elaboration with Vicious, it makes up for it with character development (Faye in particular), some fun episodes (Mushroom Samba), some really integrating solo episodes (Pierrot) and of course an epic conclusion. Cowboy Bebop is a labour of love, and after 15 years it still holds up. Highly recommended.
Content Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: October 14th, 2013
Running Time: 300 minutes
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.