Cowboy Bebop, 1st Session

Image of DVD cover (23k gif)

Released by: Pioneer.
Region: One.
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Disc 1:

In New Zealand Anime is not yet a really accepted genre. Video outlets and the like do stock some titles but the selection is usually poor and quite limited. Therefore to get to some of the more offbeat good stuff one has to order them in. With our exchange rate and the difficulty of returning goods this means I often trawl the net looking at reviews of titles to see whether they are worth the effort of importing.

So I was well aware of the buzz that Cowboy Bebop had generated before I ordered this disc. In fact I'd come in late enough that the entire series was now out and I could find reviews discussing the quality of the series in toto. Even so I decided to be cautious and order only the first disc as an experiment. This has created something of a problem for me because the reviews and buzz were entirely right - this is a great series excellently animated. So I was then stuck waiting for a slow DVD outlet to fill my order and get the next five discs to me so I could see for myself the rest of the glory that is Bebop.

Bebop is, initially, the Story of Spike and Jet - bounty hunters operating from an old fishing ship and trawling around the solar system chasing their bounties. This isn't new material and in the hands of another director could be purely the set up for outlandish acts of bloody violence and little else. Fortunately for us Bebop isn't - sure there is blood and violence but it isn't gratuitous and is nearly always infused with a sense of humour.

And that is what underscores this first disc - humour. The characters are introduced and the, often slightly ludicrous, situations they commonly get into are explored. Giving us time to adjust to this new world and have a sense of it's overall feel before the major plot kicks in with episode five. The series clearly aims to go somewhere and episode five brings the somewhat enigmatic first few seconds of the first episode into clarity and offers a glimpse of what is to come.

Underpinning the universe and grounding it's humour is an almost meticulously thought out universe that lends the series gravitas. Little touches like the magnetic clamps, the air walls of Mars, the rotating habitat sections of ships and the occasional exploitation of zero gravity give us enough suspension of disbelief to become involved with the characters and not hung up on just how odd their world is.

With a music track by the eminently capable Yoko Kanno and an english dub that is beautifully done and you have an anime series to die for. I only pull it down a notch in content rating because while the series is extremely well done it doesn't really seem to be exploring anything particularly profound. It just is telling an offbeat and frequently hilarious story.

So what is not to like with the series? Well nothing really. Only the DVD menu system is frequently annoying with it's slowness and it has an unusual glitch in that the chapter selection causes my Creative Dxr2 software to die a horrible death. Odd really because I can play the disc and then use chapter forward to leap to the correct segment of the disc. I just can't go through the menu to do it.

If you haven't got Bebop go out and get it. After seeing this I simply put the next five discs on order, sight unseen. It really is that good.

Philip R. Banks
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