Given my delight with Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, it’s probably no surprise that I decided to go whole-hog and plump down for the complete TV series. As it turns out, Cowboy Bebop Remix is something of a mixed bag.
The first few episodes center on assembling the Bebop “crew” — Spike Spiegel (Kouichi Yamadera) and Jet Black (Unshou Ishizuka) are the core of the team on the Bebop, their somewhat cobbled-together space ship that plies the solar system on the hunt for wanted criminals — they’re bounty hunters, known in the current slang as “cowboys,” based on Mars but roaming known space. They are joined in short order by Ein, a Welsh corgi of somewhat remarkable abilities (also voiced by Yamadera!); Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV, known as “Ed” (Aoi Tada), a girl who seems to live in her computer; and Faye Valentine (Megumi Hayashibara), a bounty hunter cum small-time gambler. The bounty-hunting, as might be expected with this team, has somewhat mixed results.
OK, it’s a TV series, and therefore necessarily episodic. In this case, it’s really episodic — only two story arcs, “Jupiter Jazz” and “The Real Folk Blues,” run more than one episode. There are ongoing threads, mostly concerned with character histories, but what you’ve got in general is one story for every 25-minute episode. I’ve gotten used to series such as Samurai 7 and Saiyuki, which are built around ongoing story lines, so it took some adjustment on my part.
There are some highly entertaining riffs on the tropes of just about every genre of pulp fiction you can think of, from science fiction to westerns to detective stories. One very funny episode, “Toys in the Attic,” is a delightful take-off on Alien, with a dose of Ten Little Indians built in, and a finale from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
One thing that is very impressive about this series is the quality of the execution. The animation has the same naturalism as the feature film — movements are fluid and realistic, and at times it’s almost like watching a live-action movie, although not quite as finished as Cowboy Bebop: The Movie. (Reportedly, the budget per episode was ¥20 million, which comes out to about $200,000 — nice chunk of change, and a chance for the production staff to really do their best.)
The voice actors are fully up to the standard I’ve gotten used to in anime, and maybe even a cut above. The naturalism carries over to the characterizations and delivery — Faye has a tendency to mumble to herself, Ed is just as loopy as it gets, and even Ein is very expressive.
The DVD includes the expected choices for playback — Dolby 5.1 stereo or standard stereo, and English subtitles, along with staff interviews as an extra feature. The packaging is savvy, as well — it’s a six-disc set including all 26 episodes that comes in a fairly compact case with hinged holders for the disc — almost like a book, and you don’t have to juggle discs around trying to pull out the one you want.
I’m not sure which side it comes down on — on the whole, it’s excellent, but I think the truncated story arcs work against it in some ways — there’s just not enough development in some episodes to make them fully satisfying.
(Bandai Entertainment, 2008)