Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Review: Cowboy Bebop


The anime takes place in 2071. Mankind has created a portal system that allows faster than light interstellar travels and colonized the solar system. We follow Spike Spiegel and Jet Black, two bounty hunters (called cowboys in this setting) that go after wanted criminals in their ship, Bebop. During their adventures, Ein, an intelligent dor, Faye Valentine, a female bounty hunter and Ed, a female hacker join their team.

The technical aspects of the anime are very good, considering when it was released. Sunrise's mechanical design is excellent and the animation is good, even though you can notice they had to cut corners sometimes. It even has some CGI, which was state of the art at the time. Yoko Kanno's soundtrack is awesome, mixing a lot of different styles, but focusing on jazz and blues.

Regarding the chararacters, there are good and bad points. Jet is a hard-boiled and tough detective kind of guy. But he doesn't get a lot of airtime and spends most of the time on the ship, being the group's "mom". Ed is a strange teenage girl and is a lot of fun. I really liked her voice. But she doesn't make much difference in the anime. Faye is tha japanese style femme fatale, a la Fujiko Mine. She uses her looks to manipulate men and is always trying to take advantage of her colleages at the Bebop. Even though the anime makes use of her sensuality constantly, they managed to develop her well, giving her depth and making her show more than just her femme fatale side. She's also a character that I enjoyed. Unfortunately, I just couldn't like Spike. He's that character that's made to be so cool and badass that I found him boring. And that's bad, because he's the main characters and the anime's end has connections to his past. But his Jeet Kune Do skills allowed the anime to have some awesome fighting scenes.

Bebop is an episodic anime, with most episodes telling stand alone stories. The director uses that to experiment and try different genres. It usually works and most episodes are cool, specially the ones that focus on one of the characters. But some episodes, like the one with the mushrooms and the one with the killer are very boring. The anime also has some brief philosophical discussions, but nothing too deep.

The director was smart and didn't fall in the episodic series' trap. He introduced Spike's story as the center of the animes plot and didn't need to come up with some thing out of thin air to create the anime's climax. But I found Spike's story lame. And the main reason for that is that the director didn't want to properly show Spike's past, using black and white flashes. This doesn't allow the viewer to relate to the characters and kills the drama. It's the difference that Berserk's Golden Age arc does. Using slow motion, music and doves flying during a character's death won't make you care for a character for which the viewer has no emotional connection, since he or she was hardly present in the anime. The final showdown also makes little sense if you think rationally, even though it was clear that was how it was going to end. It's like the final conflict in a western movie, between the lone gunman and the villains.

Cowboy Bebop is very good. It just isn't as good as the hypers say it is.

Veredict: Recommended

What about the manga?

Cowboy Bebop's manga isn't the original version nor an adaptation of the TV series. The writers decided to create new episodic stories with the characters form the TV series. The stories are entertaining and the manga has a lot of comedy. Even Spike has the chance to act like a fool and ends up being more interesting than his uber-cool TV version.

The character design is good, even though it's different from the TV series, the backgrounds are ok and the mechanichal design is similar to the original, though not as detailed. The flow of the action scenes isn't good though. I don't know if it's a matter of the limit of pages the artist, Yutaka Nanten, had to work with or if it was a lack of skill of the artist.

In the end, this 3-volume manga is an entertaining and a good chance for the Bebop fans to revisit the characters.

Veredict: Recommended

P.S: There's another Cowboy Bebop manga, but it's an alternative version.

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