Anime Blu-ray Review: Cowboy Bebop The Complete Series

Cowboy Bebop The Complete Series was released by FUNimation Entertainment after acquiring the series as a license rescue. It was released as a five-disc DVD set and a four-disc Blu-ray set. This review is for the Blu-ray set.

Cowboy Bebop The Complete Series

English Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
Format: Blu-ray
Release Date: December 16, 2014

Cowboy Bebop is set in the year 2071, and the series features a crew of bounty hunters traveling around in a spaceship called the Bebop. The crew of the ship includes Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Faye Valentine, Edward, and Ein.

Spike Spiegel is a former member of the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate. He’s a pickpocket, a skilled pilot, and is also a master of firearms and hand-to-hand combat.

Jet Black is a former Inter-Solar System Police (ISSP) detective, and he’s the character who owns the Bebop. He ended up leaving the ISSP due to his disgust of the corruption he saw in the force and became a bounty hunter. Jet also has a cybernetic prosthetic for one of his arms.

Faye Valentine is an amnesiac who was awakened after being in a cryogenic chamber for 54 years. She’s also a novice bounty hunter who has a gambling addiction. She ends up joining the crew of the Bebop uninvited.

Edward is a young computer genius and master hacker who agrees to help the crew of the Bebop track down a bounty. But this only happens after they allow Edward to become a member of the crew.

Ein is a Pembroke Welsh Corgi and a former lab animal that ends up joining the crew of the Bebop. Ein is referred to as a “data dog,” and it is suggested in the series that he has an enhanced intelligence.

The episodes of Cowboy Bebop usually focus on a particular bounty that the crew is trying to apprehend; however, there is also some emphasis on the past of one of the main characters. Many of Cowboy Bebop’s episode titles are references to song titles: “Stray Cat Strut,” “Honky Tonk Woman,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Toys in the Attic,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “My Funny Valentine,” “Wild Horses,” and “Hard Luck Woman.”

Another notable thing about Cowboy Bebop is how the series is able to combine several influences and make it work. During the series, you can see influences from kung fu films, westerns, science fiction, and film noir.

I appreciate how the character development is handled in the series, and how it turns out that everyone aboard the Bebop is damaged in some way. While there’s the occasional episode that doesn’t do much to progress the overall story or the characters, Cowboy Bebop is still an enjoyable series to watch. The series perfectly infuses lots of Western influences into it, and combining this with the storytelling, characters, and the music, it’s easy to see why Cowboy Bebop has become such a beloved and landmark anime.

The Blu-ray video has 1080p High Definition 4×3 HD Native, and the audio includes Dolby TrueHD 5.1 for both the English and the Japanese audio. I thought that the remastered video looked fantastic on the Blu-ray. The audio in the actual episodes sounded good, but I was a little frustrated that the music for the Blu-ray menus was mastered significantly higher than the audio for the episodes.

When it comes to the actual Blu-ray set, the episodes are spread out over three of the four discs: nine episodes on disc one, nine episodes on disc two, and eight episodes on disc three. The set’s bonus features are spread out over the first three discs, and make up the entirety of the fourth Blu-ray Disc in the set. The bonus features on the first two discs are episode commentaries. The first disc has commentaries for “Asteroid Blues” and “Ballad of Fallen Angels,” while the second disc has commentaries for “Ganymede Elegy” and “Mushroom Samba.”

The third Blu-ray Disc includes episode commentary for “Hard Luck Woman,” as well as a couple of interviews, various versions of the opening and closing credits that appeared during Cowboy Bebop, as well as the trailer for this release and trailers for other releases that FUNimation was promoting at the time that this Blu-ray set was released. The two interviews included on the third disc are with Wendee Lee (the English dub voice for Faye Valentine) and Sean Akins from Cartoon Network. Both of these interviews previously appeared on Bandai Entertainment’s Cowboy Bebop Remix DVD releases. But the most impressive feature on this disc is Session #0, which is a roughly a half-hour long Cowboy Bebop documentary. Over the course of the half-hour, a lot of information is crammed in. Included in this documentary is stats and information on the main characters; interviews with the animation front liners, the director, the series composer, the producer, and some of the voice actors; an “unaired TV episode digest”; and “music” video for the Cowboy Bebop theme song; and a textless version of the ending credits. While Session #0 was previously available on Bandai’s release of the series, it was nice to see it included on FUNimation’s release.

The fourth Blu-ray disc includes the most interesting bonus features. The two music videos for “Tank!” (the full-length song and the remix done by DJ FOOD) were previously released on Bandai’s Cowboy Bebop Remix DVDs, but the remaining bonus features are exclusive to this set.

“Ein’s Summer Vacation” is a one-minute short, made up of almost all still drawings of Ein. It’s a sweet little thing to watch, but I wish it had been a little longer.

“Memo From Bebop: The Dub Sessions Remembered” is a little over an hour-and-a-half long, and it intercuts interview footage with clips from the English dub of Cowboy Bebop. The interviewees included in this feature are Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, Steve Blum, Wendee Lee, Beau Billingslea, Melissa Fahn, and Henry Douglas Grey. Unlike the typical interviews that I’ve seen on anime releases, the intercutting of interviews with anime footage, as well as the fact that the interviews jump between various people and camera angles, make this feature more interesting to watch.

“Dinner Aboard the Bebop” runs for an hour and seven minutes, and it’s a reunion of the main cast and Mary Elizabeth McGlynn 15 years after working on Cowboy Bebop. While the “Memo From Bebop” extra was nice, it was great to see the dub actors all together in the same place and interacting with one another. They keep mentioning how that cast was like a family, and you can see it in the camaraderie they have in their interactions with one another. Getting to see the cast in this kind of manner also gives the viewer a little insight into the actors. And from what I saw, they all seem to be great people.

If you want to own Cowboy Bebop on Blu-ray, this is definitely the way to acquire the series in this format. Not only do you get the remastered video and audio, you also get a bonus feature that’s not included in FUNimation’s DVD release (“Dinner Aboard the Bebop”).

Cowboy Bebop and Deadman Wonderland Returning to Toonami

It has been announced that when Toonami returns to its regular broadcast schedule in January 2015, there will be a couple of changes to the lineup.

Cowboy Bebop will be returning to the block and will be broadcast for the first time in HD starting with the first episode, “Asteroid Blues.” Jason DeMarco, the head of the Toonami block, says that the series will be re-edited to fit current broadcast standards on Adult Swim.

In addition, it has also been announced that Deadman Wonderland will be returning to the block.

Source: Crunchyroll

FUNimation Announces Home Video Release Plans for Cowboy Bebop

FUNimation has announced that the company will be releasing the Cowboy Bebop television anime series on Blu-ray and DVD in North America in December 2014.

The series will be released on DVD, standard Blu-ray, and in Amazon and premium Blu-ray/DVD editions. The two Premium Editions will each feature different packaging and premium items, but the exact details will be announced later.

FUNimation’s Announcements at Otakon

FUNimation announced during the company’s panel at Otakon that it has acquired the license for the Cowboy Bebop television anime series, and that the company will be releasing the series digitally and on Blu-ray Disc for the first time in North America. FUNimation is planning to release the series in 2014.

In addition, FUNimation announced that it has also acquired the North American licenses for the following anime titles:

  • Outlaw Star
  • The Vision of Escaflowne
  • Escaflowne: The Movie
  • My-HiME
  • My-Otome
  • My-Otome 0~S.ifr~
  • My-Otome Zwei

FUNimation also announced that the company has licensed the rest of the Fairy Tail television anime series that is currently in existence (up to episode 175), and that the Wolf Children anime film will ship on Blu-ray Disc and DVD on November 12, 2013.

Anime Soundtrack Review: “Cowboy Bebop: Tank! The Best!”

Cowboy Bebop: Tank! The Best! is a soundtrack for Cowboy Bebop that was released in 2004. An interesting thing to note about this release is the fact that the CD booklet contains a lot of “fake” information for the songs that appear on the CD; while the song information as it’s written in the booklet would be true for the Cowboy Bebop universe, it wouldn’t be true for the real world.

All of the music that appears on Cowboy Bebop: Tank! The Best! was composed and arranged by Yoko Kanno, and the music was composed by The Seatbelts. For the songs that have lyrics, the words were written by three different lyricists: Tim Jensen, Illaria Graziano, and Raju Ramayya.

The soundtrack opens with “Tank! [TV Stretch],” which is essentially an extended version of the Cowboy Bebop theme song. The next song on the CD is “What Planet Is This,” which is an upbeat jazz number that prominently features guitar and saxophone. When it comes to vocals, there is only one line of vocal repeated throughout the track.

This is followed by “Cosmic Dare (Pretty With a Pistol),” a synth-heavy track that features vocals by Reynada Hill. This song appeared in Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, and it’s one of my favorite songs on this CD.

“Diamonds,” the fourth song on the CD, returns to the jazz sound. It’s a slow and soft piano piece that features vocals by Illaria Graziano. Rounding out the first half of the disc are “Don’t Bother None [TV Edit]” and “Piano Black.” “Don’t Bother None” features Mai Yamane on vocals, while “Piano Black” is a jazz instrumental.

The second half of the CD opens with “Mushroom Hunting,” a song that appeared in the episode, “Mushroom Samba.” Taliva-Donna Cumberbatch’s vocals complement this jazz track that features brass and drums. A sudden sonic shift takes place when the next song, “No Reply,” begins. This is a rock track that features vocals by Steve Conte, and he sounds like he’s trying too hard to mimic the vocal style of Bono from U2.

The disc shifts in sound again with “Blue,” a slow song that features synthesizers and guitar; the vocals on the song are provided by Mai Yamane, Soichiro Otsuka, and Gabriela Robin. This is followed by “Einstein Groovin’,” a mid-tempo song that sounds like it was inspired by the disco era. Illaria Graziano provides the vocals of “Einstein Groovin’,” and the vocals sound like they’re being sung in Spanish. Graziano’s voice can also be heard on “Pearls,” the very next song on the CD; her vocals accompany s slow piano ballad that has a jazz influence.

The final song on Cowboy Bebop: Tank! The Best! is “Gotta Knock a Little Harder,” the closing theme for Cowboy Bebop: The Movie. This midtempo rock song, which features Mai Yamane on vocals, is the perfect closing song for this CD.

While most of the songs on Cowboy Bebop: Tank! The Best! are an enjoyable listen, the disc was sequenced in such a way that most of the uptempo numbers appeared on the first half of the CD, and most of the mid-tempos and ballads appeared on the second half of the disc. Unfortunately, this choice for sequencing weakens the overall listening experience of the soundtrack. When I first started listening to the soundtrack, I was very interested in what I was listening to; however, by the time I reached the last three songs on the soundtrack, I was starting to fall asleep. Perhaps of the uptempo numbers had been a little more spread out across the disc, the soundtrack might have been stronger.

Cowboy Bebop: Tank! The Best! isn’t a bad CD at all. However, when you’re listening to it, you might either want to program the songs in a different order, or have your CD player randomly choose the order in which the songs are played.

I wrote this review after listening to a copy of Cowboy Bebop: Tank! The Best! that I checked out through the King County Library System.

Anime Film Review: Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

Cowboy Bebop The Movie: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door is a film for the Cowboy Bebop anime franchise, and it takes place between the episodes “Cowboy Funk” and “Brain Scratch.” The film was directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, and was released to Japanese theaters on September 1, 2001. In 2004, the film was nominated for the Online Film Critics Society Awards in the Best Animated Feature category. In North America, the film’s title was shorted to Cowboy Bebop: The Movie.

The film is set around Halloween of 2071, and begins with Faye Valentine trying to capture a bounty. During the capture attempt, she witnesses a mysterious man in a trenchcoat walking away from a stolen tanker truck; moments later, the tanker explodes and releases a deadly virus that kills hundreds. The government places a huge reward of 300 million woolongs for the arrest and capture of the person responsible, out of fear that an even bigger attack could take place.

Spike, Jet, Faye, and the rest of the crew of the Bebop decide to try to find and capture this bounty. During their hunt, they meet new allies and foes, and must also try to find a way to keep an even bigger attack from taking place.

When I finished watching Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, it felt like I had watched an extended version of a Cowboy Bebop episode. Not that this was a bad thing at all, but that’s what it felt like. The advantages of the longer runtime for the story is that it allowed for more time to be spent on character development, and some of the action sequences could also be longer. I thought the film had a really good story to tell, and that a full-length film works much better to tell it than to try to break it up into multiple episodes for the anime series.

Overall, I thought that the character of Ed was actually rather useful in the film; in a lot of respects, it felt as if Ed was in the anime series more for providing comic relief than for actually helping to move the story along.

When it comes to the DVD release for Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, a lot more effort was put into the special features included on this release in comparison to the six Cowboy Bebop Remix DVDs.

The first special feature is “Storyboard Comparisons.” There are four scenes included in this feature; for each scene, the storyboard is on the left side of the screen, while the animation that appears in the movie for the scene is on the right side of the screen. Personally, I think this is one of the better storyboard comparison bonus features that I have seen on an anime DVD.

“Character Biographies” have a biography for each character. The biographies include basic facts for each character alongside their picture. “Conceptual Art Galleries” include the conceptual art for the characters, aircraft, automobiles, monorail, and accessories.

There are also six featurettes included on the disc: “From the Small Screen to the Big Screen,” “International Appeal,” “Spike: A Complex Soul,” “Faye: Intellectual Vixen,” “Ed: Resident Eccentric,” and “Jet: No Ordinary Dad.” These featurettes include interviews with the director, the Japanese and English voice actors for Spike, the Japanese and English voice actors for Jet, the Japanese and English voice actors for Faye, the ADR Director, the Character Designer, the Composer, and the Japanese and English voice actors for Ed. There are English subtitles provided when anyone who is interviewed is speaking in Japanese. The documentaries aren’t too short, yet they also aren’t so long that they bore the viewer. Personally, I enjoyed watching these featurettes.

There are also music videos included in the special features for “Ask DNA” (the opening song of the film) and “Gotta Knock a Little Harder,” which appears at the end of the film. In both cases, the “music videos” are just textless versions of the opening and ending sequences of the film.

Overall, Cowboy Bebop The Movie: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door is an enjoyable film for fans of Cowboy Bebop. However, a viewer has to already have some familiarity with the property in order to enjoy the film; if they don’t, then they won’t understand a lot of what’s going on.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of Cowboy Bebop: The Movie that my husband and I purchased.

Anime DVD Review: “Cowboy Bebop Remix Volume 6”

The Cowboy Bebop Remix Volume 6 DVD includes the final four episodes of Cowboy Bebop: “Brain Scratch,” “Hard Luck Woman,” “The Real Folk Blues (Part I),” and “The Real Folk Blues (Part II).” This “remix” version of the Volume 6 DVD includes new Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mixes of the episodes and it also includes bonus features that were not included on the original release of Volume 6. The audio options on this disc are English Stereo, Japanese Stereo, English Dolby 5.1, and Japanese Dolby 5.1. You can also choose to watch the disc with or without subtitles.

During the episodes on this disc, we see the crew of the Bebop trying to track down the mastermind of a new religious cult, two characters find links to their pasts that cause them to leave the Bebop, and Spike and Julia are finally reunited.

I definitely have to give the Japanese writers credit for writing out one of the characters that they did; considering the tone of the final two episodes, this particular character wouldn’t have fit into the story. I also appreciated how the Cowboy Bebop series ended; with how the story of the series evolved, it wasn’t surprising that there wasn’t a “happily ever after” ending.

And it’s no surprise that more music references appear in the episode titles on this disc. “Hard Luck Woman” is a reference to a song by Kiss, while “The Real Folk Blues” is a reference to a series of blues compilations released between 1965 and 1967.

Just like the previous five Cowboy Bebop Remix DVDs, the menus on this DVD are animated. By the time I reached this disc, I was used to the navigation of the menu, so this really wasn’t much of an issue at this point. The look and feel of these animated menus far surpass the menus on the original pressing of the Cowboy Bebop DVDs.

The main bonus feature on this disc is an audio commentary on “Hard Luck Woman,” which is provided by Megumi Hayashibara and Aoi Tada, the Japanese voice actors for Faye and Ed. The commentary is in Japanese, with English subtitles that provide a translation of what’s being said. Unlike the audio commentary that appeared on Cowboy Bebop Remix Volume 4, this commentary includes a combination of seriousness and humor; personally, this is a lot more like what I would expect from an audio commentary than what we got on Volume Four.

The extras menu also includes the DVD credits, as well as trailers for other DVD releases that Bandai was promoting at the time this DVD was released. In other words, extras that have become rather standard on anime DVD releases.

If you don’t already have Cowboy Bebop in your home video collection and want to add it, you can either buy the six individually released Cowboy Bebop Remix DVDs, or you can purchase the Cowboy Bebop Remix DVD Collection that takes the six individual discs and collects them into one box set.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of Cowboy Bebop Remix Volume 6 that my husband and I purchased.