Mike wonders aloud which anime would be a good fit for the prestigious Criterion Collection.
Reviewby Darius Washington
VHS 1 - Astroid Blues
In a decade when tired formula comedies and lazily drawn sci-fi shows are the prevalent fare, this series stands out as a true gem.
Taking place in the distant future, Cowboy Bebop is about the adventures of interstellar bounty hunters Spike Spiegel and Jet Black, whose relationship is reminiscent of a 70's cop show. They travel space in their ship The Bebop and receive bounty information from a televised game show.
Anime Village is releasing two episodes per volume of the of the twenty-five episode series. In the first episode of volume one entitled Asteroid Blues, Spike encounters Asimov, an outlaw who stole a large supply of Red Eye, a reflex-enhancing drug ingested through the eyes, from his drug syndicate employers. Learning of the relatively low bounty on Asimov, Spike and Jet decide to pursue him for the quick cash. With the help of an indian mystic named Bull, Spike comes close to capturing Asimov and his pregnant girlfriend alive for the bounty after a botched drug deal. However, the extremely well-armed syndicate and the police have other ideas...
The second episode, Stray Dog Strut, sends the hunters after Abdul Hakeem, a bearded man with an afro who stole a suitcase from some scientists in order to sell it on the black market. When Spike and Jet see the high-priced bounty info on Hakeem, whose picture shows a clean shaven blonde man, the three way chase between Hakeem, the scientists, and the Bebop bounty hunters is on for the suitcase which contains...a Welsh Corgi canine who is considerably more escape happy and intelligent than they or anyone suspected. The three have to deal with many misunderstandings and obstacles along the way including a pet shop worker who steals the suitcase and an all too effective dog whistle....
There has been much comparison between this show and Outllaw Star, which is also about intergalactic bounty hunters. However, that's about where the similarity ends. Outlaw Star has a building story arc (at least from initial episodes) whereas Cowboy Bebop is more episodic. Also, Bebop has a more laid-back feel than the frequently active Outlaw, and the episodes tend to play out like Lupin III films.
Some of the described atmosphere is due to the quick, deft direction of Shinichiro Watanabe who mixes well-drawn cels and amazingly hi-end computer animation to create some incredible action sequences, especially the ones from first-person perspectives. The music of Yoko Kanno (Macross Plus) which ranges from 60's styled fast paced jazz ensembles to simple guitar pieces also contributes to the atmosphere that the colorfully varied characters of Toshiro Kawamoto (Gundam 0083) live in. Also, the script provided by ZRO Limit Productions is very easy for American viewers to follow.
As anime television shows go this could easily be considered for one of the best efforts of the decade. For fast paced fun which starts ammost immdiately the moment the Mannix-styled opening is over, I highly recommend this series.
Overall (sub) : A+
+ Fantastic mix of CG and traditional animation, kick-butt soundtrack, and lots of fun
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