Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cowboy Bebop Session #1: Asteroid Blues

No. That's not Jessica Rabbit, but it might as well be. Two really amazing, very BIG, reasons to check into Cowboy Bebop among many others would be character and story or so I'm told. Oh come on, get your mind out of the gutter. Alright already, those too!

"1-2-3, let's jam!" I'd be remiss if I didn't open with those explosive words from the series spectacular opening theme, Tank!, by Yoko Kanno And The Seat Belts. WOW! Cowboy Bebop could be the perfect fusion of animation/ anime, science fiction and action backed by one of the coolest Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio Mixes I've heard in some time. I'm having a bit of fun on the side with these short 22 minute entries. Welcome to Cowboy Bebop, Session #1, Asteroid Blues. I've been told this blend of anime and science fiction is must see anime and I suspect I will explore it further at some point. This is my initial foray into the series. I look forward to uncorking the excitement I have heard so much about over the years. How it will stack up to my sci-fi sensibilities is another question. It's always been on my list to watch this series from start to finish. Perhaps this will get me started.
The newly remastered Cowboy Bebop Remix doesn't disappoint. The title score by Yoko Kanno absolutely bursts off the screen and explodes from the speakers. It is a pipin' hot jazz and blues mix throughout and the audio truly enhances the visual flair and flavors. Now, by all appearances the visuals have not received the same remaster treatment here folks, but I can tell you the colors are vibrant and fresh and look as though they were at least given some attention in the process.

The animation is simply gorgeous. Each and every cel is is lush with detail and radiant color. It is a veritable delight to the eye. Not since my viewing of the series Neon Genesis Evangelion [my favorite anime next to Ghost In The Shell] have I been more excited to watch an anime series. I've seen some dogs along the way, but based upon this singular first episode sampler this isn't one of them. A truly impressive accomplishment in 22 minutes from some terrific animators and seemingly solid storytellers.

There is genuine attention to cinematic detail in some of these frames. These two images really speak volumes about the labor of love that is Cowboy Bebop.

The Cowboy Bebop [1998] anime series is the product of studio Sunrise Inc. and is helmed by Director Shinichiro Watanabe [Samurai Champloo]. It looks as fresh today as it did when it arrived thanks to the new remix. The transfer here is sharp. Blood gushes, bullets fly, fists of fury swing, legs kick and the spaceships soar across the screen in a ballet of sci-fi action and excitement. I was really blown away how much I enjoyed this first session's mix of music, mood and mayhem balanced with the appropriate points of pure silence. It is an unusual cocktail and hand-to-hand combat never looked so ass-kickingly cool.

Fans of spacecrafts like myself won't be disappointed in seeing the ship designs like that of the Be Bop herself. The red Swordfish is equally impressive. Slick, sleek, fast and grazed by firepower and the scars of space debris. It looks as roughshod as the bounty hunter that pilots her. I love this quote from the book Finding Serenity, because it really illustrates our love for a science fiction series' final main character, the ship. "From the Bebop to the Millennium Falcon, to sentient starships like the Carrier from Grant Morrison's The Authority, Moya from Farscape, or the beautiful Sol Bianca from the eponymous anime, we've found ourselves concerned for the fate of a vessel as much as any of the leads... even on the original Star Trek, the Enterprise herself became a character we knew as well as any of the human ones." Make that UNDYING LOVE for the vessel herself for me. Writer Larry Dixon offers a number of wonderful thoughts in his essay for the aforementioned book.

Spike Spiegel is the central protagonist with faithful bounty hunter/ partner Jet Black always there to back him up. He's got big arms to boot for backing up those statements as well. These are the heroes of our tale on their first mission to track Asimov on the lam from a mob-like entity dubbed The Syndicate. Asimov is a member gone rogue and on the run with a gorgeous babe feigning pregnancy in order to smuggle an expensive narcotic substance dubbed Bloody Eye. Everyone wants it at any price and all players seem to be more than happy to die trying to get it. Did I happen to mention this is going to have hot babes? Okay, two-dimensional, but very hot.

One thing we learned very quickly about our two rough-around-the-edges, guns-for-hire is they are struggling mightily to make ends meet and put food on the table and in their mouths. The bell peppers and beef as it turns out doesn't actually have beef in it. That says alot about the lives of these two movers and shakers. The two look for the next job to fill their bellies, keep their Be Bop in flight and their vagrant existence/ nomadic lifestyle financed.

This a terrific cinematic moment that is deftly delivered by the creators of the series.

The year is 2071 and this is the beginning of the Cowboy Bebop experience. I suspect there will be many asteroid blues ahead indeed. You'll need the appropriate speakers to fully experience this series and with an HD 1080p up converter and HDMI cable the disc will look and sound amazing if it continues on this course.
Asteroid Blues: B+
Main Characters:
Spike Spiegel
Jet Black

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