Thoughts on Cowboy Bebop: A Half-Assed Review

February 9, 2010

It was kind of a debate for me to sit down and write this post (I’m lying, I’ve actually been looking forward to it the whole time), because when I think critically about Cowboy Bebop, I can’t help but ask “What right do I have to criticize this show?” Even then, what else is there even to SAY about this show? And so, the aim of this post is not to bring up new points or make weighty arguments for or against said points, but rather to indulge myself in writing whatever the hell I want about this classic, groundbreaking, beloved, idolized, influential anime.

The first thing that comes to mind for me when I think of Cowboy Bebop, having just recently finished it, is the ending. The second is the music.

The ending.

Just getting this out of the way first so I can concentrate properly on the rest. Spoiler Warning. WHAT THE BUCK. What the HELL kind of an ending is that? Yeah, the ending of Phantom was irritating but this actually PISSED ME OFF. First they show us this fantastic episodic (two words that I don’t usually put together) show with sort of off-hand backstory for each of the characters, which make good standalone episodes scattered in with the others but that no one actually CARES about (at least I didn’t), and then they drag Spike’s whole stupid backstory up AGAIN as if we care and make it this whole goddamn Romeo and Juliet thing! Not only is it ANNOYING as hell, it’s also depressing. Jeez. You can’t end shows like this like that. It’s mean.

The music.

On a much happier note, the music in Cowboy Bebop is quite incredible. Not only are the tracks incredible, there are also A LOT of them. I noticed practically one new track AT LEAST for every episode. The music is important to each individual episode’s story, and most of the episode titles have some sort of correlation to a music style which you may hear in that episodes soundtrack. “Honky-Tonk Woman” is the title of episode 3, for example. One of the things I really love and look for in anime is a really good soundtrack. But it can’t just be good, it has to be used effectively, enough so that you actually NOTICE how important it is to the show.

The other thing that really makes the music of Cowboy Bebop stand out is the fact that it’s not stereotypical “anime music” but it’s like JAZZ and BLUES and it’s got style that really adds to the overall style of the show in general.

Add to that the rocking and stylish opening sequence reminiscent of 60’s spy shows, and you have yourself one of the most incredible, unique and classic soundtracks in anime.

Everything else.

I may argue that you can have yourself a whole good show with almost music alone, but that’s usually not the case. And of course, if you already HAVE good music and then to that you add great characters/designs, a well thought-out setting and some action and pizazz… well then. In the words of a Planetes fan, Cowboy Bebop is like a less realistic Planetes minus the character development and with more bounty hunters and gunfights. I’m serious here. Actually if you listen closely for the dates in the two shows, you’ll find the both take place around 2070. So they’re like alternate realities of each other. I’m planning to be alive in 2070 so I can find out which show was more accurate in predicting the future. My money’s on Planetes, but who knows?

Of course, Cowboy Bebop probably INSPIRED Planetes, so maybe I shouldn’t be comparing them like this.

The four characters around which the episodes revolve – Spike, Jet, Faye and Ed – are each memorable and realistic (within bounds of the show). Ed was kind of pointless, but still good. I’m not sure what else to say about the characters. They were all good, I liked them all. The characters that appeared with every new episode had their own flair. Some were better than others, of course, like with all episodic shows. Yeah I’m out of stuff to say. Moving on…

Art and animation don’t really stand out here among all the other great things about Cowboy Bebop, but they were pretty good. I mean this is 12 years old. Twelve. It would be in 7th grade. It’s OLD. Relatively. But it honestly looks really good. It may have helped that the version I have is remastered and high quality, but whatever. Good.

All right, I’ve lost momentum so I’m gonna wrap it up and move on to the last bit I wanted to write about.

A little extra about the history and the future of Cowboy Bebop.

Cowboy Bebop originally aired in 1998, but you can still see it’s influences in the shows of today. At least the good ones, like Michiko e Hatchin and Samurai Champloo. And MANY others, probably. Don’t hold me to that, though. No, I’m not a crackpot, I’m just not the god of all anime information. Why do you think we have MAL, AniDB and ANN? Anyway, back to the history. I guess things were a little different back in the 90’s, cause when Cowboy Bebop FIRST aired, people thought it was overly violent. Um. Yeah it’s VIOLENT, but hello? Naruto and Rurouni Kenshin and like everything are WAY MORE VIOLENT. Japan does have that thing with guns, of course, but still – Black Lagoon… which was probably inspired by Cowboy Bebop, bad example… Trying to say, here, that there were enough protests back in the day to get Cowboy Bebop taken off the air. Apparently its airdates coincided with a census that noted a rise in teenage violence. Whatever. So it ended after only one season. But it wasn’t over for long. Obviously it returned to finish off all the storylines that it had been forced to leave dangling and complete a full 26 episodes. The TV show also spawned a movie – supposedly more of a side story than a conclusion to the original series (which concluded with the final episode – CRUELY – but conclusively). The rumor going around the interwebs NOW, though, is that Cowboy Bebop is in for a HOLLYWOOD ADAPTATION starring – are you ready? – Keanu Reeves (yes, THAT Keanu Reeves) as Spike himself. Oh lord. First that gut-kicker of an ending and now you torture me with THIS?

We shall see. In the meantimes and betweentimes, I’ve got to watch that side-story movie! That way I can pretend that evil ending doesn’t exist. Goddamn ending.


Darker Than BLACK – Ryuusei no Gemini

February 3, 2010

This post is really late… it was already late when I started it, A MONTH AGO; but this is just… anyway, on with it:

And it’s finally over. And I’m finally posting about it. And yet… I feel that it’s NOT truly over. I’m actually secretly hoping for a third season even after the OVA’s scheduled to arrive in January; and I don’t think I’m the only one. I just can’t get enough of the whole DTB world. That said, this installment of it was quite satisfying up til the last episode. It was also quite different from the first season.

PLOT: The second season introduces new and re-newed characters with the Pavlichenkos and a new incarnation of Mao as a flying squirrel (momonga?) Of course, Hei also returns; as does Yin (eventually) in some other form – Izanami; and the kick-ass lady police officer arrives back on the scene as well. The events take place two years after Hei and the others from season one had ditched the syndicate.

The two-episode arc format is dropped this time around in favor of a short and sweet 12-episode plot driven show. And it works quite well. It’s kind of like one of the arcs of the original season only extended and given tons of depth and details. TONS of depth and details. There has been a LOT of debate over which is better, the first or second season… but I’m not even gonna go there. I think both seasons are really good, just in different ways. But then I didn’t go into it as a major fan of the first season. I mean I really liked it, but I wasn’t obsessed. Plus I’d only just finished watching the first season for the first time when the second one started airing. But if you’re a fan and for some STRANGE reason you haven’t watched season 2 yet, then I would tell you that it’s best to go into season 2 with a mindset of it being a really long, extended arc from season 1.

CHARACTERS: I loved all the characters in season 1, so it was great to see more of them. Even the ones that grew small beards and became brooding alcoholics. That’s right, Hei; I’m talking about you. But it was fun to see him change back to his old kickass self.

Personally I really liked the new characters. Though I so didn’t want Suou to fall in love with Hei. Ah well. Still… we really need more Russians in anime.

Oh and: Awww July was so cute!

MUSIC: It was sad that Yoko Kanno and the “Now I’ve lost it I know I can kill” OP and the music that played over the next episode preview left, but the new music director did a good job of keeping up a “Darker Than Black” atmosphere that was a little different from the first season. Which, overall, is what the second season was. Darker Than Black, only a little different. And yes, the track that played over the action scenes was really cool.

THE ENDING: There’ll probably be spoilers. Nya. This post is kind of obligatory now, since it’s been so goddamn long since I watched DTB2. Also I can’t really think of anything to say. However, the ending cannot be ignored. Jeesh. IT WAS SO RUSHEDDD. And yeah, it made me THINK a lot, but in the WRONG WAY. If you want to make an impact like that, where someone makes a freaking copy of the whole world; you have to BUILD UP TO IT. Like in The Matrix, morons. Do they just SAY “The world is fake?” NO, they introduce you to characters and build UP to saying “The world is fake”.

So much was unexplained. And looking back NOW, it really feels like I’m still waiting for the “REAL” ending. Though I guess I am, since the OVAs aren’t out yet. I’m expecting the OVAs to provide a new ending for the second season, though they probably won’t.

All in all, however, I didn’t actually care that much. The rest of the series made up for the questionable ending.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Okay this may be one of the worst posts for DTB Ryuusei no Gemini yet. Maybe some day if I’m not lazy I’ll rewatch and then rewrite this. For now let me just say: I loved watching this show. And I am so psyched for the OVAs. And I am crossing my toes for a third season.


Kaze no Shoujo Emily

January 12, 2010

So about half a year ago I was lurking around on various blogs looking for things to watch and I discovered many strange things that I had never before known about the anime world. For one, that many, MANY western classic novels have been adapted into animes. Kaze no Shoujo Emily was one of the ones that I discovered. If you look on Star-Crossed, you will find a rather raving review of it, as I did. Before learning about Kaze no Shoujo Emily, I had never known much about Emily of New Moon, the LM Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables) book it was based on. The name was vaguely familiar, the plot not at all. So it was that in this odd, roundabout way I discovered one of my favorite children’s classic novel series ever. And I even wrote a post about it here. It’s not a very good post, but you’ll have to forgive me. I was in the throes of fandom. Maybe I’ll re-write it one of these days.

Now, months later, I got it into my head that I ought to finally watch the anime. So I did. Dear lord. What HAVE I done?

Plot: Before I start writing the actual review, I had better mention that I’m extremely biased towards the original books and therefore might not be judging completely fairly. However, I also understand that cultural barriers present difficulties when adapting a Canadian turn-of-the-19th-century novel into a Japanese children’s anime TV show. Whoosh.

Ahem. The original plot of Emily of New Moon is typical LM Montgomery. Girl is displaced from home. Girl goes to live with strict family on Prince Edward Island farm. Girl grows up. And the anime sticks to the basics of this quite truly. But SO much of it is lost. For one thing, the show seems to be aimed at younger kids than the novels. For another, Emily, while still pretty awesome by children’s anime standards, is just so much LESS awesome than in the books. There are also elements of the plot that are heavily simplified such as the story of Ilse’s and Teddy’s mothers. And hello? Whatever happened to Dean Priest? He’s like essential to the storyline! And yet after one episode he just disappears. But I’m just griping here. The point is that what punch and pizazz Kaze no Shoujo has, it got it ALL from the original works. And I can guarantee that any lines or scenes that seem more over the top than the others were anime-original.

Art and Animation: Obviously this would be a pretty obscure show in Japan, so the budget couldnt’ve been great. However, as a picky and snobbish anime viewer AND a fan of the novels, I felt like the art and backgrounds were just TOO simple. The worst part, however, is that now when I read the books, the anime art will be STUCK IN MY HEAD.

Another strange thing about the character designs was that the characters didn’t age or grow. Even when she was supposed to be 20, Emily came up to Elizabeth’s chest. That’s weird. I can kind of understand that they didn’t want to show her aging and her dress/hair changing as a normal 19th century girl’s would because it’s for children in JAPAN. Even children in America probably wouldn’t know that at a certain age Emily should have started wearing her hair up.

But other than the whole non-aging thing, I actually quite liked Perry’s and Ilse character designs, and I thought Aunt Elizabeth and Aunt Laura were both captured adequately well in anime form.

Music: Childish. Please don’t let the theme song play in my head when I read the books. PLEASE. A few of the background tunes were quite lovely, but I can’t remember them anymore.

Characters: All credit here goes to LM Montgomery. The anime directors just had to transfer the characters to their adaptation, tone them down a bit and make them more childish and less deep.

In conclusion: Yes, I AM a die-hard fan of the novels so you DON’T have to take me seriously if you haven’t read them. But if you have read them and like them, then please for god’s sake stay away from the anime. I’m not saying it completely BUTCHERED them or anything, it just doesn’t really come close to being as awesome as them. And if you haven’t read them but have watched and liked the anime, then know that everything good about the anime came directly from the books, and so they should therefore get all the credit.

One more important thing: I wouldn’t have watched the whole thing if it had been a bad anime. It’s not a bad anime at all. The books are just way better.


And so, Winter truly begins – Durarara & Sora no Woto first impressions

January 9, 2010

Lately I’ve been lazy busy, but today I decided to really get going with the winter season. The offerings are poor. But if you persist, there’s always SOMETHING amazing to watch. This season, Durarara is that something.

Durarara!!

Episode 1

I said it before, and I will say it again. Durarara is going to be awesome, period.

Reason #1: Brains Base

Reason #2: Ikebukuro

Reason #3: Urban Legends

Reason #4: Spice and Wolf references

Reason #5: Motorcycles

Aside from all THAT pizazz and luster, this episode did an excellent job of introducing us to what’s looking like a filthy setting; and while not much actually happened I still feel like it made an impact. It’s like someone threw a ball of awesome into the pile of sad, rotting moe shows that are the rest of this season.

I enjoyed the stylizing with the chatroom, also. It reminded me of NHK ni Youkoso. The OP and ED fit in with the feel of the show, and even though it was really simple, I actually liked the design of the ED animation a lot.

I’m thinking (hoping) this is so about to blow everyone’s high expectations out of the water by being even more incredible than we thought. Look forward to next week~

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Sora no Woto

Episode 1

I’m glad I decided to check this series out, because as I expected, the setting was intriguing and the music was good – though the ED was boring. But god, what is with the moe-ness of it all?! I can see how this could be something I’d really like if it did some sort of Haibane Renmei thing where it just gets more and more powerful as it goes on until it leaves you with this amazing flavor that you keep remembering more and more fondly. But if it turns out to be peaceful and moe slice of life, I can’t see myself enjoying it. Sadly this seems to be the likely outcome. K-ON… you’ve ruined everything…

With this one I think we just have to wait and hope.

~x~

Back onto the topic of awesome things… I never knew Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water would be so cool! I’d always wanted to watch it, but could never find it anywhere. In the meantime, I read a lot of reviews of it. So many of them were so serious and critical and there were so many long-winded arguments in the comments sections… I started to be unsure of whether I really wanted to invest time in all those 39 episodes. But when I finally found a batch, I decided not to let other people’s opinions affect me and started watching it. Once I got past the first two episodes, I’ve been love~~~ing it. Anyway, that’s my little out-of-place fangirl-y blurb for today.


Guin Saga

December 28, 2009

I missed the boat for this one back in spring. But I am SO glad I decided to pick up the batch.

There are several things you should know about Guin Saga before I go into a more orthodox review:

  • It’s based off of a 130 (!!!) volume long series that ran from 1979 (!!!!!!!) to just recently when the author, Kurimoto Kaoru, DIED in the middle of writing the final, 130th volume. The unfinished volume will be published, but NO ONE KNOWS how it truly ends.
  • As if that isn’t intriguing enough!
  • The anime is 26 episodes long and only covers a small fraction of the tremendous original work; I believe the story of the anime follows the first 16-19 or so volumes.
  • There’s no sign of a sequel in sight.
  • No, the novels are not available in English. They are in FRENCH, though, the lucky bastards.

So yeah, I DO need to go edit my “Top 5 series in need of new seasons” post. But really, how sad is that? Kaoru Kurimoto wasn’t even that old. And in the MIDDLE of the FINAL BOOK, no less. That just… jeez. R.I.P.

Plot: Basically Guin Saga is Epic Fantasy. Which, oddly enough, I’m not such a huge fan of. Don’t be shocked, but I actually have not watched or read the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I just tend to twitch a little when it comes to most fantasy. I always pick up so many CHEESE vibes. I’m very sensitive to cheesiness. But of course, in every genre there ARE exceptions. And when fantasy is good, it’s REALLY amazing. Which is what Guin Saga is. Once you get through the first couple episodes. This show takes its time setting up and becoming amazing. I mean it wasn’t really til after the first 10 episodes that it really got hold of me.

The first episode is cheesy. There’s no getting around it. The whole first arc of 10 episodes is mainly a battle on a large scale, and at the same time an introduction of the characters and setting. But the second arc… dear lord. POLITICAL INTRIGUE. It was really amazing to see each character interact and develop. In the end there were no “good/evil” characters, which is something I’m fond of; a la Seirei no Moribito.

There’s not much else I can say at the moment other than – add this to the ranks of solid, novel-based, plot driven anime. I’m willing to put it up there with Seirei no Moribito, The Twelve Kingdoms and Kemono no Souja Erin. And also, give us a goddamn second season!

Music: Again, like the first episode it was cheesy at first, but I got used to it fast. It started to remind me of Hollywood movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter. Probably Lord of the Rings, too, if I’d ever watched that.¬† The ending theme was quite beautiful and all over the place yet intertwined, with Klimt-esque background images. All in all the music gave the show a nice, united atmosphere.

Art and Animation: Done be Satelight. I dunno, I’ve read a couple complaints here and there about the animation quality and certainly it’s no Seirei no Moribito. But I ended up liking the art style a lot. Quite similar to the art style of Seirei no Moribito, actually. But man, this show really did deserve Production IG as its studio. Anyways, the point is that Satelight did a fair enough job by my standards, and if there WERE flaws, they must have just been the type that I miss. I thought it turned out looking quite nice.

Characters: I do love a good, extensive set of characters. And that is exactly what Guin Saga offers that I couldn’t resist. From the stoic Guin with his mysterious past and leopard head (though Higashi no Eden’s Takizawa Akira was still the best amnesiac of the Spring 2009 season); to the fiery and naive and ever-so-slightly-Oscar-like Amnelis; to Istovan and his ambitions and issues; and of course the TWINS, what is UP with Remus and that skull-face guy?! And of course there’s the scheming Aldo Naris who may be nice or may be awful. There are tons of different people to keep track of, different countries all with different motives and EVERYONE is changing ALL THE TIME. Just like in real life. Yeah, this is my kind of show.

In conclusion: There’s really something here for everyone, if you allow yourself to get past any aversion to cheesy fantasy (and I promise it’s not REALLY cheesy, I just tend to exaggerate when it comes to cheesiness). One on one fighting and largescale warfare, character development, mystery, detailed fantasy world, romance, POLITICAL INTRIGUE, clever plots, ambitious people in dire need of further development which is why we need a second season, and so on.


Winter 2010, anyone?

December 18, 2009

Can’t believe it’s almost winter already. Of course here fall feels like winter anyways, so winter to me means spring. That’s weird… the point is that soon enough Darker Than Black – Ryuusei no Gemini will be ending and will have to wait till the end of January for the OVAs. Lucky for me Kimi ni Todoke and Kobato are continuing; especially since the new season looks to be fairly disappointing. Plus I still have all of Aoi Bungaku to watch when THAT ends. And I really should finish Natsu no Arashi. But wait, back to the POINT; which is that we’re looking at a new season!

I’m still a lame slightly noob-ish blogger, so I waited for THAT’s winter preview to get series info. Anyway here are the series that I think could have slight potential.

Nodame Cantabile Finale:


Duhh… although I WAS disappointed in the second season, by that time I’d already fallen hard for the show. So more Nodame in any form is a good thing. Interesting thing to note: the Live continuation is going to be paralleling the anime. They’re both at the same part of the story and they’re airing very close to one another. I think I’ll be watching the anime first, however.

Anyway I assume this picks up right where the second season left off; with Nodame and Chiaki still in Paris.

Sora no Woto:


I was not one of the “K-ON People”, and I never watched any, but I couldn’t really escape it. So yes, it is quite annoying to see such an intriguing looking¬† show take on this format. This looks like my type of setting since from what I can gather it appears to be set in some sort of post-dramatic-occurrence situation. I also really loved the music in the preview. More pessimistically, however; it’s only twelve episodes meaning we can’t expect much real plot develop – and if there IS any, it’ll most likely be similar to that of Jyu Ou Sei or Toshokan Sensou: choppy and leaving much to be desired. But I loved Jyu Ou Sei and Toshokan Sensou, so I’m still not sure what that’s saying. Plus, maybe I’d really love K-ON. I haven’t watched any of it. Because it looks irritating… POINT = Will definitely give Sora no Woto a try.

Durarara!!:


Despite the silly name, guess what… it’s Brains Base! It looks just like Natsume Yuujinchou! Well… no. But the animation art is the same, which means I love it. Watch the preview. I’m not sure why, but I find it to be quite fantastic. Hope it lives up to this.

HOLY CRAP I just watched the preview again and noticed the Spice and Wolf reference! Oh my god. I’m also getting something of a Welcome to the NHK vibe, which is BERI GUUD. Plus it’s set in Ikebukuro, which I’ve been craving more of ever since Otogi Zoushi. Excellent.

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So… this season the good stuff is pretty scarce. But yes, as I mentioned before, Kimi ni Todoke and Kobato are continuing AND the DTB OVAs are coming out. So it’ll be okay. But if worst comes to worst, here are two more options that I was planning on keeping an eye on – a distant and sporadic eye, but an eye all the same.

Katanagatari:

I still don’t trust SHAFT x Shinbo. Yes, I think they’re amazing; but I do NOT trust them. See Natsu no Arashi Akinai-chuu. Plus the character designs are a bit simplistic; but I did get over that for Kemono no Souja. It’s just the shounen-y story that’s keeping me wary. Going off to collect the Twelve Swords of Master So-and-so? Not the best way to attract my attention.

Hanamaru Kindergarten:

Alright… this does sound suspiciously like possible child porn, but the trailer seemed harmless and rather sweet. Of course I didn’t understand a word of it since it didn’t have subtitles, so who knows… but what if it turns into something lovely like Kobato about people who work at a daycare? Then I might not want to miss it. However… I could be completely wrong.


Planetes

December 12, 2009

So lately I’ve been watching a lot of those animes that are widely regarded on the interwebs as “awesome”. But after Planetes… whoosh. I’m not sure I’ll be able to take it if I find something better than this.

I finished the last four episodes yesterday so I figured today I would write a post, but I’m realizing that there’s not much to write about because I actually can’t think of a single thing that’s bad about Planetes. So I guess I’ll just be extolling the wonders of it. In bullet points.

  • The relaxing, slightly episodic slice of life in the shows’ first half about hauling space debris
  • SPACE
  • The lovely OP which grew on me with each episode and immediately killed all stress
  • The turning point in the middle that HIDES the fact it’s the turning point so you think everything is okay and will continue being relaxing and slightly episodic
  • OH MY GOD
  • The fantasticness of the second half in which the amount of drama just sort of slowly grows and grows until you’re sitting on the edge of your seat
  • The moment you realize you’re sitting on the edge of your seat and wondering what happened to the first half of the show
  • SPACEEEE
  • Tanabe and Hachimaki
  • Realism
  • The one deus ex machina moment is totally killed by having a time leap right before it happens so you only see it in flashback and are kept wondering what the hell happened there
  • The fact that the characters save themselves
  • I kept expecting people to leap out and save them but THEY NEVER DID
  • The creators weren’t afraid to make the main characters look deranged for the sake of development
  • I would like to kiss the person who wrote this
  • The ending. My god.
  • The REALISM.
  • The issues brought up about space development were just so real. You may be developing space and breaking out to find new resources, but at the same time you’re leaving all the third world countries behind.
  • The music that plays over the next episode preview
  • The plot twists!
  • SPACE
  • THE ENDING

All right. Maybe in a couple months I’ll be rational enough to write an actual, helpful review but right now I just have to go move Planetes into my favorites on MAL and cry some more because it’s over.