Category: Anime Sci-Fi


Neon Genesis Evangelion. Just the mention of the series is sure to prompt a massive debate between anime fans. The only anime series to garner more critical attention and scholarly analysis is the universally loved Cowboy Bebop, and Neon Genesis Evangelion is equally likely to prompt fans to call it the greatest anime of all time as it for it to cause its detractors to name it an over-rated, pretentious, and muddled mess. I’ve only watched about half of the series in the past so I don’t have a stake in this debate though my initial impression of the show was that it was one of the most starkly psychological and character-driven anime series that I had ever watched. Studio Gainax is responsible for two of the anime series I’ve reviewed so far, FLCL and Gurren Lagann. Those series are marked as the happier and angst free alternatives to the depression and alienation driven stories of Neon Genesis Evangelion (which was made at the height of creator Hideaki Anno’s own personal battle with depression). While the dark and dismal tone that propels much of the action of NGE is potentially not for everyone, for people that are searching for an intelligent and well-written alternative to your average shonen fighting program, NGE should be right up your alley as it manages to deconstruct every aspect of the mecha subgenre of anime (at least until it became the trope codifier of mecha shows) and crafts a remarkable cast of characters that feel more alive and memorable than nearly every other anime out there.

The basic premise of Neon Genesis Evangelion is a near future Earth where a cataclysmic event known as the “Second Impact” (which hasn’t really been explained yet) wiped out a large amount of the Earth’s population and caused drastic climate change and upheaval. Earth has slowly started to recover, and in the city of New Tokyo-3, the U.N. funded agency known as NERV has been tasked with protecting what remains of humanity from a mysterious alien force that has been attacking over the years. Known as Angels, these eldritch abominations can’t be stopped by conventional weapons and only the top secret robots known as Evangelion (or EVAs for short) can defeat them. 14 year old Shinji Ikari is called to Tokyo-3 by his father, the head of the Evangelion project (and a man Shinji hasn’t spoken to in years), to pilot one of the EVA units and fight off the alien forces invading Earth. Shinji isn’t a trained soldier. On the contrary, he’s just a kid (and an emotionally scarred one at that). When tasked with the defense of humanity, Shinji breaks down and refuses his call to arms. Only when he realizes that the alternative is another 14 year old, a girl so physically broken that she can no longer walk, does Shinji step into the EVA unit. Once again, not trained in how to fight, Shinji freezes in battle and is demolished by the first Angel he encounters. After his mind completely snaps under the stress of battle, the EVA seemingly acts on its own and saves Shinji’s life (and that of everyone in Tokyo-3) by defeating the Angel.

Serving alongside Shinji in NERV (besides his estranged father) are Captain Misato Katsuragi, Doctor Ritsuko Akagi, and Rei Ayanami. Misato is Shinji’s direct superior in the EVA program and the only one who understands just how deeply broken this child is. Though Misato intentionally puts forth a ditzy and laid back demeanor, she’s a serious alcoholic and is as prone to troubled inner monologues and angst as Shinji. Recognizing the kindred spirit (in terms of pain) she has in Shinji, they quickly become room mates so that Shinji won’t have to live on his own in this town (because his father wants nothing to do with him besides using him for work). Ritsuko is one of the head scientists of NERV. She’s been given the least character development so far. As of yet, she seems to only be a cynical and cold woman. Rei is the only other EVA pilot besides Shinji. If Shinji is a scarred and emotionally fractured child, Rei is a vase that’s been thrown against the wall and completely shattered. Outside of her work as an EVA pilot, she speaks to absolutely no one at the school that she and Shinji attends and appears capable of displaying absolutely no emotion except when it comes to Shinji’s father. While Shinji’s dad cares absolutely nothing about his son, he has been willing to risk injury to protect Rei, and the only time that Rei has shown any emotion the entire series is when Shinji insulted his father and Rei proceeded to slap Shinji.

The show is absolutely rife with religious and psychological symbolism to the point that if you freeze frame any of the more important moments of an episode, you’re liable to notice at least one bit of Freudian sexual symbology or Christian iconography. In the opening credits alone, you see the Kabbalah symbol of Sephiroth (which to be fair was also heavily used in Full Metal Alchemist) and whenever the first Angel is finally defeated, you see a giant cross (on several different occasions). Shinji is accosted by the severed head of his EVA unit early on (these machines take a serious beating) and if I wasn’t supposed to see vaginal symbolism when its eye first opened, then I might need to see a shrink about reading too deeply into scenes. Sexuality is in fact one of the larger themes of the series (though it hasn’t gotten quite as apparent at this point), and the painful awkwardness of Shinji going through his own sexual awakening cna be very difficult to watch. However, the most prominent themes of these opening episodes are alienation and the psychological costs of being a child soldier. There’s an entire episode which centers around Shinji totally running away from his own responsibilities and riding around trains and buses and the countryside in total and debilitating despair. By the time Shinji fights his second Angel, he’s basically a shell of a child who does everything asked of him without question (0r any emotion) and goes absolutely bat-shit crazy on an Angel when his fight or flight instincts finally kick in. Many anime have used the “determination” aspect as a way to show a sudden increase in skill or fighting ability. NGE completely deconstructs this plot device by showing just how damaged someone becomes when they are constantly pushed to these types of breaking points.

As much as I love the show’s story to this point (it’s one of the most mature anime of all time [and by mature I mean intelligent and thoughtful]), it’s animation could have used some work. This series is notorious for the fact that by the end of the show’s run, it had completely ran out of money, and the last several episodes featured many recycled shots and long still images rather than actual animation. While the series original episodes don’t have this problem quite as obviously and the major action sequences look totally awesome (it’s great that hte show can combine psychological drama and giant robots fighting), a healthy portion of any given episode is you looking at the exact same image for around half a minute while you hear copious amounts of exposition or character development. While some of these long stills look great from an artistic perspective, it sorts of draws attention to the fact that I’m watching a cartoon rather than immersing myself in the show’s world. NGE‘s plot is better than Full Metal Alchemist ever could be (and that’s my second favorite anime that I’m dissing) but at least FMA‘s art (in Brotherhood) always had my jaw on the floor about how beautiful the show looked. The character models in NGE look good from a conventional classic anime point of view, but there’s still nothing remarkable about this show’s art like there was with later Gainax programs like FLCL or Gurren Lagann.

If you’re an anime fan and you haven’t already watched Neon Genesis Evangelion, you need to go ahead and make it a priority. This is a great and challenging program (so far). Most of the controversy surrounding the fan (and what causes the divisions between its haters and its fans) doesn’t arise til closer to the series end, and I’m nowhere near there yet. As it is, Neon Genesis Evangelion remains one of the anime series (alongside Cowboy Bebop) that doesn’t make me feel guilty about still being a bit of an otaku even though I’m 22 years old (and just two months shy of being 23. shiver…). It’s smart and entertaining. You really can’t ask for more. And ever since Gurren Lagann, well-written programs about robots fighting other giant robots/creatures/aliens feeds directly on a strange pleasure principle. The only reason why you may not appreciate this show is if you haven’t seen any of the mecha shows that came before it. This series completely eviscerates so many of the genre conventions of those programs but unwittingly became the standard bearer for all future giant mecha shows. So, if you’ve only seen the robot programs that came after, you may not realize just how influential this program really was. Regardless though, this show deserves the attention of all anime fans who still haven’t somehow discovered this seinen classic.

Final Score: A-

Thanks to the disproportionate popularity and public awareness of programs like Dragon Ball Z, Gundam, Bleach, and Naruto, anime has developed a reputation of being nothing more than children’s programming where super heroes and robots use martial arts, explosions, and more sheer determination than you can shake a stick at to save the world from nondescript threats. How many people have been dis-swayed from watching a Hiyao Miyazaki film because they think all anime is the same, even if, in reality, Miyazaki makes some of the most beautiful children film’s this side of Pixar? How many people refuse to watch Cowboy Bebop, the best space western/space noir prior to Firefly, because they don’t think anime is actually capable of being artistically significant? The answer is far too many people. While even I enjoy the occasional action based anime like Gurren Lagann or Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, it’s the wide variety of the genre that really draws me in. Following an unconventional coming-of-age tale with a heavy lean towards science fiction, 2004’s The Place Promised in Our Early Days is another anime feature film that completely defies genre expectations while simultaneously providing an interesting (if perhaps too complex and confusing) tale to entertain the audience.

Set in an alternate Earth history where Japan was split into two after the second World War, with Japan controlling half the country and the United States the other half, The Place Promised in Our Early Days is a personal and emotional tale of friendship, love, and the forces that keep us apart. Set in the late 1990’s of this alternate timeline, we are introduced to Takuya and Hiroki, two young Japanese middle-schoolers that discover a downed drone aircraft and decide to rebuild it, in order to reach a nearly infinitely tall tower that grows in the American section of Japan. The boys befriend a strange girl named Sayuri (who may or may not have visions of the future) and together, the trio spend the summer working on their plane and being happy children. However, one day, Sayuri mysteriously disappears, and for three years, the boys not only hear from Sayuri, they grow apart from each other. Takuya becomes a scientist for the government while Hiroki remains in high school. Suddenly, the possible presence of Sayuri, the beginning of World War III, and other forces begin to draw Hiroki and Takuya back together so they can save Sayuri and possibly the world.

Before I get into some of the areas where I felt this film stumbled (which were unfortunately numerous), let me talk about some of the things I loved. First, the artwork in this film was absolutely gorgeous. You would be forgiven if you thought you had stepped onto the set of a Hiyao Miyazaki film or any other Studio Ghibli production. The artwork is that good. There aren’t a ton of different animations in the film. Instead the strength of the art relies on the absurdly gorgeous landscapes. The attention to detail is just astounding, and there were times when I would just want to pause the movie and appreciate the rolling hillsides or beautiful sunsets. This was one of the prettiest animes to look at that I’ve seen in a while. Similarly, the characters themselves are quite expressive and while they look like your traditional anime school children, there’s something about the way they’re drawn that lends the character styles something indescribably unique.

Also (and this is a compliment), you could also be mistaken that Hideaki Anno had taken a break during Neon Genesis Evangelion to write something a little more uplifting and positive that still bears his trademark of deep and never-ending personal angst and ennui. A significant portion of this film consists of narration by Hiroki describing his deep depression and anxiety in the years since he lost contact with Sayuri, who he loved. Similarly, Sayuri (who for fear of spoiling the film’s science fiction conceits) delivers her fair share of emotionally laden monologues against a gorgeous but desolate dreamscape that could have stepped out of a film David Lynch made for children, but he also made the conscious decision to keep making things strange as hell. Alongside Neon Genesis Evangelion, this was definitely one of the most intensely psychological anime I’ve ever watched, though over the course of the film’s 90 minute running time, I did find myself wishing for more time to spend getting to know these characters who were still frustratingly ill-defined at the film’s end.

However, the actual plot of the film (as opposed to the deep characterization of its protagonists) was vague and sort of confusing at best and intentionally unclear at worst. I’m willing to attribute part of this problem to the manner in which I saw this film which was on my Instant Queue on Netflix. I watched the English dub, and I’m willing to bet that something was lost in the localization and that the Japanese text which popped up occasionally in scene transitions (and the scenes themselves at times) which wasn’t subtitled at all caused me to lose some of the story. However, I also think that at the film’s core there was simply a science fiction story which meshed in an incredibly uncomfortable with the otherwise painfully realistic coming of age tale that was the beating heart of the film. The film doesn’t resolve a lot of the sci-fi technobabble that accompany some of its seemingly most important scenes. Similarly, the ending is exceptionally vague and confusing, and I’m still completely unsure as to what really happened there. It’s as if I loved half of the film’s plot and equally loathed the other half.

My other major problem with the film was the really bad voice acting in the English dub, with the exception of Hiroki’s voice actor. Takuya sounded like he was in his mid-40’s (as opposed to being a middle/high schooler), and Sayuri embodied virtually every high-pitched/obnoxiously feminine quality I despise in female anime voice acting (Faye Valentine is legitimately the only great female voice in all of anime). I can’t really blame the movie for that too much because anything outside of Studio Gainax or Cowboy Bebop has this problem in spades. It’s endemic of the whole anime industry. I love Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (it’s my second favorite anime ever), but I’m physically incapable of watching the English dub because the voice acting is so awful (save Ed). Hiroki’s voice actor was great though and really sold all of his personal anguish and depression. It was heart-breaking to listen to his little speeches because they felt so real and personal. It was a very intimate performance.

One last positive note before I end my extended ramblings on this film. The soundtrack is hauntingly gorgeous. There are two moments where the characters play violins that will stay with me for a long while, and the whole film is filled with beautiful musical moments like these. All in all, this is a movie made for those grown-ups like myself who hate having to defend their love of anime to uninformed individuals who don’t get just how much the genre has to offer. Even if you’re not a fan of anime but like psychological coming-of-age stories, I can also recommend this beautifully intimate tale (though the sci-fi story tacked on drags that whole production down). It’s not perfect, and while it wasn’t the masterpiece you’d seem come from Studio Ghibli, it is the definition of scenery porn as anyone with the slightest appreciation of art will probably eat up every scene and the core story of friendship is achingly tender. It has deep flaws, but the parts that work more than make up for the rest.

Final Score: B+

Now would be as appropriate a time as any to explain just how it is I approach critiquing the movies and TV I watch for this blog as it will bear heavily on my review for this film and why this film is getting one scores and other anime different scores. I’m a firm believer that movies (and it goes the same for TV, books, music, and video games as well) should be judged based on the intentions of its creators rather than the expectations of its audience. For example, I gave Jackass 3 and The Fighter the same score. Obviously, The Fighter is the more important and socially valuable film. However, its creators had the intention of creating a serious and artistic film that I felt they failed to achieve at a particularly high standard. Jackass was about dick jokes and scatological humor but you couldn’t have expected any thing else from that crew. Hence, both films got “B”s. If you’re only intention is to be fun and entertaining and you achieve those goals, then I’m going to give you a decently good review even if you’re not necessarily art. However, if you try to be art and fail, then your review will suffer. I bring this all up because the film I just watched, Akira, is about to get the same score as a children’s anime that is popcorn cartooning, but I felt it succeeded at its goals better than Akira which tries to be serious art and is more of  a confused and muddled mess.

Akira is a 1988 anime that could best be classified as post-apocalyptic cyber-punk. It tells the story of two friends who are members of the same biker gang in Neo-Tokyo, the city of Tokyo which has been rebuilt after a cataclysmic event destroyed it 30 years ago. Kaneda is the head of the biker gang, the Capsules, and his best friend is Tetsuo, a boy who has been bullied and mistreated his whole life. One day, Tetsuo runs into an escaped mutant who was part of a secret government project. Somehow, the boy transfers some of his powers to Tetsuo who is also quickly taken in by the government and experimented on. Eventually, Tetsuo begins to go insane from the power and experiments and goes on a super-powered rampage through Neo-Tokyo and it is up to Kaneda and a small group of freedom fighters to end the destruction.

The hand-drawn animation of the film is absolutely gorgeous. I watched this on the Blu-Ray edition and the movie’s artwork was simply beautiful. Had I not recognized certain aspects of the animation as being inherently 1980’s in style, I would have believed that this could have been a new release. There were plenty of vibrant and crisp colors mixed with an engaging style and beautiful city-scapes. While the plot itself (which I’ll get to those critiques shortly) might have escaped me, I definitely found myself engaged with fantastic art and animation. However, the plot was not quite so entertaining. This film wanted to be “serious business” and to be taken seriously. However, it explained little to almost none of what was happening in ways that made a lot of sense. I get that this is what happens when you try and condense a 2000 page manga into a two hour long film. Lots of things are going to be left on the cutting room floor. That being said, why try and condense it that much when so much of the plot is going to be left out to the point of things no longer making sense.

Don’t misinterpret this as me disliking the film. I enjoyed it. There were plenty of awesome moments in it to make up for how confusing it could be, and the scene at the end where Tetsuo’s powers are spiraling completely out of control is some serious nightmare fuel. It was disturbing. Actually, I bet I would really enjoy the manga as all of the different subplots of the film would actually be given a chance to develop and mature rather than fly by me at lightning speed. If you’re a fan of anime, this is definitely must watch material. I spend so much time watching shonen series that it’s nice to have something that at least tries to be for grown-ups. This film might not be as mature and deep as it wants it to believe it is, but it’s still entertaining.

Final Score: B+

Hoo boy. Sometimes you watch a movie or listen to an album, and it is simply  impossible to come to any conclusion other than that its creators had consumed large quantities of psychedelic drugs during the creation process. Panda Bear’s Person Pitch, Pink Floyd’s The Wall (album or movie. but especially the film), Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s RainbowRocko’s Modern Life, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (which was confirmed as being written on crazy amounts of drugs) all spring to mind. With the possible exceptions of the first opening episodes of Gurren Lagann, I’ve never really watched an anime that made me momentarily question if someone had slipped some lysergic acid diethylamide into my Dr. Pepper. I’ve never watched the anime equivalent of a David Lynch film where I simply gave up on trying to completely digest the plot and just sort of went with the flow. I never realized that was a hole in my anime needs that I was missing. I didn’t realize it, at least, until I watched Studio Gainax’s incomprehensibly bizarre (but equally awesome) FLCL (also known phonetically as “Foolly Coolly”. Only 6 episodes long on a single disc, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started this series, but boy, am I glad I watched it.

Trying to explain the plot of FLCL to someone who hasn’t watched the series would be like trying to jump into the final season of Lost without having seen the rest of the series, but here goes. Basically, it’s a coming of age story centered around 6th grade boy Naota, who is going through the typical angst and turmoils of puberty. Emotionally detached and obsessed with being “mature”, Naota is engaged in an odd relationship with the girlfriend of his older brother who is away in America playing baseball. Mamima is 19 years old but romantically obsessed with Naota and is a juvenile delinquent as well as an orphan. Naota’s life gets very odd (understatement of the century) when he is run over by a woman on a vespa armed with a bass guitar (that she uses as a weapon) named Haruhara Haruko who is an alien intent on releasing an alien force being kept captive here on Earth. After Haruhara hits Naota with her guitar, giant robots begin to sprout from his head, with each robot having increasingly bizarre and epic characteristics that Naota and Haruhara then have to battle with the help of good robot, Canti (who the townspeople apparently don’t realize is a robot) which Naota can merge with. That’s probably all anyone could ever hope to understand of the plot of the show.

One of the things the series has going for it is some stellar animation but you really should never expect less from Studio Gainax (except that whole awkward period where they ran out of money on Neon Genesis Evangelion and the show started to look like shit). These are the same people that gave us Gurren Lagann which never failed to look pretty, so it looks great. It even experiments with different visual styles for its miles a minute puns that never seem to end. It went chibi, it went with styles that I don’t know the names for, it momentarily played out as a manga, and it even went South Park for a few scenes. You also get a rocking J-Rock soundtrack that accompanies practically ever action scene, along with elements that can only be descried as hallucinogenic in nature. It was just the trippiest anime that I’ve ever watched, and I mean that as the highest compliment

If you need comprehensible story-lines and satisfying logical conclusion, you can go ahead and let this one pass on by. FLCL challenges you to comprehend what is going on and then throws its head back and laughs at your utter failure. If people thought the ending of Neon Genesis Evangelion was vague, imagine that on cocaine for nearly every scene. I like that kind of thing. I appreciate the fact that there are just a lot of things in life we’ll never comprehend and I like my art to indulge the unknowability of life. This wasn’t as great as Gurren Lagann or NGE, but those are ridiculously high standards for a 6 episode series with a barely conceivable plot to meet. If you want a good, fun romp,  I give FLCL my high recommendation. It might be a niche show, but I’m part of that niche and it filled a void I never even knew existed.

Series Score: A-

 Since I’ve reviewed three anime series for this blog (and will be reviewing Neon Genesis Evangelion whenever Netflix decides to actually have it in stock), it should come as no surprise that I love anime. I also love science fiction. I especially love cyberpunk. Perhaps, that has something to do with the fact that I’m part of the generation that has spent as much on the time the internet as we have in real places. So, a film that’s considered a classic of both anime in general and specifically cyberpunk, 199X’s Ghost in the Shell, should have been a movie that I loved. And while perhaps I just had a really terrible subtitle translation job (although this is the official Blu-Ray re-release so I doubt it), I thought this film was a unmitigated mess of techno-philosophical mumbo-jumbo that I found nearly impossible to follow (and not in that good David Lynch sort of way), and by the time the film was over, I really had no idea what had just happened in the movie I watched.

Ghost in the Shell is a story set in a futuristic Japan where people are able to directly connect their brains to the internet and cyborgs (people that have human brains but robotic bodies) walk the streets as peers with the regular humans. However, because humanity has become so integrated with the digital world, it is possible for expert hackers to take control over a person’s brain from the internet through a concept known as Ghost-hacking. Once the world is set up, which is actually done fairly well, that’s when the movie falls apart because other than knowing who the villain was, I had no idea what his motivations were, how he had been captured, or what the fuck happened at the movie’s end. There’s a lot, lot, lot of talking in this anime and not in a good Neon Genesis Evangelion sort of way.

If you’re a fan of cyberpunk, I’m going to go ahead and guess you’ve already seen this. Any one who’s watched the movie and actually understood the ending, I would appreciate an explanation because I had no idea. Pretty much there are only two good things I can say about this film. The score was pretty fantastic. It was awesome. The animation was really good too, although I don’t know why the movie had to have so much gratuitous and unnecessary nudity. I can’t really recommend this to anyone, unless you’re a serious otaku, and then as I’ve said, you’ve probably already seen it.

 Final Score: C

Well space cowboys, we’ve come to the last leg of our journey. Our time upon the Bebop has come to a close and we must bid Spike, Jet, Faye, Ed, and Ein a most fond farewell. It was a fun trip that involved amnesiacs, mind control, truckers, blobs in refrigerators, yakuza, artificially aware satellites, and more crazy awesome than you can shake a stick at. But like the Native American in the finale said, all great journeys must eventually come to a close. And it will be time for a new one to start for me soon enough (actually as soon as my next Netflix DVD’s come in the mail and I start getting Neon Genesis Evangelion).

While I’ve written 5 other reviews for the series so far, they focused on the particular episodes that I had seen at that point. This will try to be a general synopsis of my feelings for the series so I apologize for the fact that a lot of the things I’ve said before are probably going to be repeated. Unlike many anime which are highly serialized and consecutive in their myth arc development, Cowboy Bebop is much more episodic in nature and the myth arc is developed slowly but beautifully over the series course, and much of that is simply character development and universe building. The show focuses on the antics and adventures of the crew of the spaceship Bebop. The primary protagonist is Spike Spiegel, a Cowboy, which is the show’s word for a bounty hunter. He’s joined by ex-cop and father figure Jet Black, mysterious con woman Faye Valentine, genius child prodigy Ed, and the dog Ein. Over the course of the show’s 26 episodes, you get a deeper and deeper look at their stories and the universe that they live in, and it all culminates in an absolutely beautiful series finale.

The series is science-fiction first and foremost, but it masterfully weaves a tale that incorporates all of my favorite genres of fiction. Film Noir, westerns, mafia pictures, comedy, psychological drama. And it does all of them better than most shows can do a single one. Some of the episodes of this show are my favorite episodes not just of anime but of any type of TV. Spike and Ed are two of my favorite characters in all of anime. Spike is simply one of the coolest dudes to ever be drawn on screen and Ed’s never-ending word salad is always endearing. Series big bad Vicious is also one of anime’s most compelling villains. The animation and art direction are also superb enough to match the story-telling, which is often a rare feat in a lot of anime.

One of the most memorable aspects of the series is its soundtrack. Live action or animated, no show has a better score than Cowboy Bebop. Yoko Kanno, over the course of the series 26 episode run, delivered a score that can only be described as perfect, and while it is heavily jazz-influenced, it also shows streaks in practically every genre of music, and it never failed to impress me. If you have no interest in the show, you should at least check out its superb soundtrack. The voice acting on the show is also top notch and has the finest English dub of any anime that I’ve watched. No voice actor drags the series down and it never succumbs to any of the cliches of most English anime dubs. I actually think the English dub is better than the original Japanese voice acting.

Cowboy Bebop is the greatest anime of all time. It outclasses its closest competition for me, Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, by a mile. Even if you don’t like anime, you should give this one a go, especially if you were a fan of science fiction cult classic Firefly. This show has multi-demographic appeal and I recommend it whole-heartedly.

Bang.

Final Score: A+

Well, in the immortal words of Jim Morrison, this is the end, or almost anyways. I’ve got one disc of Cowboy Bebop to watch after this review is over. It should be coming from Netflix within the week and that means my return to the spaceship Bebop and the adventures of its inhabitants will have finally drawn to a close. It’s a bitter sweet emotion because I’ve been really loving watching this show these last couple weeks. All great things must come to an end I guess.

The first episode of the four on the disc was probably one of the weaker episodes of the series that I’ve watched so far and I was never really exactly sure what was going on. However, that’s ok because the second episode “Pierrot Le Fou” has been my second favorite episode of the series, only behind the 5th episode. It was a really cool departure from the norm for the series and the villain was quite effective, and overall the episode was just incredibly creepy. The third episode was  jet episode that almost played like something out of True Grit, and the last episode was a sort of hilarious urban western that introduced a new bounty hunter named Andy that took the cowboy thing way too far. It was really funny.

The music and art direction of the show have remained fantastic. The abandoned theme park scenes in the second episode were just amazing looking, and in the urban western episode, they did a really great job of evoking the sort of melodies and themes you’d expect from an Ennio Morricone score in a Sergio Leone film like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. When I finally finish this show, I will be moving straight into Neon Genesis Evangelion. It will be interesting going from the fun of this show to the never ending depression of that other classic. Should be interesting.

Score in Progress: A+

I have to be at work at 10 in the morning tomorrow which means that I need to wake up at 9 at the latest which means that I should have gone to bed at 1. So, while I probably shouldn’t have stayed up at all to write this particular set of reviews, I’m going to do my best to keep this one short and sweet so as to get my stupid ass in bed as quickly as possible so that I’m not dragging my feet at work all day tomorrow. So, let’s head back once again to the Bebop and see what’s happened over the course of these last four episodes.

The first episode did a hell of a job explaining some of the back story of the mysterious Faye Valentine, and why she’s such a cold-hearted woman and con man and why the mob bosses at the casino thought she was like over 100 years old when we were first introduced to her. It was a fantastic episode with a nice romantic subplot that was given the great Cowboy Bebop treatment in how it was able to not play out exactly the way you’d think it would. The next episode gave us a decent look at Jet’s back story again and his time as a cop before he became a bounty hunter. The third episode is one of the series’ more infamous episodes and it involved our heroes tripping on magic mushrooms out on a desert planet. And it was hilarious. The final episode wasn’t as good as the other three but it also gave us another bit of a look at the story behind Faye, and also gave us some hilarious moments involving the lack of understanding by our heroes on the difference between a beta max player and a VCR. Funny stuff.

I’m well past the half-way point in the series and I’ve only got two discs of episodes left. It’s nice watching two anime series in a row that aren’t more than 30 episodes long. If I were reviewing the complete series of Dragon Ball Z, I would be reviewing that show for a good year or so since there’s like over 200 episodes. I’m glad I decided to re-watch Cowboy Bebop. I’ve been having a ton of fun jumping back into the series.

See you space cowboy

Score in Progress: A+

Well, yesterday the next two discs of Cowboy Bebop finally came in the mail from Netflix, and although I was definitely too tired from work yesterday to watch any, I wasted no time today diving right into that show. I’m spacing my reviews out for however many episodes were on each disc (whereas for Gurren Lagann I just reviewed every 4 episodes). The first two discs had 5 episodes a disc, however, these next two discs each have four on them, which is why I’ll be reviewing fewer episodes per article for these next two posts. Anyways, let’s jump back into the Bebop and follow the continuing adventures and trials of her intrepid crew.

This batch of episodes was pretty fantastic (although when isn’t this show) and once again exemplified the very broad array of themes and issues and styles that this show is willing to tackle. The first episode is probably the episode is that the most different from any episode I’ve watched so far as it is a sort of homage to the original Alien film and concerns a black blob that escaped from an old, old refrigerator in the back of the ship and stalks and preys on the crew of the Bebop. It was really odd and pretty awesome, but the show in no way, shape, or form tries to explain how its ending exists in the continuity of the series or makes any sense. The next two episodes were a two-parter telling one big story that brought back series big bad, Vicious (pictured above), and gave us a little more of a look into the back story and motivations of Spike. These two episodes, while not quite as good as episode 5, were still absolutely amazing and helped create even more of the deep back world for the series. The 4th episode dealt with a sort of a heist story but with that classic Cowboy Bebop twist and subversion of the genre.

I might be wrong, but I felt like this particular batch of episodes, especially the two parter, really upped the ante in the soundtrack department. I honestly can’t name a single TV show, anime or live-action, that has a consistently better soundtrack than Cowboy Bebop. The only thing that might even come close is Lost but it still trails this one. I’ve got one more disc to watch before I send them both back to Netflix. In all likelihood, I’ll finish that disc tonight and have one more review up before I head to bed for the evening.

See you space cowboy.

Score in Progress: A+

Unlike Gurren Lagann which had a general myth arc that progressed consecutively with each new episode, Cowboy Bebop is far more episodic in nature and while each new episode helps to contribute more and more to the general mythology and back story of the series, there is nothing that happened in this particular set of episodes that I feel the need to preface this with a spoiler alerts warning. You can read this and it won’t ruin anything so much that it would deter you from watching the series in the future.

These episodes once again showed the general range of genres that this show likes to take on. One episode was a sort of supernatural noir involving a young boy who possesses an immortal body and as has lived for hundreds of years. This episode also introduced the reason why humanity no longer has Earth as the central of our civilization. Another is sort of an homage to trucker films and feels like something very much out of Firefly. Honestly, whenever I watch this show, the first show that comes to my mind to make a comparison is Firefly, which is a very good thing since Firefly is one of my favorite shows. Another one is a return to the Japanese mafia roots, or the yakuza stuff to be more accurate, involving a fairly tragic and sad story about the lengths one man will go to protect his sister. We get the episode that introduces us to Ed, and how awesomely insane she is. She’s really just absolutely hilarious and provides the show with lots of much needed comic relief. And the last episode I watched gave us a little insight into the back-story of Jet. That’s one of the really great things about this show. The characters are fleshed out so well. They are much more than your typical anime caricatures.

One thing I really started to notice about the show during this round of episodes is how well the series makes use of the sort of “camera angles” (since this is a cartoon, the implied camera angles anyways) and and view-points that it employs that are so incredibly cinematic and artistic and the kind of thing you expect from high quality films and not a cartoon. You can tell that the people making the show have a real keen visual sense and style and that is prevalent through practically ever scene of the series.

Score in Progress: A+