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Buy one of the following 'Cowboy Bebop' TV series DVDs from amazon.com:

'Session 1' (episodes 1-5)

'Session 2' (eps 6-10)

'Session 3' (eps 11-14)

'Session 4' (eps 15-18)

'Session 5' (eps 19-22)

'Session 6' (eps 23-26)

'The Complete Sessions Collection' (all six volumes of the series)

'Cowboy Bebop: Best Sessions' (three of director Shinichirô Watanabe's personal favorite eps and three fan favorite eps, all remastered in digital surround sound)



Buy one of the following 'Cowboy Bebop' soundtrack CDs:

'Cowboy Bebop V.1' (1998)

'Cowboy Bebop: Vitaminless' (1998)

'Cowboy Bebop: No Disc' (1998)

'Cowboy Bebop: Blue' (1999)

'Music for Freelance' (1999 remixes of 'Cowboy Bebop' themes by the likes of Luke Vibert and DJ Vadim)

'Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' on Heaven's Door--O.S.T. Future Blues' (the 2001 soundtrack for 'Cowboy Bebop: The Movie,' which was released as 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door' in Japanese theaters)

'Ask DNA' (a 2001 maxi-single containing 'Cowboy Bebop: The Movie' score tracks not found on the original album)

'Cowboy Bebop CD Box' (2002 box set of rare score tracks from the series)

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Mutiny of the Bounty Hunter: TV's 'Cowboy Bebop' turns up on the big screen.

Unarresting

The bounty hunters of 'Cowboy Bebop' look cool even when their plans heat up

By Richard von Busack

SHINICHIRÔ WATANABE'S Cowboy Bebop, seen on the Cartoon Network, is one of the most popular of all Japanese anime. It's easy to see why: Cowboy Bebop is completely devoid of any upsetting dramatic flavors that might disturb the average fan. The film version seems more spinoff than stand-alone. Only by checking Andy Mangels' new book, Animation on DVD (from Berkeley's Stone Bridge Press), was I able to figure out who's who.

The cowboy in question is bounty hunter Spike Spiegel, who lives in 2071 but still models himself on one of Clint Eastwood's quiet but seething bounty hunters. What Spiegel really likes to do is sleep, which may lead the nonfan to conclude that what we have here is a case of clinical depression. (But the real point is that when you take cool to its absolute extreme, you reach, first, unconsciousness and then death. This is why all the truly cool people are dead.)

Rousing Spike from his catnaps are the other crew members of his funky space ship, the Bebop. These include the hulking Jet, a former policeman who has the kind of side-whisker hairstyle that ought to be referred to as a "Wolverine" (one month until X-Men 2!); Faye, the love interest, aboard to get kidnapped, trussed up and menaced; and the ship's mascot, the dog Ein, a Corgi who can play chess. The last member of the crew is finalist for the title of cartoondom's most irritating cute character. She's called Edward. Although she's a 10-year-old girl (arrgh), she's a computer prodigy (arrgh again). She also has a squeaky voice that could shatter glass (this may be the problem of the English dubbing).

The gang goes in pursuit of a terrorist who thinks the world is his hallucinatory delusion that he must destroy to escape. All fine and good, but his plan lacks those grand details you expect: he figures to use parade balloons to gas the world. It's more than just a bit like the Joker's plan in Tim Burton's Batman, but that was 14 years ago--a lifetime for many cartoon fans.

Some praise is due for Watanable's character design. Except for the snuffable Edward, all the characters look and move far more realistically than is the case in the average anime. Moreover, his backgrounds have charm, rotoscoped as they are from many of Earth's cities, from New York to Tangiers. Watanabe seems to know his music; each episode is named after noted rock, soul and blues albums (one TV episode was titled "The Real Folk Blues," like the Chess samplers for Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf). However, the title has no real resonance, just as there is a Cowboy Bebop episode called "Pierrot le Fou" without any apparent reference to the Godard film. It's cross-culturalism at its emptiest, like young Asians wearing sweatshirts with random English phrases on them or young Westerners who have Chinese pictographs tattooed on them, which say, they hope, "Prosperity," "Love" or "Longevity" but may well read "Spendthrift," "Trend Pig" "or "Sucker."


Cowboy Bebop (R; 115 min.), an animated feature by Shinichirô Watanabe, opens Friday at the Towne Theater in San Jose.


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From the April 3-9, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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