I have now finished off all the Cowboy Bebop (CB) available as DVDs on Netflix (Discs 4 and 6 are permanently unavailable). This includes the 2-hour movie which I watched last night. And I think that’s sufficient to allow me to make a definitive judgement on the series vis-à-vis my taste.
It has some weaknesses from my point of view. There is a silliness that can be annoying for me. The crazy adolescent girl Edward can be a bit much. Some of the episodes are pretty thin on plot. And some of the space battle scenes seem (not surprisingly) cartoonish. I think most of this can be chalked up to the standard cartoon sci-fi conventions. Things are simplified and standardized to allow economic production of the animation product. And to be fair, since I have never been a comic book or movie consumer, I’m not their primary audience. To an anime consume, CB is probably well to the right side of the standard deviation curve with respect to production values, plot and characterization.
I like the quality of the animation especially the scenes in outer space. Some of it is strikingly well done. I liked the scenario of independent contractors moving in and out of the legitimate world acting as bounty hunters while they themselves are not without a certain air of criminality. And obviously here are the similarities with Firefly. After viewing the majority of CB I’ll state that I’m convinced that Whedon borrowed heavily from it when making Firefly. But I’m sure CB borrowed from earlier anime for some of its ideas so I don’t think it’s a big deal. But I will say that at this point I’d much prefer a big screen (or big budget tv) version of CB were made rather than of Firefly. Whedon is such an SJW that he’d probably have Serenity going back in time just to battle Donald Trump. My only hedge on having CB instead of Firefly is that is I’d like to see Jet Black played by Adam Baldwin. He would be damn near perfect for the part.
Anyway, I would say that the CB movie demonstrates how a longer treatment of the material improves it. More characterization shows through and there is more scope for interesting story telling. Also, the animation of the city in the movie was extremely well done. It looked like whole sections of New York City were digitized to make the action possible in the chase scenes. And speaking of the chase scenes, one of the flying chases was a little too long. Although intricate and well laid out it eventually started to drag on. The fight scenes between the protagonist Spike and his nemesis were very good and enjoyable. Most of the minor characters were fairly well utilized. Surprisingly, the seemingly superfluous presence of the welsh corgi dog on the space ship actually felt like a positive addition to me. But maybe I just like dogs.
So, bottom line, Cowboy Bebop is good sci-fi anime. If you don’t particularly like anime you still might enjoy it. It has piqued my interest in the genre enough that I’m going to give another anime movie (Ghosts in the Shell 2.0) a look-see and find out if this was just a one off or not.
See you Space Cowboy!
Q: What is one of the great pleasures of the reading world?
A: An interesting villain.
One of the examples that comes to mind is Hannibal Lecter. Here is a man who indulges in murder, torture and cannibalism and yet is inarguably the most interesting character in the several books he appears in. Granted, he’s not really a sympathetic character, but he is the center of attention. I think part of what distinguishes the interesting villain from the garden variety is consistency. So the interesting villain doesn’t follow society’s rules but he does follow his own rules. Discovering and acknowledging the constancy of the villain to these rules is part of the enjoyment of the character. You see the payoff coming or some plot twist prevents it. Each occasion reinforces the pattern and adds to the fun.
Closely allied to this type is the anti-hero. He rescues you from a serial killer but then kicks you in the balls for making him miss his coffee break. He saves a bus full of nuns from falling off a cliff but then relieves himself on the bus tire in full view of the thankful occupants. Here the enjoyment comes from the juxtaposition of thrilling exploits and amazing skill along side of boorish behavior and callous disregard. Perhaps a more descriptive title is the Heroic Jerk.
For anyone familiar with Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter series of books I think the character I would immediately associate with the anti-hero is Agent Franks. He carries out all assignments issued to him by the Monster Control Bureau (MCB) no matter how brutal and regardless of the impact on innocent bystanders. His almost complete indifference to human considerations of any kind is sort of his hallmark. Along with this is his almost complete lack of interpersonal skills. The closest he ever comes to tact is silence. Usually his version of conversation is an order prefaced by an insult and followed up almost immediately with a threat or an assault. Good times, good times.
The flipside to this is his willingness to fight evil no matter the odds and no matter the risk to himself. His underlying motivation is to fulfill his oath to destroy humanity’s supernatural foes (regardless of how many innocent bystanders must be coincidentally slaughtered to achieve that noble goal).
Starting out as a small recurring part in the first couple of Monster Hunter books Franks gains much greater importance in one of the later books and becomes pivotal to the underlying story line. But I find his curmudgeonly heroism endlessly entertaining. So much so, that I have decided to make it my life’s work to convince a major motion picture studio to bring the Monster Hunter world to the big screen, and most importantly, to cast Adam Baldwin as Agent Franks. I base this casting decision on Mr. Baldwin’s very similar character of Col. John Casey of the NSA (in the tv series Chuck). This was also a man of few words who would sacrifice himself (and anyone around him) in order to fulfill his mission. The aptness of this casting is I believe self-evident.
So all hail to the Anti-Hero. All hail the Heroic Jerk.
This week I had the chance to listen to the audio file of Larry Correia’s “The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent.” Adam Baldwin was the narrator and I thoroughly enjoyed the two hours it lasted. Now granted that combining the inside jokes about Larry, Adam, Firefly and the Obama administration and the spirited recital provided by Baldwin was great fun but it seemed strange how happy I was over this very minor comic tale. It seemed excessive.
So I considered the source of all this positivity.
As a general rule I’ve always contended that any show is improved by adding Adam Baldwin to it. And this was no exception. But Tom Stranger was no Jane Cobb. And without a doubt I’m quite a fan of Larry Correia’s work but this little work is a mere slip of a story. So even though Tom’s adventure is very fine and plain good fun why did I like it so incredibly much?
It’s simple. It’s because of what the story represents. It’s the potential of a Monster Hunter movie with Adam Baldwin as a main character. Imagining a big budget fantasy movie written by and acted in by conservatives is almost too much to imagine. But that’s what makes it so exciting. Finally something good all the way around. No sucker punches. No hippies. No social justice.
So even though it’s just a pipe dream it colors the experience of this little work and makes it something more. Here’s to better days and bigger and better things.