Blu-ray Review: Cowboy Bebop – Box 1

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Cowboy Bebop is a longtime favourite with Anime fans (me included), and it’s also a series that has been released multiple times on multiple formats, this being the case how does Anime Limited’s debut Blu-ray release fair? Find out in our Blu-ray Review of Cowboy Bebop – Box 1.

Synopsis:

The crew of the Bebop is once again ready to clean up space by bringing bad guys to justice and trying to make some cash while doing it!

Join the always-cool Spike Spiegel, investigative genius Jet Black, the alluring Faye Valentine, the amazing (but weird) Ed and the super-smart Welsh Corgi named Ein as they try to make a buck in the year 2071. How do they do it? They’re bounty hunters!

Our View:

With this ‘Box 1’ Release of Cowboy Bebop we find ourselves with the first half (13 episodes) of the series which mainly acts as an introduction to the characters, the lifestyle, the action and the comical antic’s that will take place. To start off with the series begins showing the everyday affairs of Spike and Jet as they pursue and apprehend ‘bounties’ across the galaxy, with each reward paying for their meals as well as fixing their ship. It’s not long until the crew expands with the introductions of new crew members, such as the highly ‘in-debt’ Faye Valentine, genius hacker Edward and of course the adorable, but clever, dog Ein, each of which are introduced within the first ten episodes. Even when new crew members are introduced their backstories still remain hidden and are instead discovered over a period of time, thus making each character uniquely interesting to watch as every second of the series you discover something new about them.

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It’s not just about the ‘Bebop Crew’ either, as each episode acts as an individual story with new (sometimes reoccurring) characters being introduced to the viewer, such as bounty-heads, friends and old accomplices, however these individual stories don’t distract from the main ‘darker’ theme of the show but it instead reinforces it by showing the resolve that the characters have. The main ‘darker’ theme of the series is mostly shrouded in mystery until the half-way point of this release, whereby an old acquaintance of Spike appears and starts to disrupt his newly found life, but even then the mystery continues throughout the remaining episodes and still continues after the last episode of this release. It’s probably worth mentioning that Cowboy Bebop takes place in the year 2071 whereby space travel (and warp gates) between planets has been achieved, here bounty hunters are awarded a reward for tracking down criminals wanted by the police and this is the everyday job of the Bebop Crew, that is until Spike’s past comes back to haunt him.

General Story aside Cowboy Bebop is a show that features plenty of Action (Gun fights), Comedy (randomness) and an impressively composed musical soundtrack, all of which blend together to create a highly entertaining and enticing series. Without this blend the series would not be as enjoyable as it is now, as it offers a nice mixture of entertainment while still remaining true to the story. That being said the musical soundtrack, which was composed by Yoko Kanno, provides the most enticing entertainment by showcasing the significance of what is happening on screen, as only music will be played rather than characters talking, this is highly noticeable during the final episodes of this release.

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While the series and the episodic contents remain the same as previous DVD releases it is the ‘High Definition’ quality that makes this release stand out (as showcased in our comparison article). This particular Blu-ray release features the new ‘HD Master’, the same HD master that was used in the original Japanese Blu-ray release of the series, so visuals are now far superior to previous DVD releases. Not only are the images sharper (and contain more detail) but colours are much more realistic and natural by offering different tones of a colour, these are especially noticeable during the space scenes whereby we see the different types of grey and black used within Spike’s Cockpit. The improved picture (pixel) quality also means that warp gate scenes no longer look blurred or pixelated, instead the everything is clearly detailed and visible rather than it being a pixelated distraction. It’s not just the visuals that have been improved either as both the English and Japanese Audio tracks are now presented in DTS-HD Master Audio (5.1 Surround Sound) which is a higher, more realistic quality, than the standard 5.1 Surround Sound seen on other anime Blu-ray Releases. Some say that Blu-ray offers no difference to standard DVD and that it’s just a gimmick, however this Blu-ray release of Cowboy Bebop proves that Blu-ray (High Definition) does in fact offer a far superior viewing experience compared to the standard DVD and for those ‘tempted’ to upgrade then this is a must have release for your Blu-ray Collection as it’s quite simply the best looking (remastered) Anime Blu-ray i have ever seen.

Extras:

Not only has the visual quality of the series been improved, thanks to High Definition technology, but this particular release features new extra features, namely Japanese DVD & Blu-ray Commericals for the Series. Included on the disc with have a selection of Japanese Trailers for the series, Music Videos (which feature scenes from the series) and a clean (text less) ending video. In addition to those we have three Japanese Cast Commentaries, these cast commentaries we also available on the BEEZ Released Remix Collection and it’s nice to see that they are still included.

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All of the Extras are located on Disc 1, except for Episode 10 Commentary which is on the second disc.

  • Commericals for Blu-ray
  • Commericals for DVD
  • Tank! (Full length Music Video)
  • Tank! (Bebop AV Edit) remixed by DJ Food
  • Clean Ending

Commentary:

  • Episode 1 – Koichi Yamadera (Spike) & Unshou Ishizuka (Jet)
  • Episode 5 – Wendee Lee & ADR Producer (Yutaka Maseba)
  • Episode 10 – Wendee Lee & ADR Director (Yutaka Maseba)

Out of all the extra features it is the Japanese Cast Commentary that fans of the series will enjoy, as not only does it provide an insight into the production and voice acting of the series but it has been narrated/commentated by the original Japanese voice actors rather than the English Voice actors, which is not something that is included often on UK Releases.

Specs:

Media: BD 50 x2
Region: A & B
Running Time: 2:51:35 (Disc 1), 2:27:46 (Disc 2)
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (English & Japanese)
Subtitles: English (White – Text), (Blue & Green – Songs)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080i)
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps

Overall:

Cowboy Bebop is a series, much like Dragon Ball Z and Gundam Wing, that defined a generation of Anime with its unique combination of Comedy, Action, Jazz Music and Sci-Fi – with many viewers seeing this series as their first ‘mature’ introduction into the world of anime and it’s easy to see why. Cowboy Bebop tells the tale of the ‘Bebop Crew’ which consists of Bounty Hunters, namely Spike Spiegel and Jet Black, tracking down various Bounty-heads and avoiding problematic trouble however during the course of the series new partnerships are formed and dark secrets are unearthed, all of which creates repercussions for the Bebop Crew.

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In regards to the Blu-ray with have the first 13 episodes of the series spread across two Blu-ray discs, with the first disc containing seven episodes and the second disc containing the remaining six, all of which are presented in glorious 1080p high definition but in 4:3 aspect ratio. The reason for the 4:3 aspect ratio is because the series was originally produced this way (for CRT TV’s) and to avoid cropping (loss of picture) they left the re-master at its original aspect ratio. The first disc features majority of the extra content, all of which was included with the original Japanese Blu-ray release of the series, and the menu to navigate it all is easily accessible. In terms of the Audio it presented in DTS-HD 5.1 and it is the same voice talent (for both English & Japanese) as it was in previous DVD releases, so fans of the series will be pleased to know that all of the familiar voices are still here.

While this release provides the ‘expected’ 1080p entertainment and the inclusion of a variety of extra (Japanese) content it’s annoying to find a slight issue with this Blu-ray Release. It’s not a big issue but some may find it annoying as each episode only contains three chapter points (Start, Middle, End) as opposed to a regular Blu-ray / DVD that has five (Opening, Part A, Part B, Ending, Preview), this means that for those wanting to skip the opening song it will take you to halfway through the episode rather than just after the opening. This could be due to the original Japanese Blu-ray Master or something to do with the authoring process of the Blu-ray disc, either way for those wanting to skip the opening song be warned.

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Anime Limited’s Blu-ray Release of Cowboy Bebop – Box 1 is nothing but perfection, it retains all of the original content seen so far (such as English Audio and previous DVD Extras) and improves upon it with additional extra features, re-mastered High Definition visuals and upgraded DTS Surround Sound audio for both Audio Tracks, thus making this the ‘definitive’ edition of the TV Series so far and a must own for any anime fan.

Score: review-stars-5

Cowboy Bebop – Box 1 will be available on Blu-ray from the 29th July 2013.

About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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