Cowboy Bebop (****)
by Shinichiro Watanabe, Akihiko Inari, Sadayuki Murai, Keiko Nobumoto, Dai Sato, Ryota Yamaguchi, and Michiko Yokote, translated by Marc Handler
This is my favorite anime of all time. Yes, I recognize that the anime of Miyazaki are, in some sense, greater and I like them well
enough. But for pure entertainment, give me Cowboy Bebop every time. This six DVD set contains all 26 TV episodes, in a near platonic
package. Even the stills where the commercial breaks would have been are perfect. And the "previews" of the next episode! Too
much anime has every episode almost indistinguishable from every other episode. In Cowboy Bebop each episode stands out as crisp
and individual as the different musical styles that give them their names: the blues, rhapsody, heavy metal, jazz. Great characters,
even greater music -- people who don't usually like anime like Cowboy Bebop. Watch them in order.
Cowboy Bebop -- the Movie (***) by Keiko Nobumoto, from a story by Hajime Yatate
Watch the TV series first. The movie is good, but not as good. Cowboy Bebop -- the Movie occurs
between TV episodes 23 and 24, but my recommendation is
to watch the TV series all the way through, and then see this as a flashback. All the great characters are here, Spike, Jet, Faye, Ein,
and especially Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Trivuski 4th, who provides the film most memorable moments. Why doesn't the movie work as well as
the series? Maybe they thought they had to, forgive the expression, jazz it up for a feature film. Maybe the subject matter just works
better at a shorter length. In any case, watch the TV series first. In order, hear!
Dark Shadows DVD Collection 5 (****) by Ron Sproat, Gordon Russell, and Sam Hall
I think, on consideration, this is the place to start, with the first time travel to the year 1795. As I have mentioned
before, Dark Shadows is a problem. The best episodes are wonderful, the worst dreadful, and yet it is too much of a piece
to separate the wheat from the chaff. If you begin at the beginning, you have a long wait before the first supernatural events
occur -- on the other hand, the early stories by Art Wallace are excellent. Another problem with starting at the beginning is that the
early episodes are only on VHS, not on DVD. Or, you could start with the first DVD collection, which begins with the introduction of
the vampire, Barnabas Collins. But then you are faced with so many bad episodes to sit through that you may well give up and
scratch Dark Shadows off your list. Collections 2, 3, and 4 all have much to recommend them as starting points. For one
thing, it might be well to get used to the 1965 cast before watching the time travel story, in which familiar actors play different
roles. But the first four collections have many episodes that are, frankly, boring. In Collection 5, Sam Hall, the best writer for the
series, comes aboard. On second thought, I have a better idea. Rent the earlier collections and watch a few episodes of each at
random. Then, watch Collection 5 all the way through. When it was originally on the air, half the fun of Dark Shadows was talking to
other fans and filling in the gaps of episodes you missed.
Copyright © 2003 Rick Norwood
Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has
published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster.
He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic
comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd
Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby,
Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.