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February 21st, 2008


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07:14 am - Cowboy Bebop? More Like Gangster Rocksteady!
In 1998, the work, which became a new genre itself, was called Cowboy Bebop: the world's first sci-fi noir kung fu Western mixtape.

Sci-fi: The Bebop is a spaceship! And, see, the story takes place in the future, and spaceships travel through hyperspace gates, and we've colonized the whole solar system, and it's all very well thought out, with different planets having very different landscapes. But the sci-fi is all really just a backdrop for the story.

Noir: Because the meat of the tale is classic noir, centering around the many ways your past always catches up to you. There's a crime syndicate, and people shoot with guns, not laser pistols or some shit. And appearances are always deceiving. Always always always.

Kung fu: It's not often that your noir hero busts out with martial arts moves. I'm just saying.

Western: The main characters are bounty hunters! And they watch a show for bounty hunters whose hosts dress up as a stereotypical cowboy and cowgirl. And there are old varmints in a saloon. And the occasional twangy guitar score.

Mixtape: Yeah, I said twangy guitar. Although the most prominent musical theme is jazz, the show is very focused on using multiple musical styles, usually highlighted by the title of the episode ("Heavy Metal Queen" and "Mushroom Samba," for instance). There's no real purpose for this except that it's clear the creators of Cowboy Bebop set out to make something new and unique and different, and throwing a multitude of world music into the mix seems as good an idea as any other. It feels almost experimental, as if they wanted to see what would happen if you scored an anime with atypical music. I mean, would you expect a space noir Western to have this fabulous opening sequence? Watch it, as it gives a fairly good impression of what's at play here.

What's impressive about Cowboy Bebop is how well this fusion of genres works. It all feels like a cohesive storytelling environment. So, let's talk characters.

Spike Spiegel, our hero, is a Man with a Past. What that past is is slowly revealed over the course of the series. One thing that's clear is that he wasn't always a bounty hunter. (But then again, who is? You don't take up a career in bounty hunting; you sort of fall into it.) Spike is a character who frequently had me asking, "Spike Spiegel, how are you so badass?" This is a guy who can stop a hijacking in his sleep (kinda). He's generally pretty nonchalant, but that's New Spike, and New Spike exists because Old Spike once existed, so the key to understanding Spike is to attempt to reconcile the Old and the New. Like I said, noir hero.

Jet Black is head of the Bebop and Spike's partner-in-crime (not literally). He's got a cybernetic arm! And his cooking sucks (not because of the cybernetic arm). Jet is older and wiser than Spike. He's the kind of gruff old grump who always yells, "If you leave, you won't be welcome back!!" And then welcomes you back with open arms. Like Spike, he has a past, but unlike Spike, it doesn't cause him nearly that much angst.

Faye Valentine has a totally badass entrance but is actually only one-tenth as badass as Spike. In reality, she's kind of irritating, unfortunately. I wanted to love a character with big boobs and blue hair, but she made it really hard! All she did was get herself into trouble. She only ever looks out for herself, and neither Spike nor Jet really seems to like her that much either. It's more like they grudgingly tolerate her. She gets the most interesting (but least explored) backstory, which did make me like her a little more.

Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV is a cute little redhead hacker girl who never fails to crack me up. Her [Japanese] voice and manner of speaking are just so adorable and ridiculous. She reminded me a lot of Uzura. She's always rolling around and spouting nonsense. I think she's one of those characters you either love or find insufferably annoying.

Ein is a dog. Woof woof doggie!

So there you have the makeshift family that lives on the Bebop. They go after bounties and have all kinds of wacky adventures!

I knew going in that the show was more episodic than most anime, but I was disappointed in how episodic it was. The majority of the one-offs were just that: one-offs. It was as if they existed in a vacuum, and in the next episode, it was like nothing had happened (especially because half the time they didn't collect the bounty because they were too damn noble or whatever). I found it slightly maddening, since I'm used to more serial storytelling now! Even the backstory episodes felt like they tried to force too much into a self-contained story; some of the plot elements would have had more resonance had they been better foreshadowed in earlier episodes. The most successful story is, of course, Spike's, which does form a beautiful arc. I found myself wishing the series were half as long, just focusing on the characters. It would be much tighter. The filler episodes, though, are pretty entertaining and interesting and often funny, and they enhance the worldbuilding and do have some nice character moments. The storytelling as a whole is very subtle; the show gives you little pieces of things here and there but doesn't necessarily connect them for you.

I did not fall madly in love Cowboy Bebop, but I really liked it. The last five or six episodes, thankfully, were some of the best, and the two-part finale was fucking awesome. Holy God. That was what I wished the entire series was like. It was the first time I really felt emotionally engaged, and even though I knew where the story was going (it's noir, baby), I was still on the edge of my seat. It convinced me even more that they should have just cut the series in half and focused more on Spike's story; that would have made an amazing show.

One last thing: I think I loved the episode previews more than the actual episodes at times. They're so fucking hilarious and amusing. Different characters tell you about the next episode, but they're often very quizzical about what's coming up. Meta jokes abound.

Cowboy Bebop is one of the most popular animes out there, and it makes a pretty good gateway series because it's fairly accessible and the episodic nature keeps it from being too confusing and cracked-out. It's also interesting as a cultural text, given that it's full of homages to many noir/Western/action/kung fu movies—as well as the many nods to famous albums and songs—and it's ended up influencing works such as The Matrix (the cathedral scene in "Ballad of Fallen Angels" is very reminiscent of the lobby scene...or vice-versa) and, of course, my beloved Avatar. So if you've heard the name tossed around (perhaps in relation to a certain other space Western) but didn't know much about it...now you do, so give it a try.

SEE YOU SPACE COWBOY.
Current Mood: lethargiclethargic
Current Music: Audrye Sessions - Julianna

(39 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


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From:etherealclarity
Date:February 21st, 2008 03:29 pm (UTC)
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And now you need to watch Samurai Champloo, because it's even better.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:February 21st, 2008 03:31 pm (UTC)
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Downloading as we speak, girly.

In what ways is it better?
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From:etherealclarity
Date:February 21st, 2008 03:35 pm (UTC)
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I found the backstories more engaging and the characters more relatable, basically. Plus the female character isn't as annoying as Faye. :)
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From:rachelmanija
Date:February 21st, 2008 07:53 pm (UTC)
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Same here. I never connected with the characters in Bebop, but I fell madly in love with the Champloo trio. After a certain point, the overarching plot became incredibly suspenseful-- largely because I cared so damn much about what was going to happen to everyone. And the animation and music is gorgeous.

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From:etherealclarity
Date:February 21st, 2008 07:58 pm (UTC)
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One thing that I think is helpful about Champloo is that the story has a very natural begining and ending. Bebop was like a snippet in these characters lives who happened to collide and where it all ended, whereas the story in Champloo exists because of the arc and ends where the arc ends. Point A to point B. The entire point of the story was the journey, which means the characters change and develop and you see evidence of it start to peek through as the story goes on.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:February 21st, 2008 08:04 pm (UTC)
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I never connected with the characters in Bebop
The only character I was ever really invested in was Spike because he was so badass. I found Ed endlessly entertaining, but there wasn't much to her. And I liked Jet well enough. But as a whole, yeah, I guess I didn't connect with them, per se. I kept comparing it to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, which I fell madly in love with early on; I knew I wanted to see the characters do as many things for as many times as possible, whereas I rarely got the "I can't wait to see what the Bebop crew does next!" feeling. (Although the very amusing previews certainly helped with that.)

After a certain point, the overarching plot became incredibly suspenseful-- largely because I cared so damn much about what was going to happen to everyone.
Whee!

And the animation and music is gorgeous.
I flipped through the first episode to take a look, and it has a very different art style to it than Bebop. I don't have a good sense of it, though. I like things that are gorgeous!
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From:kremlindusk
Date:February 21st, 2008 07:25 pm (UTC)
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Also, as pretty as Cowboy Bebop is, I'd say Samurai Champloo is at least 20 times prettier.

I've never given it much time otherwise, though, so I can't speak as to the plot or characters. I meant to pay more attention, just never have. It looks great, though.
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From:etherealclarity
Date:February 21st, 2008 07:59 pm (UTC)
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Samurai Champloo is sooo pretty, it's very true.
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From:lodessa
Date:February 21st, 2008 03:31 pm (UTC)
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Oh Anime Firefly... my brother only got about five minutes in before noticing.
(of course when qt_ninja watched Firefly she was like "Live Action Cowboy Bebop...")
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From:loopychew
Date:February 22nd, 2008 09:25 am (UTC)
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You want Anime Firefly or Firefly = "Live Action <blank>?" Try Outlaw Star on for size. The first episode even ends with an odd girl being taken out of suspended animation, not to mention the whole Chinese-culture-has-taken-over-the-'verse thing (although much more prevalent in OS than in Firefly).

Plus, any show where the first episode has a ten-year-old kid delivering the line, "looks like you just had your space cherry popped!" is automatically awesome.
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From:ocvictor
Date:February 21st, 2008 04:17 pm (UTC)
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Love, love, love me some Bebop.

Although the most prominent musical theme is jazz, the show is very focused on using multiple musical styles, usually highlighted by the title of the episode ("Heavy Metal Queen" and "Mushroom Samba," for instance

All of the music was arranged and produced by composer Yoko Kanno, and her band, The Seatbelts, which features among many fine musicians, including Steve Conte of The New York Dolls.

And the finale to the show kicked serious ass.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:February 21st, 2008 04:23 pm (UTC)
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I can't help thinking I might have loved Cowboy Bebop more if I actually liked jazz.
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From:kibarika
Date:February 21st, 2008 11:57 pm (UTC)
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Definitely. Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts are totally my hero rockstars.

Also, ED. ED ED ED ED ED. I'm so glad you watched it subbed because Ed needs to be in Japanese, it's a thing. I am so sad that I could never convincingly cosplay Ed because of my girlshape.

Ein is not just a dog, man. Ein is a DATA DOG. A WELSH CORGI. Now whenever Will and I see a Welsh Corgi we pretend we're Japanese and say it all "Oowelsh Cooorgee." It sounds cooler for real.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:February 22nd, 2008 12:05 am (UTC)
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I'm so glad you watched it subbed because Ed needs to be in Japanese, it's a thing.
I saw your comment to that effect last night, and I completely agree! I checked out the dubbed Ed, and while she's perfectly fine, she's only one-tenth as cute as Japanese Ed. English Ed doesn't even attempt to carry over her inflections, although she does get the voice and general personality right.

I am so sad that I could never convincingly cosplay Ed because of my girlshape.
Well, so few women are six inches wide.

Ein is not just a dog, man. Ein is a DATA DOG.
I was trying not to spoil!

Now whenever Will and I see a Welsh Corgi we pretend we're Japanese and say it all "Oowelsh Cooorgee." It sounds cooler for real.
Hee.
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From:latropita
Date:February 21st, 2008 05:10 pm (UTC)
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Amigos!!

Although the most prominent musical theme is jazz, the show is very focused on using multiple musical styles, usually highlighted by the title of the episode ("Heavy Metal Queen" and "Mushroom Samba," for instance).
Plus, the episode titles like always song titles as well.
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From:enshanam
Date:February 21st, 2008 05:27 pm (UTC)
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Huh. I guess I really should watch the second half at some point!
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From:spectralbovine
Date:February 21st, 2008 05:33 pm (UTC)
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You really should! There are some great episodes, and, seriously, the finale is worth it. It's so awesome. (And, dude, that means you don't even know Faye's backstory. Or Ed's! And you're missing out on "Cowboy Funk," which is hilarious.) I had no idea you hadn't seen it all. How has Emily let you get away with that?
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From:capnnick
Date:February 21st, 2008 06:03 pm (UTC)
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I know what you mean about episodic. It wasn't until years after the fact that I discovered that Bebop actually had back story and character development. All I ever saw were the one-shots!

It occurs to me that I should rectify this at some point. I shall add it to The Giant List.

While I am here let me recommend to you Baccano!, another series that sells itself very well by its opening.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:February 21st, 2008 06:13 pm (UTC)
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It wasn't until years after the fact that I discovered that Bebop actually had back story and character development. All I ever saw were the one-shots!
Ha, right? You could watch random episodes and just think it was, like, ADVENTURES IN SPAAAAAACE! Which is fun enough but not required viewing.

While I am here let me recommend to you Baccano!
Nooooooooooo, I already have enooooooough. Besides, I'm doing Samurai Champloo next and then going back to live-action. And I think the next anime in my non-Emily queue after that is probably Paranoia Agent.

another series that sells itself very well by its opening.
I...see. It appears to be about three dozen characters playing cards and blowing stuff up. *Wikipedias* Okay, that does sound pretty cool, and I love the episode titles. It just came out last year, which is why I haven't heard of it, aha. I will keep it in mind! It's only thirteen episodes, after all. Unless it gets a second season (like Melancholy, hurrah!).
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From:capnnick
Date:February 21st, 2008 09:47 pm (UTC)
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Yes, you should go back to live action for awhile! A balanced entertainment diet is essential to one's coolness and sanity. My life is a testament to the personality train wreck that occurs when this principle is ignored.

New Melancholy? Oh my...
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From:unseenlibrarian
Date:February 21st, 2008 06:57 pm (UTC)
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I continue to maintain that Ein is actually the smartest character on the ship and maybe the entire cast.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:February 21st, 2008 07:03 pm (UTC)
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Hee! That is very possible, especially given "Brain Scratch."
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From:duchessdogberry
Date:February 21st, 2008 07:53 pm (UTC)
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Ed is one of my very favorite characters ever ever ever ever ever ever ever. And I'm glad you liked the show!


So... when are you watchin' Lain?
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From:spectralbovine
Date:February 21st, 2008 08:10 pm (UTC)
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Ed is one of my very favorite characters ever ever ever ever ever ever ever.
Hee! She's so adorably hilarious. I kept waiting for her to, like, be useful, but most of the time she's just goofing around. Like, that's her entire purpose in certain scenes or even episodes. Who really knows what's going on inside her crazy little head?

And I'm glad you liked the show!
Me too! I wish I were more in love with it like the rest of the world, but, hey, I do agree that it's good stuff!

So... when are you watchin' Lain?
When Emily gets back in March! After I show her Princess Tutu. And I think she wants to show me Trigun first since the last thing we watched was Eva, and going from Eva to Lain would just be too depressing. But, wait, Tutu can be our buffer! Because I really want to watch Lain.
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From:duchessdogberry
Date:February 21st, 2008 08:17 pm (UTC)
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She's so adorably hilarious. I kept waiting for her to, like, be useful, but most of the time she's just goofing around. Like, that's her entire purpose in certain scenes or even episodes.

Exactly! She makes everything better just by being there and being weird.

Because I really want to watch Lain.

I just worry that it has been talked up too much and you're going to be all "Wha?" about it. 'Cause it's weird. And short. But I love it so.
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From:catalyst2
Date:February 21st, 2008 11:16 pm (UTC)
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I love that that you used a Firefly / Serenity icon for a Cowboy Bebop post because ..... well, you know .....
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From:the_narration
Date:February 21st, 2008 11:30 pm (UTC)
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Sweet! You've watched it! Now I can stop nagging you to.

Spike is a character who frequently had me asking, "Spike Spiegel, how are you so badass?"
Well, it helps that he practices Jeet Kune Do, the martial art Bruce Lee invented.

Like Spike, he has a past, but unlike Spike, it doesn't cause him nearly that much angst.
Yeah, Jet's more about preparing for the future or dealing with the present than dwelling on the past. Of course, while he's usually the first to counsel Spike against digging up the past and going back to settle old scores, he isn't able to resist facing his own past in "Black Dog Serenade" (with badass results).

She only ever looks out for herself, and neither Spike nor Jet really seems to like her that much either. It's more like they grudgingly tolerate her.
That's sort of exactly it. She basically invited herself onto the ship, and they never wanted her there. And then they got used to having her onboard and by the time they actually wanted her there, she left. (I love the bit in "Hard Luck Woman" where they still set places for Faye and Ed and Ein at dinner, because they're expecting them to come back like always... and then when they don't pragmatism takes over and they eat the food from the absent people's plates.)

It convinced me even more that they should have just cut the series in half and focused more on Spike's story; that would have made an amazing show.
Ironically, the first time Bebop aired the network put it in a totally inappropriate timeslot for its adult target audience, cut the series in half and took out all the story arc episodes, just leaving the filler. The creators had to take it to another channel to air it properly.

I've made no secret of my mad love for this series, so I couldn't imagine cutting out half the episodes. Even if they don't move the series arc, most of the filler is either hilarious or dramatic and moving as a standalone, and sometimes reveals more about the characters than you might think. Other than "Wild Horses", "Boogie-Woogie Fung Shui" and maybe "Gateway Shuffle", I can't imagine getting rid of any of them.

SEE YOU SPACE COWBOY.
That reminds me: were you planning to watch the CB movie?
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From:spectralbovine
Date:February 21st, 2008 11:59 pm (UTC)
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Sweet! You've watched it! Now I can stop nagging you to.
No one is happier about this than I! ;-}

Well, it helps that he practices Jeet Kune Do, the martial art Bruce Lee invented.
Aha, neat. But even besides that, he's just so fucking cool. With the guns and the shooting and all.

She basically invited herself onto the ship, and they never wanted her there. And then they got used to having her onboard and by the time they actually wanted her there, she left.
Exactly! I'm...glad you see it the same way I do. Because that suggests I am not crazy, and that is indeed how she was portrayed.

then when they don't pragmatism takes over and they eat the food from the absent people's plates.
Ha, I somehow missed that, I think. But I really liked that episode.

Ironically, the first time Bebop aired the network put it in a totally inappropriate timeslot for its adult target audience, cut the series in half and took out all the story arc episodes, just leaving the filler. The creators had to take it to another channel to air it properly.
HA HA HA HA. Way to miss the point, guys. (I mean, I'm sure it would do successfully that way because the filler episodes are good, but still.)

Even if they don't move the series arc, most of the filler is either hilarious or dramatic and moving as a standalone, and sometimes reveals more about the characters than you might think.
Yeah, I do agree that some the stand-alones have nice character moments ("Waltz for Venus" comes to mind).

Other than "Wild Horses", "Boogie-Woogie Fung Shui" and maybe "Gateway Shuffle", I can't imagine getting rid of any of them.
Well, you could cut "Toys in the Attic" and not lose much! Except for Ed's hilarious episode preview. "Wild Horses" had some nice history about Spike's ship and also highlighted his sort of nonchalant attitude toward death. I liked "Boogie-Woogie Feng Shui" for the framing device of Jet's narration, since that was new, and there was a little foreshadowing regarding the syndicate. And "Gateway Shuffle" has that awesome bit with Faye and Spike racing to get out of hyperspace. Okay, I'm not sure why I'm defending filler episodes. What's gotten into me? Damn you, Cowboy Bebop. If only your filler episodes had a stronger sense of continuity!

That reminds me: were you planning to watch the CB movie?
Yeah, the library has it; I'm just saving it for later.
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From:the_narration
Date:February 22nd, 2008 01:25 am (UTC)
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Yeah, I do agree that some the stand-alones have nice character moments ("Waltz for Venus" comes to mind).
That's a good example. Because there's the stuff with Rocco and his blind sister and Spike letting out his inner softie, and then there's also Spike explaining the essence of his fighting style. "You have to be like water." I wonder how much influence that scene had on the creators of Avatar?

Well, you could cut "Toys in the Attic" and not lose much!
Aw, but that's the Alien parody! Spike tries to cook shishkabob and light a cigarette with a flamethrower. And Ed eats the space monster.

"Wild Horses" had some nice history about Spike's ship and also highlighted his sort of nonchalant attitude toward death. I liked "Boogie-Woogie Feng Shui" for the framing device of Jet's narration, since that was new, and there was a little foreshadowing regarding the syndicate. And "Gateway Shuffle" has that awesome bit with Faye and Spike racing to get out of hyperspace.
The battle in hyperspace is pretty awesome. And the tiniest little clue to Faye's backstory when she doesn't know high-school-level hyperspace physics. And I would miss the scene from BWFS where Jet buys a bottle of booze so he can use it to smack the gangsters senseless. "I don't need a glass." Plus, I do love every use of the cybernetic headlock. Even episodes I don't like the premise of have stuff in them I'd hate to part with.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:February 22nd, 2008 02:39 am (UTC)
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"You have to be like water." I wonder how much influence that scene had on the creators of Avatar?
Ha, right? The Wikipedia entry only cites the fight with wossname in the first episode, which is weird.

Aw, but that's the Alien parody! Spike tries to cook shishkabob and light a cigarette with a flamethrower. And Ed eats the space monster.
It does have its cute moments, but overall, it didn't seem to work for me.

And the tiniest little clue to Faye's backstory when she doesn't know high-school-level hyperspace physics.
Oh, nice!
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From:the_narration
Date:February 22nd, 2008 06:30 am (UTC)
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Ha, right? The Wikipedia entry only cites the fight with wossname in the first episode, which is weird.
Well, they've said that the fight between Spike and Asimov is one of their favorites from a Watanabe anime. That doesn't mean that the rest of the series wasn't more of an influence on Avatar's creation. I've been saying forever that Li and Lo are the heads of Red Dragon with a sex-change operation.

(Their other favorite Watanabe fight is from Samurai Champloo, and involves a blind woman, so I suspect it might have played a part in Toph's genesis.)

It does have its cute moments, but overall, it didn't seem to work for me.
*shrug* To each their own.


I just finished the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Like five minutes ago. Quite enjoyable.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:February 22nd, 2008 06:44 am (UTC)
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I've been saying forever that Li and Lo are the heads of Red Dragon with a sex-change operation.
Yes! Definitely! They look just like them.

I just finished the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Like five minutes ago. Quite enjoyable.
Damn straight it is! Now watch Princess Tutu.
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From:soundingsea
Date:February 22nd, 2008 04:18 am (UTC)
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So, did you watch the movie?

I'm glad you liked the series! I agree that it's a bit too monster-of-the-weeky, and I don't actually really like Ein and Ed (*hides*), but Spiku! Spike breaks my heart into a million pieces. I have all the DVDs but haven't watched it in years. Maybe I'll watch the last few eps again.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:February 22nd, 2008 04:25 am (UTC)
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Spike-uh is awesome!

I'm saving the movie for later.
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From:arbitrarium
Date:February 22nd, 2008 05:35 am (UTC)
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You did indeed finish Cowboy Bebop. I like noir, kung fu, and western.

Have you seen many spaghetti westerns? If you haven't seen The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, then it will be my life's goal to make you watch it. If you want to.

I appreciate the TMNT reference in your subject, also.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:February 22nd, 2008 05:44 am (UTC)
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Thank you! At least someone does. I knew I liked you for a reason.

I have not seen many spaghetti westerns. Including that one.

If you like noir, kung fu, and Western, then you will like Cowboy Bebop.
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From:arbitrarium
Date:February 22nd, 2008 06:33 am (UTC)
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Well, looks like someone has to come to my place and watch TG,TB,&TU with me.

I own the DVD, and my living room decor is kind of based on The Dollars Trilogy. So yeah, I love spaghetti Westerns.

Also, tonight I have been listening to the album Witching Hour, by Ladytron.

Seriously, you are watching this movie! The Man With No Name! Badass!
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From:spectralbovine
Date:February 22nd, 2008 06:46 am (UTC)
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Hee! Okay! We must do this at some point then!

Also, you and your album fetish are going to end up listening to more Ladytron than I have.
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From:loopychew
Date:August 3rd, 2009 09:41 pm (UTC)
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Gah, something I noticed while flipping through the credits of the movie was that Cliff McCormack happens to voice the villain! (He also voices my favorite one-shot character, Cowboy Andy.)

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