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volume 3 issue 3

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Cowboy Bebop
4 Issue Manga
32 pages
Yutaka Nanten
So much less than I expected.
Overall Rating:

Animefringe Reviews:
Cowboy Bebop
By Holly Kolodziejczak

The timing was impeccable when I first heard that TOKYOPOP was going to be releasing a new Cowboy Bebop manga series, because I had just finished watching the anime series. In that light, I was doubly excited and I put the upcoming manga on the list of things to be put into my box at my local comic book shop. I waited with bated breath until I finally got the email notifying me that it had come in, and I excitedly drove down to the shop to pick it up. However, as soon as I slipped it out of the bag and opened it to the first page, I am sad to say that I was sorely disappointed.

As some of you may already know, Cowboy Bebop is a series that is set about 70 years in the future. Much as the Wild West was in the 19th century U.S., space is the new and somewhat unruly frontier in the Bebop-verse, complete with gun-toting bad guys. But along with this new breed of space criminal that has arisen comes another incarnation of the classic bounty hunter - known in this world as a "cowboy". The Cowboy Bebop storyline follows the lives of a small group of cowboys on a ship called - you guessed it - the Bebop. Jet Black, Spike Spiegel, and Faye Valentine ended up on this ship by a strange mixture of luck and fate, and are accompanied by Ed, the young female resident hacker, and Ein, the data dog. These five eventually come together to live on the Bebop and scrape out a living by going after bounties. Sometimes, however, our heroes are not quite on the right side of the law, but that makes the story all the more interesting.

The storyline for Cowboy Bebop is masterfully done, with numerous different plot tangents all tying in to a coherent whole. Every episode in the anime series either serves to advance the plot or further develop the characters, so that it's - at the risk of sounding too cliché - all killer and no filler. And that, my friends, is my first gripe with this manga. As far as I could tell, there was NO reference point as to where in the storyline this manga was supposed to fit. The cover of the manga touts "As Seen on TV!", but this doesn't seem to fit anywhere... it doesn't go before the anime series begins, or after it ends, so one can only assume that it goes somewhere in the middle. However, the way that it's done only served to confuse me, personally. Not only that, but the story presented in the manga doesn't really seem to mesh with the series as I know it at all, in that it begins abruptly, ends abruptly, and serves absolutely no purpose. It doesn't drive the plot, it doesn't offer any character insights, it's just kind of ... there. Let me sum it up for you:

First 17 pages: setting the scene, character dialogue, couple bad jokes.
next 6 pages: confusing action
Following 3 pages: whimsical closing
Last 6 pages: an essay on bounty hunting through history and ads

So as you may be able to tell by this point, the story presented in the manga is a little... well... lacking.

Even though the storyline is confusing at best, the manga redeems itself in the artwork category, right? Wrong. The artwork for this manga was surprisingly weird-looking. On the title page, Jet looks like a psychotic killer, Spike looks like a frightening cross between Michael Jackson and Wynona Ryder, and Ed and Ein look like they're doing something that's not quite PG rated. Although I have to say that the title page is the worst part, the artwork is rather odd-looking throughout the manga, with some strange shading and proportions that are a little off kilter. Definitely NOT as I saw it on TV. And what's up with those Lennon-style glasses Faye is wearing? Kinda weird, if you ask me.

As for TOKYOPOP's adaptation, well, it has its good and bad points. I can't speak for the translation, because I never saw the original (not to mention I don't read Japanese well...), but some of the dialogue seems rather odd. What kind of exclamation of surprise is "DOWAAAAAA?!", anyway? Also, the 3-page essay on bounty hunting is informative, but I don't really see why all of that information is necessary or important in this context. It's kind of long and doesn't really entirely relate to the manga in which it resides. Yeah, it does give a lot of background information on bounty hunting, but why do we need that? It also doesn't even say who wrote it, which I think kind of sucks.

On the flip side of the coin, TOKYOPOP did do some things right with this manga. It is presented in it's original unflipped format, so that it reads from right to left like authentic Japanese-style manga ought to. The retouch artists have also left some of the original kana "sound effects" intact, which I think makes it look even more authentic. Some people would like to have these translated as well, but I suppose it's all a matter of personal opinion. TOKYOPOP also saw fit to add little character bios for Spike, Faye, Jet, and Ed on the inside cover, which was kind of a nice touch. Unfortunately, I have to say I disagree with some of the stuff in the bios. Jet is Spike's right-hand man? Faye has a thing for Spike? Ein is Ed's dog? Ummm.. no. I don't think so. Maybe that's just me.

All in all, I have to say that this first issue was a real disappointment to me. I suppose I only have myself to blame for having such high expectations. In the spirit of fairness, I will probably give this manga one more issue to try to win me over, but - in all honesty, if there is not a MAJOR improvement, I won't be purchasing a third. But with TOKYOPOP's other current manga successes, such as Marmalade Boy and Kodocha,... well, I guess they can't all be winners.

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