Cowboy Bebop – Bohemian Rhapsody

Science Fiction

Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Bohemian Rhapsody (Episode 14)
Director: Hirokazu Yamada Writer: Dai Satō

Often when I think about Cowboy Bebop it tends to be the more dramatic episodes that come to mind, like Ballad of Fallen Angels, Jupiter Jazz, etc but the anime is also known for having plenty of humour too – and this is one of those storylines.

Here, the crew are trying to figure out who hacked the Gate terminals, ripping off a LOT of people in the process, but that’s the crime/investigating side of the plot.

For the comedy, there’s probably just as much onscreen – whether it’s poor Ed struggling with the chess game (not to mention being zapped) or bounty hunter Jonathan’s outburst and fate, or the Three Old Men popping up once again.

It’s an episode that features a lot of fun comedy conventions: running jokes, sight gags, slapstick and hyperbole. (Or to use Ed as another example, the hissing at Faye, lol).

And yet, for what seems like a ‘light’ episode at first, it’s got plenty of twists and turns in the main mystery. The opening third is also one of my favourite sequences, with everyone ‘succeeding’ yet still coming up empty-handed. Faye has a pretty funny (and dry) line about the Gate thieves here too.

    Elsewhere, to further contrast the comedic tone, I like the really powerful gesture of mercy and kindness from Jet, who by the end of the case only asks that the mastermind behind the crime, Chessmaster Hex, be left alone.

    Now, since I’m hoping to keep this review short, I’ll close by mentioning a few other favourite aspects – one being the detail on Hex’s design, which is great.

    Another comes from the OST, with the use of Kabutogani Kodai no Sakana and its increasing tempo to build tension during the search, along with one of my favourite pieces from the series: Piano Black

    And also! Spike and Faye’s suits are my favourite use of costume in the episode – they really nail that classic look.

    I don’t imagine that Bohemian Rhapsody is everyone’s most treasured episode of the Cowboy Bebop anime, but it’s definitely one of mine 🙂

    Ergo Proxy – Dead Calm / busy doing nothing

    Science Fiction

    Ergo Proxy (2006)
    Dead Calm / busy doing nothing (Episode 16)
    Director: Kei Tsunematsu Writer: Seiko Takagi

    Dead Calm / busy doing nothing I think is a favourite episode (or at least a memorable one) for a lot of folks who are familiar with Ergo Proxy. Having said that, it’s probably not a great introduction to the anime overall!

    Instead, it’s more of a great exploration of character.

    It’s also one of the few episodes in the series that’s not written by Dai Saito. Instead, it’s Seiko Takagi behind the pen this time, for what is probably one of my favourite anime episodes ever.

    (Though I will quickly say that it’s not a bright or happy one, despite a few funny moments :D)

    As you might already be aware if you’ve seen the anime, at this point the gang have broken down in the wastelands. They’re basically trapped, forced to deal with each other’s company in close-quarters. (And I say ‘the gang’, but the one who has the most trouble with the situation is Re-L, of course).

    One of the reasons I love Dead Calm is that it functions as a pressure-cooker for the relationship between the two leads, with Pino mostly just hanging around and having a fun time in general – imitating Re-L, reading, playing catch or just relaxing.

    In terms of storytelling, that tension is so good – both in the narrative and between characters.

    Obvious questions like “when they will be able to continue their journey” or even “will they be able to continue at all?” do lead the plot of the episode… but the main question of whether Re-L will throttle Vincent for his laissez-faire attitude toward their peril is probably more engaging.

    Her frustrations are only worsened by the claustrophobic nature of living quarters, which at times evoke a space-setting to me.

    But the Rabbit is definitely a land-based vehicle, and pretty-well equipped (even taking their plight into account). For instance, while the characters do run low on food over the course of the episode, certain luxuries are also available – such as make-up 😀

    The oppressive nature of the wider setting being so empty, the colours so grey and the interior of the Rabbit being cluttered is a great contrast.

    It feels very much reinforced by the repeated shots and sequences that show time passing without any change, of close-ups and camera positioning that keeps objects and items framed with the characters, often intruding.

    And that idea of ‘emptiness’ I think stays in the forefront of my mind whenever I watch, in part due to what is missing.

    The episode is empty of big action scenes or fights, empty of vivid colours and plot progression and often empty of flowing movement too, something that also feeds nicely into the ‘dead calm’ of the title.

    While it seems like no-one is making any progress at all, despite some diversions, Re-L is experiencing plenty – resentment and frustration and powerlessness (not something she’s used to), which all eventually transform into acceptance, seeming to surprise even her. It’s a nice way to end an episode in which she can be quite petty at times.

    It’s also an interesting moment in context of the whole Ergo Proxy series too, since without the science-fiction and dystopian elements, most of the events here could fit pretty neatly into a slice-of-life anime.

    Now, I can’t finish this post without mentioning perhaps the best thing about the episode.

    And that is the facial hair sub-plot (that I won’t spoil in case you have yet to see Ergo Proxy), which features this menacing over-the-shoulder-shot/two-shot/sequence that probably needs to be heard as much as seen!