The original title for this review was going to be “The Right Soul For The Wrong Source.” My thinking was that Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop, a 10-episode live-action series from Tomorrow Studios, had an enticing presentation and soul, but ill-fitting for the material it was adapting.
After all, Cowboy Bebop is a certified classic. I can’t really call it a cult classic because if you know anime, you know Bebop. It carries a cultural footprint and critical acclaim in the anime sphere akin to the likes of Breaking Bad or The Soprano’s.
In 24 episodes, Shinichiro Watanabe created an eclectic character study of some of the most lovable, deep, and iconic bounty hunters in fiction. They might suck at their job, but they’re good when it counts. How could anyone adapt this show and NOT come under fire?
And really, why adapt a series like Bebop when it itself is inspired by the cinema of the western and noir genres, with a healthy balance of martial arts for good measure. It’s the same reason that people are boggled by a game like Uncharted getting a movie adaptation. Why make a movie out of a game that’s literally Indiana Jones.
Regardless, I watched the live-action Bebop, even after early reviews damned it early on. I got spoiled on the Ed reveal that EVERYONE knew was coming (more on that later), and my Twitter feed was angry people pulling out the Voldemort tech and not even saying the show’s name.
But something fascinating happened after watching three episodes the day it was released.
Seldom is a movie so addicting that I find myself rewatching it within a day. Even most good films hit the spot just right that I can give it at least a while before a second watch. But some movies, whether they’re short or just incredibly well-paced, get me coming back almost instantly. The kind of film varies, but they have something in common: spectacles that I can’t get out of my head.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway is one such movie. Director Shukou Murase, the man behind Gangsta, Ergo Proxy, and Genocidal Organ – among others – brings this story to life, from novel to film. It’s the first of a planned trilogy from Studio Sunrise, and it might just be the most gorgeous film to look at in 2021.
It’s the end of 2020… nearly. For December, I’m taking another hiatus to do some fiction writing. While I wouldn’t call it a grand finale, given how rough the year has been for many, it’s still worth celebrating that it is still ending. To celebrate, why not shout out the stories that know how to conclude the best.
Glass Reflections on YouTube often has said that “the ending is paramount” and despite my disagreements with him, I can’t disagree with him on that one. The ending of a story can make or break it. The conclusion of SAO: Ordinal Scale made the plodding narrative leading up to it all worth it. On the flip side, the last five minutes of Black Butler II ruined an otherwise exciting season in retrospect.
So here are a few of my favorite endings that left on a high note, redeeming lesser qualities or acting as the culmination of greater ones. They made me cry, they made me giggle uncontrollably, or they left me without the will to speak.
Mobile Suit Gundam is the pinnacle of the mecha genre and has been astonishing fans for decades with classic after classic. Whether in the “Universal Century” canon or the numerous alt-universe spinoffs, Gundam has explored so many different possibilities and stories, all under the care of one studio: Sunrise.
It is surprising, then, just how long I went without having ever completed a full Gundam series. I remember watching Iron-Blooded Orphans on Toonami when it aired, but I didn’t get too far into it before moving on to other shows. To be honest, I’ve held off for so long because the Gundam series, as important as its reputation has made it out to be, has always appeared rather daunting.
Just as the Fate series can seem overwhelming from the outside, I was never sure where to start with Gundam. Thankfully, at the recommendation of some friends, I found myself falling in love with a comparably short but oh so deep entry to jumpstart what I’m sure will be a longtime fandom. From Kazuhiro Furahashi, the director of Dororo, Hunter x Hunter (1999), and Rurouni Kenshin, this is Mobile Suit Gundam: Unicorn.
After writing for the cult classic, Serial Experiments Lain, Chiaki J. Konaka took to scripting The Big O, a 26-episode mecha series for the premier studio of mecha anime, Sunrise. However, given Konaka’s now-revered talent of writing bizarre, psychological dramas, this show was anything but ordinary.
Over the years I have come to know it as a stylistic blend of art deco film noir and sci-fi mecha. It took clear inspiration from Batman: The Animated Series, with the original concept by Keiichi Sato likening the setting to Gotham. After the original 13 episodes, however, the show was canceled, or, more accurately, it was given a shortened season by producers.
And then it aired on Toonami in 2001.
The international reception alone pushed Cartoon Network to co-produce The Big O‘s final 13 episodes. The demands of western producers were limited. Sunrise was still animating it and Konaka was still writing with seemingly as little restraint as possible, so long as he added more action and was more forthcoming with the mystery plot.
This is yet another cult classic I have been meaning to watch for a while, considering it seems to be right up my alley. Whether it be allusions to film, or it’s stylistic similarities to my childhood obsession Batman, this review was bound to happen. And yet, I can’t honestly say I was prepared for what I was in for.
How do you follow up a classic? Better question, how do you follow up a classic that concluded so perfectly as to deter any attempt at a continuation? You can try to advance the narrative beyond the conclusion but the result may be so different as to not attract the same audience or so similar it gets called derivative. For instance, Studio Sunrise’s Cowboy Bebop has received no shortage of praise, but what about the film from 2001?
Cowboy Bebop: Knocking on Heaven’s Door, was not a continuation of Bebop. It featured the same characters doing what they do best for two hours, but never feeling like a cheap cash in, but rather just… Bebop. A lesser studio may not have pulled it off, but this was no ordinary studio. As it turns out, it wasn’t even Studio Sunrise, but Studio Bones. Only fitting as its three founders were former members of Sunrise. So, how was the follow up to one of the most legendary anime when given the Bones treatment? Continue reading →
When you think of your favorite anime, which shows come to mind. Maybe it’s a sprawling epic like Fullmetal Alchemist or a feel-good nostalgia trip like Ouran High School Host Club. Perhaps you prefer to watch a shonen series like Soul Eater or a comedy like Space Dandy. Otherwise, you might be more interested in recent projects like Mob Psycho 100 or Kekkai Sensen. Either way, it’s pretty cool to think that every single show I just mentioned was produced by the exact same studio. Bones.
Bones was created by Masahiko Minami, Hiroshi Osaka and Toshihiro Kawamoto who previously worked at Sunrise, the studio that gave us Cowboy Bebop and Trigun. Ever since the early 2000’s, Bones has established itself firmly as one of the biggest and best animation studios in Japan. They have made some of the most beloved anime and are still making masterpieces today. It was around the time that I watched 2015’s “Akagami no Shirayukihime” that I concluded that Bones was my favorite animation studio. I wondered then, could Bones be the best animation studio in the world?