Cowboy Bebop: sophomore effort

, | TV reviews

The “bebop” in the title isn’t random.  In addition to the jazzy opening — after two episodes I can tell the opening theme is going to be running roughshod through my head for years to come — the ship is named the Bebop.  It’s a pretty nifty ship. It’s like a speedboat with twin shark-like tail fins. It seems to have a conning tower overlooking a deck equally suited for launching small craft or throwing yacht parties.  I think there are air scoops or something on the sides? I presume I’ll be seeing more of it, since it’s in the name of the actual series. In this second episode, we find out it can land in water and float like an actual ship.  But then we just watch a bunch of running around.

The second episode in the series was pretty much a couple of chase scenes, which has me concerned about whether there’s any character development, or if this is just a show about a supercool laid back bounty hunter who knows martial arts and is always hungry.  He suggests he’s going to spend the bounty he earns on Peking duck.

“Don’t count your chickens, Spike,” his sidekick tells him.  I think the guy’s name is Jeff. Jeff? That can’t be right. “Or should I say don’t count your ducks.”

A couple of lines in this episode have me wondering about how this is translated from Japanese.  Is “counting your chickens before they’re hatched” also an idiom in Japanese? Or are the translators adding their own writing?  Which is part of what a good translation has to do anyway, so fair enough. A guy offering information says the bounty roughed him up while stealing something.

“Give him the once-over,” he asks, nursing his bruises.  “In fact, do it twice!”

“Once-overs” are also a Japanese idiom?  Because the joke in the dubbed dialogue depends on it.  Whether they’re original or parts of the translation, I like these bits of dialogue in Cowboy Bebop.  I’ve spent dozens of hours playing Final Fantasy games, and I couldn’t tell you a single line of dialogue from any of them.  But I’ll remember this exchange in Cowboy Bebop:

“This dog is one hundred percent mongrel,” Jeff says of the data dog they’ve found.

“One hundred percent?” Spike asks.

“Yeah, that’s right.  That’s all the percents there are!”

I’ve also noticed they can cuss.  “Shit” is said at least two or three times.  It sounds out of place to my ears, because it seems like a hard cut-off.  Like a show on AMC that draws a red line in front of the word fuck. Plus I’m not used to cussing cartoon characters.  But when a show goes to shit, it might as well go to fuck, too. And are there only a certain number of shits allowed, the way a PG-13 movie gets its one fuck?  In the previous episode, something was described as a “mindfrag”. The couple smuggling the vials of drugs says if they lose them, they’re “fragged”. Were these full-blown f-bombs in Japanese?  Did the translators defuse them? Does Japan have a red line similar to AMC’s?

The McGuffin in this episode is a data dog.  What’s a data dog? “That’s classified,” the exposition says at the end of the episode, which is the exact right explanation for a McGuffin. I wonder if the phrase “data dog” sounds as pleasing to the ear in Japanese as it does in English.  Whatever a data dog is, that’s a great thing to call this chipper little Corgi.

My favorite moment in this episode was shortly after Spike complains about bringing the Corgi aboard the Bebop (speaking of pleasing to the ear, say “bringing the Corgi aboard the Bebop” out loud).  He says he hates kids and animals, that they’re a pain in the butt. Then Cowboy Bebop cuts to this scene:

So far, Spike isn’t an infallible bad-ass.  He walks right past his bounty. He foolishly accosts the wrong guy.  He gets hit by a car during a chase scene. In the end, he doesn’t get his bounty, he’s got to walk a dog he doesn’t even like, and he’s not dining on Peking duck.  I like a little blues in my Bebop.