One of Chad's students lent us this and Hellsing this week. Chad started watching Hellsing while I was working, and informs me that I wouldn't like it (which I believe thoroughly), but I was interested in trying Cowboy Bebop, so we watched four episodes last night after I finished a bit of work.
I am aware that it's episode 5 where it takes off, and will watch at least that far. If I wasn't aware of that, though, I wouldn't be particularly eager to keep watching. (I had a pretty lousy day yesterday, but I was willing to like this, so I don't think it was only that.)
So far, it's got very nice visuals, interesting music (though the twangy bits in the first episode were tremendously distracting because I kept expecting them to turn into the Firefly theme), and a cute Corgi (schulman, take note). What it doesn't have, so far, is narrative momentum or information about the characters—who they are, where they've come from, and why I should care. In fact, I found myself telling Spike a couple of times, "Look, you're just not very smart, are you?"
A little more specific discussion, and consequently spoilers, under the cut.
"Asteroid Blues," episode 1: In which a criminal gets addicted to the dangerous drugs he's peddling and gets himself and his lover killed. Has a very striking and moody opening, with rain and roses and all that. My primary impression of Spike is that he's kind of flaky: physically skilled (bendy!), but not really serious about the whole bounty-hunting thing, what with his fines and damages eating up their last reward and taunting the red-eyed guy needlessly and all. Which, if they can't afford beef to go in their bell peppers and beef, is maybe not so smart.
The switch from this episode to the comedy of dog-chasing in the next was jarring.
"Stray Dog Strut," episode 2: In which we learn that Spike is a softy, despite claiming not to like pets (or kids), because he doesn't turn over the data dog after rescuing it. (I presume that he did hear the news about the dog's value.) Umm, that's it.
"Honky Tonk Women," episode 3: In which—well, when we saw the end-of-episode preview for "Gateway Shuffle," I said, "Hey, Saffron's back!" So, in which we meet
Saffron Faye Valentine, amid a completely nonsensical plot about a data chip on a casino chip. (Seriously, why on earth all the elaborate rigamarole to hand over a casino chip? Idiot plot from the start.)
"Gateway Shuffle," episode 4: In which
Saffron Faye's back, Cruella de Ville holds Ganymede's government hostage by threatening to turn everyone into apes, and Spike is appallingly stupid by trying to break open something when he doesn't know what it is (and it's a good thing he fails, since it's the ape virus). Also, we learn that it's possible to shut down hyperspace gates and trap things in there permanently; and that Jet used to be a cop.
At the end of four episodes, they've acquired an untrustworthy but lively additional human and a cute, possibly dangerous dog, and haven't gotten paid once.
I was promised narrative crack and compelling characters to go along with the great visuals and interesting music. So far I haven't got them. If I haven't after episode 5, I will probably start paying much less attention to this.
(It's interesting to compare this to Firefly, which has a not-dissimilar premise of scratching out a living through dubious means on a beat-up spaceship. Firefly's pilot has River and Simon on the run; Mal and Zoe backstory; and a small argument between Wash and Zoe about her relationship with Mal. Nine characters, and you already know something about where four of them are coming from, what emotional issues five of them will deal with, and what an ongoing plot thread will be.)