Cowboy Bebop #4 is the most character driven volume of this series yet, with no less than three of these four episodes being devoted to fleshing out the eventful back stories of flaky bombshell Faye Valentine and her polar opposite, the balding and old fashioned Jet Black. It’s a volume brimming with melancholy drama and a quiet sense of revelation; developing the characters in ways that are equally amusing and compelling. Of course, this wouldn’t be Bebop without at least one unshakeably mad episode and Ed’s “magic mushroom adventure” is just as off-beat and fun as we have come to expect from this show.
Up until this volume, Faye Valentine had been something of a mystery, her untrusting and shallow personality apparently hiding some obvious self confidence issues. Kicking off the DVD with “My Funny Valentine”, we finally begin to understand her reasons; a few years before meeting the Bebop crew, Faye woke up in a strange hospital with no recollection of her life up until that point. She didn’t even know her name and no one, not even the hospital staff, knows where she’s from. The only thing she has to her name is an impossibly massive financial debt thanks to many years worth of hospital fees that have been built up during a long period of being cryogenically frozen!
Later, during “Speak Like A Child”, a mysterious old video tape arrives at the Bebop addressed to Faye. Jet surprisingly pays the courier delivery fee in her stead but she doesn’t hang around to pay him back though as she has soon taken off again, worrying that the delivery is from one of her growing number of inter-planetary enemies. Meanwhile, Spike and Jet resolve to play the video tape and go on an adventure to Earth to track down one of the few remaining devices that can do so.
Faye isn’t the only one getting the spotlight here though and during “Black Dog Serenade” past friends and enemies quite literally collide with Jet Black, and his history as a wronged police officer is slowly brought to light.
Jet is contacted by his old detective partner after an imprisoned arch-enemy takes control of a police transport ship during a vicious criminal riot. Jet is soon proving his determination as the “black dog who bites and never lets go” as he chases the renegade prison ship across space, hunting down the man who is bitterly responsible for his one robotic arm.
Heavy stuff indeed and so it’s a welcome relief to relax with possibly Cowboy Bebop’s weirdest episode yet, “Mushroom Samba”.
Having crashed landed on a desert planet, the starved Spike, Jet and Faye send Ed and Ein to find some food. Ed runs into an easy-going “magic mushrooms” drugs dealer and well, you can work out the rest for yourself! Side-splitting psychedelic mind-trips a-hoy!
Since previous volumes had been swaying more towards episodic, exciting adventures, it’s nice to get three episodes that are just completely devoted to the characters. Of all of them, “Speak Like A Child” really hits home with some compelling moments of drama and character development for Faye; her innate insecurity only adding to the strong emotional power as she watches her fresh-faced & hope filled young self dance around on a vintage home-recorded video tape.
Of course, all the lovable usual traits of Cowboy Bebop are ever present, the amusing and realistic interactions of the crew being endlessly watch able. The volume reaches a humorous peak during “Mushroom Samba” where Faye, Spike, Jet and even super smart pet-dog Ein trip out on magic mushrooms and have some of the most surreal and psychedelic visions. The phrase “Life is but a Dream” has never been more apt and this episode was a perfect rollercoaster ride; fun, colourful and exciting.
In terms of music and animation, Cowboy Bebop #4 maintains the standards set in previous volumes without ever standing out too much. I loved the explosion of bright and exciting colour during “Mushroom Samba”, a marked difference from the usually dark and gritty surroundings of Bebop in space.
While not as blatantly outstanding as previous volumes, Cowboy Bebop #4 is an important corner stone for the series. Presenting character development and back-stories by the bucket load, watching the likes of Faye and Jet has never been as appealing as it is now and with “Mushroom Samba”, even the coldest of hearts couldn’t fail to be melted by such wildly fun and imaginative story telling.