Often regarded as one of the best and most influential anime of all time, ‘Cowboy Bebop’ is the 1990’s space-travel, bounty-hunting and cowboy-filled masterpiece series produced by Bandai Visual.
In a futuristic setting of the year of 2071, the show follows a most incompatible, yet united team of bounty hunters; all of whom suffer from the damaging results of their own dangerous, painful and occasionally mysterious pasts, whilst struggling to make ends meet and be able to afford their next meal.
‘Cowboy Bebop’ means a lot to me, for many reasons.
Firstly, the characters are ever-so unique and quirky, all offering something new every episode. Spike Spiegel is our main character – someone who embodies the perfect combination of both apathy and carelessness as well as being a smooth-talking and awesome fighter in battle. Immediately, we are treated to a character with such a moving past that it has an emotionally draining effect on him; his actions are always influenced by occurrences that stain his memory.
Spike is weighed down by his past behavior with an individual named ‘Vicious’, the predominant and most brutal antagonist in the show, one who is a juxtaposing reflection of Spike. Needless to say, this adds further depth to both the relationship of these characters, as well as the overall viewing experience, resulting in epic fights and confrontations. Spike isn’t the typical generic character, and for such he has been recognized on countless occasions as being one of, if not the, best character in the world of anime.
Joining Spike are Jet Black, Faye Valentine, Edward (Ed) and the cute little dog known as Ein.
Their support of Spike is fantastic, as they all have their own connection, banter and ups and downs with him, all whilst collectively allowing him and the Bebop to maintain their missions of capturing expensive bounties. I particularly liked how sinister and menacing Jet seems to come across by his monster arms and injured face, immediately hinting towards a violent past. Surprisingly, he is also a warm, caring and encouraging individual, helping others and spending a great amount of time with Faye and Ed. I found the story of Faye’s unusual past and her yearning to know the truth to be most touching, interesting and influential, personally.
Cowboy Bebop is an anime series.
This is something generally considered, especially by Western audiences, to be filled to the brim with elements of pure fantasy; monsters, magic, morphed human beings and anything else under the sun. Instead of this, however, Cowboy Bebop strives to develop a wonderful sense of realism, and succeeds magnificently. Real people with real emotions, and regardless of the fact that they are participating in space travel and other futuristic activities, there is a genuine sense of humanity, causing genuine concern for their welfare in difficult and distressing times.
Each episode is 20 minutes, and it is amazing to see how, within such a short time frame, the creators were able to develop and introduce us to new characters or villains and their story-arc, tell such in-depth stories, and swiftly move on to the next episode, where they offered the same formula. Even though most of the episodes are stand-alone and pertain to their own issues and bounties, there is a consistent message and theme running throughout, all of which drives the story of the show, and draws viewers closer to the characters and their troubles.
A review of this anime could not be complete without mentioning the incredibly talented Yoko Kanno.
Yoko is the composer and creator of the music in Cowboy Bebop. The Jazz themed score perfectly suits every moment of every episode, with my personal favourite being the ending theme. However, to give you a true understanding of her greatness, below is the opening theme of the show; often when watching a TV series or anime, I tend to skip the intro after a couple of repeats. Instead, Cowboy Bebop’s was so good that I never once skipped it, always anticipating the uplifting music that always got me in the mood and excited for the coming episode.
Overall, the animation is fluid, crisp and beautiful.
I would compare it to, or rank it higher than, many recent and even current series from both Japan and Western countries, even though it is hand drawn; yes, every frame was meticulously drawn! Last year, the full series was released on Blu Ray by the powerhouse Funimation, and I highly recommend anyone who plans on watching ‘Cowboy Bebop’ to see it in high definition. Available in English dub, I believe this a great way of watching the anime, as it easily trumps the Japanese version – to many it stands as one of the only English dubbed shows that outclasses the original Japanese audio.
With only 26 episodes in the whole show, I cannot implore someone enough to watch ‘Cowboy Bebop’. It definitely won’t be the most conventional series you have ever seen, and come say that it starts off a little slow (be patient!), however I guarantee a memorable, enjoyable and great time when watching this anime. If I’m wrong, I’ll pay you a hefty reward of 1 Million Woolongs.
“You’re gonna carry that weight.”