In the year 2071, humanity has colonized several of the planets and moons of the solar system leaving the now uninhabitable surface of planet Earth behind. The Inter Solar System Police attempts to keep peace in the galaxy, aided in part by outlaw bounty hunters, referred to as "Cowboys". The ragtag team aboard the spaceship Bebop are two such individuals.
Mellow and carefree Spike Spiegel is balanced by his boisterous, pragmatic partner Jet Black as the pair makes a living chasing bounties and collecting rewards. Thrown off course by the addition of new members that they meet in their travels—Ein, a genetically engineered, highly intelligent Welsh Corgi; femme fatale Faye Valentine, an enigmatic trickster with memory loss; and the strange computer whiz kid Edward Wong—the crew embarks on thrilling adventures that unravel each member's dark and mysterious past little by little.
Well-balanced with high density action and light-hearted comedy, Cowboy Bebop is a space Western classic and an homage to the smooth and improvised music it is named after.
When Cowboy Bebop first aired in spring of 1998 on TV Tokyo, only episodes 2, 3, 7-15, and 18 were broadcast, it was concluded with a recap special known as Yose Atsume Blues. This was due to anime censorship having increased following the big controversies over Evangelion, as a result most of the series was pulled from the air due to violent content. Satellite channel WOWOW picked up the series in the fall of that year and aired it in its entirety uncensored. Cowboy Bebop was not a ratings hit in Japan, but sold over 19,000 DVD units in the initial release run, and 81,000 overall. Protagonist Spike Spiegel won Best Male Character, and Megumi Hayashibara won Best Voice Actor for her role as Faye Valentine in the 1999 and 2000 Anime Grand Prix, respectively.
Cowboy Bebop's biggest influence has been in the United States, where it premiered on Adult Swim in 2001 with many reruns since. The show's heavy Western influence struck a chord with American viewers, where it became a "gateway drug" to anime aimed at adult audiences.
People who know me know that I'm not a fan of episodic anime series unless they're either one season (12-14 episodes) long or a slice of life series. Why? They have a tendency to get boring, or repetitive. But all rules and preferences have exceptions. You know what? Cowboy Bebop is that exception.
The story is set in a space western setting - a genre and setting I'm loving more and more for each show I watch that falls under the genre. We follow two bounty hunters, Spike and Jet, who own a ship called the Bebop. They travel the Solar system, chasing wanted criminals to
earn money. Along the way, they also pick up two women; the debt-laden Faye Valentine and the playful kid and computer genius Edward (yes, Ed’s a girl).
Each episode brings about a new bounty which they chase after, and while that doesn't sound too exciting to watch 26 episodes in a row, you'll end up loving the show. All the different events makes for a certain degree of unpredictability, and you'll sometimes wonder how things will end. However, that alone is not enough to give the story the rating I've given it. So why have I given that rating? Let's continue...
One of the things that elevate the show a bit above the rest is the manner in which the main cast's pasts are explored. It's not like one flashback episode and you understand everything about how they are today. In one episode you might get one piece, and then the next one in another episode, and it's not until the final three episodes of the show that everything falls in place. This way of executing it makes you want to watch another episode, so that you can find out more about the characters (some may say that this falls in under "Character", but the manner in which the pasts are explored are more "Story" than "Character", IMO). Now, that's so far a 9 for the story. Why did it deserve a 10?
The answer is easy: the way they executed many scenes in the show. The contrasts which you get to see between, music, the setting of scenes and what's really happening just gives the story that extra edge deserving of a perfect score.
The characters are all really good and interesting fellows. Though they every now and then reminded me of characters from other shows, they preserved that originality which gave a feel that they were, if not completely, then at least a little bit more real than most characters out there. The way their pasts intertwine with the future and how everything ends with them confronting and settling open ends from their pasts is also something that's impressive to watch. I don't really have anything more to say than "perfect".
The animation is, for a 90s anime, stunningly good. The detail put into backgrounds and surroundings is really good, and I also love how good lighting effects and shading are at times. All of Ed’s strange movements are animated really nicely too. If there's something negative, it's the somewhat dull coloring (compared to today's standards), as well as poor effects when traveling in hyperspace.
The soundtrack is also astounding! The music used for the show is so incredibly varied, and while keeping mostly to the more jazzy tunes, the soundtrack visits so many genres that it's hard to not like at least a few pieces. What I also loved is the way the music was used not only as a medium to go with and amplify the mood, but also as a contrast to what's happening in several scenes. All in all, it's really amazing. Don't have anything to say against voice acting and other sound effects either.
All in all Cowboy Bebop is an anime that’s in the top tier on the greatness scale, and a show I believe every anime fan should give a try.
To 'Not Helpful' voters (and you 'Helpful' voters too): Feedback greatly appreciated =)
Cowboy Bebop is one of those series that is just impossible to criticize. Not because it has no flaws, but because it has rabid fans who will defend it to the death. It has obtained the mythical “classic armor,” which is an abhorrent carte blanche, bestowed upon only the most overrated of anime, that is used to automatically defend against any sort of legitimate criticism. Cowboy Bebop certainly has good qualities, and it is relevant in how it influenced western perception of anime, but it wasn't quite groundbreaking or revolutionary in and of itself. You could argue that its audiovisuals were in fact groundbreaking, but
I think a work needs more than superficial qualities to be truly revolutionary or great.
Cowboy bebop borrows much from western media and pop culture in general. his show pays homage to or references, subtly and overtly, things as disparate as Antonio Banderas, Bruce Lee, John Woo, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Convoy, Biggie Smalls, Donald Duck, various mythologies and folktales, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Bill Evans, Stray Cats, Alien, blaxploitation films, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Queen, George Clooney, Led Zeppelin, Django and other spaghetti westerns, Herbie Hancock, American and Japanese professional baseball, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Jean-Luc Godard, Batman, B.B. King, Beverly Hills 90210, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, The Unabomber, Heaven's Gate and Marshall Applewhite, Kiss, film noir, The Beatles, Sleeping Beauty, Bonny & Clyde, Ziggy Stardust, Charlie Parker, Woody Allen, Star Trek, Cool Hand Luke, and Taxi Driver. I kid you not. And that's not a complete list. References in character design and dialogue are forgivable, but when it straight up copies scenes and plots then I think it can be held against the show. I feel like I've seen Cowboy Bebop before, it's just been packed into a pretty package. I enjoyed a lot of these homages, but that does not excuse the marked lack of creativity. The mere evocation of a masterpiece does not make a masterpiece. Quentin Tarantino is an example of someone who uses pastiche and cultural references well, and most importantly, his references and homages don't make up his entire videography. There is far too little originality in Cowboy Bebop.
The fact is that Cowboy Bebop is the epitome of style over substance. I can appreciate it for its audiovisuals, but, to me, a show needs more than that to be a true masterpiece. Make no mistake though, it does have some of the best audiovisuals I've ever seen, and could arguably be considered a must-watch for that alone. The OST is good (despite also being a tad overrated,) the art is great, and the animation is extremely fluid. It should also be noted that Cowboy Bebop is one of the few anime that holds the distinction of having an English dub superior to the original Japanese. The atmosphere that the audiovisuals achieve is their greatest quality, and is distinct in almost every different setting. This is not done well in most space travel anime, and I have to applaud Cowboy Bebop for that achievement at least.
The main storyline consists of about 5 episodes, the rest of them being episodic individual stories. This wouldn't be a huge problem, but the episodic stories were hit or miss, and they never measured up to the main plot. Some of the non-main episodes focus on a character and their past, and this is good, but most of them are completely pointless and could be removed without anybody noticing. One of them was about fighting an alien-fungus-fridge-monster, it was an interesting and silly parody of Alien, but it contributed nothing to plot or character development. Considering how character driven this show is, that's a problem. There was also an entire episode paying homage to blaxploitation. Seeing as the allusion was presented in a more original way, and the episode showed a lot about Ed's character, that one was not only forgivable, but it was one of my favorite episodes. Like I said, hit or miss. There is an episode about catching a super-dog. There is an episode about a virus that turns people into monkeys. There is an episode where they chase a bomber (Woody Allen) with some help from a transsexual looking trucker. At least 4 episodes were easily 10s, but more of them were closer to 5s. The first 4 episodes were particularly weak, which is a huge problem in a 2 cour anime. The anime may have had a good conclusion, but the sub-par exposition cannot be ignored.
The main crew was made up of interesting and entertaining characters, and they prevented the episodic nature of the show from being a complete flop, although there were some unanswered questions about Faye's past in particular. Actually, strangely enough, the unanswered questions contributed to the splendid atmosphere. Everything had a rich backstory, but few flashbacks and no infodumps. This helped give the show its characteristic nostalgic atmosphere. One complaint I would have is that the main antagonist is simply not compelling, his motivations are somewhat unclear, and he's just one dimensional. He also uses a katana, even though it’s the future, and somehow still manages to kick ass. He’s just very cliché and lame. The antagonist in the movie was very well done with his depth, motives, and parallels to Spike, and that makes me wish Vicious got the same treatment, as it would fit his character far better, and his character is far more important.
One thing you should understand is that the characters are often good examples of clichés done well. Jet, for instance, is the typical hard-boiled former cop, but he is also the most empathetic of the crew. He is a foil to Spike and is hard working, but they also parallel in many ways. Ed is the teen genius/tomboy and hacker with little depth, but she also serves as a foil to Spike and many of his views on life. Faye is like a mix of all of the other characters' worst traits in terms of personality, but she still manages to be a sympathetic character. In fact, even though she keeps up her unpleasant exterior and despite her being the anime's main source of fanservice, she arguably experiences more development than any other character. Still, they lack any sort of real innovation, in anime or otherwise.
Despite all my criticisms, Cowboy Bebop is cool. It's very cool. The characters and aesthetics were compelling (for the most part) to the point where I even enjoyed some of the admittedly weaker episodes. I can't give it a 10, it's simply not a masterpiece. I can't give it a 9, it's not truly great. I can't give it an 8, it's too flawed and unoriginal. I don’t want to give it a 7, it was just too inconsistent. I have to settle on a 6.7 or so, which could be rounded either way. That said, an average of my story, art, sound, and character scores did give me around a 7.2.
Cowboy Bebop is enjoyable and it has wide appeal; I would probably recommend it to just about anybody. It was up and down in terms of quality, and it was similar to a slice-of-life in its episodic and relaxed nature and its lack of an explosive climax, but it was good. I liked how the anime takes place after the "important part" of the main characters' lives is over, and nostalgia becomes a huge theme, seeing as it was the first anime I ever watched and it thus evokes a huge sense of nostalgia for me anyway. I loved the laid back atmosphere. The problem is that after looking through all of the episodes and rating them individually, I realized that the majority of it was nothing special. With a little restraint and reworking, Cowboy Bebop could have been the masterpiece that it is widely regarded as, and it does hold a special place in my heart regardless, even if that is only due to it being my first anime. That bias is probably why I choose to round the score to 7, rather than to 6, despite the fact that the latter is typically the better practice.
I am always willing to defend and justify my scores so leave me a comment if you disagree, and tell me why I’m wrong. I say that because this does seem to be a pretty uncommon score, even among those whose opinions I have great respect for. Keep in mind that a 7 is a generous and good score in any case.
Only a few anime series or movies could be considered true classics, and one of the most notable shows to fall into this category is iconic not just for its style, design and animation, but also for the depth of its characters and its music.
That anime is Cowboy Bebop.
Cowboy Bebop is told as a series of standalone episodes, each of which is only really connected to one another by the characters, with very few of them directly following on from one another. This method of storytelling is now termed as “episodic”, and while the format is now commonplace in anime, this series set the standard
in its usage, and many purists believe it to be almost flawless in its execution of this storytelling style.
Sunrise, the production company behind the show, used this format as a tool to develop the characters in the show, and whilst many episodes are unique in terms of story content and plot, there is a strong connection to the rest of the series due to the strength of the characters, something which also applies to the movie Knocking on Heaven’s Door.
One of the big advantages to the show's storytelling method is that it allows the viewer to jump straight into the story at almost any point, however it should be noted that many shows that adopt the episodic format are often let down by poor character development. The fact that the series manages to develop its characters, and develop them well, is a testament to the strength of the individual episodes as standalone stories, and the personal history of each character (which becomes clearer as the series progresses). In essence, Cowboy Bebop is a more about the characters themselves and their relationships with each other, than it is about their “adventures”. There are a number of episodes where the viewer may feel a strong connection to the characters, their history,mannerisms, pet peeves, etc, something which is difficult enough to accomplish in a normal sequential story. Achieving this in an episodic story is a mark of the quality of the series.
The animation in Cowboy Bebop is amongst the best seen in anime, and even though it is now over a decade old, it still manages to hold its own in terms of animation and character design with more modern action oriented shows. Sunrise, who generally do an excellent job on animation, really pushed the boat out with this series, and when compared with other shows that were released around the same time (Outlaw Star for example), it can clearly be seen that the art, animation and character design in Cowboy Bebop is something special. The animation during the numerous action sequences is especially impressive and the character movements are free-flowing and naturalistic.
The art, while not vibrant with flashy colours, portrays the feeling, attitude and environmental influences for the characters perfectly. The numerous locales which the crew of the Bebop visit are rendered in stunning detail, adding a surreal sense of realism to the show, whilst the character designs were a work of brilliance, and allows each character a mark of individuality even before they spoke.
The quality of the soundwork used in Cowboy Bebop is what really sets it apart from other anime series. The music was composed by the world renowned Yoko Kanno, and performed by The Seatbelts, a band specifically formed by Kanno to perform the music for the series. The music is a strange mix of blues, classic rock and jazz, and while at first this may seem an odd choice for a sci-fi series, the music works extremely well in the setting as it reflects the generally lackadaisical attitude adopted by the crew of the Bebop. Even today, the soundtrack for this anime is unique in terms of style and composition. The opening theme, Tank!, has become one of the most influential pieces in anime history, and one of the few anime based music tracks to be appreciated by music lovers with no background in anime or manga.
The sound effects in the series are also well done. The various locations are vibrant with background noises, from the hum of the Bebop's engines and the sound of gulls by the sea, to the hubbub of a crowded street. The many gunshots and explosions are clear and sound almost as though you're standing right in the middle of the wild gun battles.
Whilst the Japanese voice actors do an excellent job with each of the four main characters, this is one of the rare anime shows out there where many prefer the English cast over the original Japanese. Cowboy Bebop is one of the few anime in existence where the English dub is equal to, if not better than, the original Japanese version.
Cowboy Bebop has some of the most original and memorable characters to appear in anime. Spike, Jet, Faye and Ed are four of the most enigmatic individuals to found in the medium, and upon seeing them, the viewer will probably wonder how they work together when all of them come from diversely different backgrounds with opinions that clash with one another.
Spike and Jet are most definitely "The Odd Couple" of sci-fi anime, or indeed any genre of anime you care to name. Their conflicting personalities bounce off each other like peas on a drum, and once Faye is added to the mix it becomes a potent brew of character interaction. It is through this interaction that the viewer is more able to empathise with each character, and the slow but steady revelations about their pasts, told wonderfully through flashbacks and reunions, have far greater impact because of this empathy. The characters are so well defined that many scenes which would normally appear mundane in other anime are just as memorable in this series as the action scenes (one springs to mind - Spike and Jet eating eggs after Faye, Ed and Ein leave the ship).
Cowboy Bebop is a sci-fi western with equal parts humour and seriousness, and is already considered by many within the anime community to be a classic. There is a level of sophistication in both the story and its characters that is rare for a show, regardless of whether it is an anime or not. The great cast, the heavy drama tempered with bouts of comedy, the excellent music, all serve to cement its place in the hearts and minds of anime fans the world over. It is a testament to its quality that there is only one show, anime or otherwise, that can be held up as a fair comparison (Joss Whedon’s Firefly). This is considered by many to be a “must-see” series as it is a testament to what can be achieved in anime with the right ingredients.
The only downside to this anime would be the lack of a continuous story. Because of this, the series lacks the "epic saga" feel upon which many sci-fi stories are judged. However, the depth of each character, together with the strength of their individual stories, is more than enough to carry this series.
Cowboy Bebop was one of the first anime that truly impressed me.
One of the first anime that convinced me the anime genre as a whole had something going for it, that anime has qualities that separate it from other forms of entertainment.
It is a show that has withstood the test of time and is often viewed as a masterpiece by many. With such popularity and praise there is bound to be a group of the opposite extreme that dislike the show. Now I bear in my mind that although this group is a minority their points are valid. As a reviewer I look at
all angles and try my best to keep bias at an all time low.
Having said that, regardless of my attempts to locate the flaws of this show my overall consensus is that Cowboy Bebop is in multiple ways a masterpiece.
Here Goes The Review (Spoilers are at a Minimum)
When most people think about what society would be like by the time space exploration is achieved they imagine a society that is more organized, coherent, and advanced. This is one of the key misconceptions that cause Cowboy Bebop’s story to shine.
We start our episodic space journey in an environment that is futuristic yet in many ways primitive. Watanabe Shinichiro’s depiction of the Cowboy Bebop universe seamlessly fuses the attitudes and tensions of a western shooter with the atmosphere of vast unexplored space. Due to the inability of the police to handle all criminals in such a large area bounty hunting is encouraged through media. Our four main characters (discussed more in the character section) just so happen to be bounty hunters that are all unwillingly bound together by greed, revenge, coincidence, and or desire. Furthermore, little to no background information is given about any of the characters from the beginning. Each character has a past that is hinted throughout many episodes. Slowly, the audience learns of the sins, misfortunes, and tragedies that quietly haunt those aboard the spaceship of Bebop.
And so this is the world us, the viewers, are thrust into and what an amazingly unique barren world it is. Being for the most part episodic, viewers may be deterred by the looseness and seemingly pointlessness of certain episodes. Be aware that although episodic, each episode develops the characters and is key to forming the bonds that will ultimately culminate the multiple climaxes of the story.
Do not let age fool you. Despite being over a decade and a half old the animations in Cowboy Bebop are amazing in providing the dangerous rugged environment of criminal filled space. In fact, the 1998 art is more of a positive than a negative. Gone are the crisp saturated art of modern day. The outdated animations contribute greatly to the classy western style of the anime. Everything from the smoke of cigarettes to guns ablazing are portrayed brilliantly. The choreography of martial arts and space flight is done in a fluid and smooth fashion. The characters look great and production never seems to dip for a single moment.
Three simple words can summarize the art: Rugged yet Classy~
And so in trying my absolute best to pinpoint the flaws of the art I am both reluctant and glad to announce that I have failed in doing so. Cowboy Bebop’s art is amazingly well done even for today’s standards. Knowing in the back of your head that this art originates from 1998 is just icing on the cake.
Earlier in my review I talked about how with much praise and popularity ultimately spawns a group with ideals of the opposite extreme. I wholeheartedly believe that it is safe to say that regardless of your ideas about Cowboy Bebop, everyone can agree that the music in this anime is absolutely amazing. So amazing that without the music I believe that Cowboy Bebop would never have achieved the success it has had to this day.
Never have I come across another example such as Cowboy Bebop where the music is such an integral part of the show.
From the Blues riffs of slide guitars to the unmatched soul of harmonica solos, the music in Cowboy Bebop does its job 110%. To say that the the music is fitting would be an understatement. Cowboy Bebop’s music boosts the atmosphere and situation of every scene to its highest potential and provides a convincing atmosphere like no other.
The dub of Cowboy Bebop is the arguably the most highly praised dub ever produced in the anime industry. Watanabe Shinichiro himself has even stated that he believed the English dub surpasses the Japanese dub, a feat that is notoriously rare. Every character’s voice is portrayed brilliantly with every word filled with real human emotion. Convincingly raw and powerful, I have yet to stumble across another instance where the voice acting was this well done. I honestly can not think up a single flaw of the voice acting even while keeping bias at a minimum. The English voice acting is truly a one of a kind in a world of horribly ear wrenching dubs.
The OP and the ED of Cowboy Bebop are probably one of the most popular Opening and Ending Themes of all time. The OP ("Tank!" by The Seatbelts) is a jazzy explosion of adrenaline. Listening to it is a joy and pumps the viewer’s eagerness to watch the episode. It keeps you on your feet and is in many ways the most famous trademark of the Cowboy Bebop series. The ED for most of the show ("The Real Folk Blues" by The Seatbelts feat. Mai Yamane) is equally as amazing but instead of pumping the viewer’s eagerness the ED in turn helps the viewer digest what was just displayed on the screen. Listening to the ED causes heartwarming scenes to be that much more heartwarming while heartbreaking scenes to be that much more heartbreaking. The Real Folk Blues is a beautiful jazzy blues inspired song sung over with Mai Yamane’s powerful voice. The ED only changes twice in the anime, each change being only for one episode. As a reviewer I would not feel right about spoiling the timing of the ED changes because they are in my opinion some of the most powerful moments of the anime. And so this last bit I shall let the viewer experience.
Cowboy Bebop has one of the most memorable casts of any show I have ever watched. They are eccentric, unique, strong willed, and powerfully convincing.
We have Spike Spiegel who is a male bounty hunter in his late twenties that is trying to escape an inescapable past; Jet Black, the father like figure of the spaceship Bebop who has been stricken by unjust tragedies; Faye Valentine, the strong independent con artist who is kept in the dark about her own life; and last but not least Edward, the androgynous female teenage hacker with a background as confusing as herself.
As mentioned earlier they are for the most part unwillingly bound together by greed, revenge, coincidence, and or desire. This is what is so great about the characters in Cowboy Bebop… they all start off the show hating each other!
The reluctant and slow change of their relationships is humorous,real, and convincing.
The climatic points of the show are the episodes in which bits and pieces of each crew member’s past is slowly revealed. We get to see and feel what they were hiding and the raw emotions that they feel. Each character is its own little mystery that keeps the audience in the dark.
Easily the most impressive aspect of Cowboy Bebop is the portrayal of the characters. The crew deals with grief, anger, sadness, and all else in their own unique ways and rarely deviate. How Shinichiro portrays this uniqueness is simply amazing. The characters NEVER falter and always stay true to themselves. As the episodes roll by, the audience starts to understand why each character acts the way they do and can relate. This understanding makes it unbearably easy for the audience to become emotionally attached to each crew member as we share their pain and memories.
All in all, the characters of Cowboy Bebop are outstanding. Their strengths overcome their flaws when united as a whole. Beautifully drawn and creative, Shinichiro has invented a golden cast.
Even after watching dozens of anime after Cowboy Bebop it still strongly remains one of my few masterpieces.
Beautiful and Impressive Art
Gorgeous Heart Pounding Music
A Cast like no Other
Cowboy Bebop is in my eyes a masterpiece of entertainment with its flaws being few and far in between.
An instant classic and an easy 10 out of 10.
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