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.
Cowboy Bebop was originally an anime series created by Shinichiro Watanabe in 1998. It consists of 26 episodes, a mini-sode, and a theatrical movie. It was released in America in 2001, and is one of the few anime franchises to be more successful in North America than in its native Japan. I have seen the 26 tv episodes and the movie. I already know what a lot of you are doing right now after glancing at the numerical score I gave; you're hitting up the comment box on my profile and writing these exact words:
"Fuck you! Cowboy Bebop is a classic! You're not allowed to
The more astute viewers will note that I scored the series a 6, but the movie a 9. I kind of like Cowboy Bebop. It does do some things very right. It had the potential to be one of the greatest franchises ever. Alas, while its production values are unmatched, the writing . . . doesn't always match up with the production. Because of this, the series ended up being a style-over-substance experience for me, but why was that?
The premise of CB is that in the late 21st century, mankind has started living in places in the solar system besides Earth. In this future are bounty hunters known as Cowboys. Cowboys do whatever they can to make cash to keep the food stockpile stocked and their spaceships running. The show follows one such group of Cowboys who pilot a ship called the Bebop. In the beginning, we meet Spike Spiegel, a former gangster, and Jet Black, a former cop. As the series progresses, the Bebop also has Ein, a super smart dog, Faye Valentine, a woman on the run, and Edward, a really, really, REALLY weird hacker girl. Cowboy Bebop has been described as a series that has a continuous plot, and has standalone episodes at the same time. Having seen the series, I can tell you that technically, most of the episodes aren't standalone, but many of them are only connected by the core characters.
Here's where one of my problems lie. When Cowboy Bebop is good, it's really good. The setting is very mature; it never condescends to the audience. The action scenes are superbly well done, the dialog is believable (though cheesy at times), and the atmosphere really pulls you in. How many episodes are actually really good? Seven. If you count the movie as an episode, that brings it up to eight. Eight out of twenty-seven episodes were good. The rest were not.
The problem with most of the episodes is one of two things: one, it's really boring, or, two, it's so clichéd, you will be able to predict exactly what happens by the end after the first two minutes, or both. I have to be honest, a lot of the episodes of CB are just plain boring. If this wasn't a "classic" and a more ordinary anime series, a lot of them would be branded as what they truly are; filler episodes. And if it's not boring filler, it's hackneyed.
Watanabe is known for being a huge fan of American cinema, and that's obvious in CB. Unfortunately, he ripped off a lot of American movies virtually piecemeal. Now, you may not suspect it, but I am more knowledgeable of American cinema than I am Japanese animation. To describe it as best I can without spoiling, if you have seen at least one movie directed by Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, John Woo, and Michael Mann, then you have already seen Cowboy Bebop in another format. This is actually a clever trick though; most anime fans reject Western pop culture, and may not notice this when watching CB, so they'll think it's "fresh" and "original", when it's fact, it's actually MORE clichéd then most anime. But hey, when CB is exciting and isn't (too) blatantly ripping off Hollywood, it's worth watching.
At least, when the worthwhile characters are onscreen. I like the main character Spike a lot. He is the embodiment of cool, like a 21st century version of Steve McQueen. He's cool, but he's very human too. He's reckless, he makes mistakes, but he knows how to charm people, and he also knows how to beat his targets. I also like Jet. He's a constant worrywart, which is a funny contrast to his rough appearance. Some of the incidental characters are memorable too, (but usually only in the good episodes and movie). Something else I liked was the Bebop crew was not always a stable group, or nakama you could say. In most anime, when the heroes band together, nothing ever separates them. That doesn't happen in CB. Sometimes, the crew gets in arguments, and sometimes, one of them will leave the Bebop for a time, and so on. It's a touch of realism I appreciate.
However, some of the characters didn't click with me. I never really cared for Faye. I don't dislike her, but I don't really care for her either. Edward is amusing, but she feels out of place in a series like this. The incidental characters in the less memorable episodes are just that, unmemorable. However, what I'm about to print in the next paragraph will anger thousands, possibly millions. (And maybe make hundreds say "Right on!") Mind you, it's just my opinion. Everything I print in these reviews is just my opinion; you don't have to take it personally, but the following opinion of mine needs to be said:
Vicious is one of the lamest villains ever.
The main antagonist is a man known as Vicious, someone who's still a part of the gang Spike came from. He's cunning, ruthless . . . and is absolutely lame. What's his motive? Does he just want power, or to mess with people? Even if so, why is he so boring to watch? The villain from the movie was a lot more interesting. Overall, you got two really good protagonists, some interesting chemistry between the protagonists, one-shot characters who are either interesting or not, and a forgettable antagonist. Yay.
And I haven't even touched upon the ending yet! Short version, I don't like CB's ending. (More flames incoming! Duck and cover!) Now, the ending is not quite as bad as the ending for, say, Akira, or the anime version of Chobits. It does have a sense of finality to it, something most anime endings don't have. However, I did not find it "legendary." I found it disappointing. First of all, the ending is extremely predictable. It's virtually telegraphed to you before it even happens. Not only that, when I saw it, my reaction was, " . . . that's it? Seriously, that's IT?"
But I better move on to CB's technical aspects before I get too letdown. Its artistry leaves no complaints. CB is probably the best-looking pre-digital anime I've ever seen. Even if you were to remake the series with digital enhancements, I doubt you could make it look better than it already is. Sumptuous backgrounds, top-notch character art, animation that ranges from above-average to really good, no off-model shots, this is a visual feast. The movie looks even better. It's obvious a lot of care was put into the visuals of CB. My only being the primitive CGI, but you get used to it.
And now we touch upon CB's greatest aspect; its soundtrack. It's the sort of the soundtrack that makes you go, "Ah yeah, baby!" This is why you watch CB, the music. The music is the magnum opus of Yoko Kanno. A combination of jazz, blues, and rock, but it isn't just any old jazz, blues, and rock, it's GOOD jazz, blues, and rock. Everything from the opening, to the incidental music, to the endings, you get music that will set your soul on fire. The only anime I've seen whose soundtrack could rival CB's is Death Note's. Something I noticed about CB's soundtrack is the music sounds more like music from albums rather than typical soundtrack music. Another smart move; most people are accustomed to listening to music from CD and MP3 albums as opposed to soundtracks, so when they hear CB's music, it'll be more familiar-sounding than most other anime soundtracks. Regardless, even if you hate CB, you gotta score this music.
CB is also famous for having what is perhaps the oldest English dub for an anime series that is considered god-like. I saw this on Adult Swim, and I can safely say, this is another masterpiece from Bandai and Bang Zoom. Every character sounds like how you would imagine them to, and the voices are neither wooden nor over-acted. All the different accents the characters have sound really cool too. I did sample the Japanese dub on the movie, and I will say, Spike and Jet sound really good in both Japanese and English, but I will never get used to Faye's Japanese voice. Yeah, this is one you gotta see in English. (Though in retrospect, the Japanese performances aren't bad, it just doesn't click like the English dub)
While CB is still often regarded as a classic, I'm not the first to criticize it like so. There has been some backlash against CB in recent years. Some people complain it's not "Japanese-y" enough, that it's too Western. I mentioned that earlier, but there is another anime I've seen, Baccano, which is also very similar to American movies, but it was consistently entertaining, and not as predictable as CB, so I did not mind. Others have mentioned the same things I have, that it's boring, the plot isn't strong enough, it's style over substance. This isn't a disaster by any means, but I do have to say that, outside of the production values, CB is one of the most overrated anime I've seen. It's not one of the worst, certainly not, but it's not quite the experience I was promised either. To put it in other words, there were some episodes that I would score a 4 out of 10. And yet, there are some episodes, including the movie, that I would score a 9 out of 10. The 6 overall is just from mixing the good episodes with the bad.
I like to imagine that in an alternate dimension, CB was an OVA series instead of a tv series. All the episodes I do like, (# 2, 8, 12, 13, 17, 20, and 22) were released on separate OVAs, as well as a few others to bridge the plot gaps. Then a theatrical came out (Knocking on Heaven's Door), and then another to end it all (The Real Folk Blues, albeit with a revised conclusion), and it would be grandiose. Alas, I don't live in that universe. Hey, Shinichiro Watanabe likes drawing influence from Hollywood, right? What's something it's doing a lot of right now? Continuity reboots? He could still do that. I can dream, can't I?
EDIT: This review was revised on 9/17/2015 to be less awkward to read.
The most overhyped and overrated anime of all time in my opinion. The first 20 or so episodes are pretty much random bounty hunting episodes then near the end of the series they try to throw in some ridiculous plot involving a "Syndicate". The animation and art was subpar, the sound and music were very nice though. Overall Cowboy Bebop is disappointing and very much a forgettable series. If you want to see a good series from Cowboy Bebop's director Shinichiro Watanabe check out Samurai Champloo
Cowboy Bebop is an episodic series. By episodic, I mean that one episode doesn't necessarily lead or follow the next one. With that being said, don't expect a lot of "plot" in this series. You watch Cowboy Bebop for the characters, plain and simple. Spike, Faye, Jet, Ed, Ein are what make this anime arguably one of the most memorable series ever produced. The music is awesome (especially if you're a fan of Jazz), the animation is top notch (considering when the series came out), and the enjoyment value is second to none.
While a lot of people want that "similar episode" feel, if you're the
kind of person that enjoys a fast paced anime (with each character getting his or her own spotlight), this is for you. If you're not the type to enjoy fast paced, bounty huntin' fun, and rather you like deep thought provoking, dark, mysterious shows...don't watch Cowboy Bebop. Vicious (one of the characters) may be able to bring a little of that sinister side for you, but this isn't that kind of show.
Cowboy Bebop has something that the anime world has seem to have forgotten in a coinpurse somewhere: balls.
I don't mean just any kind of balls. I mean huge, sweaty, hairy testicles that swing back and forth like wrecking balls at the sheer hint of thigh movement. The atom-slicing power of these balls could level Detroit in a single blow. I'm not talking about the steroid ravaged, "mom where's the protein" balls of TTGL or G Gundam either. Those are anime you put on right after you inject yourself with bull-shark testosterone and deadlift 440 lbs. No, the balls Cowboy Bebop slaps on the table are
of a different caliber; a different breed entirely, than the balls other anime, good and bad, have displayed in the past. They exude confidence without devolving into double-down, Long Island guido douchebaggery---they stand ice-cold in their manliness but aren't afraid to deliver one powerful scene after another. They aren't concerned with pretentious, Freudian mindfuckery, and they're past the "edginess" of gore, tits, and embarrassing profanity. There's no shitty gimmicks or pandering, and they don't let themselves fall victim to the stereotypes of what anime is supposed to be. Like Goku and Vegeta, or white people in Baltimore, they are the last of a dying breed.
Cowboy Bebop is an anime in the most basic sense of the word. In reality, it's a 26 episode, moving piece of artwork, taking influence from cultures in vastly different parts and time periods of the world. It's film noir, Chinatown style. It's The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, with Clint Eastwood's patented ice-cold asswhippery and Sergio Leone's masterful spaghetti western storytelling. It's 1930s New Orleans, Louisiana. It's Star Wars. It's Enter the Dragon. It's a culmination of the spiciest cultural influences from the far east to the shores of the west, and it's honestly the best experience with an anime you will ever have. Some people have a bone to pick with the episodic nature of the plot, but pay no mind to them. Each new episode is like a blank slate, individually developed and shaped into a unique piece; a miniature story that calls upon a fresh set of inspirations to give it a flavor all its own. The overarching plot of the show is subtle but existent; it draws upon all sorts of themes and motifs like love and revenge, and is quietly woven throughout the series until it finally takes precedence at the end. Despite this, the transition from standalone episodes to the overall story feels natural. Some shows force plot elements onto you like an American businessman on a young Filipino girl (ever see the second arc of Death Note?), but the progression here is cool Lester smooth. You can choose to take in the show however you want to---you can relish in the individual beauty of each episode or you can view the show as one coherent story, continually building off of itself. Either way, you end up with something that's completely genuine and one of a kind---there's no other anime like it.
While Cowboy Bebop isn't really associated with VIP quality artwork like it is with VIP quality soundtracks, Bebop has literally some of the best artwork in anime, ever. For some reason when you bring up the artwork from any pre-2000s anime, people get all condescending, like anything released before 2001 was drawn completely in purple crayon by Ms. Johnson's 8:30 AM kindergarten class. I've lost count of how many times I've heard stunning 90s animation cut down as "dated" by people that praise the emotionless, passionless digital animation of today. If anyone ever tells you Bebop's art is anything less than outstanding, punch them in the uterus for me. The animation is spectacular---the movement is surprisingly natural and the action is fluid. Watch a few of the fight scenes and you'll see why the creative staff of Naruto were reduced to ripping off one from the Cowboy Bebop movie, frame for frame. A lot of the character designs did away with traditional anime characteristics: bodies are proportional, even going so far as to downsize their usually massive eyes to a smaller, more manageable scale. The designs themselves are a treat to look at, and they fit the personalities of the characters pretty solidly. The action scenes themselves are varied, ranging the gauntlets from fistfights to dogfights and everything in between. If you don't think watching losers getting their shit wrecked is awesome, you will by the end of this show. Fuck, even the CG is good, if a little rough. The amount of detail Sunrise put into the animation is just, totally astonishing---even with the technological advancements of today it still takes a dump all over most of the artwork that's been put out in the past decade or so.
Now, again, Cowboy Bebop is associated primarily with its soundtrack. There's a particularly good reason for this, and it's because it's literally the best soundtrack you'll ever hear. While most anime, especially today, resort to typical gutter trash j-pop, the music of Bebop is an ensemble of jazz, blues, classical, funk, rock, with a little pop and even a little heavy metal. You get a nice introduction to what's in store from the OP---Tank is a kick in the ass and its only amplified by what's probably the best opening in all of anime. After an entire episode of fucking outrageous tracks, you close with The Real Folk Blues which is beautiful and totally melancholy. You will want to own every OST by the end of the show; other shows might have good music but I don't think I've ever seen a show with a soundtrack that's just as good if listened to like a regular old album. From Space Lion to Ask DNA, Yoko Kanno constantly hits it out of the park, and without her Bebop wouldn't have that signature vibe it's so well known for.
Also, the English dub is the best dub ever made. Period. If you watch this subbed you might as well kick yourself in the balls and set your computer on fire because you're depriving yourself of what is some of the best voice acting anime has ever seen. As much as I respect the Japanese voice actors and don't want to minimize their work, I don't even know what the hell they sound like because the dub is that fucking good. Trust me, even if you spit on dubs like they're a woman on the Maury show or a degree from ITT Tech, you need to give this one a chance. There is no weak link among the voice actors; every voice fits its character perfectly---every performance is Oscar worthy in its own right. It's honestly god-tier.
As for the characters, well, without them the show is nothing. Literally, the characters make this show. If you swapped them out for any other cast, the result would be a vastly inferior series about a group of douchebags on a gay spaceship who hang around shitholes and fuck with losers all day. Instead, what we're given is probably one of the most dramatic and artistic character pieces ever put to film. Each character feels like a living, breathing person, with their own faults and imperfections and checkered pasts. They don't just feel like plot devices for carrying a story along. The way they interact with each other and grow as people throughout all their exploits feels authentic and real, and their development over time is part of what makes Bebop so classic. Like real people, they constantly fight and bicker amongst one another but it's that bickering, and the experiences they have together, that draws them closer as a group. It's this approach to characterization that really pulls Bebop together as a whole---each character has their own story to tell and slowly, as you work your way through the series, you find out what those stories are. You have Spike, the smoothest, most ice cold motherfucker this side of the Milky Way, who brings a little humanity to the "live life in the fast lane and kick a shit ton of asses while you do it" lifestyle that he leads alongside his life partner Jet, who despite his ruggedness really serves as kind of a father figure to the group. Faye's past envelops her otherwise forward and strong personality, and Edward is just straight up goofy, but in an endearing way that actually makes you smile. Their trials and tribulations amongst each other and others from both their past and their present are entertaining, engrossing, and touching---again, without them, the show wouldn't be nearly what it is today.
I think the sheer quality and accessibility of this anime gives a lot of people the wrong idea, because I constantly see people recommending this as a great "first anime" for trying to get people into the medium. Cowboy Bebop was one of the first anime I saw, but I think using it as an introduction sends people the wrong message about what they should expect from most of the anime they'll see. Cowboy Bebop is a pinnacle in visual entertainment precisely because it's able to shed the typical "skin" of an anime and develop into something much deeper and more culturally rich. There's a lot of great anime out there, and the more anime I watch the more of it I discover. But starting with something so dissimilar to the majority of what anime is will give people a skewed perception of what anime should be right from the start. I guess this is the only way to get some people to sit down and actually watch a cartoon, but for others you're setting them up for disappointment down the road.
Enjoyment? It's the best anime I've ever seen. That's the only way I can describe how I feel about it. It'll make you laugh, it'll make you cry (keyword you, I don't have tear ducts so I can't cry. Tragic accident, I don't want to talk about it). It'll make you think, it'll make you feel. It might give you a boner. It's untouchable. It's ice cold. It's a classic.
So, I know almost everyone loves this show to death, but honestly I in no way can understand the hype. Cowboy Bebop is, probably, the worst anime I have ever seen in my life.
Story - 1
First of all, there is no story. The show is episodic, which isn't always a bad thing, but Cowboy Bebop does each individual episode's story so poorly. Every episode basically goes the same way. The crew catches a cheap bounty showing how "cool" they are. Then, one of the members meets some suspicious stranger, who, surprise, ends up having a bounty on their head. As the episode moves on, we
learn that the criminal isn't actually a bad person, and that they've just been put in a rough situation. A final confrontation takes place, and the criminal dies at the end. Every now and then there are special character episodes, which change up the formula a little bit, but then the consequences to these stories never show up again.
Art - 6
Art was really bland. The colors are boring. Animation was smooth. But then again it's easy to make animation smooth when almost nothing happens.
Sound - No Score
I don't listen to music because I spend all my time watching anime, so the whole music aspect of the show was lost on me.
Character - 3
The characters are so boring and simple. Spike is the typical "cool" character because he never has to put any effort into what he's doing. His backstory, which is seemingly one of the big pulls of the show, is so cliche that it becomes boring and a waste of time. I would criticize Jet's character but I really don't know enough about him because he's never developed, except for one random character episode that is supposed to make us feel sorry for him or something. Faye is just for fan-service and is boring. Meanwhile Ed is just there. She doesn't contribute anything except weird comic relief. Overall, the characters are so boring and the relationships between them are even more boring. The characters rarely actually interact with each other. The only time I was ever actually interested in the characters was around episode 10 during Spike's character episode. There was clear tension between the members of the crew, and that actually had me interested. However not only did this tension come out of nowhere, it also disappeared just as instantly as it was created.
Enjoyment - 1
Not a fun show at all. The action scenes are all incredibly boring. First of all they are just slow, and coupled with the fact that we know nothing serious is going to happen to the characters, there is zero excitement.
Overall - 2
cowboy Bebop is a bad show, and as I said earlier I cannot understand why people love it. Every element of the show is boring and cliche. People might say that it is unlike any other anime out there, but in reality it shares far more than it may seem. Like most anime, every character has a "tragic" backstory. These backstories also are randomly introduced and randomly vanish over the course of one or two episodes. Also this show is filled with fan-service, which people seem to just not have a problem with in this anime for some reason. Cowboy Bebop is only unique in the sense that no one on the show does anything unique or interesting.
Cowboy Bebop is, in effect, an episodic, slice of life sort of series revolving around our Space Cowboys (and girls) Spike, Jet, Faye and Ed. This review is here to tackle some points about the series I feel are worth mentioning, as I know it's all been said before.
Now Cowboy Bebop has it all; great characters with good backstories, smooth animation, amazing music and lots of humor. So why don't I love it? Quite simply, Cowboy Bebop was a frustrating experience for me! I watched the series on and off over a couple of months, far longer than it normally takes for me to finish
a series this short. I found it very off-putting that, with such interesting characters, the creators chose to spend so much time doing nothing with them!
As others have mentioned, each episode is a hit or a miss. Some tackle the main characters, mix in some plot, throw in new characters or ideas and are just amazing overall. And then others are meandering and pointless.
Now this is found in any slice-of-life series, it comes with the package. But in Cowboy Bebop it especially bothered me to spend an episode watching some character do something I could care less about when there are four amazing, interesting characters with stories that could fill several seasons sitting around and not getting anywhere!
Vicious and Julia for example; why did we spend an episode watching Jet's old friend's daughter come to grips with her father's lack of affection for her? I honestly can't remember. And then you have Vicious and Julia's very few appearances despite being characters very important in the overall plot and intriguing characters in their own right.
So before you hit the non helpful button, please remember that I do hold the series in high regard. It is a very well-made series that raises many interesting questions and concepts; and while some episodes frustrated me, others fascinated me. There's nothing wrong with the series, and I know many people like it's meandering nature and enjoy the lack of an over-arching plot (which, by the way, was rather tidily summed up in two eps at the end, nicely done).
While my objective opinion is that it is a well-made series, well worth a watch, my subjective view wishes it was different, that it had been a story about Spike's past, about Vicious, about their friendship, about Julia's love and Jet and Faye's stories as well. It is because I loved the characters so much that I wanted more of them, wanted to see them more, know them more.
Why are you still reading my review? Go check it out!
"Cowboy Bebop" reeks. It really does. It reeks of originality, it reeks of attitude, but most of all, it reeks of perfection.
I'm not gonna bother writing about how cool the main protagonist Spike Spiegel is, or how colourful the rest of the cast are - those are established facts and have been discussed to death already, so I'm gonna write about what makes "Cowboy Bebop" different instead. Almost everything about it is unusual. It's a clash of a huge number of often contradicting styles that, on paper, looks like disasters waiting to happen. However, the reality is that "Cowboy Bebop" takes everything in its stride
and pulls off the stunt with flying colours. It catches the attention straight away with its strikingly retro opening sequence reminiscent of a typical jazzy 70/80's TV series. The feel of the anime itself is a seamless marriage of anime sci-fi and American westerns, backed up by some slick jazz/blues (as well as other African-American influenced) sound track. Even discounting these obvious western influences, it's still very un-anime like in a lot of respects - the art style goes for what I would call stylish realism, it's very slightly comically oriented, with no giant eyed cuteness or super distortions in sight. The humour it uses is also mostly toned down, subtle, western humour as opposed to the in your face, over the top slap stick found in most other anime. And yet, at other times, its anime roots shine through brightly - for example the character design of Vicious, with his katana and grey/white hair, is about as anime as you can get (well, maybe he could do with longer hair, like Sephiroth's from Final Fantasy VII).
Even in its content, "Cowboy Bebop" breaks new ground. It doesn't go for a long continuous plot, but instead opts for the episodic format, but with one flagship storyline spanning 5 episodes that pops in during various parts of the series. This doesn't sound special by itself, but what is remarkable is the sheer diversity found in the episodes. It proclaims itself to be a work that "becomes a new genre in itself", which might sound arrogant to the point of delusional. But this bold, swaggering claim actually has a ring of truth to it. "Cowboy Bebop" is like a huge number of genres combined, and yet doesn't fully fit into any particular one simply because it's composed of so many. Like one of those annoying people that you used to know from school who is good at everything, whatever genre "Cowboy Bebop" touches turns to gold. The comedy is hilarious, the action is edge of the seat stuff, and the horror themed episodes do manage to create a kind of unsettling atmosphere of anticipation and suspense. I think almost everyone will find something to their taste. Moreover, since I haven't anything like this done before, and anything that comes after that dares to attempt anything that's even remotely similar will be seen as copying (for example, even though "Samurai Champloo", produced by the same person, is an undoubted success, it had no where near the impact of "Cowboy Bebop"), "Cowboy Bebop" has effectively cemented itself as a unique experience in a class of its own.
Quite a few of the episodes in "Cowboy Bebop" reveals some of the characters' backgrounds, but they don't reveal everything. For the most part, only subtle hints are given, and you're left to join up the sparsely distributed dots using your own imagination. Usually I hate this kind of thing, but you know what? In the special case of "Cowboy Bebop", it somehow WORKS. In this case, less is more, the show's incomplete state feels just right, and the tantalising bits of clues and short flashbacks piece together into a enigmatic, fragmental past that adds to rather than detract from the flavour of the anime. There is no better example of this than during the flagship storyline where we catch a glimpse of Spike's mysterious past. In fact these episodes deserves special mention - they are clearly meant to be the diamonds amongst the gems. In crafting these episodes, the creators obviously asked themselves the question: the short stories' collective strength lies their variety, so what can we do with this central attraction to make it stand out? The answer was obvious: it was to make it into something that's the very definition of awesomeness. And boy did they achieve it. The general gist of this story is Spike settling scores with Vicious, an old enemy from his little known past. It's a classic set up that's been used many, many times before, and on the face of it, "Cowboy Bebop" doesn't really bring anything new to the table. But saying this segment of "Cowboy Bebop" is just another one of those show down between nemesis stories is like saying J. S. Bach is just another Baroque composer. Bach was not known as an innovator, and distinguished himself as the greatest composer of his time simply by being so much better than everyone else. In the same way, "Cowboy Bebop" took a much used idea and, despite not doing anything that's different, produced something that's on a completely different plane to everything else. Everything about "Cowboy Bebop" is already smooth and polished, but in those episodes the production somehow manages to climb up yet another level, and every single fiber of it is executed to perfection.
That Spike vs Vicious segment of "Cowboy Bebop" is so good in fact, that viewers often mistake it as the only story "Cowboy Bebop" is trying to tell, and thus the other episodes naturally gets mistaken as fillers, and this is one of the most common criticisms levelled at "Cowboy Bebop" - it's composed almost entirely of fillers. But I think this is missing the whole point of the series. Just like a serious show should not be faulted for not being funny, "Cowboy Bebop" should not be faulted for being episodic, but should be judged based on what it's trying to achieve. What it is trying to achieve is variety, and thus purposefully avoided the continuous story format. Those "fillers" are essential building blocks towards achieving this aim, and so shouldn't really be regarded as fillers at all. Real fillers would be like in "Full Moon wo Sagashite", where they actually got a continuous story to tell, but instead of telling it chose to go faffing around on mostly unrelated mini adventures that nearly put me to sleep. The key question is does "Cowboy Bebop" deliver what it's trying to deliver, and there is no doubt in my mind that is does.
It's generally acknowledged that "Cowboy Bebop" is not a deep anime, so the fact that shows up at the top of so many critics' list arguably makes it the biggest triumph for a style over substance anime. The show's ending theme is called "The Real Folk's Blues" (ironically, it's actually a rock song) - rather appropriately, I thought, because this series frequently give rise to some of the most contemplative, melancholy moments despite not being terribly deep. These kind of moments often left me with a feeling of immense fulfilment as the end credits starts to roll. Perhaps it's this engimatic quality that lends it that special aura. It may not be my personal favourite, but unlike, say, "Elfen Lied", I can certainly see why it deserves to be labelled as the greatest ever - I, for one, am not about to argue against it.
All things considered, there’s nothing quite like it when you come off an anime and realize how much it has built itself as this important piece of art that has since transcended its ever-present influence on other mediums. This particular show, named Cowboy Bebop, definitely lived up the legacy it deserves of being the pinnacle of late ’90s anime that would influence a wide variety of anime leading up to the new millennium. Even with all that has been all said and done, that’s not to say that Cowboy Bebop has its fair share of hiccups.
But before I get into that, it is important to
distinguish the inevitable nature that director Shinichirō Watanabe constructed from the ground up to make Cowboy Bebop’s world vibrant and distinct. Since Cowboy Bebop has separate plot arcs within each individual episode, with some continuity within its main cast, the show has a great sense of exploratory mystery behind every story being told. You have the sense of wanting to know of these actual people and locations because of how incredibly different they all are. They each have their own distinct look and atmosphere to them. As Watanabe is vastly known for, he loves to mix different types of genres into one show to make them feel unique in his eyes. Normally this could cause a show to lose some main focus as to what it wants to be, but Cowboy Bebop, thanks to its plot structure, paces these genres evenly to make us know the true identity of what it wants to be. Which is essentially a Space Western mixed with Neo-Noir elements in its tone; hence the show’s name.
Along with mixing these genres, the sense of direction that encapsulates Cowboy Bebop as a whole transcends itself to a whole new level of creativity. The noir aspect to the show adds a lot more depth to its atmosphere from its attention-grabbing shootout scenes to the silent moments that hook you instantaneously. There are some comedy elements to be seen in Cowboy Bebop and they time it very well and give all the characters great charm to provide solid entertaining moments. They don’t just contain bodily comedy by any stretch, but instead, the writing is very sharp and witty whether you’re watching it dubbed or subbed.
Memorable characters are in no shortage in Cowboy Bebop, at least within its main cast. Spike Spiegel, Faye Valentine, Jet Black, and Edward are the quintessential quartet to be studied if you are wanting to replicate a great cast such as this. They are not just good because of their excellent character growth, but the amazing chemistry they all have whenever any of them are on-screen together. At first they all act very indecent to each other. It isn’t until over the course of several episodes when they truly try to care for one another, yet they still feel the slight edge to go on their own for better or for worse.
Spike is often regarded as the best character and they aren’t entirely wrong in saying so. He has an alluring presence where he isn’t just some strong individual who can handle himself in any given situation or this normal everyday person. He is simply both in some aspects. He has the wit and personality to be both of these types of personalities and you want to root for him because of his likable persona. Of course, it would be a crime to not mention the Dubbed performance by famed voice actor Stephen Blum who manages to make Spike have a lot of suave with his extraordinary voice. And for that matter, almost all of the English dubbed voice actors manage to make Cowboy Bebop one of the few instances where the dubbing is just as good, if not better, than the original Japanese voice acting.
Faye Valentine provides some of the funniest, sarcastic humor to Cowboy Bebop. You could easily chalk her character archetype as a way to push a female character in a largely male present cast to let the males have their way with her body. However, they manage to make Faye into a girl who doesn’t take any kind of crap from anyone and has full-control over anything that she finds wrong in her own mind. Then we have Edward, who is by far the most eccentric character of the show by the fact that she’s in her own little world where nothing seems to make her overly pessimistic no matter how grave a situation might be. What makes her fascinating to watch is her growth as a person, while at the same time viewing her child-like charm in the same way we would have viewed Edward’s way of thinking as a child. Every time she’s on-screen, there is a good chance anything is possible in terms of comedic dialogue being thrown out, and they are all fantastic to listen to. Lastly is Jet Black, who’s the most logically, down-to-earth character in the show, other than maybe Spike in most cases. While he may be the lesser of the three other leads, there is no doubt to be made that Jet has his fair share of memorable moments that grows him into a true three-dimensional character like the rest.
Now with this being said about our four main heroes, the rest of the side characters that crop up in these plot arcs are not anything spectacular or memorable in the slightest. Even the main villain of the show doesn’t really leave much of an impression in being a noteworthy villain as originally anticipated. This could be forgiven slightly, considering they have only one episode to build them up, but that is not to say all of them are not noteworthy with the Dr. Lobbes character being the best of the bunch. Considering that he was in one of the best episodes that wasn’t the last three episodes that succeeded it.
Around the time when Cowboy Bebop first aired, anime recently had begun somewhat of a transitional period where it started to incorporate very challenging, philosophical themes into its narrative. The other two that come to mind are Neon Genesis Evangelion and Serial Experiments Lain. That’s not to say anime did not have anything like this before, but Cowboy Bebop and the rest of the shows I mentioned really pushed it of the stream-of-consciousness into the anime community. With that said, Cowboy Bebop seems to be the one that is the most subtle way of detailing its philosophical themes involving existential concepts. This is both a service and disservice to the show’s credit.
The reason being is that although it is very admirable for Bebop to showcase its themes in a non-preachy scenario or be muddled into strange concepts that contradict each other, it subtly limits it from doing anything with most of the narrative plot arcs. You can basically watch Cowboy Bebop and have all of them fly over your head and you would still have the same experience, but once you do notice them, there’s not a lot of meat to them for our brains to digest or comprehend. Obviously the finale of the show has a great implication of putting them all together but in the long run, they don’t really add up to anything, other than trying to throw out whatever philosophical theme that might seem the most probable in these given situations.
While that aspect wasn’t necessarily one of the show’s best highlights, the actual plot that carries the main narrative is relatively serviceable and brings up one of the most poignant finales that I’ve ever seen in anime. When you feel the growth that all of these characters go through, you never want these characters to go away from one another because of how amazing they play off one another. In fact, once I saw them go their separate ways for a moment, without spoiling any of the important details, I almost felt upset that they even had the inclination of wanting to do so in the first place. Because of the amount of care given to make the personalities of these characters genuine and delightful, the melancholic nature near the finale feels very sincere. If that is writing that could not be considered great by that fact alone, I don’t know what is.
I’ve always held the belief that Yoko Kanno is one of the best composers to be working in anime to this day, and Cowboy Bebop reigns as the best coordinated orchestration that she’s ever done. The opening itself garners some needed praise not only for its recognizable melodies and instrumentation but how it captures the feel and tone of Cowboy Bebop as a whole. What really fits Yoko’s style of instrumentation and Watanabe’s creative vision is how they both have the same way of mixing different styles of music and genres that make them feel very on-point to the direction of the art-style and the score that goes with it. Yoko’s amazing blend of jazz, normal orchestration, guitar rock, and occasional electronics are what create the ultimate soundtrack that would be worthy of being listened to without the need for the show’s visuals to accompany it.
Does Cowboy Bebop deserve the amount of perfect accolades that it has been given for the past decade or so? In most aspects, it certainly does. There is simply nothing out there that is quite like it in terms of authentic style and flair that is on-screen at any given point in time. It manages to perfectly pace the witty humor from the deep drama that engulfs each character and the confrontations they have to face, one way or the other. If anything, the characters are enough to warrant a watch from their amazing chemistry and the plot can be well-serviceable for anyone willing to experience it. It’s a show that literally goes off with a bang and soars ever so gently off into the blissful reaches of the heavens. In great character stories such as this, this space cowboy is one that can prove himself worthy of being called such a title.
"Cowboy Bebop is a generally overrated Anime that now is mostly famous due to its continues element of referencing Western pop culture, high-quality OST, and well-animated action sequences, however, doesn’t offer neither too much in actual substance nor actual characterization worth mentioning in its episodic narrative".
This aforementioned statement has more or less become the popular opinion regarding Cowboy Bebop, a highly popular Anime TV-series, which’s 1st episode aired in April 1998. Being part of the "trio" with both Trigun and Berserk (excluding the heavily controversial Evangelion for now), it’s one of the first Anime-series which did grow a considerable large fanbase in the West in
the 90’s, without being a Fighting-Shounen aired on evening’s time like DBZ or essentially being a Mahou-Shoujo like Sailor Moon is. Naturally, a show with Bebop’s setting, style, and overload of original soundtracks in English was bound to appeal to a Western audience at least in some way and as time stands, Bebop managed to stay stronger as its two “brothers in arms” trying to conquer hearts of potential Western fans for a long time now and established itself as a somewhat cult-cartoon, even only be it in the US. However, as time progressed and Anime become much more popular caused by online streaming, heavily increasing the knowledge and accessibility of numerous different titles, the show did tend fall out of peoples’ favourites of both casual Anime watchers and fans of critically acclaimed Anime with surprisingly common reasoning, especially because the things I’ve mentioned in the first paragraph. As much as I think that some of these statements have at least a grain of truth in them (while I take them with a grain of salt), they’re either minor criticism or undermining the huge power it has in both its overarching theme-exploration and its ingenious use of an episodical narrative, not taking away any quality from it, but rather carve it in stone. Even though a lot of people are not digging each show of the aforementioned trio for some totally legitimate reasons, it’s almost impossible to take away the most important aspect within each of them, landing a much bigger hit on a more mature audience, than the other popular Anime during these times did. Berserk’s slow, but superb incorporation dark, fantastical elements into its gritty medieval setting, Trigun’s good balance of comedy and darker story elements and Cowboy Bebop’s…well, I’m about to show you my personal take on this series’ qualities, as I try to play along with those lines of its Jazz.
1. Pushing The Sky
Being listed as one of the most influential "Space-Western" up until this day, the setting of Bebop hovers both lots of potential to either exceed peoples’ expectations, or to majorly disappoint them when looking for the wrong thing, namely the show being a Space-Opera in a classic sense, inevitably hinting at Legend of the Galactic Heroes. As the series prolongs, it’s more of a mixture of multiple genres, which evidently can have a quite diverse feeling to them. For example, "slice of life"-esque episodes are getting mixed in with clearly experimental episodic stories + storytelling. By stating that fact, it’s even more remarkable that the series is able to pull off these kinds of tone-shifts with such ease and fluency, while still providing something of value for each individual episode, be it in story-telling, character-insight or excellently creative directing, a challenge most Anime not only have trouble accomplishing to begin with, but don’t even come close to the quality it facilitated.
The lack of a progressing story in Bebop is easily justified by it using the episodic-style to its absolute advantage, implementing a highly interesting factor for its characters among numerous other masterfully executed aspects, which will be tackled a little later in this review. While the series offers a kind of coherent main-storyline, which gets its first big reveal in episode 5, most of the other episodes have a tendency to classify themselves in one of two categories with partially fluent borders, while the first one dominates in prevalence: Either as an exploration and continuation of already introduced themes (f.e. the famous “being stuck in time”-conflict) like “Waltz for Venus #8” or a refreshingly light-hearted, facetious and "tribute-paying" episode like “Cowboy Funk #22”. While the thematic value of each individual story might just vary for every viewer, these episodes have the capability to really hit hard and build upon already introduced conflicts, making it really questionable if those episodes really should be called mere “side-stories” to begin with, since their coherency in exploration is absolutely on par with the main one.
Of course, it helps, that competently executed episodic storytelling is often the cream of the crop I’m searching for in this medium, upping the value of the series even more for me personally.
The Bebop crew visits different planets, gets engaged into different ship-battles, meets different people of different beliefs, kicks different villains’ butts and manages to pay homage to so many different titles of Western pop culture it’s insane. Starting with more obvious ones like Spike’s incredibly similar style of fighting to Bruce Lee, which feels almost like a "flow of water", to minor references of Blade Runner (episode #7, character named Decker) and many more. I honestly don’t want to list more of them, since I’d be lying if I say that I did get them all by myself, but more importantly because this aspect has been endlessly covered already and being used to define the homages as one of its biggest strengths, while it only is a minor one. It’s true that these aspects accompanied by the stylistic ass-kicking both the crew and their villains receive over the course of the series offer the simple assumption, that the show is not more than a merely rule-of-cool type of show, which has become some kind of tainted term in the anime community, at least from my perspective. Cowboy Bebop undeniably borrows a lot of ‘rule-of-cool’, however, is able to provide much more than that, creating an immediate oxymoron going by its popular definition. It’s more of a stylistic approach by the show's director Watanabe, or by Anime in general, to pay respect to both the popular action and the classic film noir genre in the West, creating both a unique and refreshing appearance in the Anime medium.
2. Words That We Couldn’t Say (Major Spoilers ahead!)
Probably the second most important, or even the most important aspect why Bebop qualifies for all the praise it gets, is the handling of its cast with utmost care and competency. Combined with the ingenious audiovisual storytelling, it’s what the show’s identity defines in hindsight. Without it, breaking the general idea behind almost every (non-main-story related) episode apart is quite a breeze and would go something like this:
1. The crew set their sight on a new high-reward bounty.
2. They make a plan on how to catch the bounty alive.
3. Something goes wrong, their target gets killed or escapes.
Of course, this is, as mentioned before, a heavily watered-down version of how its episodic storytelling actually works and is functioning as a criticism, that is quite common to hear: “The individual stories are too repetitive” is one of these classic examples I tend to hear a lot, especially in recent times. It might be a legitimate reason to severely decrease one’s enjoyment of a show, but won’t work well as hitting criticism for the show, since the simplicity of said episodes served as just the right set-up to dive into the characters’ behaviour, which is connected deep within Bebop’s unarguable main thematic: All characters of the the crew suffer from not being able to advance in their own future, since they’re plagued by their past bringing them down. This becomes clearer the longer the series progresses, studying on how they first act as “apathetic outsiders” when confronted with stories and emotions of strangers (even their own bounty), but over the course of the episode they see them as projections of their own problems and happenings in the past, finally making them feel empathy and acting "out of character". Clear hints for that are scattered all over the series, for instance when the crew is letting their prey escape, Jet being lenient on Spike after their big dispute and then not even bringing in their bounty, even when they would need the cash so desperately.
Balancing all of these aspects undermines another big strength of Cowboy Bebop: It manages to convey all the aforementioned without ever feeling preachy or washy in its runtime. When looking on how well it all wrapped up, Watanabe just has to be the main suspect responsible for all the aspects to run like clockwork, displaying few hints here and there in several episodes, making effective use of subtext in dialogues, heavily including the OST in its storytelling and therefore finding the perfect balance between style and substance, Watanabe managed to fit it all in.
Furtherly examining and putting singular characters into the spotlight is a very interesting task in this series, especially when talking about the crew of bounty hunters themselves.
When starting with the protagonist of the show, Spike Spiegel, we already found ourselves a true gem to analyze, probably even exceeding the other two incredibly interesting crew members of Bebop. Spike is a former member of the "Red-Dragon-Syndicate" and now an independent bounty hunter. A feud inside the syndicate, involving an only hinted triangle-conflict between Spike, Julia (Spike’s light of love) and Vicious (the main antagonist) led to violent confrontations within the Syndicate, mainly involving Spike, Vicious and his adherents. Spike makes an (ultimately futile) attempt to fake his own death, Julia manages to flee and Vicious stays within the syndicate in an aspirational position.
Spike’s central conflict of the show is exemplary for the very similar conflicts of his comrades: The inability of moving forward or changing his perception of life itself, because of him being tied to the crucial events of his past, even when absolutely trying to forget or starting to deny that sad fact. Probably the most tragic one of the bunch, Spike’s past does have the highest ability to come back for him and most cruel, just when he was able to move on it did strike its last fatal blow. Viciously being robbed of his loved one, the sole light in his past was the ultimate nail in the coffin for no return. The crows, both Vicious’ symbol and for all the hardships Spike has been through in this past and still clings upon to resolve, is an interesting thing to talk about, as they’re seen multiple times before Spike is engaged in battle with Vicious (episode #5 church scene) or a crow is shown waking Spike up from his dreams, after he was being shot by a subsequently revealed tranquilizer. Furtherly supporting the crisis Spike goes through during his journey, are the little bits we get to hear from the way he’s talking to others about his past, clearly hinting at the happenings in the syndicate (“I was killed once before…by a woman”) or his overall futile actions to resist being dragged down into stagnation from his backstory (“It feels like I’m watching a bad dream I’ll never wake up from”).
Jet Black, the seemingly rather reserved "head’ of the crew, also gets explored rather fantastically, when thinking about how little screen time his conflicts did have in contrast to Spike and Faye. Jet is a former member of the ISSP (Inter System Solar Police), positioned at Ganymede (a moon of Jupiter). He joined the Bebop after he left the ISSP due to an incident, involving him losing one arm and had it replaced with a mechanical one. Jet acts as an adequate counter-pole for Spike by comparing their past alone. But not only do they really differ in their backstory and journey to the Bebop, they also greatly differ in personality. While Jet still has not lost his ability to care for others not involved in his own backstory to that severe amount as the, for example, Spike did, his reserved deep care for his comrades also shows more through actions than through words. Albeit he frequently warns the crew from taking any reckless actions, he usually falls back into a played facade of apathy shortly afterward. This attitude often dissolves with him doing someone a favor/kind gesture at the end of an episode, even though that someone usually disagreed with Jet's beliefs and plans. The interaction between Spike and Jet on the run to its finale is one of the most noteworthy examples of “show don’t tell” when talking about the atmosphere created by the audiovisuals, or one of the best examples of conveying emotions through simple dialogue and analogies I’ve seen in the medium so far.
Adding the third member to the bunch, a lot of people seem to prefer Faye’s backstory over every other in Cowboy Bebop and they do so justly. While it might not be my personal favorite, since I found Spike’s to be even more engrossing, Faye is the only member who goes through ‘by the book’ development during her conquest to retrieve her lost memories.
Faye is 23 years old, cold-hearted on the surface, depraved and one clever and dangerous individual to be reckoned with despite her very femininely attractive physique. Over the course of the series, we get to learn, that Faye’s memories have been completely erased due to the 54-years long cryogenic sleep she’s been put through. This cryogenic treatment was undertaken, in order to save her life by waiting until the medical technology was advanced as much to treat her fatal injuries, which would’ve caused her death back then. That functions as a very interesting setup to see Faye’s actual development caused by the retrieval of her memories in bits and pieces, in contrast to Spike and Jet’s development basically finished before we jump into Bebop’s storyline. Furthermore, her chase after a place where she truly belongs does prove to be really difficult, since her relatives are nowhere to be seen and her former home planet Earth is now uninhabitable due to the devastation from numerous meteor strikes while she was sleeping and harbors an initial disdain towards the crew of bounty hunters. The show manages to explore the core-conflict splendidly, creating both heart-breaking moments (e.g. the end of episode #24 “Hard Luck Woman”) and a tremendously emotional climax out of the pretty basic setup, which ensnarls itself deeply with Spike’s conflict in the concluding episodes. This might as well verify once again, that simplicity in a show’s basic conflict can very well lead to superbly connected theme exploration, in Bebop’s case in a very subtle but discernible manner. I very much appreciate Watanabe’s attempt to neither try to look incredibly smart or complex at any point in its runtime as well, since it would take away large bits from the qualities Bebop set itself up through its overall “rule-of-cool-ish” style on the surface and subtle hints on the thematic depth of characters’ backstories.
While Ed is lacking in the character-section there’s an argument to be made, that she is not as important of a character, because of her lacking in character-depth in relative to the rest of the bunch and that is entirely true when only talking about her as a character and not how her eventual farewell from the Bebop crew influences both Spike and Jet personally. While I can definitely agree with her lacking as a singular character in comparison, I simply cannot agree with the criticism, that there’s a lack of character chemistry, since it’s the show’s intention to make especially Spike’s and Faye’s relation to every crew-member as cold as impossible, as them being stuck in the past life and not being able to indulge themselves into new, close relations is basically the main theme of Bebop entirely.
3. Gotta Knock A Little Harder
As fans of the series might have all already noticed, I tried to name my headers for each individual section of my review after actual songs in the Cowboy Bebop OST. While I tried to use it only as a creative and a bit more stylistic approach to properly segment my review, Bebop does not only use it stylistically or “just” to provide atmosphere, how virtually every other audiovisual medium tries to use it. No, it incorporates the music directly in its storytelling actively, leaving it to the tracks to tell a story, leaving it to the music to...convey a message. Yoko Kanno and her particularly for this occasion formed band ‘The Seatbelts’ did create a total amount of 6h worth of an incredibly diverse and magnificent soundtrack, to both harmonize with the visuals and multiple different conflicts of the individual stories to create the right mood for e.g. melancholic (‘Adieu’ playing at the end of episode 8), unsettling (introduction of the ‘Pierrot Le Feu’ in episode 20) or light-hearted/relaxed moments (the crew chilling on the ship after a done job etc.). As I already said, by the sheer amount of diversity Cowboy Bebop offers through its runtime. The OST has to not only have a solidly high budget and talented musicians to create such a high diversity of tracks in terms of feeling, tonality etc., it also has to keep a distinctive identity through the runtime of the show, if at all possible, rather than a garden variety of different, non-comparable single tracks, that makes not only the OST’s but also the show’s identity to slowly drift into the whatever-territory for me. Bebop managed to keep its distinctive identity though, much, much better than I initially expected before my re-watch, since they managed to keep a prominent focus on Jazz, with little outliers to count, that didn’t complement the complete work at all. To pick some of the most talented musicians to be featured in numerous Anime soundtracks, known for her huge talent to cover lots of different genres, Yoko and her crew were almost definitely the best choice, especially for a show that reliant on effective usage of its OST on one hand and very solidly matching singular tracks during action-scenes and what not.
Incorporating its soundtrack effectively in its storytelling, be it with lyrics, merging with the visuals to effectively use nonverbal communication between the viewer etc. is a task only a few shows in the medium have actively tried, and it's even more of a rarity to find a series which did actually execute this efficiently. However, even then I’d be lying if I said any show deserves the #1 spot other than Bebop. Along with the characters it’s definitely my favourite aspect about the show, because it knows to effectively pull the trigger in key-moments, during its continues character-conflicts and builds a strong foundation around those moments through several hints in dialogue and even simple postures and gestures being used to tell more about ones’ feelings in several occasions, furtherly accompanied by the score. The series just does understand people too well, to intersperse that much attention to detail in the mentioned gestures/postures and mimic to show a character’s condition is something live-action movies tend to do very well, but Anime regularly struggles with. The most noteworthy moments I remember would be the all so famous church scene in episode #5, when Spike faces the ghost of his past, Vicious, the first time over the course of the story. The played song when Spike approaches his future battleground, “Rain”, manages to both set in the right tone through instrumentals and manages to tell a story on its own, deeply connected with the main theme of being stuck in the past, as it even gets specified in the lyrics itself. To furtherly raise the stakes of how good the audiovisuals act together in this episode alone, is Spike’s falling sequence, where we get to see bits and pieces of already in episode #1 foreshadowed the happenings around Vicious’ and Spike’s bitter dispute and the bloody feud resulting from the growing rivalry in the syndicate.
Ed leaving the Bebop crew in episode #24 has also been a masterfully executed, a melancholic bit of the show, with the crew members’ downtrodden sadness of another member leaving, while the other one seemingly doesn't come back anymore. Again, this is most importantly conveyed through gesture and music alone, as we see Spike and Jet to superficially process the shock through as simple as to forcefully eat the eggs Jet wanted to cook for the whole crew, as they were revoltingly going down their throats. The interconnectivity between the beginning of episode #12 (Space Lion, Part I) and ending of episode #13 (Part II) usage of the same track, the end of episode #1’s villain, Jet chasing the criminal boyfriend of his ex with a swift tune more than an exhilarating track in episode #10 (Ganymede Elegy), the music box at the end of episode #8, the both unsettling tragic conclusion to episode #20 Pierrot Le Fou (furtherly supported by the grotesque imagery in the theme park) and the final two episodes in general are even further display of the OST greatly interacting with Cowboy Bebop’s narrative in key character and story-moments.
4. The Real Folk Blues (approaching the finale)
As I’ve already mentioned several times how the finale is absolutely terrific, however, I still have yet to explain why it hit me as hard as it certainly did.
Episode 25 starts off with Vicious’ attempts to bring down the established leadership finally being shut down, the elders taking appropriate action and arresting Vicious, soon to be killed anyway. Furthermore, Spike and Jet get attacked by pursuers of the syndicate, fatally wounding Jet on one of his legs. Faye, on her own journey, meets Julia on her way, also being persuaded by the syndicate’s desperate attempts to tie up loose ends. Faye manages to escape with Julia alive, learning this Julia is indeed the line of light Spike so desperately seeks and gets the mission to tell Spike, that she’ll be waiting ‘there’. Back at the ship, Faye arrives just before another attack of gets launched at the crew, with Spike seemingly accepting his upcoming death, but when Spike hears that Faye had met Julia and now delivers a distinctive message to him, it sparks his survival instinct in an instant.
As there are many aspects to focus on in this episode, my preference might just be how Spike and Jet interact with each other, since this is probably the most telling when talking about the emotional conditions these characters face themselves in having. Firstly, Jet’s severe injury and probable inability to advance the Bebop through the hardships to come that have already started raises even more doubts in Spike’s mind to finally give into his past chasing him down, mostly implied through posture and overall silence/consternation Spike gives off the definite feeling of having. Jet did both notice Spike’s state of mind through his entire journey, as he’s unwillingly relentless and is almost acting “out of character” when his bits and pieces of his backstory come to shine through, and the sudden change for the worse, when Ed left and him and Spike getting attacked in a mundane situation and tries to both give an analogy in what kind of situation Spike is stuck in and he was stuck in before, before he learned how to let go. Jet’s words do reach spike, but his inability of letting go still goes on, while his will to live was fading away ever so slowly, reaching its maximum when another attack of the syndicate gets launched at them, right after Faye makes her comeback to the crew (“Oh well, it was going to happen sooner or later”). However, Faye mentioning the possibility of meeting Julia once again, at the said venue that was planned in the past before Vicious interfered, does give Spike hope once again, not only perceptible in mimic, but also the general comeback of his attitude of “pushing through”, when directly confronted with problems unleashed by his past. The final push Spike needed to get his will back was Jet, furtherly encouraging him when he’s seen the spark of life coming back into Spike by the sole mention of his beloved one (“Go grasp that thing that you have lost”), all meanwhile Vicious manages to take over control of the syndicate by the means of a double-coup, setting up the stage perfectly for (one of) the most memorable finales in anime history. Along with Julia’s death in episode #26 and the confrontation of Spike and Faye right before the final showdown, adding their individual progress, but greatly differing conclusions both characters have made for themselves, the final episode delivers a conclusion which does not disappoint in any way and reaches a catharsis that feels both personal and incredibly uplifting, considering the events leading up to it.
Over the course of this review, I mostly did praise Bebop above and beyond heavens and while I still tried to reflect a lot of reoccurring points of criticism based on the fact, that these rather serve as minor criticisms or even nitpicks, because of how incredibly much the show exceeds them in other (and even related) levels. There’s still a somewhat fair point to be made for most of them, since they can greatly influence a show’s personal appeal and investment, basically the name of game for Bebop. Although the argument of inconsistent quality can be dismissed by the show’s episodic nature, it’s true that there are similar anime (like Mushishi) in terms of narrative, which are a little more consistent over the course of their runtime, but also never reach the greatness of Bebop’s best episodes and interconnectivity, making it even more difficult on how to evaluate “quality” in this precedent matter.
With all things said and done, I may just come to the general conclusion, that Cowboy Bebop is an absolute must-watch for fans of episodic-storytelling, Western-influenced style, incredible character-depth being explored in a more than interestingly unique way and both, one of the rawest emotional experiences and the most excellently cathartic ending in Anime I've seen so far, almost certain that I could change the last four words to "of all time" as well. Perfectly crafted and meaningful in what it set out to do and achieve, Bebop will most certainly never die, as an all-time classic or in my heart.
You’re Gonna Carry That Weight.
Art (10/10), Animation (10/10)
Story, Character, and Enjoyment: 10/10 Drama Llama?
Cowboy Bebop is probably the most amazing anime I have had the privilege of watching. Even now, seven years after watching it for the first time I am having difficulty putting it into words. What is so unique about it is how the episodes don't link together, but instead mainly focus on a character or two. Director Shinichiro Watanabe did such an amazing job flushing out the characters whether the current episode shows them living their day-by-day life in the present, or delving into a certain characters unique past it really makes the Cowboy Bebop universe seem tangible.
Unfortunately this is also Cowboy Bebop's downfall. Not because it's bad, but because so many people pass this by thinking it has no story. To those that think this is the case I encourage you to go back, and watch the whole thing. Not only does this anime give you the most amazing character development it manages to weave in a story along the way right under your nose. Until the last two episodes hit, then you will understand what it was all about. When it was all said and done for me my first time through, and the series came to an end, I felt like I had just witnessed my best friend get run over by a bus. Most people probably think that sounds terrible, but it takes something truly great to yank that much emotion out of you.
Animation: 10/10 Keepin' it real.
CB's animation is truly something to behold. It matches very well with the character development in making the whole series seem tangible. Character proportions are well regulated, and maintained through the whole thing. Which is very important to me in an anime. It does a much better job then huge block buster animes being released now, e.g. Naruto/Bleach.
When you speak about animation of CB you definitely have to speak of the action sequences. The gunfights, and hand-to-hand combat are superb. Spike constantly gets injured also making it seem much more realistic, and interesting. The best part though about them is there is hardly any bullshit talking interrupting the action. I don't know about you, but I hate when two characters stop in the middle of a fight to drink some tea, and have a ten minute conversation, emo flash-back included. I could go on and on, but then what would be the point of you watching it.
Sound: 10/10 The hills are alive...
Tank! is absolutely the only anime music I will ever have included in my play-list. Which says a lot, because normally when I start an episode of something fresh off the torrents I pretty much skip past the opening theme. That being said, CB is deeply rooted in Jazz music, but it all sounds beautiful when played side by side with the anime. I've never been much a musician, but I do know what I enjoy, and what I don't enjoy. It all sounds excellent, and I'm not a big jazz fan at all. Not to mention Yoko Kanno mentioned to slap some Pink Floyd into episode 20, Perriot le Fou. Don't believe me? Go pop in Dark Side of the Moon, and skip to track 2.
Overall Cowboy Bebop is one big tribute to many cultures. Whether it be John Woo style gun fights, the Indian sitting in his tee-pee with his playstation, 1337 haxxors, or the Japanese's immense fear of dieing. There is a lot that Cowboy Bebop parodies while still managing to keep itself original. I'm tired of all the dime-a-dozen anime characters. E.g. the clumsy yet dormant super powerful main character, or the silent bad ass who's family died, and is in all reality an emo kid screaming out for attention. I've seen both these character types a hundred times over. This is why I idolize Cowboy Bebop, and truly believe that it is the best anime of all time.
I hear so often from ppl saying Cowboy Bebop is the "absolute best" anime ever made. maybe 10 years ago, but Cowboy Bebop is soooo far from that title now. So my post here will be blatantly contrasted from this point of view to compensate, rather than being more of a middle ground review that i otherwise might have written.
I think most ppl are still inflating the ratings on this series due to it being a landmark or a breakthrough. it can hardly be argued to keep it in that position after so may great other animes have come out. Take Samurai Champloo alone, which
is done by the same director, has the same format, and even uses the same type of character molds. that is clearly way more amazing (not just cz of modern graphics but in many many other respect as well) than CB.
It's not "so cool" it's as typical as an anime can get. People say just chilling out in space, and doing fun episodic things is so amazing and novel, but it's totally not! it's the most overdone setting ever. I just don't understand why ppl think it's so new. Despite all that, if a series is still enjoyable, then hey, what works works, but Cowboy Bebop didn't blow me away in this department either. My level of enjoyment was pretty average, if not below.
and no, the charcter development is not outstanding either. many other animes do a way better job. that buff older guy is hardly developed. only the girl is somewhat interesting. the younger kid is just weird that it makes her seem a non-person. Spice and Wolf, K-On, Lucky Star, Samurai Champloo, even Bleach for many of the characters (not all) have better character development than Cowboy Bebop.
setting original? give me a break! space travelers. bounty hunters? how more commonplace can you get?
legend of galactic heroes, stargate,
no plot, character driven (supposedly):
samurai champloo, lucky star, k-on
one piece, star wars
Samurai Champloo has a similar format as this but actually IS "so cool". the atmosphere, the aura, the music actually is great. cowboy bebop is a pale attempt that doesn't cut it the way Samurai Champloo does
cowboy bebop fans, there is no way this series deserves to be on the pedestal that it has been placed on surprisingly. There's nothing unique about this, there's nothing ultra novel about it. Why do you insist that it is?
I was scared to touch this anime. Despite the reviews, despite my friend's sage advice, despite everything, I resisted for months. I didn't want to dive into something that showed only on Adult Swim at 2 in the morning on weekdays. It didn't seem like the kind of show I wanted to watch. I want to see the latest and greatest, the anime that grab the headlines, that are here and now, that are modern and are visually appealing. Cowboy Bebop didn't seem to me like it fit into any category I ever liked either. Western styled mixed with space drama? How can that even
mix? Old style animation from the late 90s? Kinda makes me think of Hey Arnold and those other shows. It just didn't seem to fit the mood I currently reside in. And then I picked up the first episode. And I am a changed man.
First, some background: it's a simple enough story. Spike and Jet, two oddities that somehow coexist inside the same spaceship, are partnered together in the pursuit of so-called bounties (fitting the western theme), and thus are called bounty hunters. Along the way in the beginning, they pick up some more companions to put the word "rag-tag" to shame: Faye Valentine, a debt-ridden woman who has forgotten her past, Ed (Edward), the pre-teen genius girl with computers, and Ein, the genetically enhanced and intelligent Corgi. The five travel the stars, attempting to gain bounties, but the results are....somewhat mixed.
I was skeptical. I truly was. I never liked western films, and I never cared for the themes and such of the Ol' Wild West. But the meld of science fiction with modern amenities really hit home. I could actually relate to the story, and oh what a story it was. Besides being such a motley bunch, they often were never agreeable and seemed to barely hold the peace in Jet's ship Bebop. But something about the way the story was told, how each character's mysterious past seemed to interfere with the present. Half of the series wasn't really fighting for bounties, but trying to bury or avoid their individual past without notifying or effecting the other persons aboard the ship, to no avail. It was interesting, then, when the past comes back to haunt you: nothing is as it seems on the surface, and when the past scratches at its coffin, you better be there with a nail or sig-sauer.
I must say, at first it was hard to....understand and perceive the old-style animation. This made me want to turn it off and watch the anime of today. But you got used to it real quick. And I must say, for something almost two decades old, it's gorgeous. The lighting, the style, the drawings, the shades, the colors, the environment...It was hard not to notice the variety of places the art alluded to, and of course the western touch with the deserts and saloons and gunfights and such. I loved every bit of it, and remember, I hate the west. The spaceships juxtaposed next to the average car and the old-fashioned lighters lighting old-fashioned cigarettes created this interesting mood and ambiance, one I hadn't felt....ever. It was surreal.
Alright, before you blast me with why it isn't perfect, it wasn't. But it was damn near perfect. Jazz? Blues? Fast-paced music? Are those ENGLISH lyrics? Yes they all are here, for you, the watcher, to enjoy. Every major scene had a fast-paced song, and many a time it was in English. The producers and editors and such probably drew much of their inspiration from the American West, and it showed well in the sound. The OP was fast-paced and well executed, and the ED was nostalgic sounding and epic. But I didn't get too focused on the petty ending and beginning; it was the background music I'm talking about. Beautiful, beautiful salute to the American west and native American music. I couldn't get enough, especially when the main characters are so motley, the odd choice of music just made the mood that much better. And why stop there? The voice actors should be praised, no given medals, their acting was so good. It wasn't even the way each character spoke, but when each character decided to show his or her true nature to the viewer before quickly covering it up; beautiful just beautiful.
Oh how I would rate this higher if I could. I've never had such deep characters before, such amazingly portrayed people. Pretend each character is a book: Spike would be a carefree one, its leather new, its polish gleaming. Jet would be gruff and rough on the edges, worn from time. Faye's would be delicate, with an evil-looking cover that betrays evil, and so on. But as you delve deeper in the story and therefore each character's secret past, the books become much different: Spike's becomes worn and rough, like Jet's, frayed on the outside, with a hole punched straight through the middle. Jet's would be more worn, yet have a soft spot in the middle. Faye's would have a huge question mark from chapter 1 to somewhere around the middle, then soften into a golden hue. Seems stupid, but I ain't spoiling anything. But honestly, each of these characters deserves his or her own biography; each story, so different from each other, yet they all come back to haunt them in the present. And as each character deals with their ghosts, they must make a tough decision: to let the ghost keep haunting them, or to finally put it all to rest? If you don't like extended analogies, then go watch Cowboy Bebop and skip my review. Time's a wastin'.
When I think of Cowboy Bebop, I don't think of old, garish, rubbish pictures of grainy animation and slipshod storylines made to fit the mass audience it tries and fails to appeal to. What I see now is a masterpiece that will last the ages - and I should have known better if an anime gets a English adaptation and is shown in America for over a decade it should be pretty freaking good. And I finally digress; if I am not able to convince you to watch the show by now, I have failed as a reviewer because, if anything, this was the best show I've ever watched. I can't say that for anything else, because I'm one of those people that says everything is his favorite show. But this easily trumps all that. See you later, Space Cowboy.
I have been putting Cowboy Bebop off for a month or two, watching an episode here, watching an episode there, dropping it, putting it on hold, picking it back up again, etc. It's a little hard to get into considering it is solely character driven from the first episode on, and since you don't even find out...anything...about the characters until the tenth or so episode, there isn't much to work off of in the "do I or don't I" character like/attachment department.
Story-wise, Cowboy Bebop doesn't actually have any past 4, maybe 5, episodes overall. It is episodic, some of the 20 minute plotlines a
hit, and others a miss. Some are character-based, some are silly (the fridge will get cleaned out more often now if I have anything to say about it), and some are serious. Once you finally hit the actual "story" of Cowboy Bebop near the end, it is amazing how well they managed to set it up and run it so smoothly without much priorly given information.
It took me until the last day I decided to just sit down and watch the last seven episodes to decide if I just meh liked, or loved, the characters. I've settled into a happy medium. Everyone down to Ein have a sort of apathetic depth that makes them feel all the more real. They have flaws, they have personalities, they work well together. Sometimes it's hard to remember they are fictional because of how naturally they act.
Overall, Cwboy Bebop delivers enjoyment of not being a "this is what we learned today" anime, but also not a shallow, "who cares" anime. It has a level of depth where it gives off a "this is what's going on and we don't care if you have an issue with it" feel, something that made it boring, or extra good, depending on my mood. It's a good one to try and see, and it's also a good one to watch over a period of time, and give a couple of chances. It definitely has a bit of everything, from silly to downright creepy, and even if you don't like it as a whole, you will probably find at least one episode that suits your tastes.
Manga, Anime: Cowboy Bebop has two manga incarnations to its name. The first, with the same title as the show, is a manga adaptation of the anime, with story by Hajime Yamate and art by Yutaka Nanten, and ran in Kadokawa Shoten's Asuka Fantasy DX magazine from April 1998 to April 2000. The second, titled Cowboy Bebop: Shooting Star, is a retelling of the anime, done by Cain Kuga, and also ran in Asuka Fantasy DX during 1997. Both have been licensed Stateside by Tokyopop, and the release date for the third and second and final volumes for both were
August 20th, 2002, and June 10th, 2003.
The anime itself ran for twenty-six episodes, though it originally had a disrupted run on TV Tokyo from April 3rd to June 19th, 1998, before airing in full on a disrupted broadcast schedule on the satellite network WOWOW from October 23rd, 1998 to April 23rd, 1999. It was produced by Sunrise (famous for their work on Inuyasha and the Gundam series), and directed by Shinichiro Watanabe (famous for his work on Macross Plus and Samurai Champloo). It was licensed Stateside by Bandai Entertainment, and the box set of the Remix episodes (which was also the version I watched) was released on February 5th of this year (2008). There is a movie that was released not long after the series ended, which I will cover later in the review.
Story: It's the year 2071 AD, and mankind has colonized the entire solar system. Spike Spiegel is a Cowboy (this era's term for bounty hunters) who works with Jet Black to track down bounties and struggle to live off of them. Along the way, they pick up a few extra people and their pasts are bought to light.
Cowboy Bebop is, for the most part, a bounty of the week episode, with some minor continuing threads. All in all, it's done pretty well, with bounties delving into the pasts of characters, and being just interesting in general. The characters are an interesting bunch of people, with Ed taking the cake as crack in human form. :P
Some will complain that the plot in the last two episodes comes out of nowhere, but they're a bit inaccurate there; the threads have been building up in episodes here and there throughout the show, though they are admittedly a bit scattered.
Art: The show's a bit dated, obviously. But, compared to other shows that were airing around that time (Ruroni Kenshin, Beserk), the animation is pretty good. The designs for characters are very well done, and the designs for the ships and all the backgrounds in particular are amazingly detailed.
Music: Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts did the work for this soundtrack, and it's absolutely amazing. There's so much variety in all the variations on jazz and blues that they do for this, and it's amazingly catchy. This was one of the first soundtracks I actively noticed in a show and tried to find.
They also did work on the OP, "Tank!" (which Baccano! takes a cue from) and ED, "The Real Folk Blues", both of which are instantly memorable and fit the series quite well.
Length: I liked sixteen out of the twenty-six total episodes, and the series probably would've done well to keep those episodes in the long run and cut the rest. Still, all in all, that's a pretty good percentage.
Seiyuu: Megumi Hayashibara (famous for her roles as Rei Ayanami in Evangelion and Atsuko Chiba and Paprika in Paprika) plays Faye Valentine in this, and Jouji Nakata appears in a minor role. I admire Ed's seiyuu for being able to capture the sheer crazy of her character. All in all, a pretty good job.
Voice Actors: Cowboy Bebop was one of the first anime I watched, back when it was regularly airing on Adult Swim. When I went back to watch it, I found that, all things considered, the voice actors did a pretty good job with their roles. The voices weren't quite the same, but, all in all, still fit the characters pretty well. One of the better dubs I've seen out there.
Dub: Looking back on the dub, it was one of the better dubs I saw back when I was first getting into anime. A few lines of dialogue were altered in the English version, and some minor edits were made so that it was able to air on TV, but compared to DiC's butchering of Sailor Moon, it was a pretty good job. If only they could've all been this good.
Overall: A well-done show, with an episodic plot that delves into it's character's past that sporadically builds to the conclusion, detailed animation, amazing music, and a pretty good dub.
"Well here’s another great moment in the legend of Spike, famous bounty hunter and dog walker."
Due to my increasingly robust backlog I rarely take the opportunity to rewatch an anime. For the sake of Cowboy Bebop, one of my few critically acclaimed series, I decided to make an exception. My re-analysis was sparked by a conversation I had recently with a friend, in which she asked me what I loved so much about the series. For some reason, I couldn't rattle off a list or even a few distinct reasons as to why I hold the series in such high regard. This led me
to grow curious of my thoughts if I gave it a re-watch. This was my gateway anime, the series that truly drew me to the medium in the first place, and I find it only fair to remove the nostalgia goggles for a bit and give this series a second look. Did it stand the test of time? Is it still a 10 out of 10? Well, there's only one way to find out. I'm reviewing this from a purely critical standpoint so it may get rather lengthy. Minor spoilers ahead.
Although it debuted in the late 90s, I was first introduced to Bebop about a decade ago, the summer of my junior year in high school (I realize I just dated myself). Up until that time I had always looked at anime as gimmicky or childish, cartoons lacking intellectual plot lines and flooded with girls sporting cat ears, with ultraviolent shock factor. When I had discovered Adult Swim on Cartoon Network, I was ecstatic. I would willingly stay up into the wee hours of the morning powering through shows like Bebop, Outlaw Star and Samurai Champloo, expanding my anime resume and loving every second of it. I think specifically in Bebop's case, the anime is subconsciously praised more for what it accomplished rather than its content. It helped spark a western anime revolution with entertainment fans in Europe and North America, creating a series approved by both avid anime connoisseurs and casual viewers. Not only did Bebop succeed, but it did so without tasteless fan service, harems, bad English voice acting or most anything else Americans commonly complain about in anime. In retrospect, I am so grateful to this series for opening my eyes to the medium and showing me how enjoyable anime can truly be.
When it comes to plot content, Cowboy Bebop is actually kind of bare-bones. The over-arcing storyline serves more as a backdrop then a focal point of the series. Spike Spiegel, a lethargic space bounty hunter stricken by the grief of losing his lover collects rewards from nabbing various criminals around the galaxy. His partner, Jet Black acts as the perfect balance in personality to Spike, exuding wisdom as well as common sense. They encounter a seemingly insurmountable amount of bad luck, pick up more crewmembers and come to terms with the ghosts of their past. Those ghosts are perhaps stronger for no one other than Spike, who has thoughts of his mistresse's killer looming in the back of his mind, waiting for a final battle with a one time friend spanning the length of the galaxy. Spike even sports a fake eye, a testament to his imperfection.
Throughout Spike and Jet's escapades in space, Cowboy Bebop explores a plethora of themes including loss, existentialism and loneliness. Each episode ebbs and flows with distinct tonal shifts accompanied by peppy jazz medleys along the way. The editing is quite fluid. I've always enjoyed the way this era of anime (Serial Experiments Lain, Visions of Escaflowne etc.) would create points of pondering or intellectual thought and didn't just slam the subject matter in your face. Although the anime is episodic in nature, this almost works to its advantage, adding snippets of various symbolism in its environment and dialogue. Even more cheeky episodes like the one where the crew discovers psychedelic mushrooms, help to illustrate the boredom one must face in the life of space. There are even moments where characters seem to be intoxicated or having some sort of transcendental experience, crafted almost entirely by the mind's ability to meander basically anywhere. Viewers have the unique ability to witness these themes vicariously through the crew and sympathize with them accordingly. This is definitely a quality of the anime I didn't appreciate the first time I watched it, but now that I'm older I do.
Another portion that works towards Cowboy Bebop's advantage is the lack of internal monologue with the characters. Instead of overtly telling the viewer what each character is thinking, the writers leave the inferring to our own minds. It's what some critics like to call the "intelligence test" with movies and TV alike. Sometimes monologues can detract from a series if not done properly or too often by taking the viewer out of an analytic role. Similar to this is how the entire environment is constructed. Everything feels very matter-of-fact, much like you're just dropping in as a fly on the wall with little or no introduction to the setting. The narrative is never ruined by a character abruptly stopping to explain something, which would be entirely unnecessary based on how well everything is illustrated in Cowboy Bebop. It gives you a warm fuzzy for how real life in futuristic space would be like. Even as the show concluded, with the lead character's fate being in question, there was no long drawnout speech, just the ending scenes for the viewers to decide the overall outcome. Bebop ends up being that show that can either be watched all at once or at a 1 to 2 episode a night speed. It's perfect to enjoy after a long day at school or work or just wanting to relax and enjoy some good quality entertainment.
In a perfect world an anime would balance intellectual and story driven elements with finesse. Unfortunately, this is one area that Cowboy Bebop suffers. If you don't appreciate the characters or get interested in the symbolism side of things, there isn't much else left to keep the anime afloat. Lucky for me I was able to appreciate the references and themes more this time around, so it didn't putter out or feel boring to me. There were instances where I became distracted, which were annoying, causing me to skip back and there aren't a lot of times where I was glued to my seat with excitement. It's one of those shows where you have to sit back and just take it all in, which isn't necessarily for everyone. The episodic approach offers multiple vignettes where a story is built up and concluded, all in 20 minutes. This is a difficult task to tackle, which often lead to creating many one-dimensional villains and making me feel quite unattached from their cause, whatever it may have been. The ending also appeared to be more of a plot convenience than a justifiable conclusion. It's almost as though Shinichiro Watanabe (director) ran out of storyboard and decided to put into place a rather cliche' ending on the series. These negatives stand out like a scratch on a new car, as they prevent the series from truly being a masterpiece. Most people would be apt to forget about these points however, since the general consensus is that Bebop is the pinnacle of Japanese animation.
The characters and Cowboy Bebop are undoubtedly one of the stronger points of the series. Watanabe did a great job of portraying the characters as relative opposites, in both demeanor and appearance. Spike is clean-cut with a dry personality, while Jet is patriarchal and political with a more rugged attire. Apparently Watanabe originally designed Spike to wear an eye patch, but the producers wrote it off early in development. Honestly, Jet serves as the entire parental unit a board the crew's ship. He's responsible, he cooks and is in charge of overseeing all the major repairs the ship undergoes. Faye, described by her Japanese voice actor as an "ugly" woman, does a fantastic job causing trouble and avoiding basically any responsibility for it. However, her enigmatic past makes her rather redeemable as a character and leaves a large area open for interpretation. There really isn't a heavily endowed, brain dead dame in Bebop. Speaking of enigmatic, the androgynous Ed has some mysteries of his own... or should I say "her" own. Dopey and unpredictable are just a few words to describe the hacker. Apparently, Ed's personality was crafted based on Yoko Kanno, the notorious composer of Bebop's OST. She must have been one interesting woman. Oddly enough, Watanabe originally proposed Ed as a male, but was gender swapped to even out the sausage fest. And let's not forget the most adorable anime pet in existence, Ein... the laziest/cutest data dog in the galaxy. Each of the characters exhibit some robust skeletons from their past and experience obvious signs of boredom and abandonment along the way. Spike's intriguing involvement with his rival Vicious is fueled by rage and revenge, two qualities not normally promulgated in Spike's personality. At the same time, It's a relationship I feel could've been expanded upon a little more. There are too many anime that falter when giving proper depth to antagonists, and Cowboy Bebop succumbs to the same issue.
If you hadn't already realized, the music is vital to Cowboy Bebop's storytelling and scene progression. Jazzy, upbeat tunes are juxtaposed with hand to hand combat and perilous situations, but everything seemed to click. Yoko Kanno had worked wonders with Sunrise Animations, and Bebop is quite possibly her magnum opus. It's one of the few anime soundtracks I could listen to standalone, without people questioning what the hell I was listening to. It truly sounds like tracks out of a movie. Both the English and Japanese voice acting is impeccable, with props given to our lord and savior, Stephen Blum for his portrayal of Spike and Melissa Fahn as Edward. The OP is iconic, with superb, James Bond-like animation and the ED never really aged poorly for me. Overall, many present day anime could learn a thing or two about Bebop's music and how important it is to the series. Without the soundtrack, this anime would "ok" at best. Animation has already been covered briefly, but I reiterate how well the artists created such a vivid depiction of space and the future. The character models were all very unique and their faces were emblazoned with personality.
Although I still very much appreciate this anime, I didn't enjoy it as much the second time around. Maybe it was half out of expectation or previous involvement, but something didn't feel as interesting to me. Still, I would urge just about any anime fan to check out the series if not already done. If for no other reason than to experience how great this time period was for anime in general, and how it paved the way for the growing industry. Like I previously stated, most people my age hold the series in such high regard due to pure nostalgia or how it opened their eyes to the medium of anime, I know it did for me. It's a series you can sit down and talk about even with non-anime fans, and believe me that's hard to find. I would prefer the series not be remade, as Watanabe suggests, but would be interested in a western, live-action adaptation. I think a successful American release of Ghost In The Shell will open the flood gates for future adaptations. As always, thanks for reading the review and be sure to check out my other works!
I'm not one to jump on the hype train. I try to not get high hopes for anything, because usually you are going to be let down. I've heard the praise for this show so many times over the years. Google "Top Ten Anime Series" and almost every list will have Bebop in it, usually at #1. So I went in hesitantly, and I've gotta tell you...
Cowboy Bebop is a goddamn masterpiece.
Each episode is usually standalone. That right there tends to steer a lot of would-be viewers away from this series. Even I was a bit hesitant to plunge into a show with an episodic
structure. But I'll tell you, this show really pulls it off. There are a few episodes that connect together, but for the most part, it's a standalone affair.
The series follows the bounty hunting crew of the good ship Bebop in the year 2071. It depicts their daily lives as bounty hunters, as well as giving us insight into their pasts. Most episodes or "sessions" as they are called, tend to focus on the crew attempting to secure a bounty. This might sound a tad bit repetitive, but I swear it's not. The sheer unpredictability and creativity that is put into each session assures the audience that things will never get boring.
The strength of the show really isn't in its plot, though. It's the characters that drive the series forward. They are all incredibly well developed, which is an amazing feat due to the episodic nature of the show. Each of the four principle characters are completely different, and they all feel real and authentic.
Them all being squeezed into one ship creates a brilliant stew of character interaction. Their ideals and viewpoints clash on the regular, which creates some interesting scenes. They also bond over time, even though some of the characters try their best to hide it.
Their pasts are also heavily explored, as one of the recurring themes throughout the show is that your past will always catch up with you. This applies more to the central character, Spike Spiegel, more than the rest however. Each member of the main cast gets a few episodes specifically focusing on them, adopting a flashback format. These are generally the best episodes of the show, in my opinion.
I fell in love with these characters, and it was heartbreaking to see them go through so many ordeals. Spike, Jet, Faye, and Ed won't leave your mind for a long time after you finish the show.
The art and animation are incredibly good for its time. There are some series now that fail to reach Bebop's level of artistic beauty and fluid animation. For example, Trigun, which came out around the same time, is nothing compared to Sunrise's work on Bebop. The art isn't too flashy, but it perfectly creates a realistic space western feel. You feel like this world has been lived in, and things aren't always pretty. The character designs in particular are impressive, as each member of the cast has a different and recognizable look.
The animation is flawless. Absolutely flawless. This is expertly conveyed in the action scenes, which have a naturalistic and fluid feel to them that is rarely achieved in anime. The only flaw on the art and animation fronts is the computer generated graphics that are used several times during the show. They look out of place and don't really meld well with the environments, but hey, the show came out in 1998! I think I can cut it some slack. Still worth mentioning though.
The soundtrack is where this show excels at a level I don't think I've ever heard before. The mix of jazz and blues, with a little bit of classic rock thrown in brings the show to life. It fits the mood of the show perfectly, even though it might sound odd for a science fiction show. It works, though, I swear it. As a testament to its greatness, I'm listening to the soundtrack right now, as I write this review. Props to Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts, for real. I mean, "Space Lion" is one of the greatest tracks I've ever heard.
The English dubbing of this show is in a class of its own. It fits the show perfectly, with each cast member giving it their all. I don't know how good the Japanese audio track is, but it's going to be hard to beat this. It's fucking unbelievable. I mean, Steve Blum kills it.
This show is considered a classic today. I had heard all the praise. Not once did I buy it. I went into this show thinking that it probably wasn't going to live up to its praise. I was wrong. Dead wrong.
The sophistication of it's themes and characters are unrivaled in anime. The beautiful art and stunning animation. The wonderful soundtrack. The great ending. Oh yes, the ending. It's a stunning conclusion that managed to wow me and break my heart at the same time. This is animation at its finest.
For reference, here are my top five favorite episodes:
5. Waltz for Venus/Pierrot Le Fou
4. Hard Luck Woman
3. Ballad of Fallen Angels
2. Jupiter Jazz (Parts I & II)
1. The Real Folk Blues (Parts I & II)