Title: Cowboy Bebop
Format: 26 episodes
Dates: 3 Apr 1998 – 23 Apr 1999
Synopsis: The year, 2071. With the rapid expansion in space colonization, it became necessary to create instant travel between planets. The result was a number of subspace gateways; however, inadvertently, an accident during construction caused great damage to the Earth. In this time, criminals thrive across the solar system, and someone needs to clean up what the authorities cannot: bounty hunters. Among these are former mobster Spike Spiegel and former police officer Jet Black. Along with gambler Faye Valentine and hacker Edward, they put the law in their hands, for the safety of others, to reconcile their pasts, and most importantly, to put food on the table.
Soundtrack: Brilliant Kanno Yoko jazz style.
Animation: Fluid like water.
Characters: Quirky, dynamic, and just plain likable.
Style: Amazingly unique.
The one drawback: Could have gone on longer.
I know, a great soundtrack, awesome fight scenes, and downright good characters, there’s gotta be a catch. Not this time. At the twilight of the 20th century, anime was at its peak giving rise to Cowboy Bebop, a series that went above and beyond all expectations. Aside from one minute, yet potentially critical flaw, the viewer is left satisfied on all levels. Perhaps I’m just being nostalgic because this was the first anime I watched which wasn’t some Saturday morning bastardization. But there’s more to this than that.
The first thing I would have to say about Bebop is that it’s got class. I don’t think there is any musical genre Kanno Yoko can’t do. The blues create a perfect atmosphere, and even on its own it’s a treat to listen to. Much like Escaflowne‘s(1,2) epic chorus and Turn A Gundam’s folksy bluegrass, one is entranced by the score to the point that you might as well be at the symphony. In all honesty, the first time I heard Bebop’s music, I had no idea that it was from an anime soundtrack, and boy was I surprised hearing it in the series.
Visually, the series is stunning, with a style that seems unique to anime. Despite being science fiction, many parts give off an early 20th century jazzy vibe, which complements the story and music well. However, when the animation needs to show its sci-fi face the moment is captured so perfectly. And it doesn’t just look good, it moves well too. Many anime boast about their amazing fight scenes but few deliver. The action here is fast paced, engaging, and totally void of stock footage.
However, this is all icing on the cake. Where Cowboy Bebop delivers more than just about anything else is in its characters. Spike Spiegel is the ultimate badass, rivaled by very few. The rest of the main cast is just as good including the well developed Faye, Radical Edward, and Jet who emits rays of awesomeness. Beyond being likable and interesting, the characters also succeed relationship wise. Chemistry between the Bebop crew is pure, lacking even a single forced moment. The only characterization I’ve seen that rivals this is probably Planetes.
Bebop also has one of the most fun and addicting plots in anime. The idea itself is simple; however, it is compelling as well. The compelling characters at the helm make you interested in their dreams and situations. The series is full of good examples of episodic stories. One, for example, involves Ed’s misadventures while chasing a narcotics dealer in a setting closely resembling the Wild West, while another involves a sympathetic story set on Venus involving Spike’s interactions with a man who wants to learn martial arts from him… for very personal reasons that Spike discovers later. These are just a few of the great stories and great characters that result in some of the most memorable moments ever to be shown on the small screen.
Cowboy Bebop was so well done that I just didn’t want it to end. There was so much to it, but at lot more could have been possible. It didn’t help that Spike’s story felt a little incomplete. Not bagging on the ending, it was excellent, but I can only imagine how much richer the series would have been given another five to ten episodes. What I personally experienced was similar to when I watched Fafner, being so entranced, so connected that I wished it could go on much longer. Alas, that is a sign of good storytelling which I can forgive, especially with a standalone movie that came later. I could go on forever, the epic moments, the fun battles, the dub that was as good (maybe better) than the original. But I digress, this review is starting to go overboard. I bid you ado, until next time, space cowboy.
The Rating: 10
Reviewed by: Kavik Ryx