I really should kick myself for not doing a piece on this sooner. I really do ask the forgiveness of my non-political readers for the long string of political posts, this has really been a politically charged year so far and it has been hard to do a lot of other posts. I have been playing video games less so some posts on games that I was planning to complete are sort of on hold. I have been watching a lot of anime though and rewatching some of my old favorites, and at some point in the near future hopefully, you can look forward to between 12 to 15 back to back weeks of UC Timeline Gundam which I will soon review. But for now, I hope you enjoy my meager offering of this classic from the golden age of anime.
Before I get to the plot I want to cover some of the most remarkable things that made this series great. As a 90’s kid, I am proud that I grew up during the golden age of anime even though my only contribution was my viewership. Cowboy Bebop was one of the crowning achievements towards the end of that age, a mix of classic western and sci-fi space opera. Most remarkable was the use of music as part of the framing of the story. Each episode explored fringe music styles such as Metal (Heavy Metal Queen), Blues (Sympathy for The Devil), Funk (Mushroom Samba), and most frequently Jazz and Bebop. In the Golden Age Tradition of shattering every boundary, this show redefined many. That’s why it will always remain in my top 10 favorites, it is a hard show to top and only a few have ever topped it since its debut in 1998.
In 2071 Humankind has inhabited the rocky planets, moons, and asteroids of the solar system with the help of a Hyperspace gate system. However, an accident with the gate exactly 50 years prior has left the Earth virtually uninhabitable. With mankind spread from Venus to Saturn crime has become a greater issue, leading to the Inter Solar System Police to push for the legalization of Bounty Hunters. With the task of bringing in criminals alive in exchange for money, Bounty Hunters are universally despised throughout the system by criminals, police, and everyday citizens. For them, space is a cold place to exist.
Nobody in their right minds would willingly live this kind of life, but nobody on the cruiser Bebop is really in their right minds. Not Spike Spiegel, a man who faked his own death and is on the run from the Red Dragon Syndicate. Not Jet Black, a former ISSP officer who quit in disgust over the general corruption in the organization. Not Ein, but he is just a genetically enhanced dog with super intelligence. Not Faye Valentine, she is just a con artist deep in debt who had been cryogenically frozen for over 50 years. And certainly not Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV, she is just a totally eccentric hacker from Earth who invented her own name. Together though these crazy beings are the best (well actually worst) Bounty Hunters in the Solar System.
Shinichiro Watanabe initially coined the tagline “A new Genre Unto Itself” to promote Cowboy Bebop, however, he later said this was an exaggeration. I have to disagree though, he was about right as Cowboy Bebop was a one of a kind mix of multiple genres that nobody, not even Watanabe-san himself, has ever been able to repeat much less exceed. The beauty of the show for me lies within this hopeful yet a dystopian vision of the future. On the one hand, humanity seems lost after being forced to part with their home planet, searching for meaning and a place to belong. On the other hand, there is hope to be found in humanities expansion to the stars and their will to survive and return to some semblance of normalcy.
Of course, the music cannot be discounted either. The series was almost experimental with its choice of background, barely recycling any themes and always coming into each episode with a fresh set of tracks. Yoko Kanno composed the music for the series and even formed the “Seatbelts” exclusively to perform the soundtrack for Cowboy Bebop. Later on, Watanabe described how Kanno’s composing heavily influenced the actual creative direction of the scenes. Rather than taking Watanabe’s direction, Kanno would often follow her inspiration and come back to Watanabe with a musical piece he was not expecting, and even though he didn’t ask for the piece just listening to it would inspire him to write entirely new scenes. He described it as a back and forth between them, so both the writing and the music drove the direction of the series. This symbiotic back and forth process really does make the anime a new type of genre that is not driven by just the story or the music.
I can’t really express how much I personally have enjoyed this series. It has actually gotten me through breakups and life failure with its deep and whimsical stories. Now approaching 20 years it has aged well and even today gets a late night run on Adult Swim. I highly suggest you buy a copy of this show. You’ll never regret it and never forget it.