Cowboy Bebop, A Journey of the Blues

A brief, spoiler-free review of the 26-episode spring 1998 anime “Cowboy Bebop,” produced by Sunrise, based on the original story by Shinichiro Watanabe.

Come 2071, planet Earth is not the only home for humans. Most of the solar system has been colonized leaving a densely polluted Earth left behind. With a series of space gates that facilitate quick n’ easy cosmic travel, criminals cower to the deepest corners of space while mafias run rampant in the back alleys of distant planets. The Inter Solar System Police can only extend its justice so far, and as a result outlaw bounty hunters AKA “Cowboys” are deployed to muddy their hands with a huge cash reward dangling in front of their noses.

For cowboys Spike Spiegel and Jet Black, a single woolong (a dumb penny) is enough elicit risking their lives in chasing bounties and hauling dinner. Born as men for the good of the cause, life aboard the Bebop goes south when the ship recruits three new members that will eventually detour its steady course: Ein, the last purebred Welsh Corgi; Faye Valentine, a formidable and seductive cowgirl in her own right, yet currently searching for her elusive past; and Ed, a bizarre lil’ fella’ who knows how to use a computer quite well . . . scary well, actually.

bebop

As the eccentric crew aboard the Bebop get themselves into all sorts of mayhem, we gradually uncover the shady events that brought them all together.

There are two reasons Cowboy Bebop has withstood the test of time. One is that the animation by Sunrise is stunning and artistic, encompassing more meaningful symbolism and well-choreographed action scenes in the first episode alone than what I’ve seen in entire shows as of late! Two is the fact that its episodic rhythm followed up with its smooth flow of fragmented “memories” detailing the characters’ bygone lives is more than well-written. It’s brilliant, mostly because it doesn’t feel artificial; by the halfway point, we feel the passionate weight these characters are dragging with them, and how their past influences their present choices. Though the story doesn’t get kickin’ until episode five, the action-packed opening episodes are an amusing gateway to the show’s darker themes.

Bebop is not, however, a mind-blowing series of bleak revelations, but a journey cram packed with themes that jive with the soul. It is much more light-hearted, with enough emotional weight to rub the heart in a melancholic way—much like warm chicken soup or a deep blues tune would do—yet not enough turn off the viewer. You can feel this impact with the leads themselves, the subtle placing of the classic jazz-inspired episode titles, or the bluesy soundtrack masterfully composed by Yoko Kanno. All three work together to provoke sorrow, joy, regret, reminiscence, and wonder, in a futuristic world driven by detached hearts and jazz music.

Bebop‘s ending, which perfectly captures the nature of the show.

Most of the light-hearted nature of Bebop comes from the goofy or sassy interactions shared among the crew. Spike (dubbed “Cabbage Head” by my sister) is a way-too-lax and easily irritable man with a particularly complex history that frequently bumps heads with the present. His roots to the mafia come back to haunt him (like the mafia typically does), and his development is found in the monumental decisions he’ll be forced to make regarding the safety of the crew—and that of his own life.

Jet is an ex-cop now bounty hunter. ‘Nuff said. If Spike is the ill-tempered dad who always leaves the house for personal biz, then Jet is that mom who A) won’t tolerate your shit, and B) will cook dinner each night if YOU buy the ingredients. Rough around the edges, yet the one with the biggest heart, Jet serves the plot by being restrictor of reckless actions, even though he occasionally loses his temper. He holds Spike and Faye back from doing stupid stuff that could get them all killed, and as such plays a necessary role for this ragtag crew.

Lastly are the two sisters, one a troublesome teenager, the other a weird child. They are the tough-on-the-outside/terrible gambler Faye and the noodly Edward, and are mainly aboard to service the fans (Faye brings the sexy, Ed brings the laughs). While Faye will go on to have a much darker, richer past, Ed is pretty much there for the ride. The two share one thing in common, however, that being this common question burning the at back of their brains: “Why am I here, and where am I going?” It’s a romantic notion of growing up and dealing with acceptance. And that’s why they both work so well in Bebop—it’s the story of finding your place in this huge, cruel world.

Watching Cowboy Bebop is equivalent to revisiting an old website that you used to frequent back in the day, yet haven’t seen in ages. Does it feel nostalgic? Euphoric? A bit melancholic? Perhaps a bit of all three, but one theme Bebop enjoys feeding us is that internet is more than a tool—it can be a place for some, putting literal meaning to ‘home’ page. For me, this online café has given me a place to chat with and meet new friends. For the characters in the anime, the web is a place for an old man to play one last game of chess before giving his last breath, or for a disabled kid to vent his faith by becoming a God himself. It sounds a bit odd, but seriously, how much does the internet mean to you?

You should watch Cowboy Bebop because, in one way or another, it’s the story of our lives. Everything that challenges the Bebop crew and everyone they meet along the way represent a fragment of our deepest worries and regrets. Should you merely enjoy this anime for the comedy, then hey, that’s awesome, it’s got a lot of funny moments! But Bebop sure does have this genuine way of letting you know you’ve reached the end when it comes. With all of the interlaced light-hearted moments, it’s as if the show is reminding us that “Nope, sorry, this wasn’t the show you signed up for—and you know that.” Instead, you’re probably like myself and most Bebop fans, in that once it’s over, you’ll find yourself detached from the solar system, solemnly jiving to The Real Folk Blues.

“Life will challenge you to do things . . . sometimes, you just have to let go!” – Spike Spiegel

However you watch this anime, here’s advice straight from the Host: DO NOT string your viewings out for THREE months! It’s terrible! I endured this journey with my family, and being like all families, it’s hard to squeeze in quality movie time. But we did it, and now who knows what we’ll watch together, if anything. Rated a “Caffe Mocha” here, did you enjoy my review of this classically-acclaimed space western? Also, what’s your favorite aspect of Cowboy Bebop? Should it have lasted longer? I barely scraped the surface to avoid spoilers, but let’s talk about it in the comments! Thanks for reading and until next time, SEE YOU SPACE COWBOY . . .

– Takuto, your host

Advertisements

18 thoughts on “Cowboy Bebop, A Journey of the Blues

  1. I enjoyed Bebop so much that I cannot imagine stringing along my first viewing over the course of three months. That said, the show is mostly made up of one off tales so you can get away with watching installments sporadically.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh gosh, it was honestly the worst thing. It’d be like losing a toe each week and your family just keeps saying, “Oh, that sucks. You’ll be fine, though.” And here I am bleeding out on the floor with “Tank” in the background. Story of my life. But hey, glad to hear Bebop is a favorite of yours.

      Liked by 1 person

    • And that’s very true – Each viewing session did kind of add to the time lapse of the show. I can’t recall how long exactly the crew was together, but each of those single-story episodes really added to the unique experience. That’s quite rare, considering that shows nowadays are typically one long slew of plot with a beach episode somewhere in the middle. Bebop will make a nice watch on a nice hot summer day. Or perhaps, a chilly winter evening. Anytime, anywhere ~!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. OHMERGERD! I was fangirling through the entire post! I love the references you made! When I saw that the songs were here I freaked out,and almost immediately played Tank! I also did a post on Bebop! Here’s a link to it if you wanna check it out: https://throughtheeyesofanime.wordpress.com/2016/03/29/cowboy-bebop-review/
    Let me know what you think if you read it. I watched this God only knows how many times when I was little,and I started rewatching it for the second time at this age. I LOVE THIS SHOW!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, that’s awesome!! Thanks a ton 😀 I’m glad you gave “Tank” a listen, as that is the reason why I link these songs! I’ll probably rewatch Bebop sometime this summer, pending on the flow of things. It’s such a legendary show.
      I went over to read your post and left my thoughts there ^.^ I love it when people leave me with their reviews, it’s so cool that you did!!!

      Like

  3. Your colorful imagery and playful descriptions are so much fun to read, and I enjoyed this review a lot.

    However, I haven’t watched Cowboy Bebop, and for only one reason: the ending was spoiled for me. I was told that a certain major character dies in the final act of the show, and I’ve been reluctant to start it since. Do you think it’s still worth the ride? Because I love jazz, Yoko Kanno, and well-choreographed fights, I’m just so concerned that spoiler will nag at me for the run of the show.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well thank you for the compliments! I’m trying out this new style of writing, especially when it comes to character and plot thoughts. I’m glad to see the extra effort paid off.
      I’ll let you in on a secret: I, too, was spoiled by the Internet in Bebop’s ending, and that the story is actually a tragedy. Did that stop my enjoyment? Not a bit. In fact, it was cool (knowing what would happen) to see how the plot warns and foreshadows the end early on. The show is absolutely still worth it, and the fact that Yoko Kanno and cool fight sequences already jive with you is a huge plus. Go for it!

      Like

    • So you’re with the crowd that grew up with Bebop, fascinating. I’m glad you hold such a personal collection with an oldie like this. It helps when Sunrise keeps being awesome.
      I want to say sorry for tempting you . . . But then I think, “Nah, it’s worth the time XD!”

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ahahahaha! You’re so right about that. It’s worth the time. I’m taking a little break from anime at this moment. I got emotionally drained from watching nonstop Gundam some days ago (another Sunrise production, yay!). I’ll think about watching some episodes of Bebop when I’ve refueled. Thanks a lot for reminding me about this awesome series. Looking forward to rewatching it. Cheers, Takuto!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve been meaning to do a Gundam marathon, maybe this summer…? Hopefully you’ll find that bounce-back here soon. I know how draining these binges can be, especially if it’s mecha anime @_@ And haha, no problem! It is pretty darn awesome. Let me know if you ever decide to revisit the Bebop!

        Like

  4. I should probably rewatch Bebop xD I have no idea what went wrong in my first viewing of the show because I didn’t actually ‘get into the groove’ so to speak, or even catch on to its more elusive themes. That said, I remember its comedic moments and the whole fun of it all, and I think those stuck with me the most xD

    Great review Takuto! Always great to be reminded of how wide ranging your descriptions are, reading this on a Sunday morning 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ya know, sometimes all that comes to mind were the funny bits, like the mushroom incident with Ed and Ein. In fact, it took a bit to recall and sift through the heavier themes Bebop had while writing this review. My first viewing of Bebop was pretty rough, so I also look forward to rewatching the bits I didn’t quite grasp in the near future.
      And hey, that means a lot! A different kind of effort was placed in this one; it’s hard to write about an anime that’s been talked about for years without just adding to the less-than-noteworthy review stack. I went for a more lyrical approach, and it seems to have paid off for now XD. Thanks again Shiroyuni, Sundays are always great for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: End of April/Mid-May Update 5/24/16 | Takuto's Anime Cafe

  6. Pingback: Happy New Year! I’m Going to Try Harder in 2017! | Takuto's Anime Cafe

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s