It was kind of a debate for me to sit down and write this post (I’m lying, I’ve actually been looking forward to it the whole time), because when I think critically about Cowboy Bebop, I can’t help but ask “What right do I have to criticize this show?” Even then, what else is there even to SAY about this show? And so, the aim of this post is not to bring up new points or make weighty arguments for or against said points, but rather to indulge myself in writing whatever the hell I want about this classic, groundbreaking, beloved, idolized, influential anime.
The first thing that comes to mind for me when I think of Cowboy Bebop, having just recently finished it, is the ending. The second is the music.
Just getting this out of the way first so I can concentrate properly on the rest. Spoiler Warning. WHAT THE BUCK. What the HELL kind of an ending is that? Yeah, the ending of Phantom was irritating but this actually PISSED ME OFF. First they show us this fantastic episodic (two words that I don’t usually put together) show with sort of off-hand backstory for each of the characters, which make good standalone episodes scattered in with the others but that no one actually CARES about (at least I didn’t), and then they drag Spike’s whole stupid backstory up AGAIN as if we care and make it this whole goddamn Romeo and Juliet thing! Not only is it ANNOYING as hell, it’s also depressing. Jeez. You can’t end shows like this like that. It’s mean.
On a much happier note, the music in Cowboy Bebop is quite incredible. Not only are the tracks incredible, there are also A LOT of them. I noticed practically one new track AT LEAST for every episode. The music is important to each individual episode’s story, and most of the episode titles have some sort of correlation to a music style which you may hear in that episodes soundtrack. “Honky-Tonk Woman” is the title of episode 3, for example. One of the things I really love and look for in anime is a really good soundtrack. But it can’t just be good, it has to be used effectively, enough so that you actually NOTICE how important it is to the show.
The other thing that really makes the music of Cowboy Bebop stand out is the fact that it’s not stereotypical “anime music” but it’s like JAZZ and BLUES and it’s got style that really adds to the overall style of the show in general.
Add to that the rocking and stylish opening sequence reminiscent of 60’s spy shows, and you have yourself one of the most incredible, unique and classic soundtracks in anime.
I may argue that you can have yourself a whole good show with almost music alone, but that’s usually not the case. And of course, if you already HAVE good music and then to that you add great characters/designs, a well thought-out setting and some action and pizazz… well then. In the words of a Planetes fan, Cowboy Bebop is like a less realistic Planetes minus the character development and with more bounty hunters and gunfights. I’m serious here. Actually if you listen closely for the dates in the two shows, you’ll find the both take place around 2070. So they’re like alternate realities of each other. I’m planning to be alive in 2070 so I can find out which show was more accurate in predicting the future. My money’s on Planetes, but who knows?
Of course, Cowboy Bebop probably INSPIRED Planetes, so maybe I shouldn’t be comparing them like this.
The four characters around which the episodes revolve – Spike, Jet, Faye and Ed – are each memorable and realistic (within bounds of the show). Ed was kind of pointless, but still good. I’m not sure what else to say about the characters. They were all good, I liked them all. The characters that appeared with every new episode had their own flair. Some were better than others, of course, like with all episodic shows. Yeah I’m out of stuff to say. Moving on…
Art and animation don’t really stand out here among all the other great things about Cowboy Bebop, but they were pretty good. I mean this is 12 years old. Twelve. It would be in 7th grade. It’s OLD. Relatively. But it honestly looks really good. It may have helped that the version I have is remastered and high quality, but whatever. Good.
All right, I’ve lost momentum so I’m gonna wrap it up and move on to the last bit I wanted to write about.
A little extra about the history and the future of Cowboy Bebop.
Cowboy Bebop originally aired in 1998, but you can still see it’s influences in the shows of today. At least the good ones, like Michiko e Hatchin and Samurai Champloo. And MANY others, probably. Don’t hold me to that, though. No, I’m not a crackpot, I’m just not the god of all anime information. Why do you think we have MAL, AniDB and ANN? Anyway, back to the history. I guess things were a little different back in the 90’s, cause when Cowboy Bebop FIRST aired, people thought it was overly violent. Um. Yeah it’s VIOLENT, but hello? Naruto and Rurouni Kenshin and like everything are WAY MORE VIOLENT. Japan does have that thing with guns, of course, but still – Black Lagoon… which was probably inspired by Cowboy Bebop, bad example… Trying to say, here, that there were enough protests back in the day to get Cowboy Bebop taken off the air. Apparently its airdates coincided with a census that noted a rise in teenage violence. Whatever. So it ended after only one season. But it wasn’t over for long. Obviously it returned to finish off all the storylines that it had been forced to leave dangling and complete a full 26 episodes. The TV show also spawned a movie – supposedly more of a side story than a conclusion to the original series (which concluded with the final episode – CRUELY – but conclusively). The rumor going around the interwebs NOW, though, is that Cowboy Bebop is in for a HOLLYWOOD ADAPTATION starring – are you ready? – Keanu Reeves (yes, THAT Keanu Reeves) as Spike himself. Oh lord. First that gut-kicker of an ending and now you torture me with THIS?
We shall see. In the meantimes and betweentimes, I’ve got to watch that side-story movie! That way I can pretend that evil ending doesn’t exist. Goddamn ending.