- Cowboy Bebop
Spike Spiegel is a bounty hunter with a dark, violent past. Nowadays, he
roams between the seedier colonies of space along with his partner Jet
Black and their spaceship Bebop as they try to catch a bounty or two,
barely making a living at it. Some of their bounties, like the mysterious
Faye Valentine and the intelligent 'data dog', Ein, end up as fellow
partners. Is Spike trying to justify prior misdeeds by working for the
right side of the law? What will happen when his past catches up to him?
And what of the pasts of his fellow shipmates? Will any of them survive
long enough to find out?
Cowboy Bebop has been often referred to as the new anime noir, a title
that does fit, but doesn't even begin to fully describe it. Equal parts
film noir, spaghetti western, and 70's cop show; Cowboy Bebop is both retro
and fresh at the same time. A very stylish, beautifully crafted series that
deserves much more attention than it gets. If ever there was a series more
deserving to be a sleeper hit, Bebop is it.
Cowboy Bebop is well suited to TV. Each episode manages to stand alone,
but at the same time link together an overall larger story. Even if you
only see two or three episodes, not exactly in order, one wouldn't be lost,
and would find enjoyment in them. In order to truly appreciate it, though,
one must see it through.
Cowboy Bebop also presents a realistic view of the future. Spike and Jet
travel in what to us would be a highly sophisticated craft, but to them is
the modern day equivalent of a 1976 El Camino. The places they visit are
far from what one would expect. Instead of Neo-Tokyo with its shiny,
impossibly tall skyscrapers that never end, we have Neo-Tijuana, with its
dusty dirt roads, run down shacks and migrant workers. Space is ethnic, but
not in the Star Trek sanitized for the sake of politically correctness way.
Each colony reflects a melting pot more akin to Los Angeles or New York
City than any Blade Runner wannabe ever could.
This striving for realism also is reflected in the character designs.
Spike is lanky and handsome in his own way, but by no means is he a slender
pretty boy. Faye is sexy and curvy, but she's no large breasted bimbo. Jet
is burly, not fat, and has traits that would make one think he is of
Russian descent. Ein can easily be recognized as a Welsh corgi, and not
just another undistinguishable mutt. The only one who looks remotely like a
'cartoony' character is Ed, and even then no one would ever mistake her as
anything -but- a scrawny preteen tomboy. (And to see her name and
appearance, you'd think she just got off the boat from the Philippines.)
The animation is beyond superb. Its quality excels over most current
releases. Cowboy Bebop uses computer graphics, but does so in such a fluid,
breathtaking manner. There are practically no scenes that feel
'artificial', like what's going on in the foreground is totally separate
from the background. Many computer-generated anime can't seem to shake the
look that the characters are just floating in front of the background
stills. Everything in Cowboy Bebop seems to breathe with life and motion,
even in otherwise stoic scenes, and it's a rarity and a marvel to behold.
Another bonus Cowboy Bebop has going for it is the soundtrack. Yoko
Kanno scores (literally) again with her work for this series. The opening
theme alone is already one of *the* best intro pieces I have ever heard.
The blend of jazz and blues is absolutely perfect in setting the mood of
the series. I ask you, has this woman ever -done- any bad music? (Of course
Then there's the storyline. Even though each episode stands quite well
on its own, with poignant moments interspersed with exciting action, the
underlying theme of Spike Spiegel and his motivations for what he does is
absolutely intriguing. With each flashback, you get one more piece of the
puzzle, from Spike's shady origins to the loves that influenced the way he
is. Maybe his bounty hunting is really a search for identity as much as a
way of life he has chosen. The plot and characterization in Cowboy Bebop
have a sophistication and subtlety that is practically one-of-a-kind. It's
hard to find movies this involving, much less animated television series.
Cowboy Bebop simply puts most anime...and Hollywood, to shame.
On the surface, it's easy to dismiss as '70s retro fluff. "Hey,
there's Vega$ all over again!" And yes, many a Japanese and American
movie star or feature is lampooned in one form or another during each
episode. Cases in point: Spike Spiegel is a postmodern Lupin III. And in
the first episode alone, Asimov Sorenson and Katarina.... can we say
Desperado, kids? (Heck, even Quentin Tarantino seems to have a cameo!) But
beneath that noir veneer is a very human drama that has just enough humor
and clever dialogue to be realistic, yet highly entertaining. This is a
must-have for any serious collector of Japanese animation.
Simply put, this anime is one of the best.