Review: Cowboy Bebop

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A review copy was provided by FUNimation Entertainment

I think it’s time we blow this scene. Get everybody and their stuff together. Okay, 3, 2, 1, let’s jam!

Reviewing Cowboy Bebop in 2015 is practically a sisyphean task. In the pantheon of great anime, Cowboy Bebop sits on the highest throne, at least in my opinion. It’s the anime that both got me into anime, by showing me its true potential and ruined all other animes for me, since none of them would ever live up to it.

It’s also been known as one of the greatest animes of all time for years by the public at large. It has spawned numerous tributes, parodies and references from official creators and the internet at large. What on earth can I say about it that hasn’t already been said? Well I’m obligated to try, so let’s find out.

The setting is reasonably unique: in the future humanity has moved to the stars, using a series of Webway Portals sorry Astral Gates to move around the solar system. In order to try and help compensate for the increased need for police, bounty hunting has become a relatively common profession.

The plot is devoted to a group of bounty hunters trying, as always, to make it despite…occasional problematic circumstances. The original team is Jet, a former cop and Spike a former…you’ll see. Joining them as the series progresses are Faye Valentine, a former gambler with precisely the opposite of a heart of gold, Edward a hacker who’s so weird that she’s often incoherent, and Ein, a superintelligent corgi. Yes a corgi.

I was going to make a 'Cowboy Bebop at his computer' reference here, but I don't know if anyone would get it.

I was going to make a ‘Cowboy Bebop at his computer’ reference here, but I don’t know if anyone would get it.

The first and most important thing about Cowboy Bebop is the music. I don’t normally go straight to that, but I have to here. I’ve never read Bebop’s manga but even if I was told to, I probably wouldn’t. I honestly can’t imagine Cowboy Bebop without Yoko Kanno’s distinctive jazz score. Yoko’s score is so excellent that it caused me to go out and seek other animes scored by her (which worked out pretty well: Escaflowne is pretty genuinely awesome).

But a great soundtrack is nothing without good material to back it up, and that’s one of the places where Bebop shines brighter than almost any other anime. The characters are subtle and incredibly well written. Anime is often a genre of extreme emotion (not a complaint, just an observation) but Cowboy Bebop‘s characters are usually pretty relaxed.

The more relaxed tone helps make the show more consistently funny than a lot of comedies. We all know that director Shinichiro Watanabe can handle comedy (if you haven’t checked out Space Dandy, a show about a dandy guy in space, you need to) but Cowboy Bebop is still more hilarious than you might expect from an action show, even if you discount the actual comedy episodes of the show.

This is not an efficient way of lighting a cigarette.

This is not an efficient way of lighting a cigarette.

That laid back tone is present in everything, from the smooth soundtrack to the character work. For example, Faye never officially joins the Bebop crew, she just hangs out with them enough that she winds up staying. The characters regularly fail to capture their bounties, but they never seem to be more than mildly annoyed by it. Backstories are revealed slowly, piecemeal over the course of the entire series. It makes the occasional moments of extreme emotion that do show up feel all the more real.

It’s also gorgeously animated. The space based action scenes are some of the finest in the history of the medium…or is it genre…is anime a medium or a genre? Anyway, the space action scenes are awesome, especially as the show went on and got more complex. It goes well with the unique spaceship designs as well as the pretty interesting take on space combat (a scene that’s one of my favorites is where a battle doesn’t go as intended because they don’t want to use their costly missiles…and when they do use them, they fail because the missiles they bought are cheap).

The on the ground action sequences are rarely used and are often quick or dirty. I like how much of each character comes across in their fighting style. Spike in particular is always in motion in combat, flowing and dodging, which suits his character perfectly. It’s little touches like that which make the characters feel so real and whole.

These characters names might as well be Mr. and Mrs. Exposition. And yes her shirt is always like that.

These characters names might as well be Mr. and Mrs. Exposition. And yes her shirt is always like that.

This Blu-Ray release makes the gorgeous animation even prettier in high definition, and unlike my only major complaint about the Attack on Titan releases, it comes with a solid amount of special features: some interviews, solid commentaries, a couple shorts here and there; it’s a good release. Although this might be the only anime release where having the subtitled version is less important than having the dubbed version (seriously, even the director thinks the dubbed version is better than the subbed).

The problem with reviewing this show is coming up for criticisms. Sure, some episodes aren’t as good as the others (Bohemian Rhapsody is entertaining, but largely pointless and is mostly ideas done better in Jamming With Edward, Heavy Metal Queen is a lot of buildup without much payoff, and Sympathy for the Devil is…just kinda boring). But that ultimately doesn’t matter. The show, as a whole, is untouchable. And this blu-ray release is definitely worth getting, if you’re a fan of the series. So I guess all that’s left to say is…

cowboy-bebop-see-you-space-cowboy

Elessar is a 25 year old Alaskan born cinephile and let’s be honest, there was no other way this review was gonna end.

Pros:

– fantastic writing and animation

– great, memorable characters

– one of the most consistently entertaining and engaging animes ever made

– some of the episodes aren’t as good as the others

– I dunno man

– this show is really good

Rating: 5/5

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Elessar

Elessar is a 25 year old Alaskan born cinephile with an obsession with Nicolas Cage and a god complex. His favorite movie is Blade Runner and his least favorite is The Condemned...which probably says more about him than he wants it to.

Latest posts by Elessar (see all)

Elessar

Elessar is a 25 year old Alaskan born cinephile with an obsession with Nicolas Cage and a god complex. His favorite movie is Blade Runner and his least favorite is The Condemned...which probably says more about him than he wants it to.

2 Comments:

  1. Pingback: Space Dandy Review | Moar Powah!

  2. Each eps discover new character not just to fill the blank between the story, but also help to discover more about the main characters. The soundtrack is very beautiful. The animation is top notch on that period.

    This kind of anime is rarely seen now, i miss them

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