Retro Review: Cowboy Bebop
You can buy Cowboy Bebop from most good online stores including Amazon and Play.com.
“See You Space Cowboy..”
Cowboy Bebop is the story of four down and out bounty hunters coasting around the solar system trying to hunt the big game and make a little Woolong every once in a while. It’s a celebration of every form of genre and culture imaginable, with the closest description of its own genre being sci-fi-noire-romantic-‘sploitation-punk and even then it doesn’t come close to doing this series justice.
Cowboy Bebop is unbelievably popular in the West, having launched the anime slot on Adult Swim in America and remaining their highest rated show, proving that dubbed English can work and not feel out of place. But to those who are reading this review having watched the series, all that you have gotten is a lot of information that you probably already know. And to those who haven’t seen the series, you’ve probably gotten the impression that this show is immensely popular and even possibly over hyped. I understand these points of view and I ‘m going to attempt to address both parties equally.
For those of you haven’t seen Cowboy Bebop, prepare yourselves to see one of the most seamlessly executed anime you have ever watched. The series runs in a format with ‘sessions’ replacing episodes. Each session is either named after a style of music or a particular song, for instance ‘Sympathy for the Devil’. Each session acts as a vignette, the majority of the time telling it’s own individual story, with only five or six episodes having a recurring plot, that of the life and history of Spike Spiegel(our main protagonist). The way the series has been crafted allows each session to be a short film that anyone could understand, but at the same time acts as a comparison to the other stylistic choices of Bebop.
Cowboy Bebop shows style on a number of different layers. The show draws on movie styles from all over the world, from the John Woo-esque fight in ‘Ballad of Fallen Angels’, to modelling Spike’s fighting style on that of Bruce Lee’s and all the way to doing Western themed episodes or even Blacksploitation at one point. This rich stew of everything from around the world only really works when we consider the setting of the near future – where man has expanded over the known solar system and cultures have intermingled. This is also evident through the soundtrack, scored by Yoko Kanno who is a long time collaborator with Shinchiro Watanabe (the director of the series). From the opening ‘Tank!’ blasting out over each session to the jumps in musical genre throughout, the OST is scored fantastically and you will certainly be itching to hear the tracks again.
Concerning those who have seen this show before, you will probably agree with the above standpoint. It has probably been some time since you have last sat down to watch this series start to finish, or you might have just done it. Either way, I implore you, look to the detail and the subtext. Cowboy Bebop can be appreciated on so many different tiers of understanding but if you take the time to pick apart the series you will be greatly rewarded. The creators focus on every little detail, nothing is left out, or unexplored or even done with half the effort. Recurring ideas and even certain words pop up throughout the series and all this proves is that the series came from somewhere with a lot of concentration and love behind it. When you look at themes, Bebop handles them in a mature manner, such as how one deals with the past, or even certain ideas including existentialism and the study of the human condition. All within a 26 episode sci-fi anime.
With these parting words, I say to the uninitiated, go out and watch this series and revel and delight in one of the most fun, deep and iconic anime out there. And to those who have already seen the series, another look will reveal so much more to it than you might have originally thought.
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