Anime review: Cowboy Bebop

David Eckstein-Schoemann, Reporter

If you grew up in the early 2000s then chances are you stayed up late watching programs like “Toonami” on Adult Swim. “Toonami,” for a lot of people, was their introduction to anime with shows like “Dragon Ball,” “One Piece,” and many other classics being reran. I’m saying this because when the program first started many people were uncertain about it. But thankfully, the first anime to run on this network was a certain show called “Cowboy Bebop.” When it first came out, audiences loved it! Anime fans adored it with its unique style, dynamic characters, and bizarre storylines. Having seen it all for myself, I can safely say they’re right.

The series takes place in the future of 2071, where mankind now lives on other planets across the galaxy. The crime rate is high so the government has legalized bounty hunters (called “cowboys”) to chase criminals and collect rewards as payment. This includes the crew of the spaceship “Bebop” which is made up of Spike Spiegel, a former hitman with a dark past, and Jet Black, a former police officer. Along the way, they are joined by other characters on their missions. These include Faye Valentine (an amnesiac con artist), Edward (an eccentric girl skilled in hacking), and a genetically altered dog named Ein. The crew goes on many bizarre adventures going to new worlds, chasing criminals, and keeping food on the table. However, things take a dark turn as an enemy from Spike’s past. Vicious, is on a vengeful rampage causing Spike to take matters into his own hands and face him head-on.

That’s generally the main idea behind this series. There’s a lot of details I don’t want to spoil so for the sake of not giving anything away, here are  my thoughts. This anime is one of the most fun, deep, and mesmerizing shows I’ve ever seen. If you’re looking for proof that with good character your show will thrive, then this show is a must-see. Every character here is given so much depth and personality that you see them as people rather than works of fiction. Though they don’t play it as a family dynamic like in a lot of other shows, you do see a connection between them and why they would band together. On top of that, they are so interesting and relatable that you want to follow them wherever they go. I wanted to see Spike and Jet work off each other, I wanted to see what goofy antics Edward gets into. Even characters like Faye Valentine are given a lot of dimension. When you first see her, you feel like she’s going to be the typical character you think she is. They give her a background that’s very quick to grasp, and they show her progression in an interesting way. 

These people are so fleshed out that you can watch them do anything, and that’s exactly what this show gives you. While there technically is an overarching storyline, a lot of the series is made up of episodic adventures. They range from hunting an alien creature on their ship to battling a psychotic killer in a sci-fi amusement park. They sound bizarre, but they are so massively entertaining that it’s easy to enjoy them. There are even times where the characters take time to relax and veg out. It may sound boring, but their banter is so funny and engaging that you love every minute of it.

Another aspect that I especially enjoyed throughout this series was the backstories and how they’re interwoven into the narrative. For a lot of people, that can sound tiring since going over a character’s backstory has been done countless times. However, it works here because whenever they go over a character’s past it shows a different part of their life and how they became the people they are. A lot of these scenes add an element of heartbreak to the characters. Many of them try so hard to escape their past only to realize they can’t escape it and have to face it to move forward. It’s not like showing Batman’s parents getting shot the same way over and over, they explore different sides to these characters and subtly give you hints to the people they once were. I really like shows that can convey so much with little to no explanation and allow people to read into it. It’s engaging because even though they’re not explaining much, these scenes are so readable that you can connect the dots and make your own interpretation. Even the way this show ends has a lot of people reading into it. While they resolve these plotlines in a satisfying way, they still keep them open-ended enough to where you keep coming back to analyze them years later. It’s a type of storytelling that’s not easy to make and takes a lot of time to accomplish, which really shows how much effort people threw into this show. 

Courtesy of Funimation.

The English dub for this series is phenomenal! Having listened to the subbed version as well as the dub, this is one of the few dubs that surpasses the subversion. A lot of that comes  from the English voice casting which is pitch-perfect. Some audiences may recognize a lot of these people such as Steve Blum, Beau Billingslea, Wendee Lee, Melissa Fahn, the list goes on.

Every single voice actor fits these roles so well and a lot of that has to do with the characters they’re given and the environments that they’re placed in. What’s also interesting is how unlike most anime which are heavily based around Japanese culture, this style of this show is so distinct that everyone can quickly understand this world and how it works. While it is clearly anime, it still has a universal feel and look that people quickly get into it.

The music here is also wonderful. Yoko Kanno is the music composer for this series and she truly shines here. A lot of the music here is very reminiscent of classic Jazz. I’m talking Miles Davis type Jazz, the kind of music that you would hear when the genre was in its prime. It not only helps the series standout, but it also ties in perfectly with the sci-fi noir elements that it creates a unique combination.

Even the animation is spectacular. While it’s not as flashy, as a lot of other anime out there, it is still impressive how they are able to shoot these action scenes and environments with so much movement and detail. There are still some computer graphics used in the space scenes, they’re understandably used in small doses. The majority is purely hand-drawn and it is amazing how good they look. You can easily see this show coming out today.

It’s been over twenty years since this anime first premiered and people still look at it as a classic. It’s so good that they’re even creating a live action show on Netflix. Will it be as good as the original? That remains to be seen. But no matter what happens, we’ll always have the original to come back to. What else can I say? “Cowboy Bebop” is one of the most unique, engaging, and depth-filled anime titles out there. I can’t express this enough but if you haven’t seen it yet, go check it out. You’ll be surprised where this series will take you.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Sails


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