Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Anime REVIEW: Cowboy Bebop


Cowboy Bebop is a popular animated series, let alone anime. As well as hitting top spots in pretty much every "Top (insert number here)" anime lists, Bebop has also managed to hit a few general animated series lists too, one example being IGN's Top 100 Animated TV series from a few years ago. The series has been described as having "sophistication and subtlety that is practically one-of-a-kind" (themanime.org) and that "From beginning to end this may be one of the best anime ever...". Until now I've never even watched Cowboy Bebop. I think it might be time to see what all of the fuss is about....

Cowboy Bebop is a 26 episode (and one movie, but we'll come to that later) series set in the year 2071 and revolving around bounty hunters (or cowboys) Spike Spiegel and Jet Black, who are later joined by femme fetale Faye Valentine, androgynous computer hacker Ed (or "Radical Edward") and a dog named Ein who might be more intelligent than the viewer initially perceives. While the show does follow a fairly "bounty of the week" format, every so often the episodes are interspaced with insight into the characters' pasts (Spike as a former member of a crime syndicate, Jet as a former ISSP officer, Faye's mysterious forgotten past etc.), which (in Spike' case anyway) builds up toward an explosive finale.

Not that the self contained episode is a bad thing, because they each deal with very different things and have very different styles. From sinister assassins with childlike minds to a more comedic tale concerning Ed and some hallucinogenic mushrooms, Bebop's stories are a perfect blend of action, comedy and, usually, a deeper meaning.

The animation and writing quality isn't the only thing that really sets Cowboy Bebop apart from other animes though, this music also plays a significant part in creating the flavour that the show offers. Yoko Kanno (of Macross Plus, Escaflowne and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex fame to name a few) creates a score for the series that is like no other, assembling a band (called 'The Seatbelts') to create the jazz and blues style music throughout the series, and their hard work pays off to great effect. Music's influence over the series can also be seen in the episode titles, which either make use of a genre name (Cowboy Funk, Jupiter Jazz) or pay homage to rock music from the 70s/80s (examples include Hard Luck Woman [KISS], Toys in the Attic [Aerosmith] and Bohemian Rhapsody [Queen]).

This trend doesn't only follow in the series, but also extends to Bebop's movie, entitled Knockin' On Heaven's Door, set somewhere between episodes 22 and 23. While the film itself isn't quite up to the standard of the series, it's still a fun ride and a highly enjoyable movie, putting the Bebop crew up against larger stakes, resulting in a much more widescale plot and some fantastic action sequences. Kanno's score also continues to excel expectations.

A truly perfect series is a very rare thing indeed. But Cowboy Bebop is definitely one of those. With a perfect series length that doesn't drag nor feel too short, fully fleshed out characters, superb writing, an ending with enough ambiguity to keep the viewer second guessing about the fate of our heroes, along with brilliant animation along with a soundtrack like no other, there is nothing about Cowboy Bebop that is in need of bettering. This is something not only anime fans will enjoy, but one that has something for everyone. That's what all the fuss is about.

1 comment:

tallia3 said...

It is amazing and fantastic and awesome :-)