The date is set in stone – Netflix’s live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop is set for release on November 19 and…whoa, wait a minute. What do you mean, you haven’t watched the anime? Just because blasphemy isn’t illegal in a lot of Western countries doesn’t mean you should commit it willy-nilly, you know.
Well, looks it falls on me to tell you why you should watch it. I guess a hero’s work truly is never done. Fine, then.
10) It Only Gets Better on a Second Viewing
One of the best things about Cowboy Bebop is that it only gets better on the second viewing. The subtle detail in its characters is even more obvious the second time around, some of their choices in earlier episodes making sense in light of reveals later in the series. A lot of small elements match up, which makes the second go-round even more satisfying than the first.
9) Cowboy Bebop Has Everything
Cowboy Bebop is an anime that has a bit of everything for everyone. While primarily a Space-Western anime, it proves impressively capable of tackling a range of genres. From comedy to action to drama to intrigue and even horror, Bebop ticks a lot of different boxes.
This is down to the show’s varied influences. The show’s mastermind, Shinichiro Watanabe, was inspired by all manner of works for the show’s creation. These even include Western flicks such as Dirty Harry and Blade Runner – with one episode clearly a homage to Alien.
8) Subtlety is its Strength
Cowboy Bebop is not the type of anime that drops an anvil on you to get its message across. In fact, as many a YouTube essay can prove, many of its scenes are open to interpretation. For example, Bebop lets us know about Spike’s past as a member of a mafia organization. However, it doesn’t overwhelm you with detail about it.
Rather, it leaves you to fill in the gaps with your imagination. The same is true of episode 10 ‘Ganymede Elegy’. The episode doesn’t give you the full details of Jet’s past apart from a few breadcrumbs (his ex-girlfriend, his law enforcement past), but it does leave you with a feeling. An impactful feeling of regret that Jet’s old life didn’t work out, forcing him to embrace the roguish life of a cowboy. In many ways, it makes the stories, characters, and themes even more powerful.
7) Each Episode is a Mini-Movie
Granted, there are interconnecting plot threads in Bebop (Spike’s rivalry with Vicious, for example), but for the most part, Bebop is a collection of self-contained stories. For those accustomed to more serial storytelling in their shows, this can initially feel a little offputting. But to those I say, give Bebop a chance.
By having each episode be its own mini-movie, the creative team can a) focus on a different theme in each episode and b) invoke different cinematic styles. For example, we can clearly see a film noir influence in ‘”Pierrot le Fou” (“Requiem for a Clown” )’ while Toys in the Attic has a horror bent.
6) The Animation Is Great
Animation in anime can be hit-and-miss. Dragon Ball Super and Season 3 of Seven Deadly Sins stick out as big ‘misses’. But even Death Note, a legendarily fantastic anime, has some rather stiff animation at times. But Cowboy Bebop really hits on this front.
This is particularly evident in the fight scenes. Just check out Spike’s fight against Asimov in the first episode as an example. The entire scrap is presented with aching detail, as Spike effortlessly dodges blows from his enraged opponent. Generally speaking, this standard is carried across the series whole.
5) Cowboy Bebop’s Quirky Universe
Cowboy Bebop is an anime set in the far future, where interstellar travel is the best way to go. Starships use astral gates to jet across the galaxy at hyperspeed. However, there’s an intriguingly post-apocalyptic element to the anime’s universe – Earth is now uninhabitable, with humans living on Mars with an artificial weather system and protective dome.
While this sounds like Elon Musk’s wet dream in action, there’s a slight catch. Mars and the other human-occupied planets house their fair share of criminals. These situations get so far out of hand, the police are forced to rely on the talents of bounty hunters (or ‘Cowboys’ as they are known in Bebop). It’s this concept that leads to the quirky Space-Western feel of the show beloved by its fans.
4) The English Dub is Among Anime’s Best
Even the ‘sub snobs’ of the anime world admit that Cowboy Bebop is among anime’s best dubs. There’s no denying that Steve Blum is iconic as the sexually charismatic Spike Spiegel, while Wendee Lee absolutely kills it as the cocky, hot-headed Faye Valentine.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with watching the sub, if that’s your jam. But you must give the English dub a go. It’s cast to perfection and the voice direction is sublime, even for the minor characters. It arguably rivals Disney’s Ghibli dubs in terms of quality.
3) Yoko Kanno’s Music is Out of this World
Yoko Kanno has scored several incredible anime productions including The Vision of Escaflowne and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Cowboy Bebop is merely one mind-blowing audio spectacle on her already impressive resume. Filled with bluesy tunes, Western-style slide guitar riffs, and even some tunes featuring operatic singing, Kanno’s music lives with you long after the series ends.
However, when Kanno enlists the aid of the Seatbelts, things really start sounding iconic. From ‘Words Get in the Way’ to ‘Call Me, Call Me’, Bebop has some undeniably poignant and powerful vocal songs. The soundtrack helps amplify an already profound anime series to a higher level than it would be otherwise.
2) The Characters are Just Cool, M’kay?
If you could compare Cowboy Bebop to any modern franchise, it would be Guardians of the Galaxy. Both stories focus on the escapades of a bunch of ragtag miscreants from various corners of the galaxy. However, I maintain that this particular group of ragtag miscreants are cooler than Guardians (sorry, not sorry).
Firstly, despite his troubled past, Spike Spiegel is one handsome, charming dude. He radiates natural charisma and a talent for hand-to-hand combat. Then there’s Jet Black, Spike’s grouchy ex-cop partner. Then, there’s Fay Valentine, the mouthy young woman with a mysterious past and…look, just watch the show, okay?
1) It’s A Story That Leaves You Thinking
In a lot of ways, it isn’t the West’s fault for stereotyping animated shows and movies as child’s play. After all, we grew up with the likes of Looney Tunes, Rugrats and Animaniacs – and they weren’t exactly thought-provoking character studies if you get my meaning.
But Cowboy Bebop, while certainly not without its silliness, has deep themes coursing through its animated veins. Exploring hard topics such as existentialism, one’s sense of identity, theology, and more, Bebop covers much during its 26-episode run. In other words, it ain’t for kids, people (if the graphic violence, casual swearing, and occasional fanservice’ didn’t spell it out for you first). The show makes you think about these philosophies and how they apply to your life and the world at large. Wonderfully, no matter how old the show gets, its messages remain as relevant as they did at its release.
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