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To many, Cowboy Bebop is one of the best anime ever created. I've been to many conventions, and found attendees that generally mention this as one of the top picks. However, I feel this series tends to viewed far too much under rose-colored glasses. While the series has its strong points and there are also points where it tends to stumble.
I think one of the biggest misconceptions made about the series is that its a team show. This is completely false, as most episodes maintain only a singular focus on one of the characters. If it involves Vicious, its a Spike episode. If it involves some sort of scam, its a Faye episode, etc, etc.These episodes involve the other characters, but they mostly sit on the sidelines. Character interactions are limited to the characters stopping the occasional faceless mook or a small cheer of encouragement.
Which sort snowballs into the problems of character interaction in general. In many individualized episodes the characters only have a few minutes of conversation to discuss anything. It would be boring to have everyone get along, so Wanatabe goes the opposite route of everyone getting on each other's nerves. Spike makes misogynistic comments toward Faye, Faye insults Spike's intelligence, they both consider Jet an authoritative square, and everyone is irritated at Ed, for being Ed. Unsurprisingly, a common subplot involves the spotlight character quitting the group. Eventually the status quo returns with the character rejoining and possibly growing as a person, but what the series doesn't get is that individual growth doesn't translate to relationship growth. At the finale, I saw Jet willing to lay his life on line for Spike and Faye confess her feelings for him and I didn't believe any of it.
Finally, each member is utterly exceptional at their area of expertise. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but the series doesn't always make this competence consistent. In the first episode, Spike gets beat up by performance enhanced drug addict, only to utterly trounce him later with no explanation other then Spike hinting he is striking outside his field of vision, when several times that clearly isn't the case. Really, this problem could be resolved by making the team more cooperative on missions and adding their perspectives to influence the spotlight character's personal thoughts rather than dial up or back the effectiveness of the spotlight character to fit the pacing.
Cowboy Bebop is still a spectacular series. However, I feel it honed Wanatabe's skills to make better series like Samurai Champloo or Space Dandy, rather than stood as his main masterpiece.
Why does everyone sing praises to this show like it was written and animated by a divine entity? It was good but it wasn't the flawless gem that everyone made it out to be. Other series like Neon Genesis Evangelion, The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya and Death Note are all recognized for their major over hype but I have yet to encounter a single criticism of this slightly older series across the Internet only an abundance of praise.
Overall its main problem was that it was most of the series was kind of bland. Very little happens in terms of changes in characterization and plot advancement in most episodes. The show suffers from having almost everything done well in it done better by Firefly and/or Outlaw Star so there isn't much that you can't find somewhere else here.
Also there were too many episodes that came out of nowhere and didn't really do much for the show like Mushroom Samba, That one with the mold monster thingy and that space cowboy one. What was the point of those episodes? Do you really need disconnected filler in a twenty-six episode anime?
I did really like the episodes with Vicious though, he was a surprisingly effective villain and the ending was perfect. The show needed more episodes like that. Really I'd have liked the series more if it was just the dozen or so episodes that directly matter to the characters back stories and less on the breather episodes.
The soundtrack was almost orgasmic. The show was worth watching just for the background music. Seriously this is one of the greatest soundtracks I have heard in any audio/visual media ever. The smooth funky jazz fit right in with the themes and mood of the series at large. Hell just play me the opening on loop for half an hour and I'd enjoy myself almost as watching an episode itself.
Overall I very much enjoyed the series and do intend to buy it on DVD at some point in the future but I can't help but feel a little let down after all the praise that was granted to it. I really thought it would be something special and it was just not on the calibur that the internet lead me to beleive. Just another victim of Hype Aversion I suppose. None the less I would reconmend it to others as long as they do not expect perfection.
Like all great works of art, Cowboy Bebop is not very much like the works compared to it.
Great art lives in the moment, and that experience tasks us to question and accompanies us through our own future. How it's constructed rests on the artists technical ability, their willingness to expand beyond their limitations, and be able to compliment one another to arrive at the whole of their efforts. It is in this that the love, the passion, and magic all come to the forefront of Bebop.
Bebop conveys this with it's provocative visuals and its unique sound, neither of which overwhelms the other, showing us what we need to know, but not telling everything that there is to know. It's a delicate balance, only possible from those who understand and love the medium, respecting yet pushing the boundaries of their limits. For instance, the music would stand out as being a bit much if they did not accompany the magnificent images and moments of the world in which they exist. Emotions are conveyed through the looks of the characters, and the visuals. It comes to a point where it becomes very difficult to imagine telling the stories of Cowboy Bebop in another medium.
One might see the series as an anthology of short stories - tales that are unrelated to each other, but have a recurring cast of characters as they travel along on their adventures. The stories themselves reflect the scope of the images and music. We are almost instantly familiar with the story structure enough that we do not need excessive exposition, yet it takes us on a unique experience that still remains accessible.
One can also see it as a visual representation of a great record album. It is a group of talent that comes together to show their passion and love for their work. The characters are like the best of musicians, one can sense their unique rhythms, their tones, the way they perform, without being told specifically, and at the same time, you do not know everything about them from simply listening or watching them. We get a sense of who our characters are, but we never truly know them completely. We are intimated with Spike and Jet and Faye and even Ed, yet we are still left with questions about them. We can even see and hear them change subtly, as a band would after spending time together on the road, even performing with others for a bit, before saying goodbye.
Another show whose party I showed up late to, Cowboy Bebop may be the most accessible anime for adult western audiences ever.
The show has a strong 'wild western' vibe. It is hardly the first time science fiction borrowed from old westerns, but it has never been done this effectively. I felt that it was especially close to the Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Westerns. It dabbles in other genres from episode to episode, such as horror and noire, but at heart it is always a western in space. For those of us who live in the west, these genres and themes are much more readily accessible than the typical anime.
Bebop has an interesting set of characters. They are generally on the static side, but even in that respect they are like the Clint Eastwood westerns. In fact, they get more development than 'The Man with No Name' did in any of his films. They are also quirky and well written enough so that their relative lack of change over the course of the show is not as big a problem as it could have been even if it was not aping movies that have little character development. The flashbacks were also effective in exploring how the characters got to the Bebop. I didn't like Faye as much as the other characters, but she didn't detract and was arguably the most dynamic of any of the main cast.
Other than that, Cowboy Bebop does not have any noteworthy flaws. The music is great, the animation spectacular for a hand-drawn show, and the world it creates is as quirky and interesting as the characters, or even moreso. It isn't close to being my favorite, but it is one of those animes that goes beyond its medium to deliver something for everyone.
Anime has always been something of a niche market, never popular with the general public, always regulated to the hardcore fans of a specific genre, such as the ever-present Mecha genre. Cowboy Bebop opened people's eyes with one simple word - "TANK!"
Bebop's vast array of characters are all brilliantly designed, developed, and utilised perfectly (even minor, one-shot characters) - from the enigmatic Spike, to the strong-willed Jet, to the femme fatale Faye, and the insane Ed. All start off seemingly as typical characters, but as they story progresses, we see what drives them, what they've been through, and why they do what they do. The truly wonderful voicework from both English and Japanese voice-tracks, and the sound of the production segues directly into the music of the show itself.
Yoko Kanno obviously wishes to prove that she cannot create a bad soundtrack, because she is on top par here; Cowboy Bebop doesn't know what 'bad' means - from the opening theme, TANK, which instantly alerts you to the action and excitement ahead. The closing theme, 'The Real Folk Blues' may be even better, invoking a sense of just how good the episode was.
However, there are some unfortunate blemishes on what would otherwise be a perfect anime. Some episodes feel hastily written or off-beat, away from the usual style of the show, save for the fact that every episode had me so engrossed in the world-builiding and backstory, even if the struggles of the characters wasn't particularly intriguing. Some fantastic episodes stand out from the rest; 'Pierrot le Fou' for the dark and noir feeling; every episode where Vicious appeared; and of course, the finale. Julia's dying words to Spike - "It's all a dream" - gives me chills every time.
Anime has popularity that is growing fast, the range of genres broading due to the pure amount of variety in its selection, which numbers over 100 titles, and Cowboy Bebop is one of those series that is the reason for this. Anime series have strange effects on me: Gurren Lagann made me grit my teeth and stand strong; Code Geass made me want to change the world; Death Note made me stare out of car windows, plotting, planning...
Cowboy Bebop made me want to light up one last smoke, lean against a wall in a dingy alley, close my eyes to the jazz and go out with a "Bang".
See You, Space Cowboy...
In it's soul, Cowboy bebop is ultimately about the everyman. Hack writers (and plenty of hack reviewers) love to toss that word around as the end-all of "perfect" characters, but characters described as everyman are often anything but. We don't sympathize with people who actually remind us of ourselves, after all. We want to see people more interesting who make better decisions than we do, not flawed people. "Everyman" is a catch-all term for characters who live somewhere other than luxury but still trancsend what we think of as "normal."
Ah, but Cowboy Bebop. This is one of those rare gems with true everymen, and even better, they're still interesting. On the outside, the cast is every bit as "special" as most protagonists. Spike is a top-tier martial artist, Jet is impossibly good with machines, Ed is an impossibly good hacker, Faye is an impossibly fatal femme fatal. Their actions, however, speak louder than their caricatures. Spike often bites off more than he can chew, Faye convinces everyone, viewer and cast alike, of her ultimate loyalty but never stops going off at the slightest whim or provocation. As the show goes on, the fact that these poor schmucks can't hold an honest living to save their lives slowly unravels; it's not because Status Quo Is God, it's because they all genuinely carry too much baggage to climb from their ruts.
Ultimately, the show is about the characters more than anything. The other reviews here note that the plot is superfluous at best, but I would argue this is the point. We are not meant to take a tour-de-force through events, we are meant to follow these people as they live in the many days between those single moments when "important," adventurous stuff happens. We are meant to see them try to be human after living lives that would drive joy away from most. We are meant to see them give it their all because life is worth living no matter what, and although we are meant to see some of that effort fail, it is never in doubt that the effort alone was still worth it, regardless.
Indeed, if Cowboy Bebop has a theme, it's that the effort itself may, in fact, be more important than the success.
Cowboy Bebop befuddles us. It tricks us with all the incredibly well done bits (Voice work, animation, character design, the music) that we can forget some of its flaws, namely a near invisible story that decides to jump you at the very end, and often very weak plots. Cowboy Bebop doesn't even try to deal with these problems, it doesn't have to. All the good parts don't cover up the flaws, they replace them. All the characters are intriguing enough that we follow them through the dry spots because we could watch them do laundry and they'd make it cool.
This grace makes Cowboy Bebop a transcendent work. No it doesn't elevate the human condition. It transcends genre, well written stories can turn people off just because of its genre, if you hate mysteries, you won't read a mystery no matter how excellent it is. Bebop, however isn't an adventure series, it's such a graceful and beautiful story that action fans could watch it, music buffs could watch it, everyone can watch this show, and enjoy it.
Also, watching this show repeatedly grants you a greater insight into the incredible care they put in the world and the symbolism that hides behind every word, so pop Bebop in, sit back and invite some friends over, cause it's time to jam.
This is an amazing series. Plain and simple. That's the best way to define it.
Now, to start off, i'd like to say that I don't like anime, I used to, but the terrible dubbing got on my nerves, and I didn't feel like watching a show in a different language just to get my cartoon fix.
But this anime was completely different, The dubbing is fantastic. Spikes iconic, smug, smart-mouth voice fits his character perfecly, Jet's strong but gentle voice confirms him as a fatherly figure, and Fayes sexy and seductive voice fits her fanservice friendly character.
But now i'm going to focus on the anime its self. The story is good. It's not great. But good. It's starts off about two space bounty hunters, or cowboys, who are low on cash and just about everything else, but as more characters join the cast, the interactions get better, and the characters get more developed. Story wise, the backstories are where this show shines. I'm not going to reveal too much, for risk of spoilers, but all of the characters have pasts that are all worthy of their own series.
But the best, the definitive part of Cowboy Bebop, is the music. Now I know you've probobly heard this from every review you've heard of the series, but the show has a beautiful soundtrack, filled with smooth jazz, that even a non jazz fan would appriciate.
All in all, this is my favorite anime series of all time. Like I said, I don't watch much anime, so theres not much to compare to, but this has to be in the top five. If you get a chance, watch it, you won't be sorry.
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