As you probably already know I’m somewhat of a fan of anime, a genre of animation that originated in Japan. I’ve probably only seen around 11 different anime shows from start to finish but I think I have a pretty good concept of what makes a good one. One of my favourite animes to watch is Cowboy Bebop, a show that is considered by many to be one of the greatest animes of all time. I recently heard that Netflix would be making a live action adaptation of the story and so I thought I would give a brief outline of the show and my opinion on it.
Cowboy Bebop was made during the 1990’s but it is set in the latter half of the 21st Century. It revolves around a group of bounty hunters on the spaceship ‘Bebop’. The main characters from the beginning of the show are Spike Spiegel and Jet Black. It becomes apparent from the get go that Spike is the more laidback partner in the duo who adopts the mantra of ‘flowing like water’ and is a firm believer that 'whatever happens, happens!' On the other hand, Jet shows more focussed determination on the day to day issues and tasks that they need to accomplish. However, there is no denying that they work well together as a team, even if they do occasionally struggle to make ends meet. Soon after the beginning of the show, three new additions join the crew. They are Ein the dog, Faye Valentine and a teenage girl who is curiously called Edward. What makes the whole crew so interesting and dynamic to watch is the mishmash of their personalities. Faye is a gambler whose interest can always be piqued when money is involved. Edward is an incredibly intelligent girl, who often rambles about things that the others don’t understand and yet proves to be incredibly helpful when it comes to collecting bounties. At one point, Spike specifically remarks that he has no fondness for ‘dogs, women or children’ but it becomes clear that he takes a shine to the new arrivals over time. The charm that casually radiates from the group dynamic can be allocated to the fact that each character has a past that they are seemingly running away from or trying to ignore. Spike has left behind his previous life as a member of the criminal organisation known as ‘The Syndicate.’ Jet is a former policeman who switches profession after an incident that left his arm severely damaged. Faye has amnesia regarding most of her previous life and Edward is found by the team on her own, seemingly without any family. As the show progresses we slowly learn more about their pasts and in turn, develop a greater affection for them.
Cowboy Bebop maintains its freshness through the use of its characters. Gangsters, gamblers, scientists, assassins, soldiers and even other bounty hunters are used to incredible efficiency when keeping this exciting world engaging on screen. Whilst the plot of each episode is self contained in masterfully constructed 30 minute segments, there is still an overarching plot point of the main characters coming to grips with their pasts and helping each other for the most part in moving towards the future.
If you ask any fan of Cowboy Bebop to list the main attributes that draw them in, it would be a safe bet that they would mention the music. In particular, the theme song ‘Tank’ by Nostromo Pilots. This is a song that you can truly bop your head to. The fast paced groove of the trumpets and drums are an early indicator of the slick yet frenzied action scenes that the show contains. Jazz may not always be the first genre of music that comes to mind when you think of the future but Cowboy Bebop does a tremendous job of incorporating it into the narrative. The juxtaposition of a future narrative with such an old-school sound makes for very interesting viewing. The fluid animation of the show provides a beautiful insight into what the creators believed ‘the world of tomorrow’ would look like, primarily a terra-formed Mars where the majority of humanity lives. Whilst still resembling familiar shapes, the spaceships maintain a unique flair and create a retro aesthetic that is hard to find amongst shows today.
If you’ve never watched anime before, but are considering picking it up, I would definitely recommend Cowboy Bebop as a starting point, especially before the live action version gets released. Its plotline transcends the medium of animation and it will definitely leave you with a constant desire to watch the next episode!