Cowboy Bebop Anime Review
Well, hello there it’s June the 9th, which means that it is my birthday (I have turned 18) and as promised I will be reviewing an anime today. It was really hard for me to choose which one to review though, because there are so many to choose from the ones that I have seen, but seeing as I am someone who wants to get as many people as I can into the medium, there was only one anime I wanted to review in order to do so. So today I review what is possibly considered to be one of the modern masterpieces in its medium in my opinion. Yes that’s right I am talking about Cowboy Bebop.
Cowboy Bebop is an anime series that aired in 1998 that was directed by Shinichiro Watanabe and animated by studio Sunrise. The series of 26 episodes follows the adventures and misadventures of a crew of bounty hunters aboard the Bebop. This includes Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Faye Valentine, Edward Wong and their dog Ein. Now before you go into seeing this show, I expect that you know that for most of the part the show follows an episodic structure, that means that there is no overlying story arc that follows, while there are some story arcs for all our characters (Spike in particular), the show for most of the part is fairly episodic.
Now with that out of the way, let me talk about Bebop. Why this show is considered a masterpiece? Why is it loved by so many? Why does it attract so many audiences to the medium? Well, it’s hard to answer that briefly, but if there is anything that makes this show set itself apart from the others it is the characters, especially with how they are portrayed in the English dub and the music by Yoko Kanno. You see unlike many other shows or movies, where the show beholds its visuals in front of you to make you interested or make some well-choreographed action scene to keep you excited, this anime really takes its characters to be the center piece of the show and what factors in very well is the music, Cowboy Bebop in many ways is practically defined by its existence, that’s how memorable the soundtrack is.
You see, Cowboy Bebop was the first anime I had ever seen completely. Yes, I had seen a few episodes of Naruto, a few of Sword art Online, a few of One Piece prior to viewing this, but the truth of the matter is that they all had a very similar style and an incredibly generic way of storytelling, and if you are someone who is disinterested in the medium it’s probably because your friends kept the praising the shit out these shows that run forever like the ones I mentioned above. Another reason why Cowboy Bebop worked for me on so many levels was because that it had a completely different style to it, it really inclines itself more towards western styles and cultures, so there are no cutie characters with high pitched voices, there are no awkward romances, there are no exaggerated facial expressions. It completely restricts itself from such stuff and tells its own story, without ever becoming an embarrassing experience.
The animation is in a word spectacular. Yes, for a show that aired all the way in 1998, it holds up, and this is coming from someone who has seen a lot of movies and t.v shows with high quality animation since prior to viewing this. The coloring, the character designs and even the designs of the future (the show is set in 2071) are a beauty to look at, that completely fit into the world that the director has created.
Cowboy Bebop lends its fame to its characters and in all honestly, these are some of the most well written characters I have ever seen. Spike Spiegel is probably the coolest character in anime history who is also voiced by the one and only Steve Blum, so that never hurts, a bounty hunter who was formally an assassin for a crime syndicate. Jet Black voiced by Beau Billingslea, a former cop who grew a lot more cynical of the society. Faye Valantine voiced by Wendee Lee, a woman who has no memory of her past and is trying to get by in this world with her cunningness and looks. Edward Wong voiced by Melissa Fahn, who is a crazy and sometimes cute computer hacker and finally Ein, the dog of Bebop.They are all entertaining and interesting to watch, in their own right with each having a distinctive personality, and that’s what makes them so special.
Most of the episodes of Bebop are actually quite similar in terms of the situations, a bounty comes up, they go after the bounty, they fail most of the times and everything goes back to normal. Despite that, it never bores you of its repetitive nature because it adds a lot of twists and turns in the plot to make it more edgy, funny or even flat out entertaining in the best possible way. Also I need to make it clear that this show does not follow the same structure all the time, in fact there are a couple of episodes that deal with the characters pasts and conflicts, I always found these episodes to be the best of the show, as it always showcased the best of what Bebop had to offer. It did these episodes so well; it was hard for me to ever feel that it was repetitive.
A lot of the credit for that has to go to the dub cast and the music. But I want to shed light on the dub a little more. Although I personally prefer to watch anime dubbed rather than subbed (yeah I do), I think I can safely say that Cowboy Bebop has one of if not the best dubs anime has ever seen. Everyone did a phenomenal job to a point where I can’t listen to any other voice playing these characters, let alone Japanese, and that’s not to criticize the Japanese voice actors, but it is just that this is some of the best voice acting that these ears have ever heard.
With heaps of praises, I do have a few issues with the show, more so than others. My main issue with the show was that there were a few episodes that while good, do not reach the same heights in terms of quality compared to the rest of the episodes and some even turn out to be rather pointless. Also the first 4 episodes are a weak start for a show claimed to be a masterpiece, because it gets good from episode 5 onwards, so that can be a bit distasteful to some. Another issue I had with this anime is the effective and excellent but rather rushed ending, as everything seems to come to a close quite quickly. It’s a problem I have had with anime in general; they always rush through the endings rather than giving it proper closure. With all that, the fact that it is an episodic show (mostly) can be a turn off as well, because when I first saw this anime, I had no idea it was an episodic show and I came out disappointed. However, when I came to terms with that fact, I immediately fell in love with it and I understood why it was so good.
Despite these admittedly minor problems, I do recommend this to anyone who is willing to give the medium of anime a try. Cowboy Bebop shows and proves like many other exceptional shows that animation is a medium to tell any story that can be mature, humorous and even dark sometimes. It solidifies cements itself as one of my favorite TV series of all time and it is a great gateway to anime that gives you a glimpse at what the medium can do in terms of storytelling, and it deserves all the praise that it gets. I am going to give Cowboy Bebop a solid 9/10 (yeah I am giving scores out of 10 for tv series)
Final Rating: 9/10
PS: Check out the movie as well, it’s incredibly well done