Series Review – Cowboy Bebop

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of Sunrise and Funimation

I am ashamed with how long it took me to finally watch this series.  It’s an absolute classic and I really could not consider myself an anime reviewer without having seen this seminal series.  Cowboy Bebop has influenced so many works by this point.  It is an anime classic that is a western, a noir, a comedy, and a thriller all in one.  It took me about fifteen episodes until the series finally clicked with me and I was able to appreciate just how great this series was.  I am Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth anime review.

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Story and Characters

Cowboy Bebop features the adventures of a pair of bounty hunters that travel the Solar System on the spaceship Bebop.  Spike Spiegel is a former member of the Red Dragon Syndicate, a major criminal organization.  His partner, Jet Black, is a former member of the Inter Solar System Police.  The two initially hunt bounties by themselves, but are quickly joined by three more characters: Faye Valentine, Edward Wong, and Ein.  This series is all about the characters.  There is a main story arc regarding Spike’s cat and mouse game with his deadly rival Vicious, but it comprises a very small amount of the overall series.   Instead, the show features the crew as they go on random adventures, each one giving a different theme.  One episode might have them stop a psychic individual while another might feature a run in with a mobster.  All of these stories are entertaining in their own way, but there are a few episodes that stand out above the rest.

Any episode that goes into the backstory of any of main characters is infinitely more interesting.  The audience gets to find out the reasons that make these great characters act the way that they do.  For instance, Faye’s backstory perfectly shows her change into a femme fatale con artist.  Another episode shows Jet’s more caring side as he deals with an ex-girlfriend.  The series is at its finest when the characters are forced to deal with the demons of their past.  I am hesitant to go into more detail because finding out these details about the characters is one of driving forces of the show.  This series should be one of the first presented as an example of how to make great characters in fiction.  The story and characters are that strong.

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Animation and Sound

For a show that was released the 1990’s, the animation holds up very well.  This is mostly due to stylistic choices.  The show takes place in a very lived in future.  Everything has a dark, but well used look about it.  This is shown through the variety of dusty locales that these characters seem to frequent.  It was a welcome change from the generic clean future look that usually characterizes science fiction.  Another surprising aspect involves the use of CG.  This series has a better understanding of how to use computer animation than many currently airing series.  Like the overall animation, the CGI is very stylized to match the aesthetic.  So it’s less in your face and more of a subtle detail.  As for the action, Cowboy Bebop excels in every regard.  Spike’s hand to hand scenes possess a certain confident cadence.  The shootouts possess a certain visual flair that is usually indicative of a western.  The spaceships also show great animation due to the large amount of chase scenes.

Cowboy Bebop is critically acclaimed when it comes to its sound design.  Yoko Kanno produced one of the finest if not the finest anime scores of all time.  Much like with the visual design, the sound showcases a large variety of genres.  There are a plethora of blues and jazz tracks that have become the hallmark of this anime.  The opening is still one of the finest openings in the anime medium.  I don’t have much more to say about the music because at this point, what is left to be said?  The soundtrack is simply amazing in every way.

This series also marked a rare turn for me in terms of watching a dub.  Most of the viewing community actually recommends the dub over the original Japanese version.  I can see why, the English actors nailed this series.  Spike’s voice actor perfectly captures his tone so much so that he is Spike Spiegel now.  It is very rare for me to give a dub this level of praise.  Most of the time, the English actors can’t exactly capture the nuance of the Japanese performances.  This is one case where they did not simply just do it; they knocked it out of the park.  The Japanese version just does not compare.  Cowboy Bebop still holds up with its heavily stylized animation and amazing sound design.

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Final Verdict

This is a relatively short review because I do not have much to add on to the discussion of this show.  Cowboy Bebop is amazing in every way.  Every single aspect from the characters to the sound design manages to be great.  Everyone needs to watch this show.  I give Cowboy Bebop my Bananaowns’ stamp of approval with a recommendation to buy this series on Blu-ray.  It is one of the finest examples of anime.  I’ll be back next week for another review and thanks for checking this one out.

Bananaowns stamp of approval

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