Cowboy Bebop is often lauded to the point that it feels like a pillar of modern anime. Is it deserving of such status? What sets it apart from most anime? What does it tell us about the current state of anime?
Cowboy Bebop stands bravely in an age of instant gratification. I, for one, did not immediately see the appeal in the show. In fact, much of the first half felt unremarkable to me. However, at some point, my attitude towards it changed. The BeBop started feeling like home. Every moment where the whole crew was present and visible felt like pure joy. The previous sentences might sound contrived and melodramatic but this series has its way of creeping up on you.
Part of Cowboy Bebop's success is formed not only by its simplicity but also by its profundity. There is enough content here for the casual anime fan to enjoy the show. However, for those more inclined towards "close" viewings (akin to close reading) there is a lot to dig into.
It is in this respect that Cowboy Bebop differentiates itself from most of modern anime. I believe that good readers would enjoy this much more than some anime fans. It treats its viewer intelligently, only subtly hinting at character developments rather than devoting a huge monologue to it. Most situations end with a silent bang rather than a loud cacophonous whimper.
In accord with what I've said above, I believe that Cowboy Bebop has much more akin with good literature than good anime. It's due to this that Cowboy Bebop can rise to the upper echelons of anime. Rather than be constrained by the anime medium, it takes full advantage of it and becomes a work that is hard to imagine in another form. Akin to great short stories, it understands the limitations set by the medium thus creating something that is above what is usually seen.
To this end, I'd rather consider what I've written as "First Impressions" or a "Recommendation" despite having watched the whole series (I haven't watched the movie yet). Like other good pieces of art, your view of this show changes as you and your perspective change.
MUST WATCH/Highly Recommended!
When should I give up/Good dropping point?
NEVER / Episode 16
Almost everything from 16 to the end
I didn't talk much about the music and the characters of the show which are much lauded aspects of the series. The characters, I believe, are better left for the viewers to discover. Rest assured, there isn't an annoying character in sight. The music, composed by Yoko Kanno, is stellar. Watanabe and Kanno have a knack for creating and using fitting soundtracks that complement the show really well.
Now we have our resident Space Cowboy, Habboi, talk about Cowboy Bebop!
I was asked to share my views on Cowboy Bebop because I'm a so called fanboy for watching it 30 times. You may be wondering why I've watched it so many times...and the truth is I don't fully know myself. It's just such a classic anime and holds many themes that I can relate to. But it's also because the crew of Bebop are like a fictional family to me. As you watch the show you start to get attached to the characters but it's done so subtly that it almost overwhelms you when you realise it.
And it's because of this that when it ends it feels like a part of you dies with it. I'm sure everyone feels that way when any show ends but Bebop has a tone...a feeling that just connects with me.
Take the music for example. It's got a whole mix of song genres that welcome all fans of music. If you don't like Jazz, maybe you like Rock or Heavy Metal (TUT). Well Bebop has it all.
Plus there are moments when the show can be quite funny but suddenly it turns serious and it catches you off guard.
Especially near the end. Take Hanashi for example.
Very surreal and peaceful. Up to this point there has been a mix of songs but it goes to show you that every episode has its own unique theme and I guess that's why I love it. You can just jump in and join the gang on one of their many adventures.
But the show delves into many themes and I like to think Bebop is similar to a snack bar. You can pick whatever parts you like as there's plenty of variety.
Another example of the music though.
Very upbeat and super cool.
Woah where'd this music come from. You see what I mean? And there's so much more. Such a nice variety of music to go along with the snack bar.
Finally I have to give credit to the writing which has some very touching moments and great philosophies. Overall though, Cowboy Bebop is a grand adventure filled with variety and I would suggest it to everyone, especially the movie which is on a whole new level.
That thing about the Bebop crew feeling like family? So, so true...
Other Anime Recommendations:
Neon Genesis Evangelion - Another supposed "pillar" of anime. This is yet another series that a lot of anime viewers won't enjoy despite its immense popularity. Also, the series definitely benefits from repeat viewings.
Sakamichi no Apollon - Another series that has received much love from the TAY community. Coming from the same director and composer, this is another show that uses a musical theme to great effect. As is with Cowboy Bebop, it's also really really hard to accept that it's over.
The two below are from fellow Cowboy Bebop fan, Crisco! :)
Samurai Champloo- Same creator and is heavily musically influenced. It is also very strange and absurd, but remains consistent with the smart and snappy writing that made Bebop a winner. As unpopular as this may be to say, I think I actually prefer Champloo to Bebop in some respects.
Outlaw Star - Similar to Bebop in many respects, but dealing with different, slightly more basic, themes. Despite the reduction in writing quality, it is a great view ( easily in my top 50 anime) and creates a wonderful western mood that sticks throughout the series.
Other entries in the series:
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (Not a recap movie!)