What is it?
Think old school westerns mixed in with a bit of space and sci-fi. Sounds familiar? The premise and setting of Cowboy Bebop may sound a bit Firefly-ish, but make no mistake, this anime was out a good four years before the cult Sci-fi by Whedon first came out. Some have even argued that Firefly was inspired by Cowboy Bebop. Not surprising considering the similarities between the two.
Directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, Cowboy Bebop revolved around the exploits of the crew of Bebop spaceship. And boy are they a bunch of characters. There’s Spike Siegel the leader of crew and a man with a past, the salty and cynical Jet who is Spike’s closest friend, Faye Valentine an amnesia con-artist out of her own time, Edward or Ed, the whimsical and bratty hacker and Ein, a cute Irish Corgi with the intelligence of a human.
Together they roam the space lanes, trying their best to hunt down bounties and getting themselves into hell of a lot of trouble. With 26 episodes (or sessions as they were called) and a movie, Cowboy Bebop is hailed as one of the most influential anime to be made and a gateway to non-anime watching audience into the genre.
Why watch it?
Although the whole “space western” genre may sound a tad whimsical, make no mistake, the story for Cowboy Bebop was exceptional. Sure there were all the stuff you wanted in a sci-fi anime. Cool spaceships, cool characters even cute and sexy ones.
The story, however, transcended the genre, taking the conventions we expected from a series like it and kicking it up a notch, forging its own path. Some of the themes explored could be a little heavy, existentialism, existential ennui, and loneliness, but never did it get too preachy or highbrow. Instead, all these heavy themes were well incorporated into all 26 episodes which lead up to one pretty high impact ending.
And then, there’s the music. During a time when most anime were populated with fast-beat Japanese electro-pop stuff, Cowboy Bebop‘s music was a breath of fresh air. Not surprising since the maestro of anime music, Yokko Kanno, was responsible for the soundtrack. Instead of the usual pop fare, we’re treated with brilliant jazz compositions that are intricately woven into the scenes, setting an excellent pace and pulling us into the story more. Suffice to say, the soundtrack alone is brilliant enough to be listened over and over again, even minus the accompanying animation.
Cowboy Bebop still stands as a brilliant anime and a great gateway series into the genre itself and almost 17 years on, if you have yet to see it, you should find some time to binge on it.