Cowboy Bebop

Creator: Keiko Nobumoto
Producer: Sunrise
Runtime: 1998
Episodes: 26
Rating: R

Cowboy Bebop needs no introduction. It is argued by many to be the greatest anime of all time and for good reason. Bebop presents a mature, rich story through an unparalleled soundtrack and spectacular animation, and in this respect it has raised the bar unlike any other anime before it.

In 2071, Earth is in shambles and humanity has colonized the galaxy. This new expanse of civilization hearkens back to the days of the wild west when law enforcement was scarce, crime syndicates went unchallenged, and bounty hunters (cowboys) were common. Two such bounty hunters, Spike and Jet, travel the galaxy aboard the "Bebop" and hunt criminals. Along the way they will make new friends, Faye, Edward, and Ein, and each will struggle with their past and face the uncertainty of the future.

Bebop is mature, very funny, and edgy. The show focuses on the adventures of the crew and slowly reveals the characters' pasts and, relatedly, their purposes and ambitions. The strength of the story lies in its originality and the seriousness with which the show takes itself. The bounty-hunter-in-space idea is a first, and the show plays out more like a classic movie than a mere anime. The characters are addictive and complex, and through the careful revelation of their pasts the show maintains a level of suspense and keeps viewer interest.

The makers of Bebop knew that the show would be great. During the show's mid break it often refers to itself as "the show that will redefine anime." However, it is not so much the story which redefines the genre as it is the animation and soundtrack. The story itself is excellent, but more attention should have been given to Spike's plot - his love of Julia and his conflict with Vicious. Not nearly enough is said about either of these elements of the story. This results in a somewhat forced ending: a grand spectacle of Spike willing to risk it all, in part for revenge for a woman, in part for revenge against a man, both of whom we know little about. This failure infects more than the ending: Spike's entire character comes across as hackneyed - the classic hero in love with a woman and in a fight to the death against the bad guy. Vicious is even more bland - he is bad for the sake of being bad. Even his name, "Vicious," smacks of cliche.

It is in this respect that I left Bebop disappointed. One must not forget that the story is different from the animation and soundtrack. Little needs to be said about the latter two aspects: Bebop's animation is, among classic style anime, the best that there is (though I wish they hadn't used 3D at times, which looks tacky). The level of detail given to the scenery and characters who, unlike most anime, are incredibly distinguishable and unique, is superb. The soundtrack is, simply put, the highest quality soundtrack that has ever been created for an anime. See, for instance, Call Me, Call Me; Space Lion. This is Yoko Kanno's masterpiece.

But as for the story, it is just a shame that less attention was given to it than was given to the animation and soundtrack. Spike, Vicious, and Julia lack depth compared to Faye, Jet, and Ed, whose stories are emotional and carry philosophical meaning. I can only conclude that Bebop would have been impeccable had Spike's story and character (and consequently the characters of Vicious and Julia) also been so well developed. But, strangely, Bebop leaves these characters and their stories relatively static and even chooses to finish the series with the focus on them.

There is obviously a hint of frustration in my review, but Bebop must seen. It boasts the most impressive soundtrack of any anime to date, extremely high quality animation, and a remarkable story. Most have walked away with nothing but praise, and none can call himself a "true" anime fan until he has seen it.

Story: 9.2
Animation: 9.2
Soundtrack: 10.0

Overall Score: 9.3 (Phenomenal)

Dual Audio (English/Japanese) Episodes

1 - Asteroid Blues
2 - Stray Dog Strut
3 - Honky Tonk Women
4 - Gateway Shuffle
5 - Ballad of Fallen Angels
6 - Sympathy for the Devil
7 - Heavy Metal Queen
8 - Waltz for Venus
9 - Jamming with Edward
10 - Ganymede Elegy
11 - Toys in the Attic
12 - Jupiter Jazz, Part 1
13 - Jupiter Jazz, Part 2
14 - Bohemian Rhapsody
15 - My Funny Valentine
16 - Black Dog Serenade
17 - Mushroom Samba
18 - Speak Like a Child
19 - Wild Horses
20 - Pierrot le Fou
21 - Boogie Woogie Feng Shui
22 - Cowboy Funk
23 - Brain Scratch
24 - Hard Luck Woman
25 - The Real Folk Blues, Part 1
26 - The Real Folk Blues, Part 2

OST Vol. 1
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