Reviewing Cowboy Bebop had become a huge deal in my head as many consider it to be (especially in the western world) one of the most important -if not, the most important- anime ever made. I can easily write pages upon pages on stuff I genuinely hate (and to be honest, at the moment this includes the majority of new anime series releases). One could say I heavily capitalize on what I dislike. However, I am very hesitant to go on about things I consider good, and even more so about things that are considered good by the people whose opinions I care about.
At the risk of making this introduction too heavy for you, dear reader, I have to start by saying that the first time I watched Cowboy Bebop I was not impressed. I don’t know why. Overly built expectations? A certain disdain towards the sci-fi x western genre? The fact that I’m still haunted by Firefly? Who the hell knows. I just didn’t like it. I pushed myself to watch the whole thing. In retrospect, I think I was expecting a cheap thrill, something we (unfortunately) are all guilty of seeking in entertainment these days. I was also nervous as I was watching this show because my purpose was to write this review, which is always a bit of a crappy thing to do; turning entertainment into flaccid work-related tasks. If you catch my drift. *serious wink.*
Long story short, I re-watched Cowboy Bebop just because I thought my partner would like it. He has a sensitive spot for Jim Jarmush and the whole film-noir-y thing. And then, in a way that could even be described as magical, as the first episode started playing, I found myself to be excited.
This music; I don’t think I’ve ever heard an anime series intro theme ever reach such levels of quality. I remembered the whole thing and hummed along, paid close attention to OP, and appreciated its retro-colored aesthetic and carefully chosen mix of animated and inanimate scenes. It dawned upon me that this was not regular. This was… good. It was new; it didn’t belong; it didn’t follow norms; it didn’t try to fit in. It was its own thing. And that was just the intro, mind you. The intro of a show from 20 years ago. Needless to say that I felt the same way throughout the rest of the series.
I believe the thing I was most sceptical about when watching the show the first time was the non-binary choice of genre it had going on. Cowboy Bebop is like a spectrum of things; It is, of course, sci-fi, but not in the conventional, shiny-futuristic way; it’s filthy, decadent, and dystopian, which allows it to create a noir-esque feel, as the future is dark and pessimistic, nothing is better or improved – in fact, it’s an horrendous replica of the world of today. And that is unsettling. The twist I was mostly worried about though was the western-cowboy theme – I don’t know, maybe I just really hate the genre. Also, yes, I do hate Firefly, and if you want to defend that piece of cinematic horror just fight me, I’m right here. Having watched that, I was left utterly confused as to why anyone would ever make something so incredibly tacky and shallow. So yeah, in my head, western x scifi was a bad, bad thing and I am not sure how I feel about westernized anime; I am more of a traditionalist – I do like stuff like Ayakashi and Mononoke. I enjoy being slapped in the face with history, traditional music, theater, and attire. And ghosts, but only cool ones.
So yeah, I’m sidetracking again; the western element in the show was really worrying me. But it was okay. Somehow, it is not a perverted vision of the west in the way I expected. The only other anime that handles external cultural references without messing them up -out of the top of my head- would probably be Michiko to Hatchin, and, no, I’m not gonna list anime that suck because they fail to successfully appropriate their source material; get your own damn examples. There are plenty. But no, Cowboy Bebop is doing a good job. It’s not treading anywhere it shouldn’t be treading. It does what it knows and it does it well. It doesn’t get lost focusing on the surface of menial detail.
I suppose I’m going to stop somewhere around here because this is becoming longer that I thought it would be. I’m not even gonna touch the subject of animation and sound quality – honestly, especially compared to today’s trashy standards, the show kicks ass. It is a visual marvel, and mostly hand drawn. HAND-DRAWN. Can you hear me, GOD? CAN WE NOT CGI ANYMORE?
Well, what did you expect?
- Edward – honestly, what a genius character
- Hate me but I find Faye way too overly sexualized. The medium is the message. FIGHT ME!
Yeah, DUH, of course you need to watch it and of course it’s good. A glass of scotch and a good cigar would make it even better. Get yourself into a classy mood with this classy show. ENJOY!