There aren’t a lot of anime that age well as time goes by. Some anime don’t even last five years before problematic elements make themselves stand out more than whatever story they started with. But is there an anime that is irrevocably deemed a masterpiece with little protest, an anime that you could watch time and time again without it getting stale? I mean, there’s a reason Cowboy Bebop is a cult classic.
Cowboy Bebop is an anime that aired in the 90s for exactly one season. And yet somehow, it is still worth watching, nearly two decades later. The hybrid of Neo-Noir elements mixed with Sci-Fi, and just a sprinkling of Spaghetti Westerns, is in a league of its own. It’s what made Shinichirō Watanabe, the director, a household name in the industry.
And it’s not like there weren’t others that influenced the anime landscape in a similar vein. Akira is the closest one that comes to mind, but Cowboy Bebop’s casual style is yet to be emulated in its full form. And that’s the word to be used here, isn’t it? There’s just something so effortless in how good Cowboy Bebop is.
From its choice of soundtrack, with its jazzy smoothness mixed with era-appropriate funk, to its morally grey take on an anime protagonist with Spike Spiegel, there is nothing quite like it. However, if you’ve never experienced the Space Cowboy and his adventures through the galaxies, you might want to reconsider your faves. So, 3-2-1, let’s discuss!
The Premise: Finding A Family While On The Run But In Space
The year is 2071. We finally killed the Earth, thanks to a hyperspace accident and not global warming, surprisingly enough. So, humanity has now started colonizing the Solar System. But of course, crime ensues, and so the ISSP (Inter Solar System Police) set up a deal with bounty hunters (also known as Cowboys) to capture these criminals for a reward.
Spike is one of these Cowboys, alongside Jett Black, a disillusioned ex-ISSP officer, aboard the Bebop. Later joined by the likes of Faye Valentine (an amnesiac con artist), Edward (an eccentric hacker), and Ein, they go on adventures trying to round up criminals for cash but end up in trouble that often brings up wounds of the past. Like why Jett left such a prestigious position. Or why Faye doesn’t remember who she was. Or even what’s up with Ein aka the cutest Corgi with an intelligence that’s too close for comfort?
However, the biggest mystery is Spike himself, with his outwardly devil-may-care attitude but clearly on the run from something. Yet it seems the farther he tries going, the more his past is trying to catch up.
Cowboy Bebop Breakdown: A Space Opera That Broke International Barriers
I don’t need to tell you how good this show is. Cowboy Bebop is considered the gateway drug to anime. This is touted, time and time again, as one of the greatest television series ever created. It transcends what an anime could be. So, let me tell you why you should watch it, even if you’re spoiled with the entire story.
When you first start the show and Tank by SEATBELTS starts playing (created by industry legend Yoko Kanno), you already know you’re in for a ride. The bongos hook you in, and before you know it, you’re swept into a cyberpunk meets wild west world, all caution thrown to the wind.
Despite the ‘adventure of the day’ episode sequence, it still manages to weave a narrative that is cohesive and engaging. You’d think that the sporadic nature would mean forgettable character arcs but that isn’t true. By the time you get to the climax of the series, you’re pretty much completely invested in the stories of everyone that came before it. Even characters that only lasted a single episode.
Cowboy Bebop defies genres. It is funny, with great comedic timing and slips. The action is so packed, with high stakes, that you can never predict paying off. It’s melancholic and tragic because, of course it is. What can’t this show pull off?
The story, its soundtrack, its characters, everything boils down to delivering this pinnacle of animation that isn’t just ‘good for its era’. It holds so well, even now ending up in those ‘greatest anime of all time’ lists everywhere.
The Verdict: One Of The Greatest Television Series Of All Time.
I think everyone needs to watch Cowboy Bebop at least once. Even if you know exactly what happens in the end, and what lies ahead in the fate of these Space Cowboys, this anime is an experience that, somehow, does not get old. In its singularity, there isn’t a show that makes you feel quite the same as it does.
Like a cup of artisanal coffee, Cowboy Bebop is smooth, dark, and rich. Yet somehow comforting in its bittersweet end. Watch it if you haven’t; you might be surprised!