Anime Review: Cowboy Bebop (1998)

TL;DR – The ultimate sci-fi neo-noir spaghetti western anime, and THE anime by which all other anime series should measures themselves against. There are very few series that set the standard as high as this one.

Review (warning: spoilers)

Characters, story, and soundtrack. It’s a simple formula but can be delivered with varying quality. I have read in an interview that Director Shinichiro Watanabe wanted to create an anime series where each individual episode is like a movie. Cowboy Bebop is that series and much more.

The underlying story centres on Spike Spiegel, a hitman of the Red Dragon syndicate. His partner is Vicious, a cold-blooded, power-hungry killer who eventually stages a coup d’Ă©tat and becomes the Red Dragon syndicate boss. Spike falls in love with Julia, who at the time was Vicious’s girlfriend. As you can imagine, when Vicious finds out he wants Spike’s head on a stick. So much for brother-in-arms.

Fast forward and Spike has managed to escape the syndicate and is now working on the spaceship Bebop as a bounty hunter with Jet Black, a former ISSP (Inter Solar System Police) officer. Together they go around capturing criminals to get the bounty rewards, and along the way their crew expands to include Faye Valentine (a con artist), Ed (a skilled hacker) and Ein (a genetically engineered Welsh Corgi). All of them have their own backstories and skeletons in the closet (except maybe the dog), which are revealed slowly throughout this gripping 26 episode series.

The criminals they encounter are all unique and have different motives, and each episode is self-contained while also progressing the underlying story arc of Spike, Vicious and Julia . Along the way you learn more about the galaxy they live in, and the histories of the rest of the Bebop crew (for example, the Earth has largely become uninhabitable due to a hyperspace gateway disaster, humanity has colonised other planets, and Faye was cryogenically frozen to save her life).

Combine the multi-layered story and brilliant characters with a killer soundtrack that is a mix of blues, jazz and opera (composed by Yoko Kanno) and you have what amounts to a masterpiece.

If you aren’t moved with the scene where Spike and Vicious face off inside a cathedral, this giant stained glass window in the background, and the song “Green Bird” by Gabriela Robin playing in the background then anime is not for you.

Do yourself a favour, binge this series now before it’s too late. See you space cowboy.

10 out of 10

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