Cowboy Bebop is one of the animes that enjoys universal praise. Many anime fans call it a must-watch, and many call it a whole experience. Cowboy Bebop first came out in April of 1998 and popularity a few years later, garnering almost a cult-like following.
Cowboy Bebop is one of the animes that almost every seasoned anime fan has watched and reveres deeply. It’s one of the animes that anime fans would suggest to anyone without a single worry, as it is one of the best pieces of fiction that an anime fan can stumble upon.
Cowboy Bebop has a 26-episode series and a single movie. Even though it enjoys universal praise, many anime fans might still have some qualms about watching it. This Cowboy Bebop Review is to help those people decide whether they should invest their time in watching this series.
Cowboy Bebop Plot Summary:
Cowboy Bebop follows the anecdotes of five individuals, namely, Jet, Spike, Faye, Ed, and Ein, drifting through space from one planet to another aboard a spaceship named Bebop. The series is episodic in nature, thus making it really difficult to write a plot summary for it. Every episode of Cowboy Bebop is a short, self-contained story.
The crew on the Bebop receives a bounty, they go on a mission for this bounty, and something happens, the target either dies or our bounty hunters undergo a change of heart, they don’t get their reward and end up on the ship, right where they started. The first episode is generally the most important one of all. It has to capture the audience and show them what more things they can expect.
And no other anime does it better than Cowboy Bebop. The first episode opens with Spike reminiscing about his work as an assassin while practicing martial arts, than Jet and Spike both have a meatless “beef with bell peppers” while complaining about their lack of money.
Later they receive a bounty for a drug dealer who is somewhat involved with the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate. After some complications and a few bloody scuffles, the drug dealer and his companion try to escape to Mars, their attempt sadly fails as they are surrounded by the police and are shot down.
The first episode has an interesting premise, some foreshadowing, along with some really smooth action sequences between Spike and the drug dealer. All of this is brought together by a phenomenal soundtrack.
The episodic nature of Cowboy Bebop makes it really hard to summarise. There is an overarching plot about Spike and the old crime syndicate he worked for, but only 5 out of a total of 26 episodes actually progress that plotline. The rest are self-contained stories that either resolve or explore the pasts of the cast of Cowboy Bebop.
Cowboy Bebop Review:
Cowboy Bebop is one of the most beloved animes out there, boasting a huge and loyal fanbase. It is one of the animes that grow on you. Cowboy Bebop has this seamless quality to it. The direction, animation, and soundtrack work well enough that it often makes it difficult to examine each individual piece in isolation.
There’s this flow to the series, unlike any other anime. The culmination of all these aspects makes following the story of our bounty hunter protagonists, Spike, Jet, and Faye, an utter pleasure.
Despite tackling many broader themes, cruising the galaxy and spending time with the three vagabonds is an incredible amount of fun. There are lively, exciting displays of martial arts prowess, clever back and forth as characters argue in a way that only close friends can, and some really good visual comedy.
Cowboy Bebop isn’t an anime that can be contained or categorized by any specific genre. The show has a beautiful, varied, and mixed tone to it. Each episode has its own specific genre, be it the western cowboy-infused episode Cowboy Punk or the hard-boiled noir police drama of the episode Black Dog Serenade, sci-fi, Chinese martial arts, and many more.
There is a special looseness to the episodes, and no two episodes will ever feel the same. There is a vibrant episode where our entire cast spends the entire episode while being high on mushrooms and another horror-inducing neo-noir episode where Spike tracks down a deranged and extremely dangerous floating psychopath.
The viewers of the series will spend most of the time with the crew aboard the Bebop spaceship. And as main casts go, they are as likable and charming as they can become. We have our main protagonist Spike Spiegel, a skilled bounty hunter whose chilled and playful disposition hides a man haunted by his experiences working as a hitman for a crime syndicate.
Then we have Jet, a man of principles who used to work as a policeman but left the police force due to corruption and then ended up as a bounty hunter. And finally, we have Faye, a deceptive con woman with an itch for drinking, gambling, and mayhem.
At the same time, dealing with the fact that she’s completely alone in the universe. Faye was cryogenically frozen for several decades and then awoken in a future that she did not understand while also making her own past a mystery. Ed and Ein are oddballs in this crew, but they do deliver some much-needed comedy.
Why You Should Watch Cowboy Bebop:
If you haven’t noticed it yet, there’s a certain pattern repeating itself among the cast of Cowboy Bebop. The first is that all of them are dealing with loneliness in their own ways, and the second is that all of them are haunted by their pasts, be it one way or the other, this being the major theme of Cowboy Bebop.
Cowboy Bebop is a show particularly about being an adult. While most animes begin their story at the beginning of the character’s narrative arc, the cast of Cowboy Bebop has already gone through their character arcs by the time episode one starts.
Each and every member of the crew had lived a significant life up until that point. Cowboy Bebop isn’t about a group of characters coming of age and discovering who they really are, but about three tired adults trying to outrun the realizations of their pasts.
But all of the past events are just distant images in the life of our cast. The anime successfully portrays that the characters of Cowboy Bebop lead mundane lives only briefly lit up by flashes of excitement and are not just fictional cartoon characters that hop from one flashy adventure to the next.
The oddest member of the cast would be Ed. Her character contrasts really heavily with the rest of the characters of the show. A young, savant hacker, Ed, joins the crew during episode 9. Ed doesn’t have a past that she’s trying to run from, she’s not even an adult, and life hasn’t taken a toll on her in the same way that it has on Spike and the others.
She views the world with enthusiasm and fascination entirely unique to her. Most of the comedic relief in Cowboy Bebop comes through Ed, but boiling her role down to comedic relief wouldn’t do justice to the purpose of her character. Even though her computer skills are useful, the other members of the cast seem to have taken her in as a replacement for the things that they’ve lost, a carefree youth.
This is purely speculation, though. The dystopian vision presented in Cowboy Bebop is unique. In this universe Earth had suffered a string of massive catastrophes, and thus humanity had scattered, eventually settling on various planets.
There are many things that make the world of Cowboy Bebop feel distinct and alive. The world of Cowboy Bebop has its own media, shows within shows, along with many unusual and inventive technology, from the spectacular-looking spaceships to the face recognition software used by Spike and his crew along with mechanized ashtrays that appeared during a casino episode.
All of these are just products of reimagining things that already exist in our world. This eventually gives Cowboy Bebop the feeling of a universe set within our own but still being very alien and unique. The universe of Cowboy Bebop lacks any feeling of uniformity, unlike most other sci-fi shows nowadays. Each person within the Bebop universe is unique and is tied to their own agenda.
Resulting in a highly varied cast of supporting characters coming from almost every social, racial, and religious background, giving the feeling that no one in the Bebop universe has a solid place within it.
Everyone is just drifting like Faye, Jet, and Spike. And the most entertaining parts of the show come from experiencing different stories as our protagonists meet various different individuals. The animation in Cowboy Bebop is consistent and incredible.
The Animation of Cowboy Bebop:
Cowboy Bebop was produced in a period before digital compositing was common in the animation industry. Digital compositing is the process of combining the character and the background and then adding lighting and atmospheric effects to deliver a more polished product.
The digitization of hand-drawn animation is probably the biggest advance in the animation industry, along with digital compositing, within the last two decades. Many shows produced prior to the popularization of digital composition tend to have a flattering look in terms of lighting and effects.
Cowboy Bebop is one of those flatter-looking shows. At first glance, it might look like all the other old animes and might seem unappealing in the face of something like the Fate Series. But judging Cowboy Bebop using this single point will make people miss out on many strong points of this show.
There are many spectacularly animated and choreographed fight scenes in Cowboy Bebop, but other than that, the animation is really limited. But the true strength of the show isn’t within the number of drawing in a scene but in the quality of each individual frame. Each and every character has their own personality, their own being. This is vividly expressed by their animation.
Not one character of the Bebop crew just stands straight like a background character. Each one of them has a gesture or feeling expressed by their posture at any given moment. This is clearly seen with the character of Ed. Her character would’ve been far more irritating if her animation and mannerisms didn’t manage to sell her carefree and offbeat personality.
Every character moves in a way that’s unique to them, be it Spike’s consistently relaxed slouch, the differences in the way Faye carries herself when around different people, and when she’s not, along with Jet’s consistently upright and rigid posture. Every character in Cowboy Bebop carries a distinct body language, essentially making them feel alive.
Cowboy Bebop Review: Our Final Verdict
Cowboy Bebop is a phenomenal anime and should be watched by anyone and everyone, be it anime fans, new or old. It has a diverse cast, memorable supporting characters, and a superb setting.
All of these, when paired up with the legendary soundtrack, make up for a great anime that has proven itself to be one of the greatest, time and time again. Cowboy Bebop is really popular all over the world and has an almost cult-like following behind it. It is not just anime you watch. It is an experience that anime fans should live through.
Our Rating: ⭐ (4.6/5).