Journey of Favorites: Cowboy Bebop

Cowboy Bebop

My first exposure to anything Cowboy Bebop came from my late night viewings on Adult Swim back in high school. I would watch an episode here and there because I initially became interested in the characters and the different scenarios they put themselves in. Plus I thought that Spike was a cool, suave mother fucker and that Faye was hot. But my interest in watching the show further diminished as other priorities in my life sank in.  It wasn’t until the summer of 2009 when I put some serious time into watching the series from start to finish. My first impressions were labeling Cowboy Bebop as one of the coolest anime shows I’ve ever watched. But as time changes, so do tastes.

This post may get a little scatterbrained because of the format of this show. It tries to tell the story of Spike Spiegel and the life he once lived, while at the same time being an episodic series displaying his life as a bounty hunter with Jet Black and how they acquire the assistance from Faye Valentine, Ein, and Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV (the fuck is with that name?) and form the bounty hunting Scooby-Do gang. So this post will jump around me talking about Spike’s story and the misadventures of the bounty hunting quintet.

The whole story of Spike Spiegel and his history with Vicious, Julia, and the Red Dragons isn’t served justice in this show. You get an idea of what happened in his previous life, but you don’t truly get a grand enough picture of his former trials and tribulations. Because of this I don’t find the Spike Spiegel story as interesting as I once thought it to be. When first watching Cowboy Bebop all I could think was: “Wow, Spike had a pretty rough time before becoming a bounty hunter”. And to some extent I still feel that way. He falls in love, but then comes to realize he can’t be with Julia because Vicious is, well, Vicious. But then Spike just fakes his own death and scoots his way out of the Red Dragon picture and becomes a bounty hunter with Jet.  Not much depth to go with when dealing with the main character of the series. And when it comes right down to it, every characters’ back story is mediocre at best.

Look at Faye’s story. It has so many holes in it, you could drive a semi through it. Her story goes from taking a school trip into outer space that leads to the space ship splitting in half, or breaking somehow, to which she is put into cryogenic sleep by someone or something, and wakes up 54 years later. With total amnesia, and “losing” the doctor she kind of fell in love with, she goes about gambling and bounty hunting to pay off this enormous amount of debt on her head. Later down the road when she joins up with Spike Spiegel and gang, she gets a Betamax tape, from someone, that shows her as a girl before her school trip disaster to which she recollects old memories of her former self.

Or how about our energetic companion Ed? Well Ed is an orphan turned superhacker with the energy of a 6 year old and the attention span of a goldfish. That is, when she isn’t hacking into every computer or super program cult leader demanded from either Jet or Spike. The only other information you have from Ed is that her dad is a map maker trying to recreate the map of the Earth, which in this time is pretty dumb since the Earth’s surface is reshaped by meteors that crash land every 20 minutes it seems, with an assistant whose name and character is irrelevant and the two of them run off at the site of every meteor crash they witness, kind of like the rainbow dad in Mushi-shi every time it starts to rain.

And Jet Black was a former cop. Then he decided to become a bounty hunter.

And Ein is a super intelligent Pembroke Welsh Corgi (thanks Wikipedia) that was apparently created by scientists.

The characters aren’t exactly defined by their back stories like in other anime. What makes them interesting to watch, and the strength of the show in general, are the episodic bounty hunts they go on and just their interactions with each other.

Why couldn’t this show just have been the five of them bounty hunting? They still could have brought in the whole Julia/Vicious/Red Dragon story for Spike into the show. I literally had no problem with that. It’s the way they implemented it into the show that kills me. Let’s gather everyone up at the beginning, throw Vicious into the mix for an episode just to tie in the Spike story, go bounty hunting for the next 20 episodes, then wrap everything up with Spike’s sour relationship with the Red Dragons. This show isn’t the most well made in terms of storytelling. It pretty much falls flat in that aspect. What makes Cowboy Bebop such a joy to watch are the jobs the five of them take on, the interesting characters they encounter when trying to capture these bounties, and the fact that they are terrible at what they do because they can’t catch about 90% of the bounties they go after. And that’s about it. That’s all there is to this show. And it’s so weird to see so many people out there say that this is one of the greatest anime shows ever created. This is the most simple show in the world to grab the attention of so many fans. It’s kind of mind boggling. There are so many holes to this series, yet it’s still rather enjoyable to watch.

And when it comes right down to it, I’m on the fence about my true feelings about the show. I don’t want what I’ve written already to be misleading because there are things about this show that I truly do like. On one side you have these five characters that are so fun to watch. They bounce off of each other so well like a rubber ball to a brick wall that sometimes just watching them sit around Jet’s ship talking to one another is just as interesting as watching them fail at doing the one thing they do for the entire show. One the other side you have lackluster storytelling for characters that already define themselves by what they do for more than half the series. I understand the want to shine more light on who they really are, but at the same time it really isn’t necessary. Cowboy Bebop tries so hard at perfection that it slips up on things outside of what made this show good.

I think Cowboy Bebop is the first show in my Journey of Favorites that isn’t as great the second time around. But that’s why I’m doing this. I’m doing this so I know for sure where I stand on these shows and where I will put them when I make my favorite anime list. It’s sad to see my opinion change for a show I used to like so much, but at the same time I’m glad that I was able to experience this show again. Now onto the next segment where you the readers vote on what I watch next. The poll stands as such:

Angel Beats!

Arakawa Under the Bridge

Durarara!!-1

Kimi ni Todoke-1

Kuragehime

Mononoke

Neon Genesis Evangelion

Strawberry Panic!-1

Toradora!-4

The Tatami Galaxy

Toradora is sitting comfortably right now with the most votes for my next Journey of Favorites post. But that will not be my next “Journey” post to make. Like I stated in my last post I am going to rewatch Madoka, Death Note, and Code Geass because I want to see if my thoughts on those shows have changed over time. I am currently rewatching Madoka so that will be my first post for my “Journey of Reconsiderations”.

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About lerxst2112
Former blog writer/podcast personality for Anime Afterlife Podcast and Desu Ex Machina and head writer for The Anime Kid. I've been watching anime consistently for 4 years now and see no end in sight. I love anything from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, to Love Live, to Precure, and everything else in between. I also partake in video games, Magic: The Gathering, and sports (primarily American Football). I started writing back in 2011 when my friends over at Anime Afterlife Podcast decided to bring me on as a writer and podcast host. But once things started to fall apart there, I was brought on as a writer for Desu Ex Machina. But my time there ended and I decided to take a break from blogging to not only relax from blogging for a while, but to also sort out my personal life as well. Now I'm getting the itch to write again, and so The Anime Kid was born.

2 Responses to Journey of Favorites: Cowboy Bebop

  1. zekana says:

    what you’re doing is something many of us are too afraid to do. Realizing something you used to love when you were younger isn’t quite as good as you remember can be pretty heart breaking at times. granted im think of this as if i was going back and watching cartoons i used to watch when i was 5-10, not during the teen years.

    anyway, ya, bebop. strangely, i’ve never actually watched bebop all the way through. i’ve always watched it out of order (starting from the middle and looping) cause that seemed to be the only way i could watch it while its on tv so ive never gotten the real experience of the show before but in a way, i think thats why so many people like it. it truely is one of those shows that you could start it from anywhere in the series and you’ll enjoy yourself.

    anyway, as far as voting goes,
    +1 for Durarara!!

  2. ウイスキー says:

    Not to drag up an older post, but when it comes to Bebop, you are, if anything, “missing the point” by not discussing Kanno Yoko’s musical role with the series. The series was after all named in respect to it’s musical influences.

    While most of the “Western” audience may have originally been of the shounen demographic, the series was geared towards a seinin audience. It might be a difference experience in a few years time.

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