Sunrise brings us ‘Cowboy Bebop,’ a 1997 epic science fiction anime directed by Shinichirō Watanabe and written by Keiko Nobumoto. It has a soundtrack from composer Yoko Kanno and combines elements from noir, Western, and even horror fiction.
Spike Spiegel (Steve Blum) is a former member of the criminal organization Red Dragon Syndicate who faked his own death to become a “cowboy,” a bounty hunter in the year 2071. Along with cyborg crewmate Jet Black (Beau Billingslea), a former Intra Solar System Police officer, they search for criminals in outer space to collect bounties. They end up being joined by the con artist Faye Valentine (Wendee Lee), who cannot remember her past. The child prodigy hacker Radical Ed (Melissa Fahn) and a corgi named Ein round out the crew. As they travel, they learn secrets about one another’s past, including Spike’s connection to a mysterious woman named Julia (Mary Elizabeth McGlynn) and a violent thug named Vicious (Skip Stellrecht).
It is tough not to repeat the praise that has already been heaped onto this anime. I can say, it is well deserved. Though it only ran for one season, the show has ingrained itself not just in the otaku, nerd, or weeb sphere, but also into pop culture in both Japan and the United States as well. Ender’s Game author Orson Scott Card even cited it as an influence for some of his works. It is no surprise there.
The show does a good job of mixing sci-fi with other genres to keep your expectations high on what will happen next. I do not remember feeling bored during a single episode as we watch the eclectic group of characters traverse space and even time for their adventures. Each person is well-developed and even side characters are given enough time for their stories to come to fruition without it bogging down the main story arc.
I also want to praise the animation. Though made in the nineties, it still holds up today. I loved watching the action sequences, the space travel, and the character designs. No one was too plain to be boring or too bizarre to make you cringe. The creators paid very close attention to where they were going with the story and I think that is impressive. Kanno also did a good job with the music, it blended in perfectly with the series and complemented it perfectly.
This is going to be controversial, but I am going to say it. Having watched it in both its original Japanese and English dubs, I have to say this is one of those unique times where the English voice cast was better. That rarely happens. It is like finding a regular French fry with your curly fries, but this is one of those times. Please note, I am not saying that the Japanese cast was bad, but the English cast just nabbed the characters a bit more. Perhaps it is because of its Old West influence that made it seem that way. Whatever the case, it is just my opinion.
With that said, Cowboy Bebop is one of the most incredible animes that you will ever watch. It has action, adventure, loss, grief, love, joy, and a discovery of what it is like to be human. In any case, see ya later, space cowboy.
Check out the trailer below:
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Violence, Drug content, Suggestive themes, Crude humor, Thematic elements
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This article has been updated from a previous version.