Cowboy Bebop (1998-2001)
Old Woman: He called you a cowboy. What did he mean? What are you?
Spike: Just a humble bounty hunter, ma'am.
Episode 25.5: “Cowboy Bebop: The Movie” (2001)
Of particular interest to me was the episode Mind Scratch, where a cult leader (Dr. Londes) is convincing people to destroy their bodies “transfer their soul” on the internet. As a person with a disability, it’s a good reminder that although technology can extend abilities, it can also suck your life out. Also, the episode “Pierrot Le Fou” deals with perhaps a satirical look at how the military abuses a man with mental illness to turn him into a hitman…when really he has a child’s mind. Unfortunately, the episodes are the exception to the rule as far as ones that deviate from the main story and are good.
Sometimes the series deviates into romance side-stories like “Ganymede Blues”,
comedies like “Cowboy Funk” or…most of Faye’s story, which is a sort of drama as she reclaims her memory. Not that these deviations are all bad. Cowboy Funk is actually really good and is a nice comedic tribute to some American influences on the show, even if in parody. (Spike meets an actual cowboy calling himself Wyatt Earp!) Another thing I liked about this anime is that…even though it’s Japanese…it’s cyberpunk, so it has a myriad of cultural influences, is full of criminal action…and doesn’t require a lot of knowledge of Asia. (Though it never hurts to be culturally aware!)
Most of the bounties are shown as being broadcasted in several languages. Most of it takes place in space even…except for a few episodes later on Earth. It’s very accessible to American/international audiences, I think. As Faye Valentine’s story concludes, she finds a VHS tape and discovers where she’s from. It was fun to see the crew fumble with a VCR! I remember VCRs, but certainly they wouldn’t! Anyway, after that, Spike discovers that his former girlfriend Julia has been hired to kill him, and it ends in an action-packed showdown.
My main complaint with the series is that it deviates a lot such as the episode “Heavy Metal Queen” where we’re introduced to characters who are never met again, and never developed further. Wyatt Earp’s story had at least a beginning, middle, and end. Seems like they could of done more with “Heavy Metal Queen”. All he does is reveal his name at the end. Then, he’s never seen again. Despite these strange deviations, the rest of the series is an epic cyberpunk romp through space which brings to my mind Neuromancer and Blade Runner as the crew collects bounties on assassins, terrorists, drug dealers, and evil hackers…but, sometimes they’re just looking for food and avoiding the space police!
If you like animation, cyberpunk or crime thrillers this is certainly an easily accessible classic. Maybe you might even like the melodrama! I didn’t, but I prefer the episodes dealing with disability philosophy and gun battles. What can I say? I’m a rare breed. Sci-fi and anime action geeks won’t be disappointed! 4/5 stars! Don’t miss it! See you, space cowboy…