Friday, July 19, 2013

Anime Review: Cowboy Bebop

COWBOY BEBOP: Is this a masterpiece? It depends on how you define the word.

Cowboy Bebop is a twenty-six episode series that follows the adventures -- or should I say, misadventures -- of a group of bounty hunters travelling space through the starship Bebop. It has received significant attention worldwide that it comes to the point that it has been considered an anime masterpiece. But is this claim justifiable? In my opinion, the term masterpiece is somewhat vague. If it is synonymous to perfect, then I must say that Cowboy Bebop is not a masterpiece at all. It has its own flaws -- like any other story. If it signifies something that is a work of a genius, then Cowboy Bebop’s position becomes debatable.

The story revolves around Spike, Jet, Faye, Edward, and Ein -- the crew of the Bebop. The series appears to be somewhat episodic, for it doesn’t really follow a solid overall story. It merely talks about the adventures of the crew. One could argue that Spike’s storyline is actually the overall story. But this is apparently not the case, for it is not substantiated enough to be considered as such. At best, it could be called a story arc that is scattered all throughout the series to add mystery to the franchise.

However, the storytelling is not purely episodic in terms of technicality. It still follows a logical order in the story sequences. What I like about this kind of storytelling is that it gives the viewers different perspectives of the Cowboy Bebop universe. The fact that it doesn’t just follow a single story makes the fictional world more open to exploration. What makes this episodic approach more effective is its ability to give sufficient amount of screen time to each character, so there is a lot of room for character development to take place.

The crew of the Bebop, I must admit, is very balanced in terms of personality. The characterization of its members is distinct enough for each of the characters to leave an impression -- not to mention that these characters blend well together. Spike is the laidback dude; Jet is the mature and reliable one; Faye is the chic that has a lot of attitude; and Edward is the jolly character who counters the solemn mood. Aside from Edward, each of them has a problematic past, which makes them much more relatable as characters.

What makes them even more believable as characters is the fact that they show traits that are beyond their character framework -- like how Faye actually shows a lot of emotion despite her portrayal of being a heartless trickster. It just means that they are not surface-level characters with unique traits just to appear solid; they actually have depth. Even though Edward has no tragic past to make her more concrete, she is not a problematic character. Her role of balancing out the crew is enough to consider her all right.

I don’t normally tackle music in my anime reviews. I only include it if it is worth noting -- and yes, Cowboy Bebop’s music is worth the notice. Its concentration on jazz and blues gives the series a very distinct atmosphere. And I know that it is impressive when one of the best opening themes of all time is of an anime that has been released in the 90’s!

So, after everything I have said, is Cowboy Bebop a masterpiece? In its technical aspects, it is debatable that the series is a work of a genius. But it is still not perfect! It is only a matter of defining what masterpiece truly is. I define masterpiece as something that has made a significant impact in its art form or beyond. So, as a personal note, Cowboy Bebop is a masterpiece, just because it has become widely influential not just in the anime scene, but in science fiction in general. That’s enough for me to consider it as such, for, I believe, that defining masterpiece as a perfect work is just absurd.


  1. Again, I agree with you on most points. While the series is not perfect and I would not consider it the best anime I have ever seen, it is one of the best and most unique. Cowboy Bebop is one of the few series I have seen that is very episodic and therefore most individual episodes can be taken as a single story. Additionally, I believe the final two episodes to be among the conclusions I have seen. I am not sure which you prefer, sub or dub, I have to say that the dub is fantastic for Bebop, Steven Blum and the others where great. Also I have to commend the humor, which is perfect in episodes like "Cowboy Funk" and "Mushroom Samba."

    Overall, the show probably ranks fifth or sixth among my favorite anime right now.

    Again great review. I am really enjoying your blog.


    1. But what puts others off to Cowboy Bebop is the fact that it's not as flashy as other anime. Its style and execution is very different than the usual, so it tends to disengage other viewers. I really liked how the series ended too. It somehow makes you sad and happy at the same time. Yes, I prefer the dub!

      Thanks for appreciating! It's really nice to know that people are enjoying what I've written!