Why I Love Cowboy Bebop
With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "Oh, Cowboy Bebop, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways..."
Cowboy Bebop was the series that hooked me, along with lots of other people, on anime. Over the years, my son has dragged me into the living room to watch various series, such as Pokemon, Dragonball, Tenchi Muyo, and Gundam Wing. The antics of the Gundam boys certainly kept my attention, but Cowboy Bebop made me realize anime could be smart, stylish, mature, complex, and emotionally involving (which is just shorthand for "I cried buckets at the end.")
My tastes are fairly eclectic, but what draws me in time and again is a solid story with characters that I can really care about, and Cowboy Bebop hit those points for me from beginning to end.
When I explain this show to non-anime fans, I describe the sessions as little jewels strung together on the thread of a single unifying theme, with its ending tied to its beginning to form an almost perfect circle.
Cowboy Bebop is episodic and character-driven, which is unusual for an action/adventure story. Most action/adventure tales are plot-driven and linear, and it's important to watch episodes in order.
In Cowboy Bebop, though, there's no obvious plot arc like saving the world. The story action is just the Bebop crew bagging bounties so they can eat and keep the ship fueled. Plot-wise, you don't need to see the sessions in order to get what's going on. However, there's a character-centric theme driving the series, and each session builds on that theme. It's important to watch the sessions in order to better appreciate how the characters come together and grow close before everything starts falling apart. And this, I think, is the main reason why the story delivered such an emotional punch for me.
I loved that Spike could be apathetic and fatalistic and still want something more from life. I loved the contradictions of Faye's character and the vulnerability hiding below the brash surface. I loved Jet's protectiveness and his sense of honor and loyalty. I loved the open-ended quality of the past between Spike, Julia, and Vicious, and even how the futures of Jet, Faye, and Ed are left open. I knew Spike's past would come back with a vengeance, but the final episodes were still sad. While I liked some episodes better than others, every one of them added to the characters and the story, if even just in a small way.
If you're a fan of Cowboy Bebop and the adventures of its misfit band of bounty hunters, I hope you'll add your name to this list.
About the Series
Shinichiro Watanabe, Keiko Nobumoto, Yoko Kanno, and Toshihiro Kawamoto are part of the collaborative team behind Cowboy Bebop. The 26-episode series first aired in 1998, and was followed up in 2001 by a movie, Knocking On Heaven's Door (renamed Cowboy Bebop: The Movie in the US.)