Shinichirō Watanabe: Cowboy Bebop

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This is the first of a two-part series on the fantastic anime director Shinichirō Watanabe. I have been a fan of his since I first saw Cowboy Bebop way back in 2002/3 due to the way that he seems to take two seemingly entirely different concepts and combine them in a quirky yet pleasing way. Cowboy Bebop takes the setting of bounty hunters in space and combines it with a hefty dose of film noire styling and jazz music, resulting in an unforgettable series that I rewatch on a regular basis to this day.

The series takes place in the year 2071 and follows the motley crew of the Bebop as they travel through space and try to earn a living. The planet earth is barely inhabited, instead humans have moved further afield, terraforming nearby planets. Due to the invention of Astral Gates, cross system travel is extremely fast. This has lead to a massive increase in crime, as the authorities cannot pursue criminals once they leave the orbit of a planet / use a Gate. This need for a different method of policing gave rise to the bounty hunters.

The cast is filled with interesting and likeable characters, each with a very distinct personality. The protagonist of the series Spike Spiegel is adept in martial arts and seems to exhibit reflexes above and beyond that of a normal man. He is also extremely lazy and laid back, which is often a source of annoyance to the crew. Particularly annoyed by Spike’s attitude is Jet Black, the typical father figure of the series and owner of the ship. Jet is serious in nature, almost a polar opposite of Spike. One thing that Spike and Jet do have in common is that they both have tragic love stories that lead them to where they are now in life.

The two female members of the crew are Faye Valentine and Edward. Faye is a fearless, sarcastic and egotistical woman who doesn’t let anyone tell her what to do. She crosses paths with Spike and Jet twice before becoming a permanent resident on the Bebop. Edward serves as the main source of comedic relief, she is a semi-androgynous looking young girl who is a computer and hacking genius. She also has some very strange habits, rarely walking anywhere, preferring to walk on her hands or crawl, etc.

The characters all look extremely polished and the backdrops of every scene are highly detailed. The animation is also top class, especially in the fast moving fight scenes, which are almost always timed to a fantastic piece of music. There are a few dog-fighting space scenes too which are fantastic to watch. Each episode seems to carry with it a certain musical theme, which is often shown in the title. The sheer perfection between the pairing of the music with the mood of the each scene in every episode never ceases to amaze me.

Cowboy Bebop is one of my favourite anime to date and I believe it to be a must see, even for those of you who can’t stand to read subtitles. This is one of the few anime series that was given the proper treatment when it came to the USA. Both the Japanese and American voice actors are fantastic, they capture the essence of each character perfectly. With all of this in mind go and find a copy of the DVD’s somewhere and watch it if you haven’t, in fact watch it again even if you have. You’ll enjoy it, I promise.

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