Log in

No account? Create an account
05 June 2014 @ 10:16 am
Cowboy Bebop  
We somehow got sucked into a rewatch of Cowboy Bebop recently. We initially bought the DVDs after catching a few episodes on a satellite channel (I think it was the precursor of Dave, though I could be misremembering). I seem to recall that on first watch through we were a little disappointed with it and, in particular, at the way the arc plot did (or perhaps, more accurately, didn't) play out. We were a lot more impressed this time through.

One of the things that really struck us was how favourably it compares to Firefly. I'm not sure we even made the connection when we first watched it, and it is possible that Firefly hadn't even aired at the time, but the similarities are fairly clear. We have a space ship crewed by misfits (often motivated by the need to earn enough money to buy food) with a somewhat flexible attitude to the law and a Wild West vibe. In Firefly the wild west metaphor is much more pronounced with its frontier planets, cattle and general costuming and set dressing. The crew of the Bebop are bounty hunters, rather than smugglers, and the wild west connection is mostly made through the Bounty Hunter TV show that they watch. Meanwhile in terms of look and feel, and mostly notably soundtrack, Cowboy Bebop wants to evoke Jazz and Blues, smart suits and prohibition Chicago. For, I suspect, rather different reasons, both shows also present a society with roots in Chinese culture.

What I think we missed, on first viewing, is that Cowboy Bebop isn't telling the story of what is happening to its characters. There are about three episodes that deal with Spike, the main protagonist, and the developments in the organised crime gang that he has left behind, but the show is actually telling us the story of each character's past. Once we understand how each of them came to be on the Bebop, not only does the show end, but two (three if you count the dog) have left. It is very leisurely in its telling. It introduces its characters slowly (we are on the fourth episode before the full crew is assembled) and isn't afraid to leave some parts of the back story only as hints. We never really understand what happened between Spike, Vicious (the closest thing the show has to an antagonist) and Julia (the woman caught between them), we only know enough to understand the emotions that drive their interactions.

It's a very classy show though, for a value of classy that involves this being an anime. So a certain amount of slapstick and surreality crop up without particularly appearing to be sudden lurches in tone. In particular its soundtrack is wonderful, and almost a character (or perhaps narrator) in its own right. And it does compare favourably with Firefly which, for all its strengths, was very aware of the need to be a prime time show. Cowboy Bebop feels more at ease to be just what it is, stylish, slow and more than a little melancholy. It was well worth a rewatch and I would highly recommend it to anyone with some tolerance for anime.

See you, Space Cowboy.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/117155.html.