A few months ago, this title showed up for rent on the shelves of my local massively corporate all-purpose multimedia entertainment store. Up until that point, I had neither seen nor heard anything about this show, and found the name of the show quite odd. Upon reading the DVD case, however, my curiousity was piqued. Additionally, that same week I saw a review of the series in BPM magazine. Some other sources I later saw compared it favorably to Outlaw Star, which in retrospect I would tend to agree with. All I knew though was that we had a mismatched group of bounty hunters just trying to make a living, eking out an existence. (by the way, the title Cowboy Bebop is taken from the bounty hunters, who are called cowboys, and the Bebop, which is the name of the main characters' spaceship.)
Watching the series was difficult at first. By this I don't mean the episodes were tedious or confusing, rather that the video store didn't cooperate too well. They initially carried the 1st and 5th discs (and no VHS), something which I frequently cursed under my breath about while in the store, not to mention complaining in writing that this made no sense. Eventually they filled in the gaps, and I was able to see the entire series.
Finally having done so, I must say that I am quite pleased. At first, after the first couple episodes anyway, it seems that the series is more episodic than serial, as most anime tends to be. I say episodic because for the most part, each of the episodes could almost be self-contained, without previous knowledge of any running storyline needed to understand the action. However, throughout each of the episodes, you gradually learn more and more about the protagonist, Spike Spiegel. Initially, not much is known about Spike, he is simply a bounty hunter with a mysterious past. And it is this past that he is trying to escape. Slowly, though, it begins to catch up to him, and in direct correlation we see the running storyline developing and coming more to the forefront.
There are five characters who eventually comprise the crew of the Bebop, the spaceship which they occupy: Spike, Jet Black (the owner of the Bebop), Faye Valentine, Ed, and Ein. Spike and Jet were the initial crew, with the other three joining during the series. Spike has a good quote summing this fact up: (if i remember right,) "There are three things I hate: vocal women, children, and pets. How convenient that we have gathered all three inside this ship" (eh, that's about what he said). Jet is an ex-cop, and acts as a sort of gruff father figure to the rest. Faye is a down-on-her-luck compulsive gambler, who started out as one of Spike and Jet's bounties. She has an equally mysterious past, though in her case, regrettably not much is revealed. Ed is a young orphan female ( <- believe me, it wasn't too obvious at first) hacker. And Ein is a superintelligent dog, created in a laboratory. Certainly an odd mix. Ed and Ein make a good pair in their misadventures, particularly in the episode "Mushroom Samba" which was simply hilarious. And they seem so innocent ;)
The overall tone of the series is somewhat dark, given that the subjects are bounty hunters chasing after the dregs of society. But the stories are certainly believable given the setting. Spike is the epitome of cool, even with his big hair. Seemingly without effort he defeats his foes. His biggest foe, however, is his past, and it does not prove so easy a task to overcome it. In general, each of the characters are well done. And the music is great. Though this is not music that I typically listen to, in each scene it fits the action absolutely perfectly. I was amazed at how well done it was, covering so many genres, yet exhibiting precisely the mood encompassed by the scene.
I think the main idea of this work was that in looking at a society that is dirty, fraught with despair, corruption, and anguish, if you look close enough you may unearth some gems. Everyone has done things in the past which they regret, things that may have hurt just one person or many. But the noble spirit tries to atone for these mistakes and set things right, without compromising beliefs and regardless of the risk.
Composite grade A+ (4.00)