Late last year I finally gave Cowboy Bebop a try and it’s my new favourite anime. So much so, that I’m already ready for a re-watch.
For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a Noir/Western/SF series about a couple of down on their luck bounty hunters (“cowboys”) who live on a spaceship called the Bebop. They are an ex-cop named Jet Black and an ex-mobster named Spike Spiegel. The latter looks a bit like Lupin, to me anyway, except for the hair. The crew eventually fills out to include a dog, Ein, Faye Valentine, a gambler with a strange past (or no past, depending on how you look at it) and Edward, a young girl and consummate hacker.
In the past I’ve done issue by issue overviews of comics I like and am re-reading. I’d read them, post my thoughts on each issue, and hope to generate some discussion. I’m going to give it a try with Cowboy Bebop. As for Spoilers, I’ll try to avoid them in my initial posts, but you can’t really discuss an episode without some spoilage, so it’s Reader Beware!
Session One: Asteroid Blues
The first episode—or ‘session,’ they try to work a musical theme into each episode—is called ‘Asteroid Blues.’
It starts with a prologue, instead of just jumping into the usual opening. Spike is standing in the rain. He’s got a rose and is waiting for someone. He gives up. There’s a gunfight. Then we get the opening sequence. I really like the opening sequence. I put it up there is the original Hawaii 5-0’s. Exciting, stylish, and it introduces everyone but the dog.
Having started with what looks like an Old World city, we now shift to jump gates over Mars. Spike is working out. Jet is cooking. The set up of this episode, including the prologue, gives the impression that Spike is the star. As the series progresses, we see this isn’t true, but the story of why he was waiting in the rain crops up again and again and becomes as close to an overall arc as the series gets. Typically, it’s all fast paced, done in one stories.
In this story they decide to go after the bounty on a guy named Asimov Solensan. He’s killed members of his own gang and stolen their entire supply of a drug called red eye, or bloody eye. The drug quickens reflexes and may cause violent episodes (but that could just be Solensan, I’m not sure). He’s travelling with a beautiful woman with an enormously pregnant belly. Sources give her name as Katrina Solensan, but I honestly don’t remember her name being given in the show, nor that the two are married. She hopes they can sell the drugs and move from the asteroid bio-dome they live in, called Tijuana, and move to Mars.
Tijuana, at least the portion we’re introduced to, is a rough, run down neighborhood. Much of space looks and feels lived in in the series. Spike goes to see an old Amerindian fortune-teller named Bull. Having watched the show through, it seems a bit atypical and I wondered on second viewing if Bull wasn’t actually an informant selling information through oblique references. We also met the three old codgers, a recurring comedic element . Really the only thing I didn’t like about it was a scene in which we view a fight through a gun sight. It created a game feel to it that didn’t quite belong.
I listened to the commentary, something I’ve gotten out of the habit of doing. There’s a funny story about one of the actors meeting the director. They’d worked together before, but the actor could not remember at all. Interesting facts learned: this episode wasn’t originally broadcast, due to drug use and violence; the show was very popular within the industry and among people who don’t usually watch anime, creating a lot work for those involved; and the three old codgers are named Antonio, Carlos, and Jobim, after the bossa nova composer/musician… Antonio Carlos Jobim.
After listening to the commentary, which is in Japanese, I decided to re-watch the episode in Japanese. To date I had only watched it in English. I watch a lot of sub-titled stuff. Practically everything, actually. English is my wife’s third or fourth language and she’s more comfortable watching things with the sub-titles on. I think I’ll stick with the dubbed version. It’s a quality dubbing and it makes the experience more immediate.
A good start to series, that creates a good sense of noirish futility. Rating: Four Stars