If you like anime then you’ve almost certainly heard of Cowboy Bebop. Since it first aired in 1998 it’s grown to legendary status among fans, and continues to be a well-loved favourite by many. As a fairly new anime viewer I am making it my mission to watch as many of the big, “must-watch” series as I can, and this really is a great place to start.
Set in the year 2071, the series follows Spike, Jet, Faye, Ed and their dog Ein as they chase criminals across the solar system. While it may sound like a basic sci-fi romp, there’s a lot more to this series than spaceships and gun fights. For starters the show is very character focussed and we come to learn a lot about each of our main cast. All four of them have very different personalities and work great together as an ensemble. In many episodes we learn about their individual pasts and watch as they come to confront them again. Despite the episodic nature of the series, this is an overarching theme that colours the narrative throughout.
There’s a mature tone and ‘cool’ vibe to Cowboy Bebop, even with the fast paced action and light comedy scattered throughout. Matched with the subtle art style and jazzy soundtrack this makes it an easy series to get into for those who wouldn’t normally watch anime. Western film influences can be found everywhere in Bebop from episodes that parody 80s film genres to simple references.
However, my biggest personal criticism of this series is how the episodic format makes it hard to sit down and marathon watch. With each episode being a self-contained story there are few cliff-hangers and I often felt that one or two episodes per sitting was enough for me before picking it up again a few days later. I sometimes also had to re-watch episodes as I kept forgetting what had happened.
Cowboy Bebop is a series that you have to stick with to the end as it really does pick up as it goes along (the main five aren’t all introduced until episode 10) and it is worth watching all the way through. It’s unique, fun and the ending will stay with you for a long time afterwards. While I don’t hold the opinion that ‘classic status’ alone is a good enough reason to watch something, this really is one classic series that you should not miss out on.