What defines “classic”? To be a classic, does an anime need to be popular? Acclaimed? Revolutionary? Simply old? Cowboy Bebop is all and none of these. Hailing from the late ‘90s and directed by a Japanese man wearing sunglasses, Bebop gets a lot of love from a lot of people, so today it’s time to get to bottom of what makes Bebop tick. You might be surprised by what we find out.
As always, the review is provided in video format and transcribed directly below. I would like to note that my reviews are written first and foremost to be experienced as videos (that is, read aloud), so no guarantees that jokes, grammar, or anything else will transition entirely smoothly to text.
Welcome to the future. A future where bounty hunters roam the Solar System, always on the hunt for the latest and greatest catch. Our story centers on one particular ship, the Bebop, and its crew, the lanky, wisecracking Spike Spiegel and gruff, grizzled pilot Jet Black.
The two cowboys travel the stars, always eager to keep their wallets stuffed and bellies full, along the way picking up Faye Valentine, an amnesiac femme fatale, Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV, a whimsical child hacker, and Ein, an ultraintelligent Corgi dog. Together, they confront their pasts, and their futures, in all kinds of adventures.
Ok, listen. Hear me out on this one. I think you’ve been lied to this whole time, maybe your whole life, so I am hear to open your eyes and set the record straight: Cowboy Bebop is in fact one of the worst animes of all-time, as I will lay out in excruciating detail, starting with the opening. The best anime openings are the most typical. First, you need J-pop. Obviously. That’s a must. Preferably, a high pitched female singer, though male is not a deal-breaker. Second, lots of motion and bright colors, the brighter the better. You don’t want an epileptic anywhere near this thing. Third, lots and lots of skirt shots, plus whatever other fanservice (though only if possible given the characters, of course, but if it’s not, what the hell kind of trash are you even watching?).
So keeping all that in mind, it’s very easy to see where Bebop’s opening falls flat. For one, the music is not J-pop. It’s barely music at all. There’s no words, there’s no lyrics, just some saxophone and I don’t know, whatever else that is, just playing away as if I want to listen to it. That’s Strike One. For two, the design is awful. Every shot is composed in only two colors, black and some other muted tone. This is where things get really baffling. How am I supposed to get hyped up and excited with such a drab, boring palette? That’s Strike Two. For three, shamefully enough, there is no fanservice in this opening. Barely any girls at all, and certainly not cutesy moe ones. C’mon people, this is anime! Step up your game, Sunglasses! Please! (That’s Strike Three.)
But I fancy myself a calm, rational individual, and I know that the opening ultimately has no bearing on the rest of the show. It could be a bad omen, sure, but nonetheless a terrible opening is easily skipped, as I always did with Cowboy Bebop. Unfortunately for that, the show itself is no better. As we all know, this is a Japanese anime. So tell me why none of these guys look or sound even remotely Japanese. Jet? Edward? Spike? Who the fuck names their kid Spike? You’re just making the bully’s job easier. And get this, not one of these frickin’ clowns is even in high school. How am I supposed to relate to what’s happening on-screen if the cast is not comprised solely of teens and pre-teens? If I wanted shit like that, I’d watch the American crap that society shovels down our throats, the stuff that I come to anime to get away from, not to embrace. Fuck.
On top of that, Cowboy Bebop features a lineup of “great” villains, including some stupid kid that’s like 400 years old, a terrorist who makes bombs out of teddy bears or something, and this one guy in a top hat. Egh.
Jesus christ, and then, the plot. What is plot? Well Cowboy Bebop certainly doesn’t know, because there is no plot. Most episodes concern themselves with irrelevant filler, boring interactions with people you know only a little and care about even less (most of whom die by the end of their episode). What story does exist makes no sense, introducing first-time villains as if they’ve been around the whole time, and expecting me to actually comprehend what’s even going on. I can’t follow the story if it doesn’t tell me the story. It’s like we came in at the midpoint to some show that’s already about to end. In other words, terrible. And the ending sucks too. Incomplete cliffhanger bullshit.
This should come as no surprise, but Cowboy Bebop, like all animes, also has a terrible English dub. God awful. Every performance sounds stilted at best, cartoonish at worst. I don’t know why they dub animes in the first place, to be honest; the true, best experience will only ever be afforded through the native Japanese language, not the butchered localization of a sub-par translation team… Yeah, nothing else to say here really, I think I’ve made my point.
And as we all know, the older an anime is, the shittier it looks, with Cowboy Bebop in the unfortunate situation of being nearly 20 years old, so its graphics pale in comparison to even the most rudimentary of any modern animes. The old-school style of animation only succeeds in boring me, making the show complete crap from a visual standpoint (although to be fair, it is from every other standpoint as well). Here, just glance through some of the scattered images. What’s the first thing that catches your eye? ... Exactly, the aspect ratio. I mean, what the hell were they thinking? 4:3? Who in the year 2016 would even think about watching a show in 4:3?! Every second I spend looking at this is like someone repeatedly stabbing me in the eyeballs. Any and all watchable animes would be at least 16:9, preferably better. More numbers is good numbers, and as such this is but another way in which Bebop fails its audience.
But not the last way. When making animes, it’s important to keep in mind that all your viewers are there for one very simple reason: boobs, butts, fanservice in general. So, imagine my indignation when confronted with Bebop’s appalling lack of skimpy outfits and panty shots. We are blessed with a medium where loli catgirls are not only allowed, but encouraged, so dammit we need more loli catgirls! Cowboy Bebop thinks it can get away with no catgirls, no lolis, almost no boobs (though there are a few nice shots) and I am appalled, no, disgusted. This makes me want to fly over to Japan, first class, go up to Sunglasses’ doorstep and punch him in the face. Someone should have set him straight before it was too late, but somehow he slipped the net and created this monstrosity.
And I have nothing at all to say about the soundtrack, other than that (shockingly) it was completely unremarkable. Not even worth mentioning in any capacity, really, as there was not even a single song that caught my attention (made worse by almost every one being recorded in English, for god knows what reason, but I digress).
As a great man once said, “anime was a mistake”, and there’s no stronger case for that than Cowboy Bebop, rivaling the likes of Steins;Gate, Neon Genesis Evangelion and Fullmetal Alchemist as some of the world’s worst animes. Do yourself a favor, and go catch some Fairy Tail. Or maybe watch paint dry. Really, literally anything is more fulfilling and worthwhile than trudging through this torturous excuse for entertainment.
Bebop shoots itself in the foot in very nearly every way possible: boring characters, boring stories and boring animation. A friend of mine recommended it to me on the basis that it’s a so-called “masterpiece”, and all I have to say to you is “you’re dead to me”. Apparently Sunglasses made some other shows too, and I seriously don’t even want to think about how awful those are. The popularity of animes like this forces me to question, what have we come to as a medium? (Thankfully, season two of The Asterisk War is right around the corner, to cleanse our palates and remind us of true greatness.)
So after taking everything into account (as well as my own subjective enjoyment), on a scale from F to S, Cowboy Bebop is of course a G rating. As I sit here in my ever-expanding fortress of dandruff and dakimakuras, I am forced to question why people like Bebop at all. Never before have I been confronted with such nauseating incomprehensibility. Mayhaps the times have finally passed me by, but I will not take that lying down. No, I call for boycotts of Cowboy Bebop ‘round the clock, to let the world know that we will not stand for this tripe any longer!
Have a Happy April Fools’ Day.