iS cOwboY BeBoP cYBeRPuNk?
With the upcoming Netflix series announced, there seems to be a renewed discussion of Cowboy Bebop’s cyberpunk credentials. So, after many recommendations by friends and colleagues, I decided to make the decision for myself. I watched the entire 26-episode series.
Unfortunately, part of that experience was marked by my move to France, which resulted in my watching the first half of the series in English and the second half in French.
Luckily, I speak French!
See You Space Cowboy
The story centers around a team of bounty hunters aboard the spaceship, Bebop. The team initially consists of bounty hunter, Spike, and Jet, a jaded ex-cop. Later characters that join the Bebop crew include Faye Valentine, a flighty hustler who uses her sensuality to her advantage; Edward, a childlike wacky ace-hacker; and Ein, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi with human-like intelligence.
Each episode can stand on its own, with a loose plot centered on Spike’s departure from the mob and his past that eventually comes back to haunt him. This theme repeats itself with Jet, Faye, and Ed, as many episodes are centered on having them explore their past as well.
Some episodes are more cyberpunk than others, with TVs controlling minds (a la Snow Crash), cartoon hackers, and human-seeming AI. There is a definite punk element with these bounty hunters who live paycheck to paycheck, often going hungry or running out of fuel, but always trying to catch their bounty in their own way, often pissing off the authorities in doing so.
The beauty of this series lies in its relaxed form of asking philosophical questions paired with its jazzy music, resulting in a truly fun, genre-bending anime experience. Loneliness and purpose are explored a lot, as well as the importance of the past and how it shapes someone in the present.
My Thoughts on Cowboy Bebop
I really enjoyed Cowboy Bebop. The stand-alone quality of the show allowed me to stop watching and pick up whenever I wanted, which was great. However, after being treated to different shows on Netflix and elsewhere where each episode really builds on each other, I felt that my interest lower than other shows I’ve watched, which also included what I felt was a somewhat anticlimactic ending.
One thing I did like was how different each character was from each other. Going into the anime without knowing anything about it, I was always surprised when a new member joined the crew and actually stuck with them until the end.
Do yourself a favor and watch this anime, and then check out the great music from the series as well. Describing it will only go so far. I’d give it 9/10 as an anime, but I wouldn’t quite qualify it as a cyberpunk anime since there are too many other elements in it at the same time.