It took me a while to figure out the truth: that I absolutely, 100% LOVED Cowboy Bebop. In fact, it is now my fifth favorite TV show of all time.
I’m no anime aficionado by any means, nor would I call myself a proper anime watcher. I love Hayao Miyazaki’s films, but that doesn’t make me special or anything; and prior to watching Cowboy Bebop the most exposure I’d had to anime besides Studio Ghibli was the (very) few episodes of the original Pokémon show I’d watched just out of curiosity. Other than that, I’d had zero anime experience.
My first college spring break, I was completely alone in my dorm room, as my roommates had gone home. I suppose I could have gone home too, but I took advantage of the empty space to take some time to myself, away from people, schedules, papers, and noise. It was the perfect time for me to delve into something new. But I didn’t want to immerse myself in something that would take a long time to watch, and possibly rip my heart and soul out in the process (ahem, The X-Files). Since I was about to face the last half of the spring semester, I needed something short, something I could start and finish in a week.
What about anime? I thought to myself. You like Japanese animation, and a lot of anime shows have relatively short runs. I immediately began researching Top Ten Anime lists, reviews, recommendations, and suggestions for first-time anime viewers. It took about ten minutes for me to realize that Cowboy Bebop was the show to choose.
I’m not the easiest person to please, and I rarely love things right away. I can, however, become intrigued by something right away, and I don’t think I’ve ever been as initially intrigued by a show as I was with Cowboy Bebop. Even The X-Files took 3/4ths of a season to really pull me in, but Cowboy Bebop had me right from the very beginning.
What’s this show about? It’s set in the future, the year 2071, to be exact, when humanity, having blown a massive hole in most of Earth’s surface, has colonized the rest of the solar system. Crime is rampant on many of these planets, and there isn’t really a police system in place to track down criminals, so the task of catching bad guys and turning them over to the authorities is in the hands of bounty hunters, who fly through space collecting bounties on various wanted men and women. The show’s main protagonist, Spike Spiegel, is one such bounty hunter, traveling with Jet Black, a former cop, on a spaceship called the Bebop. Along the way Spike and Jet meet Faye Valentine, a sexy con-woman with an attitude and a capital-P Past, and Radical Edward, a young girl (?) who’s an expert computer hacker and is also completely off her rocker. The show is mainly episodic, dealing with the Bebop crew’s various adventures whilst chasing criminals, but there’s an overarching storyline involving Spike and his capital-P Past, a dark history with a mafia group called the Syndicate, an evil white-haired swordsman named Vicious, and a mysterious blonde woman called Julia.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, really.
There’s just nothing else quite like it. So much so that when it’s over, you feel desperately sad, and not just because of the dark ending. There are only 26 episodes, each about 25 minutes long, and yet the show pulls you into such an original yet strangely familiar world that by the time the series is over, you find yourself missing the setting, a violent and tumultuous one; the music, which I’d like to argue is unparalleled for any show, anime or no; the characters, who are really quite terrible people, yet are at the same time so interesting and dynamic that you can’t help but root for them; and the beauty of the show’s neo-noir animation, with its sharp angles, dark shadows, and moody colors. Even if you aren’t interested in anime, or have your own opinions about the genre, you’d be hard-pressed to not find something to like about Cowboy Bebop, just a little.
This isn’t a review of Cowboy Bebop; it’s more of a suggestion. Plenty of reviews have been written about this show. Some are so good they’re almost as fun to read as the show is to watch. I’m not sure what I’d add by reviewing this show, though I can’t say the idea is terrible to me (it’s not going to happen until I’m finished with The X-Files, though).
This spring break, my one-year anniversary with Cowboy Bebop, I decided to show my fourteen-year-old sister the show. We’d actually started around Christmas break, but we finally finished in March, and I relished seeing her reaction at the show’s ending. Even more, I relished in the fact that she’d liked it. You see, I wasn’t completely sure that she would. The show is many things, not the least of which is odd, and I wasn’t sure if its weird atmosphere would appeal to her. But it did.
And then, the most wonderful thing happened. When I saw that she liked it, I realized how much I loved it. And maybe, given a year’s time, she’ll grow to love it, too.
Perhaps we like to think that we fall in love with our favorite things immediately, but that’s rarely the case. For me, at least, it’s almost never true. Love takes time, especially when it comes to fiction. After all, you’re being asked to immerse yourself in a completely different world, with strange characters and settings and stories. That’s not the easiest thing to do.
Fiction becomes escape for many people, but it can also add to our real lives. After all, all fiction springs from a place of reality – real people’s visions shape fictional worlds and characters, and stories feel real to us because they reflect something in us (if they’re good stories, that is).
But more than that, fiction is something to bond over. It’s something to make friends over, laugh over, cry over, and get angry over. Maybe diving into something you didn’t think you’d like can teach you something about yourself, whether that thing is Cowboy Bebop or not.
But, while we’re on the subject, why not make it Cowboy Bebop? Go watch it. Yes, you. Watch it now. Go on. You won’t regret it. And if you do, well…it’s only 26 episodes. You’ll live.