Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cowboy Bebop

Plot: Four hoppin'  misfit space cowboys, bounty hunters, on board the converted fishing rig the Bebop, comb the colonized and gritty solar system the humanity now inhabits, searching for the criminals law and justice just cannot keep up with, or escape the corruption of, in the international  new wild, wild west of space. They are constantly hungry, constantly at each other's throats, constantly concerned for each other, and constantly trying to forget the past and just live one day at a time. These are the twenty-seven sessions that tell their story via seamless weaving of multiple genres of cinema and (formerly) alternative music--in space.

Verdict: What praise can I give this series that has not already been said a thousand times? It is the thing to show people to prove animation is not just for kids. It defined voice acting as a profession in the West. There is more, but others have all said it. Let me just say this is my favorite series bar none, and its lead is my favorite character ever. I would like to think I can empathize with him better than anyone else, but I am not so sure.

These sessions are not just a series of unrelated plots and theme, no they are all united by its misfit crew and supporting cast of outcasts and their attempts to truly be existential--or not. No one can leave their past behind completely, and moreover no one leaves the mafia (or any gang) forever. As the sessions progress each character's past catch up to them, both the good and bad. Ultimately though the tone was set from the very first session: this is not bebop made flesh, but rather the blues.

The arc of the plots and themes leads ultimately to tragedy of circumstances for crew of the Bebop. If only, if only, if only is the usual response to such tragedies, but with Bebop, people may not like how it ends, but nobody seems to doubt, that there is no other way that it could have ended--way it should have ended. The world here does arc to its end with a whimper, our characters, however, are not ones to go out that way--not completely anyway. I suppose this is what makes Bebop so true to me, and so true to many. Adversity may kill a lot of people, but the spirit of people as a whole does not just lay down and die. No, people will keep on living, keep on dreaming, until they have nothing left but to find out if they ever were truly awake and truly alive.

Buy it. Recommend this to friends jaded towards animation and anime. Say it is like Steinbeck, if Steinbeck wrote Sci-Fi instead of about the USA's Great Depression , because it is. Remember, life is but a dream. Bang. 

Facts: It is 26 half-hour episodes and a feature length animated film (Cowboy Bebop: the Movie also called Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' on Heaven's Door) that is essentially a longer episode. The movie fits into the plot chronologically right after the Session 13: Jupiter Jazz (Part 2); watch it with the series. Sunrise Entertainment, which splintered into a lot of studios, the main ones being Studios Bones and Madhouse, made it. Yoko Kanno with the Seatbelts composed its legendary score. Along with its animation, the cast is the epitome of the best in the business of voice acting: Steve Blum (in his most famous role), Beau Billingslea, Wendee Lee (in her best performance), Melissa Fahn, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, and Jennifer Hale (in the movie).


Bechtel-Sarkessian Test: I can only think of one time where this happens, which is disappointing considering how well this series passes two of the other tests. I will say this, all of our leading ladies are well defined and have great character arcs. 

(Faye Valentine and Julia drive, escape and fight off a mafia, and then talk about life, love, and loss.)

Suck it Disney: The show does a fairly good job of doing this, both with the elderly and with gender-queerness.
(Annie, a recurring friend and gun dealer from Spike's past)

(VT, she is an exemplar one-shot character, a truck driver and heavy metal-head)

Die Hard Test: Passed, and once again a moment of silence for (SPOILER WARNING).

Awekward Angle Syndrome: Yes it has this because of one Faye Valentine, however it never takes away from the substance of the plot, nor is it gratuitous.

Better than Star Wars: The main cast, without really trying, is really the second most diverse cast I have seen, and it works so well.

(Spike Spiegel, likely half Asian-half European Jewish, the perfecter of the rule of cool)

(Jet Black, he is "African-American" just not very dark because space does not give you much sun, more than just an old cop. He is the rock on which everyone else can build their future, or rather he wants and wants to try to be. He is also secretly the main character for most of the sessions of the show, or at least the one whose development we follow most overtly. Sessions centered on him also, oddly enough, are my favorite.)

(Faye Valentine, says she is Roma, most likely Japanese, the fem-fatal who arcs past her deconstruction)

(Radical Edward, a hacker-Bebop Otaku, mixed race, who is always fun--if like a trained seal)

(This is Ein. He is the best Pembroke-Welsh Corgi ever.)

 (Julia, she was ordinary, that dangerous kind of ordinary)

(Vicious, a serpent's venom sometimes poisons slow)

Favorite Session (because have to with this show): Ballad of Fallen Angels, Mushroom Samaba, Speak like a Child, Waltz for Venus, Cowboy Funk, Black Dog Serenade, and Ganymede Eulogy

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