Cowboy Bebop – Review

When the credits roll for the first time, viewers are greeted with a jubilation of color and sound. Yoko Kanno’s Tank! theme begins and we see a silhouette of a man smoking a cigarette. This introduction shows what the series is known for; its animation. Reminiscent of a 007 intro, the Bebop intro has a classic 1950s look and feel. Smooth animation is evident from the beginning and carries throughout all 26 episodes. Sunrise stuck with the old method of hand drawing and painting cels. The results are remarkable, and through the use of computer animation they create a completely new world. The smoothness of the animation only improves as the series progresses. Pierrot Le Fou has got to be the climax; it has the smoothest animation you will ever see. This smoothness was a requirement due to the fact that everything moves at such a fast pace. When ships get into dog fights, viewers can easily follow who’s winning or losing. The Sunrise team would use any and all camera angles to capture the action, all without a single awkward animation. Fast paced scenes are witnessed throughout the series, and all of them appear to be eye candy. Using hand drawn cels with a little animation help from computers, the Sunrise team was able to create some truly amazing movements.

Lucky for us, Cowboy Bebop’s animation is accompanied by a great plot. The story spans across 6 discs in 26 episodes. The first couple of discs show us the inner workings of the Bebop way of life. We find out the way Spike, Jet, Faye, and Ed work and play. We are even given little hints on their backgrounds. This is the series’ subplot and is covered in only a few episodes. Who are each of the Bebop characters? Cowboy Bebop only leaves us hints at a time, leaving viewers wanting more. Why are Spike’s eyes different colors? or why is Faye being chased by debt collectors? These question are answered, but it takes several episodes. Each hint gives us just enough information to let us extrapolate about each member. This is quite clever, because your guess is almost never right. This sort of mystery and intrigue hooks viewers and never lets them go, much like when you forget the name of a song and think about it all day. This series is a tease in that it keeps you guessing, even in the last episode.

To magnify the astounding animations, Yoko Kanno wrote some of the best contemporary jazz I have ever heard. Each song crescendos and accelerandos in just the right places. The notes glide from the trumpets and saxes, while Spike chases his newest bounty. A soft prelude plays during a dramatic flashback. Jazz is Yoko’s main squeeze and this theme fits surprisingly well with the show. Dissonance takes over during times of confusion or mystery. Someone once said that movies would be nothing without the music you hear. The first movies prove this, as they were comprised of nothing but music. Kanno keeps this tradition alive during the Bebop series. An interesting note: When Yoko Kanno composed the music, she was not told where any of it was going to be placed. Although a few surprised her, she felt that all her songs were well placed. Kanno’s music is brilliant enough to have each song played through its entirety. Most series use mixes or segments of songs, but not Bebop. Each scene seems to be molded around the song. A flute melody plays during a dogfight, but then memories flood into the participants, and the song just seems to fall into place. Each song in the series is available on one of the five soundtrack CDs. People have said that they sometimes just listen to the music when they can’t watch the series.