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GENRE: Anime ORIGINAL AIR DATES: April 3, 1998 - April 24, 1999
// review by EscapeRouteBritish

I think it's time we blow this scene...

A genre all by itself, that is Cowboy Bebop. On paper, it's a science-fiction story but in actuality, it is so much more. Combing elements of noir, detective mysteries, action movies, and kung fu flicks, Bebop is a show so unlike any other that it has landed itself squarely near the top of my favourite anime list. This series has a clear vision and everything held together to serve that vision throughout.

Set in the year 2071, Cowboy Bebop shows us a few generations ahead of what could have been. Mankind has developed space travel and moved away from a failed Earth to colonize the stars. Bebop works elements of the romanticism of outer-space found in the 1940s and 1950s comic books, films, and novels into its story but with an air of believability. This space-travel technology came with a cost, as the first "Astral Gate" exploded showering the Earth with rocks amplified by the power of the sun, killing many while vastly altering the course of the lives of the 1.5 billion that survived. Years on, those who grew up in the stars know nothing of the past and fail to comprehend what life on Earth was like, creating an air of Earth romanticism, and a poetic cycle.

Our lead characters Spike Spiegel and Jet Black are bounty hunters who cruise the stars in their vessel (The Bebop) looking for criminals to apprehend. To get the reward, the bounty must be captured alive and turned in to police custody. For Spike and Jet, it is unfortunate that many of their targets would rather die than submit to the will of the galactic Gestapo. The two bounty hunters will do whatever it takes, and they balance out each-others skills and traits. Spike is young, strong-willed but acts on impulse, whereas Jet is wise and intelligent but nowhere near as apt in a gunfight. As they struggle their way to each meal (bell peppers for lunch, again?) they'll happen upon a few more crew-mates: Ein the welsh corgi, voluptuous femme fatale Faye Valentine and the mysterious super-hacker Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV. Or just Ed, Ed prefers Ed.

The majority of episodes are self-contained but there is an overall continuity as Spike works his way closer to solving the mystery of his lost lover and the crime syndicate they once belonged to. Jet explores his past as a police officer before he abandoned the force. Faye will find out the truths behind her amnesia and the accident that robbed her of her youth. Ed will, well, Ed does what Ed wants. Each member of The Bebop's crew will be reminded of a past they can't escape, be presented with existential crises, and slowly yet surely come to understand where their feelings lie. Watching every step of this process is riveting.


Hair by Bird's Nest Salon

Cowboy Bebop has to be one of the most gorgeous shows I have ever laid my eyes on. From the same era as Trigun which I reviewed previously, Cowboy Bebop is hand drawn and cel-painted with every frame a work of pure art. When work is done by hand, consistency is key and Bebop excels at this. It is clear just how much passion every member of Sunrise's team had for this project. Combined with the distinct vision of director Shinichiro Watanabe and the unique musical compositions, sound engineering and voice direction from Yoko Kanno, Bebop is glued together seamlessly with no one element of its construction featuring a single flaw or blemish.

Universally praised, Cowboy Bebop's English dub is worthy of every accolade it has received. It's so great in all honesty I'm having a hard time thinking of any dub that could be better. Bebop's dub shoos away the excessive stereotypes and trope voices for nuanced performances that sound human. In a world as realized as Bebop, characters should sound normal and the show really pulls that off. Switching between English and Japanese voice tracks on my blu-rays, it's pretty clear the English cast did their absolute best to match the original Japanese voices. Steve Blum's performance as Spike is so good in fact that Yoko Kanno expressed her appreciation for the performance. The dub is so notable that the show has never been redubbed, even now that Funimation has its grubby hands on the license. Could you imagine Christoper R. Sabat as Jet and Monica Rial as Faye? I'd much sooner burn my ears off of my head with a JML iron than listen to that.

When I discovered that the English Bebop dub was directed by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, I had to do a serious double-take. While her work has always been to a great standard, I'd never heard one of her dubs where there wasn't a grainy, high pitched or out of place voice and it appears Bebop is an exception to the rule.

I can highly recommend Cowboy Bebop and factoring in all of the elements that make the show what it is, I'm hard-pressed to find any flaws at all. If any one flaw exists with Bebop, it is that it's so good nobody can leave it the hell alone. Right now Hollywood and Netflix are working on a live-action Cowboy Bebop which is like making and placing an edible Dairylea cheese Baby Jesus in the microwave. It's blasphemy.


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