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Cowboy Bebop is one of the celebrated anime series that had the honor of being converted to a full-length feature film. The original series was set in the future where bounty hunters run amok capturing bad guys for cold hard cash.
The story focuses on a motley crew of four bounty hunters down on their luck. They’re headed by the maverick, Spike Spiegel. He’s something of a space cowboy that likes to shoot people and smoke cigarettes. His partners in the bounty hunting business are a big-breasted vixen named Faye Valentine (who can dish out some hurt), a hardcore muscleman/pilot called Jet Black, and an annoying child-genius named Edward (who is a girl). As an ensemble they have the sort of team chemistry that is lacking in many anime series. The three adults are deep into the world of gambling, sex, and guns. They seem to like smoking constantly and are often scrounging just to fill their hungry stomachs. They’ll often appear downbeat in between jobs when money is tight, which leads to many humorous moments.
The show offers a great mix of old and new. There are futuristic space casinos floating about, hyper-furious space battles that showcase incredible animation, and then there are sleepy villas with sombrero-clad inhabitants straight out of a western. The 26-episode story arc is incredibly well written. Funny enough, only 13 of the original 26 were ever shown during the original broadcast in 1998. Only with the DVD release and subsequent syndication on Japanese networks were the full 26 episodes available to the public.
Each episode is about the team going after a bandit in hopes of scoring big cash. They aren’t always successful, and that helps to pace out the series. There are times when they’re desperate just to buy food, and then others when they go blow off loads of cash at a casino. Intense action is interspersed throughout a story filled with witty humor. Most of the fights are highly dramatized, with superb detail in all of the weapons and punches thrown.
Then there’s the music. Cowboy Bebop is an excellent example of how to match music with a show’s theme. It manages to capture the excitement, adventure, humor, and drama without ever missing a beat.
As with most anime, there is a greater story arc that ties together all of the episodes. The writers demonstrate great talent in pacing and climactic encounters. The ever-present sexual tension between Fay and Spike is also an interesting story element. When Edward isn’t being annoying, she’s fills a useful role in the story as the whiz-kid genius who can get them out of trouble in a snatch. Jet is no pushover himself, and is something of an anchor for the entire team with a steady piloting hand.
This is a series you should definitely catch. It’s available on six volumes of four to five episodes per disc. Each disc is about $30 US, but many places offer significant discounts to buy them all at once.