Posted by psgels on 3 January 2011 with categories: Anime Reviews




Eheh. Okay. I now understand why Cowboy Bebop is held with such a high regard. I’m really impressed with what a ridiculously solid series it turned out to be. This show has a rock solid direction that makes the most out of its very impressive budget. This series is another major example of how a good episodic series can be.

Cowboy Bebop feels like a journey you go through, along with the characters. Throughout the series, the characters run into many different situations and get to know new characters, and because of the episodic nature of this series, every episode is also different: some episodes are tense thrillers, others are action-packed, others go into mystery, others are comedies, then others delve into the pasts of the different characters: it’s all wonderfully balanced, especially in the second half. Even the finale just takes up two episodes, and yet it delivers a short, but incredibly sweet and memorable ending.

What really sets this show apart is the acting, however. It completely subverts anime’s tradition of overacting: every single performance with one notable exception (Ed) is filled with subtlety, and yet the creators are able to convey a roller coaster of emotions. If you really need overacting in your anime, you won’t like this, because the characters constantly play off of each other’s subtlety, even during the silly and action-packed parts. The relative coldness between the characters may seem a bit off-putting during the first ten episodes and this may be a bit hard to really get into the series at first, but in the end this makes them even more memorable than usual because of how down to earth and believable the characters are. And as for Ed… she indeed has the worst voice actress of the entire series, but even her character ends up memorable in a way.

The characters in this series feel alive: they’re completely dynamic, and you feel that there is much more to their pasts than they tell you throughout the series. In fact, none of the lead characters are related at all: they’re just a bunch of people who wind together as bounty-hunters on the same ship. Only when it comes up, they talk about their pasts and there are many notable details about their characters and pasts that never get revealed. You could call that a flaw, but I consider it an excellent way to flesh them out, especially in the way that the series keeps reminding us that these people have had their own lives before the start of the series.

With this series I also understand why Youko Kanno became famous. There actually hardly is any soundtrack in Cowboy Bebop, and when it plays it mostly stays in the background. But the individual tracks are incredibly good and varied, and sound unlike any other soundtrack I’ve heard. Vocals that are used are in fluent English and sung by some great vocalists.

To close off, this show also had truly excellent visuals. Especially the art direction and the designs of this series are very likely to be the best of its time: every single frame is filled with all kinds of imaginative stuff and junk in the background. The architecture is exquisite and every single design just blooms with ideas and creativity. I can point out quite a number series that may have had better action than this series, or less still frames. I can however think of only a few other series that had more visual ideas than this one.

Storytelling: 9/10 – Top notch direction and storytelling, every episode is diverse and well paced. One flaw would be that characters like coincidences a bit too much and that characters sometimes just “happen” to know where to go in order to prevent the story from dragging.
Characters: 10/10 – Some of the best acting you can get: subtle, yet incredibly expressive. Great chemistry, the cast really feels alive as the series goes along.
Production-Values: 9/10 – Great and fluent animation. Some of the most consistently good designs you can get.
Setting: 8/10 – Pretty much the only part of this series that got aged during the past thirteen years, in the way that it inspired many other interesting science fiction premises. It still has many interesting ideas, though.

Suggestions:
Michiko e Hatchin
Mushishi
RD Sennou Chousashitsu

36 Responses

  1. Snowolf says:

    Yes! I’m so glad you enjoyed this anime. A lot of people consider it to be overhyped, but I personally think it lives up to it’s name as one of the classic animes. I also think Cowboy Bepop is one of the few animes who’s dubbed version is as good as, if not better than the original Japanese version. I really liked the ending, as..unique as it was. I could also say that despite not delving into most of the other characters’ pasts, it really still did an excellent buildup and truly fleshed out the characters and their relationships with one another. Thanks for reviewing!

  2. Matt says:

    Ah, i believe the 2nd anime i ever bought and i still watch it ever few years. I remember when it came on TV, such an amazing anime. I love the music, each episode was great, the character development rocked, and the plausibility of the setting being what could happen in the near future. This still ranks in my top 10 of anime, though the visual’s get lowered each year, sorry but if they did a digital remaster of this series, keep the voice acting, updated the visuals it would be the best thing out there.

  3. Guigas says:

    Ah Cowboy Bebop is really an awesome show, the OST is epic,(I started to like Jazz and Blues after this show and i have the complete OST on my Cellphone) and the stories are original and fun. This is one of the few shows that deserves all the hype and the title of classic (most of the overhyped series nowadays are just…not that good/overrated). For me CowBe is the 2nd best episodic series i’ve seen (Mushishi is my favorite) XD

  4. Lightning says:

    Glad you’ve also now enjoyed the greatness that is Bebop and it’s characters. :)

    “I also think Cowboy Bepop is one of the few animes who’s dubbed version is as good as, if not better than the original Japanese version.”

    Agreed it was one of the first shows that made me a dub fan, I’m also guessing the complaint about Ed’s acting was from the original Japanese as I felt she was a ton more endearing in the dub despite being just as “out there”, but again this show has probably one of the most iconic dubs out there since virtually every character’s voice just happens to fit crazy good :)

    I think the scifi western-bounty-hunter setting and the lack of “anime behavior” while still containing all the strengths of anime are things that really helped the series break out and as you said really makes the cast stand out even more than usual due to how they are acted throughout the series and how they play off each other and how naturally everything just happens from drama, to mystery to comedy episodes. It’s still fantastic how naturally all of the different genres just totally fit so smoothly.

    True Matt, the show still looks great and it’s amazingly remarkable how well it can still hold it’s own in both art and fluid animation given it’s age as a TV series not even a movie plus the Knocking on Heaven’s Door movie is a great vision of it with even newer animation as it is really the only part of the show that ages so a further remaster would be cool. :)

    Oh man the soundtrack…sooo good. A lot of it is still on the playlist even all these years later.

  5. kagura says:

    Cowboy Bebop is among the very first anime series I watched (it had a major role in dragging me into anime in the first place)and it’ll probably always have a solid place in my top 10. I’m glad you liked it this much, as I was afraid you might be of the opinion that it indeed is overhyped or something… though, after stalking your blog for quite some time now, I should’ve had more faith in your ability to recognize a good anime when you see one ;)

    Anyway yeah, for me it’s one hell of an amazing series with a bunch of memorable characters, great action and humor, some unforgettable scenes and probably the most impressive and mind-blowing soundtrack out there. Thank you for a great review :)

  6. Guitar says:

    I’m glad you’ve seen this awesome series, psgels. I myself watched this only in 2009. Episodes 5 and 20 were particularly awesome. Cowboy Bebop is one of my top 10 anime.

  7. Solaris says:

    Just notice how much is easier to rate 90 this old classic than many recent “good” shows. Does it mean something at all?

  8. Loz says:

    Shows like Cowboy Bebop are the reason why I love anime. They may really be far and few between, but isnt it great when you finish such a great show and are left feeling so satisfied.

  9. gandalf8 says:

    Finally! I’m glad you’ve finished this anime masterpiece. I think it fully deserves its status as an anime classic. Its animation, characters, setting, and soundtrack were all top notch, and it is also one of the first anime series that I totally loved the english dub(In fact I watched the first episode in both languages, and liked the english dub so much that I just finished it all with the english dub).

    Hope you’ll review the movie (Knockin on Heaven’s Door) soon.

  10. blah says:

    Please bear with me, this might be long.

    I’ve been waiting a long time (since mushishi) for psgels to review this anime and I have to say i’m somewhat disheartened at the lack of sheer fanboyism! Obviously every one has that one anime that they really love and want others to love as well. This was that anime for me.

    When I first saw this anime, I was obsessed with it. I would even say its the single most important piece of entertainment i’ve experienced. Cowboy Bebop is a hell of an anime to see as your first. Amazing music and just about all the style you can fit into an anime make this series something truly special. (especially apparent with the last 2 years of recent anime)

    Some of my favorite moments :)

    Ed’s dad beating up spike.

    Jet and Spike’s talk before he goes off to face Vicous.

    Ed and Ein off into the sunset.

    The first fight in the first episode set to Rush by The Seatbelts. The fight and supporting music is one of the most skillfully directed things i’ve seen. Everything about it is spot on.

    Episode 5. Ballad of Fallen Angels. Specifically Walk in the Rain to Green Bird.
    I truly have yet to see a more beautiful or affecting episode.

  11. Otaku Surf says:

    Cowboy Bebop is the show that pushed me into English dubbed anime. For the most part before I watched this show (and even now), I watched mostly anime subbed. It wasn’t until I saw Cowboy Bebop on Cartoon Network one day that I started to watch a few more dubbed anime and enjoy them. It’s one of a few shows that feels natural in English.

  12. jcb says:

    My most memorable moment is when Spike gets shot, he wakes up on his back and the first thing he does is light up a cigarette.

  13. sadakups says:

    This is the show that makes you wonder why Sunrise can’t make something this good anymore.

  14. synkronized says:

    By the time I had seen this series I had seen some anime. But my god this is what sold me on the genre.

    I know a lot of friends that don’t like anime at all but enjoy this series. That’s a testament to how it transcends being just another anime series. Other series may be more solid in specific areas but Cowboy Bebop is one of the few that really hits all the right chords. That’s why I’d hype it.

  15. Vanilla says:

    It’s weird. I was just watching this yesterday and thinking how I’ve never seen a review of it from you. What a great surprise! I’ve yet to finish it, but I’m loving it to pieces already. Great review as always.

  16. cubeman says:

    First comment I’ve ever left. I have to agree wholeheartedly with the guys promoting the English dub. I watch almost every anime in Japanese, this is the only one where I think the English is far superior. (And I have watched the whole thing through in Japanese just to check!)

    Love your site!

  17. Watcherzero says:

    While im really not a dub fan, I acknowledge this as one of the few good ones. I watched the series as it aired back in 99 and it stands the test of time even if theres some real anachronisms even then! (sure they were more popular in Japan but would people really still be using Betamax in 2022!!!).

    I guess we will have to wait and see what Keanu Reeves does with the live action remake.

  18. RollingCamel says:

    Excellent 2D, Zero CG–>WIN!!

  19. Roldan says:

    So are you gonna do the movie now, Psgels?

  20. psgels psgels says:

    Roldan: not now; later. I’m not sure exactly when, though.

    Rollingcamel: actually, there were a few bits of CG here and there, though. Most notably inside the gates.

    Solaris: I’m not sure what you’re talking about here. I really liked this show, but I can say the same things about shows as Yojou-han and Sarai-ya goyou.

  21. Solaris says:

    I’m saying that this Cowboy Bebop is indeed one rare unmatched reference for a lot of newer shows and should be used indeed as a reference for comparison.
    I’m also saying that lately few animes can be rated so high, even from the best ones. It looks like today’s standards are by far lower than when they made Cowboy Bebop.

  22. Thomas says:

    You didnt write why Ed ended up as a girl despite other mannerisms. They planned for Ed to be a boy (black haired one)- his model can be seen somewhere in first Ed episode on Earth. When the series was airied back in 1998, at the same time was also aired some hentai movie about 3 guys and girl traveling in spaceship. The similarities were striking, so they decided to change gender of Ed in last moment to even out the crew.

  23. psgels psgels says:

    Solaris: what are you talking about? Out of the season in which Cowboy Bebop aired, it also was the only show that I’d consider rating 90/100.

    http://anidb.net/perl-bin/animedb.pl?type=2&show=animelist&do.search=Search&airdate1=01.06.1998&airdate0=01.03.1998

    Beyond that there of course were other series that I really liked, like Sentimental Journey, Trigun and DT Eightron, but that’s pretty much like any other major season that we’ve had for the past years.

    Thomas: interesting trivia that I didn’t know about it. Even if I did know, though, I doubt that it would have been really appropriate to write in a relatively short review. ;)

  24. RollingCamel says:

    @ Psgels: Now you mentioned you are right, but thankfully it was trivial, I skipped the gates scenes and the start of ep 20 had CG buildings. However, all the vehicles were 2D superb-animation something I appreciate after watching Black Lagoon, Requiem of the Phantom (though the Ferrari was well detailed and animated), Blood+, Darker than black and loads of other good shows with badly detailed and textured CG vehicles.

    If they are using the same model through out the series then they should put some effort!

    Gasaraki had some sweet 2D animation too.

  25. Hunter-Wolf says:

    Glad you finally got to watch that classic .. always will be one of my top fav animes and also one of the very first animes i ever watched (after years of watching nothing but repeated episodes of Mazinger Z and Captain Tsubasa) … and i have to agree with everyone here .. the English Dub is just excellent (if not the best English dub for a jap anime i ever heard)… oh … Trigun English dub was quite good too.

    If you want to watch another marvelous classic Psgels i recommend Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex and 2ndGIG TV series .. both are stunning series (only flaw is the complex dialog in some episodes) .. but if you don’t watch it you are missing a lot (specially if you are a Sci-Fi/action fan .. and want to see another great episodic series).

  26. olivia says:

    aww… how can you hate anything about Ed? Esp the voice? I just love how incongruently put-together this character is. She’s just a huge mumble-jumble for comedic purposes (which is probably why the director decided that she needs to go before the big finale). But this series would have been way too somber if things about Ed were to-the-eye.

    The extreme subtleties, as you nicely put in your post, really differentiates this series from any other. Not to say that it is alone in doing so, but I wish more series would do the same. As you stated, It may get hard at first, “The relative coldness between the characters may seem a bit off-putting during the first ten episodes,” but coldness is always a good start to character building. Usually, it’s when the cold characters open up or sacrifice themselves that I become totally entrapped in the drama. Why won’t more series do this!!!???

  27. Alec says:

    I thought psgels already watched this masterpiece before he created this blog

  28. Gunslinger says:

    Wow you finaaly watched cowbow bebop, not just monster’s left :)

  29. Cosmin says:

    Since I began watching this blog for new titles I also assumed that you’ve got though the classics. Cowboy Bebop was until some time ago probably my favorite anime however since I watched Legend of the Galactic Heroes, this went to number 2. If you can enjoy a old anime with a fantastic story as much as a new one with flashy graphics I recommend everyone gives this a try. Here is a link to animenfo.com regarding this show. (http://animenfo.com/animetitle,644,uinshf,legend_of_the_g.html).
    Best wishes,
    Cosmin

  30. yupitis says:

    Long time lurker and big fan of the blog here. I just gotta comment on this review and well, Cowboy Bebop in general. Simply put, it’s still probably (if i had to choose one) my favorite Anime of all time and the first I really watched.

    I still remember one day overhearing someone in class talking “oh man did you hear they are going to be running uncut stuff on Cartoon Network? They even got Cowboy Bebop!” For some reason hearing they were playing bloody uncut anything on TV kindled my 14 year old interest and I tuned in a couple weeks later when the show started. I was blown away from episode 1. It wasn’t like that DBZ or Sailor Moon stuff my friend down the street used to watch when I was over. It was just so so cleaver, so entertaining, so full of style and variety yet able to show restraint and ambiguity. It was my gateway to a new world and will always hold a special place in my heart.

    I try to watch it every year and still get drawn in every time.

  31. Shingo says:

    CowBe? Epic!

  32. Nicole says:

    Great review, I’m happy you feel the same as I do! I never made the plunge to buy any DVD’s so instead I watch episodes I found on DISHonline.com while testing out the site for my job at DISH Network. I keep hearing things about an upcoming live-action movie, but I’m still looking for more solid evidence…

  33. EDs voice in the Japanese version is soo much better, and Did you know, Vicious was voiced by none other than Emporor Wakamoto! hahaha

  34. Fuu says:

    Agree with pretty much everything here except for one tiny little statement. Are you referring to Ed’s English or Japanese VA? I watched it in the latter language and think she did a fantastic job. No complaints there.

  35. Kurisu says:

    While the English dub of Cowboy Bebop is relatively well-done – which doesn’t tell much considering how awful most dubs of anime series are, I don’t think it is up to par with the Japanese original at all. I’ve only compared a few scenes and the characters felt very different. A dub is always an additional trade-off between lip-sync and adherence to the original line. In my opinion, the characters lose a lot of subtlety and come off too bold. Their English may sound more idiomatic, more American and therefore may be more welcome by an American audience. However, despite the numerous Western elements and references – most obviously starting with title “Cowboy” – the original is still made with a Japanese perspective and I can’t stand the effect of shifting the viewpoint in the English dub.

  36. Firechick says:

    My local anime club at college forced me to watch two episodes of this. I can see why people like it, but I didn’t like it. It felt too fast and weird for me.

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  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, Mar 4. 2015 02:13 PM)
    @Emma, haven’t been keeping up with those shows. Yatterman kinda went a direction I didn’t like and I haven’t heard good things about rolling girls. As for Junketsu, I just didn’t really get around to continuing it.
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, Mar 4. 2015 02:10 PM)
    @brendan, You think I could own a Wii u and not have smash bros? That’s like having a console with no television. On Eva I think the biggest problem is that if you actually think about Seele’s plan you realize that it makes no sense. Whatsoever. Hell it’s like they are actively trying to shoot themselves in the foot.
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Mar 4. 2015 10:10 AM)
    I’ve noticed Aidan you’ve had no additional words on rolling girls, yatterman night, Junketsu no Maria. Also I would definitely gladly read your Garo posts.
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, Mar 4. 2015 09:59 AM)
    Fumoffu was considerably funnier than the actual show, but it only paid off if you were somewhat invested in the main series.
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Mar 4. 2015 09:50 AM)
    Man, making favourites list is so hard, I needed to fit some shoji Kawamori, Asano Inio and Tsutomu Nihei on the list…
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Mar 4. 2015 09:47 AM)
    Side question, is anyone still reading black lagoon?
    The new arc isn’t the strongest the series has been at.
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Mar 4. 2015 09:45 AM)
    I ragged on about full metal panic pages back…you know I really wanted to like that I really did but after 6-8 episodes instead of a cool mech show I was bored by an unfunny comedy.
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, Mar 4. 2015 09:38 AM)
    @Emma: yeah that was weird. Almost as strange as Alita not getting a long-running OVA series. But I think one day Alita will eventually be readapted as its too much of a goldmine to not be dug into. But you know some staff call Texhnolyze a spiritual successor to Blame!.
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, Mar 4. 2015 09:34 AM)
    There’s a megacut of Gargantia that removes all the festival episodes and the sagging middle arc and moves bits and pieces around with reworked dialogue that is far far superior to the original show. It’s crazy how bad implementation ruins shows that have all the essential good parts.
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Mar 4. 2015 09:32 AM)
    @Bam: I feel so dashed that blame only got that 45 minute ova…
    He got a proposed zombie manga which got cancelled before it even got started =<

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