Saturday, November 3, 2007

Why not Cowboy Bebop?

Okay, so I can hear the collective gasp of the masses going up now. All of them saying "He isn't." And me saying, "Oh yes I am, so suck it."

But to be fair, there's a lot about Cowboy Bebop that is good. Honestly, it's the most accesible anime to an American fanbase out there. If there's a quintessential starter anime then Cowboy Bebop is it. For those people who managed to trip onto this site, let me give you a run down of what the series is all about.

Basically Cowboy Bebop follows the story of three (and later four) bounty hunters as they journey across the solar system hunting bounties. It's done in a very neo-noir style, complete with a jazz opener and soundtrack, seedy bars, bright neon signs and stories that make you wonder whether there really is a good guy in all this. The characters for the most part are fairly accesible and generally cover all of the stereotypical noir type characters: the repentant criminal, the disillusioned cop and the femme fatale. With a child computer genius and a really smart dog thrown in there for comic relief.

For the most part the episodes stand alone and can be watched in any order (and are probably better if you don't watch them in the original broadcast order, but that's up to you).

So what's not to like, right?

Well lets start with the fact that it's episodic. Really, I'm going to throw something out there that will probably tick off a few more people. Anime can't do episodic well. Granted Bebop does it better than say Revolutionary Girl Utena (I'm still trying to forget that heaping pile of crap), but the episodes are way too uneven to really be enjoyable.

For instance there are some great episodes - A Waltz for Venus or Ganymede Elegy come to mind - that hit on all cylinders and really do all of the things that noir does well. And then there are episodes - Toys in the Attic - that after the first time you watch them you might as well never watch them again because you simply won't enjoy them as much. All in all, it leads to a series that is enjoyable about half the time.

Add to that, a kind of overarching plot that spans oh, five episodes that is good, but never seems to reflect back on the series.

And now let's talk about characters. They don't change. They occasionally grow, but only when it's convienent for the episode that they're in. In fact, they remain static enough that it makes them a bit uninteresting. I want my main characters to struggle, to change, to learn to adapt to new surroundings, to DO something other than serve the plot. Which is all the characters in Cowboy Bebop do.

Seriously, in comparision to similiar American TV series' , it holds it own against something like Cold Case Files, but just barely. And that's what makes it sad, because it is a great idea. But in the end, it's emminently forgettable.

Well except for the next time you're at a party and you happen to mention that you watch anime. And some guy (or girl) wants to be cool, or relate and says, "Oh, I've watched Cowboy Bebop."

And if you're like me, you pause for a moment, bite back that comment, and say, "Oh gee. That's nice."

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