It’s the end of the week again my dear island guests. Concluding my weeks worth of anime daily reviews should be something special! So I decided to fill the 7th slot with classic anime I haven’t watched yet. The first one Cowboy Bebop! I didn’t even know it was set in space before I watched this episode! So I was very surprised. I was also surprised that the gritty thing isn’t normally for me.. I must say I quite enjoyed this first episode.
We are introduced to Spike and his Co-Worker/ Bounty Hunting Fellow Jet. They live on a spaceship called Cowboy Bebop. Down on their luck they take a lower end bounty to hunt a man named Asimov. A drug runner type who killed all his friends and took off to some asteroid thing… I think! Jet tells Spike he made Bellpeppers and Beef but unfortunately they are too poor to afford beef, so they just eat noodles and bell peppers. This prompts a reluctant Spike to take on the bounty that he did not deem worth his time before and he travels to a world/place with heavy Western themes. Here we find out that Asimov is trying to sell drugs.. called Bloody Eyes or something.. An Eyedrop drug that makes you hyper aware.. it’s not said to be drugs… but it’s drugs! He clearly is addicted and tripping out on them.. killing people in a bar brutally! He is accompanied by a woman who looks to be pregnant. Of course it doesn’t take too long for Spike to track them down! Mostly because he had a Indian Vision Quest.. of sorts right before with him having his fortune told by and old Indian lady! She warns him about the Red Eyed Coyote and a Woman coming in his life that would also bring death.
Spike meets this woman and the Red Eyed Coyote at a seedy gas station. Helping the woman take care of groceries but eating her sandwich. He charms her up quite nicely as he offers her cigarettes in return. Claiming to her to be some cowboy! However once she sees his fighter jet she quickly realises he is a bounty hunter. He tells her has lost interest in the bounty again as Asimov is sick and he has no interest in weaklings. Insulted Asimov chokes him.. to unconsciousness. His life was spared by the plees of the woman. When the druggy man that has more bulging eyes then Nicolas cage goes to sell the drugs. Spike has replaced the buyer. A fight breaks out and we see Mister Spiegel ‘s ‘excellent footwork and combat ability, overwhelming Asimov. However when other criminals come in to shoot up the place the Cyberpunk Bonnie and Clyde manage to flee. Leading into a final space chase. Here we see Asimov is so consumed by his drug that he loses control entirely and rushes himself and his woman into death. To prevent Asimov from being taken down by his enemies his woman finishes him off.. after which she lets herself be killed by space cops! As her body is jettisoned into space we see the pregnant belly was nothing more than a way to hide the drugs. Having not collected a bounty.. Spike and Jet eat “special” beef and Bellpepper again.
On paper this should not be my type of show! It combines genres that usually are less my cup of tea. I am not the biggest science fiction fan in the world.. though I do enjoy Star Wars and Star Trek.. but in anime terms .. it’s usually too bleak and political. It has some heavy western elements.. which makes sense given Cowboy is in the name of the title and it’s about a Bounty Hunter.. which aside from the Mandalorian I find a horrible profession to make a show out of. Yet somehow the spunk of Spike, the low tech level..with bullets instead of lasers, and a very varying world makes it a lot more interesting than I thought it would be. It is very much helped by the mentality of the two bounty hunters. To me falling more in the “Firefly” like types of characters. It gives the show a level of “airiness” while keeping lines such as Adios Cowboy, impactful. We see a cowboy tavern, a spaceship interior, a french Bistrolike restaurant and a seedy gas station , and have gunfights, fistfights and a slaughter in space, so I think this first episode does a tremendous job showing what this show will be and what we can expect.
It also sets up some interesting mysteries, Spike claims he already died once because of a woman.. what does he mean with that? What is he so desperately training for. How is he able to take down a drug induced hulk life figure that can dodge bullets and crush people. Was Asimov that weakened from overdoing it on the drugs, or is there more. What is with that weird footwork Spike does when he is fighting. The show offers us a lot to unpack, but also nails showing us what characters like Jet and Spike are. After one single episode I feel like I have a pretty good idea I know what type of people they are.. and I don’t mean that in a way that they are shallow. The written story here just really hits some key points and uses the right dialogue that still feels natural but also tells us so much. The Bonnie and Clyde ending really worked wonders for me as well giving the show a sense of realism and real stakes straight of the bat. The good guy clearly doesn’t always win in this show, not everything is going to be alright at the end of an episode. Every choice this show makes so far is done with a reason and it feels legit.
That being said, this also lies in this episode’s greatest weakness. I always saw the pair as a Bonnie and Clyde , it makes the link very clear for me.. so the outcome here felt a bit “set in stone”. There is nothing wrong with that for a single episode but I was never surprised by this first episode… and I did not even know it was a cyberpunk like setting, so that is saying something. It is set up to be surprising later on but for now I can not escape the feeling that it felt a bit predictable. I like how human the characters are generally being depicted and how their skills all seem very human. However when the eventual gruns show up those have StormTrooper accuracy. The grunts also clearly have a more generic design, so when they show up .. it slightly undermines tension. It’s not a big flaw.. but we know Han Solo isn’t going to be taken down by two StormTroopers.. and we know Spike isn’t going to be taken down by the orange coat and green coat mafia. It’s not bad.. just not that exciting.
Another small pet peeve I had was a logical flaw. The woman is revealed to carry the drugs in her fake pregnant Belly.. but there is nothing protecting the little bottles. Which are made out of glass. When she would walk she would make a lot of jangly noises and no way she would get it to look that smooth. This is a nitpick.. but if you make Spike someone who has a big attention to detail.. I feel conflicted about this. At least show us she is wearing a satchel underneath the dress or something.. but no. .as soon as her dress rips the stuff just pours out! That would make noise you know. It’s just a weird little thing that does not add up. Note though that I did not really mind while watching.. just in hindsight it seems silly and conflicting with what is established about the vials elsewhere.
I had a much better time with this episode than I figured I would. I thought this show would be very much in my face “Not for me” but I actually got quite a lot of enjoyment out of the very good writing. It’s thus weird that it’s great writing also is for me it’s biggest hindrance right now.. what I want to happen happens so I am very satisfied.. but I am not “enchanted” It might be weird to say a show is written too well… but yeah.. that kinda is my beef with it. The weird little jangly bottle plot hole I do not really mind.. I just structured this post thatI have to nag about something! Being a sucker for details this irked me enough to mention it. Again had the bottles been plastic or the containers be soft.. I’d been fine but they make a point of how fragile and glassy these things are!
In the end I’d compare this episode with a REALLY REALLY REALLY good colour by numbers painting.. or one of those diamond paintings and those are more modern these days. It looks stunning, pleasing and you can clearly see that every element is carefully placed in the right way. Even with some sparkles added to it that get you excited for the next canvas to come. Yet it is also exactly what you expect when you start the project. You won’t suddenly find a surprise unicorn in your painting when you’re done..so when you’re done you just end up with what you knew you would end up with all along. Thus it reaches the top of great for me.. but it fails to push into amazing.