I have now finished off all the Cowboy Bebop (CB) available as DVDs on Netflix (Discs 4 and 6 are permanently unavailable). This includes the 2-hour movie which I watched last night. And I think that’s sufficient to allow me to make a definitive judgement on the series vis-à-vis my taste.
It has some weaknesses from my point of view. There is a silliness that can be annoying for me. The crazy adolescent girl Edward can be a bit much. Some of the episodes are pretty thin on plot. And some of the space battle scenes seem (not surprisingly) cartoonish. I think most of this can be chalked up to the standard cartoon sci-fi conventions. Things are simplified and standardized to allow economic production of the animation product. And to be fair, since I have never been a comic book or movie consumer, I’m not their primary audience. To an anime consume, CB is probably well to the right side of the standard deviation curve with respect to production values, plot and characterization.
I like the quality of the animation especially the scenes in outer space. Some of it is strikingly well done. I liked the scenario of independent contractors moving in and out of the legitimate world acting as bounty hunters while they themselves are not without a certain air of criminality. And obviously here are the similarities with Firefly. After viewing the majority of CB I’ll state that I’m convinced that Whedon borrowed heavily from it when making Firefly. But I’m sure CB borrowed from earlier anime for some of its ideas so I don’t think it’s a big deal. But I will say that at this point I’d much prefer a big screen (or big budget tv) version of CB were made rather than of Firefly. Whedon is such an SJW that he’d probably have Serenity going back in time just to battle Donald Trump. My only hedge on having CB instead of Firefly is that is I’d like to see Jet Black played by Adam Baldwin. He would be damn near perfect for the part.
Anyway, I would say that the CB movie demonstrates how a longer treatment of the material improves it. More characterization shows through and there is more scope for interesting story telling. Also, the animation of the city in the movie was extremely well done. It looked like whole sections of New York City were digitized to make the action possible in the chase scenes. And speaking of the chase scenes, one of the flying chases was a little too long. Although intricate and well laid out it eventually started to drag on. The fight scenes between the protagonist Spike and his nemesis were very good and enjoyable. Most of the minor characters were fairly well utilized. Surprisingly, the seemingly superfluous presence of the welsh corgi dog on the space ship actually felt like a positive addition to me. But maybe I just like dogs.
So, bottom line, Cowboy Bebop is good sci-fi anime. If you don’t particularly like anime you still might enjoy it. It has piqued my interest in the genre enough that I’m going to give another anime movie (Ghosts in the Shell 2.0) a look-see and find out if this was just a one off or not.
See you Space Cowboy!