After learning that Cowboy Bebop is getting a live-action remake, I decided to revisit the much-beloved anime series from the 90s (although not aired in the U.S. until the early 2000s). Many people think of it as the best anime series ever, and with good reason. My episode reviews will contain spoilers, so be sure to watch the series before you read this.
Session 1: Asteroid Blues
The opening scene shows Spike chain smoking, waiting for someone who doesn’t show. He drops a rose in the street that he presumably got for a woman. He ends up in a shootout in a cathedral. He smiles as he’s shot by several gunmen. We’re left to wonder if this is a flashback or a flashforward as the opening credits begin to play.
Hands down, Cowboy Bebop has the best opening credits that I’ve ever seen. It’s the only credit sequence I can think of in which the animation matches the beat of the music. For example, there’s gun shots during loud punctuated parts of the song. We’re introduced to the four main characters of the show and their ships, although we mainly see them in silhouette or outline. The credits are somehow energetic yet laid back at the same time, just like the show itself. The year 2071 appears in the opening credits, so this is presumably when the show takes place.
We get introduced to a couple cowboys (space bounty hunters) named Spike Spiegel and Jet Black. Jet has just made beef and bell peppers, but without the beef since they can’t afford it. Spike wonders what happened to all the money they made on their last job. Jet reminds him that it all went to pay for the collateral damage he caused while he caught the bounty. We get the sense that they barely scrape by. Something I liked about their ship, is it creates artificial gravity by rotation, but not all parts of the ship have gravity all the time, so we sometimes get zero-gravity scenes.
They go to Tijuana, which is located on an asteroid, to catch their next bounty, so this is a Western-themed episode. We see buildings in the sky. Spike learns where the criminal is after visiting a Native American shaman. The shaman also tells him that a woman will hunt him, leading to his death. Spike remarks that he’s been killed by a woman once before. This is likely a reference to the scene we saw before the opening credits.
Walking down a street, Spike bumps into a woman who drops everything she’s carrying. He helps her pick up her food, then turns to leave. She stops him because her hotdog is missing. He reveals that he stuck her entire hotdog into his mouth without chewing on it! He offers it back to her, but she declines. I hope the live action series will contain goofy humor like this in it. We learn that Spike is from Mars. In addition to being an expert pickpocket, he’s also an expert martial artist.
The bounty in this episode is named Asimov Solensan, no doubt in homage to science fiction author Isaac Asimov. Also, this session was inspired by the Robert Rodriguez film Desperado with Asimov based on Antonio Banderas and his girlfriend based on Salma Hayek.
Asimov stole a drug called Bloody Eye. When we first see him use it, it looks like he’s going to inject it into his eye, but it turns out you spray it into your eye instead. The drug makes him really good at fighting and gives him the ability to dodge bullets… but not Spike’s fists! The fight scene is particularly impressive because it uses a shaky cam effect, which wasn’t easy to do in the animation of the time.
A recurring theme in Cowboy Bebop is that things aren’t always how they appear. In this episode, Asimov’s girlfriend appears to be pregnant, but we learn that she’s actually wearing a false belly in order to smuggle vials of the drug. After a space ship chase, Asimov and his girlfriend are dead, so Spike and Jet aren’t able to collect the bounty. This is another recurring theme of the series: easy come, easy go. In an echo of the opening scene, Jet once again makes beef and bell peppers without the beef. After such a bloody climax, the punchline ending was a bit jarring.
However, the show’s not over yet. There’s a segment teasing the next episode. Spike and Jet talk over scenes that will appear next time. Spike tells parents to keep their kids away from the television. How far? 3/4 of a mile. When Jet protests that’s too far, Spike says the kids can get as close as half a mile. I like that they have fun with the “Next time on” scenes.
The closing credits recall the opening scene of Spike smoking in the rain and throwing away the rose. We also see a mysterious woman. Are these flashbacks or flashforwards? We’ll just have to keep watching the show to find out.