I’ll be honest: anime is not my first choice when scouring the internet for something to watch. However, in a chat with my friends and fellow contributors Dan Morris and Stef Watson, they were discussing the latest anime series Trigun Stampede, and their combined enthusiasm convinced me that I should at least check out the trailer. Good news: I want to watch this series. Bad news: while they were talking about it, it was only in Japanese with subtitles. Subtitles aren’t bad, it’s just that the words tend to move so fast and can be hard for me to see, which is one of the many quirks of having CP. So, while I waited to be able to see the English dub, I wondered what I should watch in the meantime?
Well, if I’m going to give anime a go, I might as well start with a popular classic:
“Everything has a beginning and an end. Life is just a cycle of starts and stops. There are ends we don’t desire, but they are inevitable. We have to face them. It is what being human is all about.” – Jet Black (Cowboy Bebop, 1998)
Cowboy Bebop takes place in the future, specifically in 2071. The Earth has become nearly impossible to live on after an accident with a hyperspace gateway, thus humanity has gone to live among the stars. And just like the days of the Old West, this new “frontier” is fraught with danger and lawlessness around every corner. It’s the perfect place for bounty hunters, also known as “cowboys,” to make some cash. The series follows four people and a stray Welsh Corgi named Ein, as the crew of a ship called The Bebop. Its captain, a former police officer turned bounty hunter named Jet Black. Jet tries to bring order amongst the quartet, with no success. He teams up with fellow cowboy Spike Spiegel, A man who lives his life on the edge. It turns out that Spike has quite a checkered past. He is my favorite! He has a devil-may-care attitude and the reflexes of a cat! What’s not to like?
While trying to collect a bounty, the pair bump into another bounty hunter named Faye Valentine. She tends not to stay in one place for long, and, with a pension for gambling, she leaves debt wherever she goes. She also seems to be running from her past like the others… if only she could remember that past. Out of all the characters in this series, Faye is the least likable. She is arrogant, rude, and she constantly whines. Then there’s Ed, A gangly, free-spirited orphan girl, and skillful hacker found on Earth. With her skills, she is able to help the others catch bounties.
The series crosses between a late night jazz jam session and a Spaghetti Western. For example, in the first episode, “Asteroid Blues,” there are moments where the music feels improvised and chaotic while Spike chases down the bounty, and, by the end, it crescendos like a punch to the gut! It hit so hard that I had to tweet about it. After that, if getting a reply from Spike himself (English dub by Steve Blum). If it isn’t a motivator to keep watching, I don’t know what is!
This quote from the episode “The Real Folk Blues (Part 2)” sums up the series very well. It’s not just the weight that Spike must carry, but it also means the weight we as the viewers must carry. I finished just a few days ago, and it lingers like a ghost. I don’t just mean the crew of The Bebop, it’s the people they met along the way like Grencia, and Laughing Bull. All are still with me, both good and bad. Most of the bounties are pure nightmare fuel like Pierrot Le Fou and a man from Spike’s past known as Vicious.
So, why did it take me so long to watch this series? Perhaps I wasn’t ready to carry the weight this story would leave behind.
If this is your first hearing about the series, I encourage you to read this article also
by Stef Watson called, Allowing Cowboy Bebop To Evolve. She shares her thoughts on the live-Action Netflix series from Fall 2021.
Have you watched either of the Cowboy Bebop series? How did the story impact you?