What is there to be said about Cowboy Bebop that hasn’t already been shouted from the rooftops? I started several different versions of this review and found it difficult to encapsulate the greatness of this cultural phenomenon in approximately 500 words without rambling into gushy, over-hyped mush. The fact of the matter is that Cowboy Bebop is required viewing for anyone who enjoys animation, great stories, and well-developed characters. FUNimation’s re-release of the series—on Blu-ray no less—was painfully long in coming after the previous release, Cowboy Bebop Remix, fell out of production. Those who spent their formative years traveling through space and collecting bounties with Spike, Jet, Faye, Ein, and Edward will appreciate The Complete Series as a fond and bittersweet reunion with old friends.
Cowboy Bebop tells the story of a gang of bounty hunters as they move from one job to the next in order to support their vices, luxurious lifestyles, and empty stomachs. The characters are the engine that drove this series to critical acclaim. Each one brings a unique personality to the table, be it Spike’s combat expertise, Jet’s police background, Faye’s wily ways, or Edward’s hacking skills. Brought together through a wild series of circumstances, the crew of the Bebop are united only in their ownership of questionable and mysterious pasts. The events that occurred earlier in their lives define who they are in the series, and at some point, each will have a chance to face their personal demons.
If the characters are the engine, then Yoko Kanno’s brilliant soundtrack is the fuel that keeps the show running. Teaming up with The Seatbelts, Cowboy Bebop features one of the best—if not THE best—anime and television soundtracks of all time. The eclectic collection of fusion, jazz, rock, country, hip hop, and soft pop comes together effortlessly, giving life to an already explosive, action-packed series. Most anime series use a soundtrack comprised of a few pieces of repeated incidental music; the soundtrack for Cowboy Bebop, in contrast, is often painfully deliberate in order to maximize the emotion in a particular scene, be it Edward’s zany behavior, Jet’s brooding, or Spike’s fancy foot and fist work. The series’ theme song, “Tank!”, still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it (and I once listened to it on repeat for an hour).
Cowboy Bebop is an essential addition to any collection. It is immediately accessible to people coming into the genre for the first time because it lacks many of the over-the-top eccentricities typically associated with Japanese animation. Longstanding fans will be delighted that the Blu-ray edition doesn’t sacrifice any original content. While FUNimation stirred controversy with a 16:9 aspect ratio for the Dragon Ball Z Blu-ray releases that created noticeable trimming to the top and bottom of each frame, Cowboy Bebop is presented in its original form, albeit in higher resolution. The black bars on the left and right side of the screen can be an eyesore at first, but I’m happy FUNimation has learned to leave things well enough alone for this re-release.
I could spend hours talking about every little detail that makes Cowboy Bebop worthy of everybody’s time, but the best thing to do in this situation is to view it for yourself. Whether it’ll be the first time or the twentieth time, Cowboy Bebop has all the charm and charisma to form a long-lasting impression.
Cowboy Bebop: The Complete Series
directed by Shinichiro Watanabe
650 minutes, Number of Discs: 4, Blu-ray
Company Age Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Related to: Cowboy Bebop: Shooting Star by Cain Kuga; Cowboy Bebop by Yutaka Nanten and Hajime Yatate