Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Anime Rewind: Cowboy Bebop

I went back recently and started rewatching Cowboy Bebop. A series that was once rated as the number two anime series of all time in Japan (behind Evangelion), Bebop has dazzled fans across the globe for almost a decade now. Releasing in Japan in 1998, it came to America in late 2000, and was released across the globe throughout the early 2000's. For a time when anime became super-popularized I got really sick of hearing about and seeing Bebop, but now I feel I've distanced myself enough from all of those people who liked it because they'd heard that others liked it. The series spoke for itself back then, and even a decade after, I can see why.

Sure, the series dates itself by looking at it. Anything made a decade ago would. There are different, digital methods of making just about everything from backgrounds to the animation itself now, so naturally it looks different. However, the presentation is what distinguishes CB from other 10-year-old franchises. I watched Evangelion for the first time last year and being made just a year and a half or so before Bebop, Eva looks kinda old by comparison. I can't really say that there's been a comparably creative story in anything I've watched since. The characters are plausible for the year 2071 but still sort of "crazy", and most importantly they defy the archetypal cast that ruin a lot of anime that would be good if it weren't for that. The music is top-notch, created especially for the series by established jazz musicians, and not just the OP and ED but the cuts inside of the episodes are tailor-made too. The pop-culture references mixed with traditional Japanese culture, mixed with cyberpunk and semi-post-apocalyptic all work in the series favor as well.

How does it all stand up to the test of time? To me, everything is just as fresh as ever. Granted, this is the remastered version, but the fact that it hasn't been redone in any major way and it still looks and sounds as good as it does is wonderful. Watching the first few episodes over again gave me chills, that natsukashii feeling of watching a classic. That familiar music playing during the action sequences, those hand-drawn backgrounds, outstanding choices in seiyuu and most importantly creative plotlines, admittedly make me long for the days where "moe" was the exception, not the rule.

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