Reviews of Cowboy Bebop (1998) and related work

Cowboy Bebop (1998Moving picture, 10 hours)

A loosely knit group of unsuccessful bounty hunters barely get along.

Grungy solar-system SF. This is that rare combination of great style with depth and substance, particularly to its characters, as opposed to its plotting. Jordan Stokes has written extensively about the depth of the show, including a 2016-06-17 article on Overthinking It titled “The One-Eyed Spike and the One-Handed Jet”, about the apparent use of the philologist Georges Dumezil’s inferred stone-age archetypes and the motif of debt. As a result of the focus on character, the light-hearted side stories (e.g. the mushrooms, the cowboy) are often better than the coherent drama. Shrewdly, the show ditches its comic-relief character to get on with the final stage of that drama. Some great music, and like the similar but inferior Outlaw Star (1998), the visuals have come to represent the mature analog form of the art.

References here: DT Eightron (1998), Outlaw Star (1998), Carole & Tuesday (2019), The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019).

moving picture animation Japanese production fiction series

Cowboy Bebop: Knocking on Heaven’s Door (2001Moving picture, 115 minutes)

Set mid-series and true to style. It’s a combination of the TV series’ funkiness with a bunch of classics: The lazy Islamic exoticism of GoShogun: The Time Étranger (1985), the anti-war terrorist plot of Mobile Police Patlabor: The Movie 2 (1993) and the organic temps mort urbanism and introspection of Ghost in the Shell (1995), with the grave phenomenological flirts and aestheticized violence of all three. The execution is skillful but the wide thematic range and somewhat loose nanomachine conspiracy plot lets the near two-hour runtime sag a little. The combat set-pieces and mellow hallucinations are visually impressive episodes used to vary the pace.

moving picture sequel animation Japanese production fiction