So if you haven't heard the most exciting news in anime in a while, allow me to BREAK it for you. SHINICHIRO WATANABE is coming out with another show - - SPACE DANDY - - set to debut in January 2014 in Japan, and presumably later in the United States. Check out the A-mazing trailer below.
They know the audience here for sure. Open with some jazzy horns to get people thinking back to that other space show? Check. Insert some gratuitous female parts? Check (and love that quad gag near the end) Give your protagonist "hero sideburns" and an adorable cat sidekick with a merch-ready hat? Check and double-double check. I'm sure you'll be hearing more about this show on Anime Vice soon...
So with that excitement aside, it reminded me once more of the immensely re-watchable COWBOY BEBOP.
Now Tom already completed an episodic look back on this show episode by episode and had some good things to say about it, but I wanted to really throw down the gauntlet and TRY to suggest what I feel are the three best episodes of the show as a whole. And one of the advantages of this series was it's diversity and ability to have many parts of it stand alone, no matter the viewing order.
If anyone remembers the "Best Sessions" DVD that came out around 2002, it's kind of like that, except I'm not following Bandai or anyone else's orders! While there are tons of great moments in this series, I tried to narrow it down to the ones I think epitomize the show the best. You're probably going to disagree...
So let's jam:
3. Cowboy Funk
The best comedy episode in the entire show, and yes, I'm including Mushroom Samba and Bohemian Rahpsody. First off, you have an awesomely memorable enemy in the Teddy Bomber, who has political reasons for destroying buildings which no one listens to. You also have the best dialogue and character dynamics, with Faye being stymied on her seduction routine, and Spike losing his cool the entire episode. To top it all off, you have the best character in anime that never got his own show: Andy.
Maybe SPACE DANDY will allow Watanabe to explore these comedic themes more. I hope so...
The end of the episode features one of Spike's best fights in the series, and ties in perfectly with the theme of the whole episode. This session for me epitomizes the "A-B-C" plot structure of Cowboy Bebop perfectly. Kind of like in Heavy Metal Woman, where there are a few things going on at once: the background of V.T., the catching of the Woody Allen lookalike bounty, etc. It all ends up becoming a great game of missed connections and random jokes. I think this is bedrock formula that made Cowboy Bebop popular in the first place. Perfect episodic content right here.
2. Pierrot Le Fou
Now, if you skipped ahead, you'll know that I didn't include any "Spike" episodes, either dealing with his past or anything that alludes to it. I actually enjoyed those parts better than Tom did (which Jupiter Jazz is the best 2-part entry in that, btw) but think that Vicious and Spike's story was better left unresolved, and--you know what, I'll save it for another column.
If you want to experience the dark, creative edges of this series, I think that Pierrot Le Fou goes the farthest.
Against the backdrop of an experiment gone wrong (nice Pink Floyd reference in there as well) the final fight here takes place in pseudo-Disneyland theme park. Like Spike's battles with Vicious, he willingly enters into an unnecessary fight because he enjoys the thrill of facing death. It just so happens his opponent is a malicious, psychokinetic assassin with the mind of a child. It's also just as memorable, just as good, just as... uh, vicious. This one will stick with you.
1. Hard Luck Woman
One of the least action heavy, and one of the most character-backed of the show, Hard Luck Woman highlights the secret plot of the entire series: going back home. Just hear me out on this one...
All of the misadventures the crew of the Bebop had were always framed with episodes dealing with their past: either reclaiming it, forgetting it, or having it come back to haunt them. Faye begins the series as a pretty simple thief and con-artist character who'll do anything for money, Ed was a super-hacker that just seemed... random. But it's episodes like this that make you realize these characters were carrying around emotional burdens heavier than bullet-wounds and bad food found in the fridge.
Watching Ed and Faye walk around a bombed-out earth-- forcing Spike and Jet into the background for once-- you realize they can never go back home. And what is home? The family you make while on the road? The connection to the people you left behind? Everyone on the Bebop is left without anything to tie them down, they could walk away from their problems easily. But they can't. And none of them do. This episode epitomizes the heartbreak of having to keep wandering, once you realize you can't go backwards. Did anyone expect Bebop to be this deep?
Cowboy Bebop is like jazz music. Certain things are on the sheet, but what you often hear is improvising, wandering away, doing its own thing. Cowboy Bebop presents itself as a cool, jazzy, action-drama, but really... it's saying something else entirely. And just like jazz, it gets a little deeper every time you listen to it.
Hope you enjoyed my little retrospective. So whadda ya say Vicers, did I knock your socks off with my picks? Or did I play some sour notes? Let me know if I'm missing something (which I'm sure I am) below, and talk about the BEST and WORST episodes of the show below!