When I first watched Cowboy Bebop, I thought it was gonna be a cheesy American-dubbed cringefest. Safe to say I was wrong.
It’s deeply philosophical, addressing the meaning of life and human nature. Keep in mind I’m no professional critic and definitely not someone who can communicate their thought process well, I’m just a huge fan.
Cowboy Bebop poses the concept that there might be no deeper meaning to life. Maybe there is, but we can never know for sure. People have a knack for creating our own meanings and coming up with abstract solution in things. We see the space between the black and white, and we colour it.
We’re good at drawing lines through the spaces between stars like we’re pattern finders, and we’ll find patterns and we like really put our hearts and minds into it and even if we don’t mean to.
So I believe in a universe that doesn’t care and people who do.
– Angus (Night in the Woods)
Instead of enforcing a meaning upon a universe filled with unknowns, Bebop presents the idea to rather accept life as it is, regardless of our environment and the weight we carry.
This philosophy is constantly reinforced throughout the show, in scenes like Spike teaching Rocco to go with the flow and “Be like water” in a fight, and that combat is more than self-defense. It’s a way to express yourself, much like a dance.
And it’s also shown through the setting of space, which drives home that soft realisation that perhaps we are nothing but a mere speck in an entire universe. A feeling which connects both the mind and the body, and doesn’t at the same time.
Yet amongst the feeling of existentialism, the characters we come across all bear the burden of being consumed in a complex past.
Everyone has struggles, how you respond to it makes for either a better experience with what you have to go through. In the anime, we intently watch how certain characters deal with their past in nearly every episode.
Throughout the show, this is the recurring theme. We see how the protagonists personally tackle their own problems at the end after they closely watch other people confront their own issues face-to-face every episode. Then at the end, the torch is passed on and it’s our turn to carry the weight.
To conclude, Watanabe crushed it with Cowboy Bebop. It’s an anime like no other, revolutionary and has a great soundtrack. I highly recommend it.
I probably haven’t explained this all too well, but thankfully there is a hidden episode which covers some of the philosophical themes in the show but it’s presented in the classic Bebop style.
To see that hidden episode, here’s a link: Session XX — Mish-Mash Blues