Cowboy Bebop Volume 5

It’s a sobering thought to suddenly realize there is now only one volume left of Cowboy Bebop. Us long suffering UK fans had waited so long for this fated series, to see the timeless phrase “See you, Space Cowboy” etched across our screens for one last emotional moment and now it’s almost here, I can’t help but feel introspective.
The UK community has made massive strides in the past five years and finally being able to sit through the entire domestic DVD release of Cowboy Bebop, a series widely accepted as being a true landmark of Japanese animation, promises to be a moment worth waiting for; more than that, it’s a razor-sharp confirmation that anime has finally arrived in the UK.

But of course this is the fifth volume, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

By now, I know exactly what to expect from Cowboy Bebop; the unexpected!
Whether or not you’re after stylish action, inspiring drama or sophisticated comedy; this explosive volume delivers.

“Pierrot Le Fou” stands out as an instant classic; it’s demented, dancing fat villain stole my attention with his twisted smile, maniacal laughs and gravity-defying fighting techniques. We know Spike is no match for this monster, and it’s this foreboding tone that had me biting my nails right up until the episode’s disturbing conclusion.

Watanabe’s direction in “Pierrot Le Fou” is a revelation, his atmospheric camera perspectives boosting the kinetic action with a genuine sense of raw style and originality, not to mention the sparse use of dialogue, which naturally places vital emphasis on the episode’s dark aesthetics and fluid movements. The art-work falls violently between the attractive and outright unsettling; transforming a harmless children’s theme park into a surreal nightmare.

Elsewhere, this volume delivers Bebop’s trademark helpings of style and off beat comedy without leaving too great of an impression. “Wild Horses” is an inspiring tale characterizing the gritty determination of an old man with a love for vintage air-craft, culminating with (how Bebop usually does) an outrageous amount of coincidence and blind luck; of course, any doubts are soon brushed under the carpet by Yoko Kanno’s jazzy instrumentation.
The two other episodes “Boogie-Woogie Feng-Shui” and “Cowboy Funk” failed to enthral me with their stories but remained worth watching if just to catch the priceless banter between the Bebop crew.
With “Cowboy Funk” it was especially pleasing to see Spike totally loose his cool as another funky cowboy rides into town and steals his thunder with perfect comedic timing and a stylish look to boot.
It is these types of episodes that will make you love Cowboy Bebop, it’s all well and good being blown away by the jaw-dropping presentation but it’s only when we catch glimpses of these characters with their guards down that they suddenly become fragile and essentially, human.

In Summary

I’m sure some will be rueing the lack of a consistent story in Cowboy Bebop but as far as characterization goes, there are few better than this series. A perfect example of this point is indeed this volume where we are treated to four stand-alone but none the less compelling stories.

It’s the personal adventure that I love in Cowboy Bebop, mixed with a wonderful sense of imagination of our future, and the fact we are now on the brink of the end is a bitter pill to swallow.

8 / 10

Paul

Washed up on the good shores of Anime UK News after many a year at sea. Also known as @bateszi, Paul has been writing about anime for a long time here at AUKN and at his anime blog.

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