We all knew it had to end this way, but that doesn’t make it any less tragic. It’s a testament to the superior writing of Cowboy Bebop that when the poetic conclusion of this fine series finally staggers into view, it leaves me with such a strong impression. Saying goodbye to these characters, with them having cut so deeply into my consciousness, is an utterly bitter-sweet moment. Rarely does anime reach the heights scaled by Cowboy Bebop; rarely does a series end with such an Earth-shattering emotional catharsis.
Cowboy Bebop deserves all the plaudits it receives, almost every aspect of this series is faultless.
The animation and character design mix a beautiful retro aesthetic with some timeless sci-fi imagery and fluid action scenes. Watching Spike kick ass with his ultra sharp kung fu moves is exciting, and just so damn cool!
The soundtrack from Yoko Kanno is the finest fusion of music and animation I have ever seen. She mixes so many different styles together with such supreme confidence; schizoid jazz and the moody blues have never sounded as much fun and yet so gripping at same time.
And then we have the story itself. Cowboy Bebop would be seen as an exquisite exercise in style over substance if the character development wasn’t so strong. We are left guessing about Spike, Jet, Faye and Ed (and I’m tempted to include super-smart dog Ein too!) until the last couple of episodes. Revelations about their shrouded pasts slowly trickle through cracks in the odd episode; little hints that usually only serve to make us more eager to learn more about them.
We watch Jet and Spike develop love-hate friendships with Faye and Ed. Heated personalities clash and their endearing interactions are perhaps what push Cowboy Bebop beyond other series; it’s just so much fun to watch. And if it’s fun just watching them hang out, it’s inevitably sad seeing them pulled apart.
This final volume is a culmination of everything that makes Cowboy Bebop what it is. We are taken on an emotional rollercoaster as Spike, Faye and even Ed is forced to confront their pasts. No more running, no more denying; this is end, and what a memorable, philosophical end it is.
Faye is still having trouble with her broken memories and yearns to discover more about her younger days. Most of all, she craves a place to call home; all her years of wandering from system to system are starting to catch up and being lonely, she misses family.
Ed accompanies Faye on her mission to rediscover her Earth-bound life but a chance encounter reveals more about Ed’s past than we had expected.
It turns out that her eccentric father is alive and well, mapping asteroid craters across the planet!
All the nostalgia is not lost on Spike as his past connections with a large mafia syndicate are starting to make simply drinking in a bar a dangerous business. It turns out that his bitter enemy Vicious has attempted a bloody coup of the syndicate and his renewed attentions are now fully focused on seeking out old friends Spike and”¦ Julia!
No words can do this masterpiece of a final volume justice. Be prepared for an onslaught of cool as hell action, gripping drama and philosophical resignation. In many ways, this is a sad experience- it is not the happy ending you had hoped for but at least take solace from the fact that Spike and Faye laid their demons to rest. Many will lap up the stunning final 15 minutes as Spike storms into Vicious’ building (shooting and exploding dozens of men along the way) but my favourite moment comes during Spike’s climatic return to Bebop. The way him and Jet converse is a subtle but moving moment, the two men saying their goodbyes with such warm wordless sentiment. It is a great example of why so many love Cowboy Bebop; warts and all, these characters are far from perfect but their deadpan humour and downbeat emotion is so human it’s tragic.
Director Shinichiro Watanabe has every right to feel proud of what he has achieved with this series. Taking cues from Western cinema (the Spaghetti Western genre is an obvious influence), Wantanabe has managed to balance his sometimes intriguing, sometimes awe-inspiring sci-fi concepts with a fresh sense of humour and a good eye for stylish camera angles. Cowboy Bebop changes mood with the wind and it’s to his credit that these characters never look out of place or are found lacking in substance; whether they are tripping out on magic mushrooms or fighting for their lives, Spike et all remain as likable and as watch able as ever.
Cowboy Bebop #6 is perfect. The animation is iconic but buried deep within grimy layers of futuristic authenticity and Yoko Kanno’s soundtrack is as varied as ever; effortlessly switching moods between laid-back grooves and poignant and gripping dramatics.
And then of course we have the climax of the series too; poetic, sad and memorable are words that immediately jump to mind but rest assured, you’re guaranteed an emotional, nigh on heart breaking experience that you won’t forget in a hurry!