See You, Space Cowboy: A Cowboy Bebop Wishlist

 by RadiumEyes, HSM team writer

“On glancing over my notes of the seventy odd cases in which I have during the last eight years studied the methods of my friend Sherlock Holmes, I find many tragic, some comic, a large number merely strange, but none commonplace [. . .]”

Thus began the short story “The Speckled Band,” one of several Sherlock Holmes tales (almost always told by his long-suffering assistant, Dr. John H. Watson). The inimitable detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle invariably took on curious cases that demanded a highly deductive mind and an incredible attention to detail; Holmes excelled at both, and he always humbled Lestrade after solving cases that baffled Scotland Yard. Watson’s statement about his association with Holmes is an apt description – Holmes certainly found himself following cases both tragic and comic, not to mention “merely strange.” Holmes was at his best when dealing with unusual crimes, and his intellectual acumen ultimately brought about a resolution.

But this article will not be about Sherlock Holmes. Instead, it concerns a fairly popular anime from 1998 – Cowboy Bebop. One could easily apply Watson’s description of Sherlock Holmes to the cast of Cowboy Bebop, a group of ragtag spacefarers who travel the spaceways to collect bounties and confront their respective pasts. Director Shin’ichirō Watanabe found a hit formula with the series, a combination of ‘60s and ‘70s film noir and westerns, with a great jazz score provided by Yoko Kanno (who would later work with Watanabe again on Sakamichi no Apollon, a jazz-heavy series in its own right). Bebop became one of the most popular shows of the late 1990s, particularly in the United States; anime fans the world over can recognize the show’s incredible opening theme, performed by The Seatbelts.

spike-spiegel   The show focuses on a cast of characters who all have checkered pasts; Spike Spiegel, in particular, once ran with the Red Dragon Syndicate, a system-wide gang led by mysterious figures known as The Van. It was during his time with the syndicate that Spike met Vicious (the two were partners in crime) and his love interest, Julia. When Spike leaves Red Dragon, he’s haunted by memories of his time as a member, and Vicious remains active; the two antagonize each other throughout the series, and their rivalry culminates in a fierce battle for survival. Spike’s past can’t give him a break, and he is forced to deal with Vicious and finally remove himself completely from the syndicate’s scope.

On the other side of the spectrum is confidante and fellow Bebop crewman Jet Black, who used to work for the ISSP. A fan of Charlie Parker and bonsai trees, Jet left the police force when a partner betrayed him, leaving him with a missing arm; he eventually received a cybernetic replacement for that arm, but the damage is done – Jet’s now floating around space as a bounty hunter, without a steady source of income. He’s not the stalwart cop he used to be, but he remains stoic and reliable.

Cowboy Bebop is one of those shows that you’ll never forget once you see it. The characters feel aimless, unable to escape their early misdeeds; their jobs as bounty hunters are merely a means of obtaining money, and their success/failure ratio is pretty unsatisfactory. You’re pulled into their heady world, one where Mars has been colonized, and criminal activity seems rampant. Spike, Jet and Faye Valentine (who had been frozen for some time) live in a pretty confusing and intense environment, and every bounty they chase can quickly turn violent. It’s a tragic show, through and through, but not without its comic elements – Cowboy Bebop manages to balance humor and drama very well, and it provides a glimpse into a future where society hasn’t improved much since space travel became commonplace.

So, how can this show translate into Home? I’ve already covered three IPs before – Sailor Moon in one article, Rose of Versailles and Mobile Suit Gundam in the other – and this would be my fourth foray into this. Cowboy Bebop ranks pretty high in estimation among anime fans, and its broadcast on U.S. television certainly helped it gain ground among anime fans in the Americas. That very disillusionment the characters feel drive the show; the protagonists are veritable castaways, living on the other side of the tracks and without a safety net. Cowboy Bebop remains a quintessential production, a potent combination of various influences and motifs that Quentin Tarantino would definitely approve of.

As far as Home is concerned, having costumes for Spike, Jet, Faye and Julia would be the most prudent choices. These four characters are pretty recognizable and distinct, and being central characters, they’re shoe-ins for material. We could include Vicious as well, the only recurring antagonist in the series; he’s a merciless man, and he hounds Spike endlessly. As for other characters, most episodes feature a single antagonist that doesn’t survive that episode; it would be interesting to see characters such as Alicia (Jet’s ex-girlfriend) and various single-episode characters (especially someone as unique as Mad Pierrot), but they’re all secondary in importance.

2_Ein2Now Ein, the highly intelligent Pembroke Welsh Corgi, would make for an excellent companion. Dog companions already exist, and a Corgi would be a welcome addition. The Bebop can serve as a personal space, as well; the protagonists pretty much call it home, and it’s a nice design. There could be more potential here (perhaps a jukebox that plays the OP and ED songs along with some incidental music). Like Evangelion, however, Cowboy Bebop is pretty violent, but Evangelion already saw Home content in Japan, so Bebop can follow that example. Adding the music would definitely help set the atmosphere – the soundtrack is extraordinary, and complements an amazing (if violent) series.

Licensing an external IP for Home is always a tricky process — but Cowboy Bebop might just be one worth the effort.

 

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