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Cowboy Bebop Newbie Recap: “Asteroid Blues”

I think it's time we blow this scene, get everybody and the stuff together.

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I am not going to pretend that I am all that well versed in the world of anime. Hayao Miyazaki is one of my all time favorite directors and I’ve seen all of his films aside from Ponyo. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya was my favorite film of 2014 (and if you haven’t had your heart broken by it yet go and watch it right now). I’ve given other anime films such as Tokyo Godfathers, Paprika (mind-bending), 5 Centimeters Per Second, and Summer Wars a chance and enjoyed most of them, I just haven’t gone full throttle into anime television series.

However, it would seem that the last two years I’ve found myself in a trend of watching at least one series per summer. Last year I watched all of Attack on Titan and was equally grossed out and entertained, although I found that one hard to binge watch due to how bleak it was. The year before that I began Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and loved it so much that I put off watching the last season until this past spring because I didn’t want it to end. I ended up absolutely loving it and it may be one of my favorite shows of all time.

Unnecessarily long story short: I want to follow that trend and have begun watching the fan-favorite Cowboy Bebop. Be kind to me readers, I am still new to this entire genre, but I’ve been told that to get into anime this is a great place to start.

Two minutes into the first episode and I was already sure I was going to dig it, but are we going to get more female characters soon that aren’t just femme fatales on the run with a boob window in their dress? Sure, she was a badass; much cooler than her male criminal counterpart and calm under pressure, but I really want to know if there will be more to come than just her.

(Feel free to spoil me/yell and tell me that I’m being impatient).

The first episode is one that very much sets the mood for the series. We meet Spike, a bounty hunter, and we learn little else about him, other than the fact that he doesn’t like going after small time crime. Despite this, he finds himself tailing a couple peddling a highly potent drug that–as illustrated by a squeamish scene–you spray into your eyes.

Yuck.

Spike and other law enforcement end up catching them in the end as they try to escape to Mars (awesome), and there’s an absolutely stunning shot of the couple falling through space. It’s a premiere episode that sets up mood more than character, but we already can get a sense of the type of roguish character Spike is: reckless at times and overconfident.

I can tell I’m going to like Spike. What a definitive cool character to begin the series with!

Despite offering little in the way of character development (it is the first episode after all), “Asteroid Blues” is the perfect introduction to the series. Released in 1998, there are moments where some of the animation feels dated, but only just, and the storyline itself is exciting and fun. It presses start at the beginning of the episode and refuses to relent until its final moments. I’m interested in seeing if any of the plot from this episode carries over onto the rest of the series, or if this was strictly a singular, introductory episode for newbies like myself. Created by Hajime Yatate, it is (at this point) unlike many of the other animes I’ve seen, judging from the style, to the way Spike’s character is dressed, to the music.

Can we talk about the music for just like, a second? In my hastily written notes for the episode I wrote “omg music!” about ten times. It’s incredible! It sets the mood for the series expertly and it’s such an easy tool but one that isn’t utilized enough. Music can instantly make a show or movie better if it’s used intelligently and the jazz used for the intergalactic-western setting is smart. It gives it an old-timey noir feeling and it meshes well with the way the characters are written and the way they’re animated.

The animation itself is something that I’m not entirely used to compared to the other (albeit, few) anime series I’ve watched. Forgive my weak terminology to any artists who are reading, but I’m used to animes that have an almost glossy look to them or characters with flat dimensions. Cowboy Bebop has characters with rough and shadowed faces drawn with crude lines. It’s an interesting juxtaposition to a show such as Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (again, my anime knowledge is lacking). Both shows have an immediacy to them in the first episode; the universe is built and they don’t spend the first half hour simply explaining everything and how it works. It just is and the audience accepts that. Yet the way the characters are drawn and the overall tone of the series are so vastly different.

Restricting myself to one episode was challenging because after the first one completed, my gut reaction was to watch all of them and the standalone movie that very instant. For an episode with so little information it’s immediately intriguing and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

As a quick aside-please feel free to recommend any anime that you think is worth checking out and I’ll put in my watch list.

Allyson Johnson is a twenty something writer and a lover of film and all things pop culture. She’s a film and television enthusiast and critic over at TheYoungFolks.com who spends too much of her free time on Netflix. Her idols are Jo March, Illana Glazer, and Amy Poehler. Check her out at her twitter @AllysonAJ or at The Young Folks.

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