Quick quiz: What anime episode being shown tonight involves two bounty hunters, a black man with an afro (who was actually a white man), and a dog who's smarter than all of them? No, we're not talking about some bizarre combination of Star Wars and Shaft (though if such a thing exists, I'd really have to see it). We're talking about one of the most popular series to come out of Japan recently: Cowboy Bebop.
Cowboy Bebop is not your typical science fiction anime. Tonight's episode, Stray Dog Strut, should exemplify why this is true. I was sucked in as the opening bars of the theme song, "Tank!", blasted out and the '70s-style-colored opening flashed on the screen.
Cowboy Bebop centers around the bounty hunter Spike Spiegel (no, he's not Jewish, as one fan asked director Shinichirou Watanabe at Otakon this summer). Spike is a cynical, wise-cracking young man who seems to only focus on the job at hand. He shares his ship, the Bebop, with Jet, an ex-cop with a cybernetic arm and a penchant for cooking meatless beef dishes (at least, when the pair is short on money).
I was fortunate enough to hear Bebop director Shinichirou Watanabe (Macross Plus) and music composer Yoko Kanno (Macross Plus, Vision of Escaflowne) speak at Otakon. Mr. Watanabe said that he wanted to do something different from most anime: he wanted a 26-episode series in which each of the episodes was of a different feel or genre. The first episode (shown previously at CJAS) was considered too intense to be aired on Japanese television. The best Mr. Watanabe could get across was that it was too "harsh" for some viewers. Ms. Kanno clarified this as relating to the scenes which involved drug use.
I've only gotten to see the first two episodes of Bebop, but I've seen them multiple times, and I thoroughly enjoy them each time I see them. I hope to catch the remainder of the series as it becomes available. I think Kanno-san expressed it best when she told the audience at Otakon that Cowboy Bebop was "very cool".