For those of you who have seen my favorite anime series list, I thought that I would do a post on my favorite anime of all time – Cowboy Bebop. This show is awesome. It has incredible animation, the voice-work is the best there is, and the main character of the series is one who I have taken a lot of cues from in my worldview. I love this show more than you can ever know, and so I thought that I would do a list of my favorite episodes of the series. If you haven’t seen this show, you really must. It’s been re-released by FUNimation, so pick it up! Let’s get to this.
10. Session One: Asteroid Blues
Starting right off with the very beginning of the series, I put this episode on here for a reason. Most people think that the series has five plot-based episodes, but I would argue that it has six. This is one of them. This series begins a plot point that is wrapped up by the end of the series – the typical life of Spike and Jet. At the very beginning, we see the two of them having their daily routine and living a boring life. Once everything ends, the episode has the two of them engaging in their usual routine again. The idea behind this is that the two of them don’t get too engaged in life to let things affect them too much. Sure, they just saw a tragic story of love and death play out, but that’s life. So they keep moving forward. The idea is that they don’t let life affect them or get too attached to anything. Keeping things simple. If only things could have stayed that way, eh?
9. Session Eleven: Toys in the Attic
If you are going to do a straight-up homage to Alien, this is the way to do it. Every second of this episode is perfect. We get this creepy monster attacking the crew, while they all have their own philosophical moments. The tiny digressions for each character say a lot about them. Faye has a moment telling everyone to be greedy. Jet has a moment telling everyone about his views on karma. Ed is crazy, so she has this insane piece TERRIBLE advice. Meanwhile, Spike has a casual thought on something that, to most people, would be kind of a non-issue. That says a lot about him and his view on the world. It’s a direct send-up, but I wouldn’t have asked for anything else.
8. Session Ten: Ganymede Elegy
The episodes focusing on Jet are often very unpleasant. Aside form that one episode that shall not be named (you all know what it is), his episodes seem to shine a very cold spotlight on him. In this episode, he’s headed home for the first time in years. You find out that he is a stubborn man, tied to his convictions. This dedication has left him very lonely, because he’s not in the right time and place for his way of seeing the world. His loyalty is often used against him (know the feel), and he has a hard time moving forward. But this episode at least gives him some resolution, and he does get to have a moment where he realizes that he can move on from the past. Or at least try to. We’ll see further up the list that that doesn’t always work out.
7. Session Four: Gateway Shuffle
This episode is so much fun! You have Spike and Jet getting a meal while grabbing a bounty head, only for a much larger plot to unfold involving eco-terrorists. I love the performances in this episode. We get the cold and commanding Mary McLynn as the head of the terrorists, and Faye is back. All of the talent in this episode makes for some awesome conversations. Like something that would happen with real people. But, to be honest, the reason that this is on here is because of the last five minutes. The epic gateway scene is just awesome! The music is perfect. The action is so cool to watch. The suspense is palpable. And the way it just keeps building and building makes everything that much better. Earns it the place here all on its own.
6. Session Eighteen: Speak Like a Child
For a series that has so many episodes that are thematic and intense, there’s something about an episode that is ridiculous, silly, and feel-good just works. This episode is all about a betamax cassette tape and Jet and Spike’s mission to get a beta player to watch it. However, at the very end, we get to see that there are a couple twist endings that shine a harsh light on one of the most unexpected characters – Faye. We learn a lot about her, and this series is not much for pulling punches at her expense. It’s like the series wants to show that her way of living does more damage to herself in the long run. Mission accomplished.
5. Session Sixteen: Black Dog Serenade
The second of the primarily Jet-focused episodes, we get to see the cruel reality that he is facing – that he is stuck to the past and not making much of a future for himself. The plot of this episode is really paint by numbers. Jet gets asked to come back to the force for one last mission. You all can get the play-by-play from there, right? You don’t need me? This is a mean-spirited episode at Jet’s expense, but while the plot is not especially interesting, it is all in the execution. Everything about this episode, from the pacing to the animation and fight sequences, is perfect. How it all ends makes some statements too. The first character who has to face their past, and as is typical for this series, it is hard and cold.
4. Session Twenty-Four: Hard Luck Women
I would technically call this episode the beginning of the end of the series. The Bebop is diverted to Earth, with Faye taking Ed and going off to find out the truth about herself. What follows is a tragic and cold look at Faye addressing her past. Or at least trying to. She doesn’t have much success. What she finds is that there is no home waiting for her. All that’s left is rubble. Symbolism, am I right? Meanwhile, Ed finds her father, and has to make a choice about what she does. What I love about this episode is right at the end. The way the song “Call Me, Call Me” is used when we have three of the Bebop crew leaving. We then get to see Spike and Jet, alone again. They try to go back to their routine, eating dinner, but you can see that it’s not working. The two had gotten attached to their little family, and now there’s nothing left. They’re alone again. It’s arguably the most tragic ending of any of the episodes, and I love this episode for that reason.
3. Sessions Twenty-Five and Twenty-Six: The Real Folk Blues
See how this episode goes with the first one? It’s in the title. The last of the episodes with everyone’s past catching up to them. This time, we see Spike settling up with how he’s chosen to live. For so long, he hasn’t gotten attached or chosen to care about anything. Now, we see our hero is being forced to deal with it. His past has come back to roost, in the worst way possible. While it looks like he should just walk away, he can’t do that. A lot of people say that it’s because he can’t let go, but I have a different interpretation. And it has to do with the previous listing. Him and Jet had come to care about their little family. They couldn’t go back to how things were before. Spike could have run with Jet, and left it all behind. There was no reason to keep fighting. However, now Spike was on the verge of caring about his life again. In the final confrontation with Faye, he lays out how things have been, but now that Julia is dead, there’s nothing left to stop him from caring. So he’s gong to go settle things up with Vicious. The idea is that if he survives this fight, he’s actually going to move forward. This is his final part of his former life that he has to erase. Too bad it doesn’t end on a better note.
2. Session Twenty: Pierrot le Fou
Everything about this episode is flawless. There is nothing that doesn’t work. And I love every minute of it! What to talk about first. I suppose I could bring up the GLORIOUS animation! Never has an anime looked this good. Nor will it ever look this perfect again afterwards. Or the awesome action, perhaps? The fights between the titular character and Spike are so much fun. It’s violent, visceral, and leaves you at the edge of your seat to see how it turns out. Perhaps I could bring up how this episode has a subtle use of silence? This is the quietest episode in the entire series. I know, strange, considering all the explosions. But there is so little dialogue, and what is said is cryptic in a way that only this show can be. This episode is so good that, if you removed it from the universe of Cowboy Bebop, it could work well as a stand-alone episode. For that reason alone, it has earned this place here.
And my favorite episode of Cowboy Bebop is….
1. Session Five: Ballad of Fallen Angels
Another perfectly-constructed episode. It’s the first of what most people say is the plot-based episodes. We get to find out that Spike had ties with the mob, and they aren’t gone. You never truly leave the mob, after all. So when a bounty head comes up that is connected to Spike’s past, he goes off to deal with it. What follows is a cold look at his worldview (which I very much share) and how he sees life as nothing but a dream that he can’t wake up from. The animation is is flawless. The greatest that has ever been produced. The final battle is the best I have seen in anything. Then there’s the incredible scene that follows after Spike gets pushed out the window. I love it so. If you haven’t seen this series, I can’t recommend it enough for that episode alone.
What are your favorite episodes? Annoyed that you didn’t see Mushroom Samba on here? Well, if the list had been a couple entries longer. Let me know your favorites in the Comments
Until next time, a quote,
“I’m just watching a bad dream that I never wake up from.” – Spike Spiegel, Cowboy Bebop