Cowboy Bebop E1-5

1.1 Asteroid Blues

Wonderful. In a little over 20 minutes, this show doesn’t have a lot of space to get into the details, but the story it tells in broad strokes hits all the right beats and the playful, understated romance leads to that final minute which has to be one of the best scenes of anime ever made. I gather that the show is more of a space Western, but this story seemed to have some heavy noir influences thrown into the mix, which I quite liked.

I gather that the show is mostly about Spike, and it’s funny how little screen time he gets in the show. But each scene just seems to convey a ton about his character in these really smart, playful ways which makes him instantly endearing.

1.2 Stray Dog Strut

I had a dumb grin on my face through this entire episode. It’s pretty much a series of comedic pratfalls, but along the way we get to learn more about Spike and the fact that he’s still a bit of a softie despite his aloof exterior. I wonder how he’s even staying afloat since he has a knack for having bounties fall right through his fingers.

1.3 Honky Tonk Woman

There are two moments in this episode that are awesome almost entirely because of the editing. The first is when Faye Valentine has this mental interlude where she thinks about how the swap is going to happen. Instead of just being a flashback, it’s this sort of idyllic daydream that drifts by. It could have been much shorter, but the show gives the moment some time to breathe and it’s all the better for it.

The next fantastic moment is when the casino boss kills the man who was supposed to be the mark but lost the chip. This moment has more to do with sound. It takes the dissonant echo of the gunshot and uses it to accentuate each cut that leads into a commercial break.

I guess this episode is also a good time to talk about the stereotypical creepy anime factor. Valentine is introduced as a bunch of sleek, juicy body parts and later on she gets locked up in the bathroom. It’s not as creepy as I expected, but it’s certainly a bit of a black mark on the show so far. I hope there’s a strong, recurring female role at some point.

In terms of the rest of the episode, it’s got that great cavalier attitude which has made the show so fun to watch so far. As the closing title says “easy come, easy go,” which may as well be the theme of the show so far. I also love how the episode ends. Seems fitting that in the end they leave their fortune up to chance instead of trying to cash in on what they have.

1.4 Gateway Shuffle

While I’ve got qualms with the plot of this episode, it seems like this is where the show takes the first step to evolving. Valentine’s story drifting in space serves as a b-plot that gets woven into the larger story. I wasn’t immediately won over by her character in the first episode, but her whole bit every time a ship comes by makes her endearing because she’s playful with a nice dose of spunk. My biggest laugh of the show so far is when Spike and Jet find Valentine.

The plot of this episode feels like the weakest one of the show so far. Eco-terrorism almost always makes for poorly motivated, boring villains and while Mom is certainly a chilling presence, as an actual character she’s really dumb. It’s a lazy and bad way to build conflict. Still, there are some great scenes here, like when Spike is trying to break open the device Valentine finds.

1.5 Ballad of Fallen Angles

The show’s happy-go-lucky spirit has been one of its most endearing qualities, so for the show to switch gears into something this dark and dramatic should be a turnoff, but in some ways it makes it work even better. There’s a time for the fun action romps, but this isn’t one of those times. Spike even knows it. When Jet tells him to walk away from this one, he agrees, but he knows he has to see it through.

There are two scenes in this episode that are breathtaking. The first is Spike entering the chapel. The lighting and use of color is astounding. The detail of animation for a TV show feels almost gratuitous for backgrounds that last mere seconds. And the song Rain written for the scene is just perfect for the moment and adds that final bit of mood which makes the scene haunting and beautiful.

The second scene is Spike falling out the window. It’s long, almost too long, but it gives us enough taste of Spike’s past to give us a suggestion of what might be going on, but without just coming out and telling us. Maybe the show will fill in the blanks. I kinda hope it doesn’t. I think this might be the best episode of the show so far. Also, the last bit between Spike and Valentine is a great way to lighten the dark mood of the episode.

© 2013 James Blake Ewing