“Did you know? Whenever a star falls, it means one of them has died…” - Secret Santa #1: Cowboy Bebop
Cowboy Bebop’s influence on Darker than Black aside, I got absolutely nothing out of it except for maybe a new loathing for Watanabe. While Tensai Okamura has worked extensively on it and Wolf’s Rain had the makings of the anime he wanted to do (like Taniguchi’s original works pre-Geass), DtB has Bebop written all over it. Just look at the shooting stars thing to see what I mean! Or the leaving the syndicate thing! You can’t unsee it now.
(On that note, the only thing which Bebop has that is better than DtB is that they didn’t make a second season of Bebop!)
More importantly, I could never enjoy Bebop on the level that I enjoyed most things, which I suspect is because halfway through watching it I had a little chat with jpmeyer about Watanabe and his style in general—I got the diagnosis that I was taking it too seriously, which could be for a lot of things, but mostly because the bounty is just a bounty when it comes to the episodic posts.
Or, “It’s all surface,” which is was what I was told, which help me appreciate it a lot better after that, but mostly on an intellectual level. You see, Bebop appears to be “aged” if we assume that its cool trappings assume any sort of emotional depth—it barely even registers as so, choosing instead to focus on that pastiche thing which left barely anything with which to identify with.
“It’s all surface” makes Bebop better, but not by a lot. It’s fine if you want to see cool people doing cool things—which in terms of trope equivalence makes it the same as K-ON, which is cute girls doing cute things—but the journey isn’t worth it. It got better towards the end, mostly because the parts involving Julia and Spike’s past with the, uh, syndicate made things come together cohesively and made the point of the cast of four something more than people randomly thrown together, which was something I saw in Samurai Champloo and wasn’t really interested in.
I’d also put it down to the time in which I’ve seen about 200+ anime towards ruining the experience for me. As I said in my previous post, it’s not that Bebop does anything wrong—god knows it doesn’t—it’s that sometimes, a bounty is just a bounty. There’s no subversion at work, no reversals, no clichés used in a renewed way, no nothing. Unlike, say, Mushishi which had things like THE BRIDGE IS MADE OUT OF PEOPLE or HIS WIFE IS A BAMBOO TREE or HER SISTER HAS BEEN TRAVELLING THE MUSHI-NETWORK FOR YEARS or GINKO IS MADE OUT OF FISH there just wasn’t anything to be surprised about. The bounty was WYSIWYG.
But that’s the problem with pure surface, I suppose. Ten years ago when this was out I would have had no problems with digesting it, accepting it for what it is: a quick romp in the hay. As it is ten years on it’s become the sort of cultural monster that people are quick to defend, shy to attack, and too obfuscated by nostalgia and memory to realise that not all of us look for things only ankle-deep sometimes, even if they’re “cool”. It’s become part of that canon thing, and rolling my eyes at people on Twitter only made it all the more amusing.
Soundtrack-wise I can’t tell if Kanno has actually gotten better or worse, since if we disregard the excellent Julia leitmotif and acoustic guitar tracks it’s about middling at best. No emotive pieces, but the soundtrack has one thing going for it—it stands alone in a way that no other soundtrack of hers probably has (probably has since I actually listen to the soundtracks after the anime, not without ever having seen it), and as a result when I finally got to listen to the pieces in context as it were, they didn’t feel all that great, or maybe I just had problems fitting them into the actual context, as opposed to the one I had in mind while listening to it.
I still think people who listen to soundtracks for shows they haven’t seen are pretty lulz, but eh, whatever. Yes, anime is serious business, and I watch anime for its deep characterisation and complex plots, when I’m not watching a skinflick. It’s pretty ironic how what is supposed to be ZOMG TEH BEST EVAR has never clashed more deeply with what I consider to be the strengths of the medium, but there you go, Secret Santa. I hope you’re happy.