We've talked about you needing to watch Cowboy Bebop more than once, but we never did a major analysis of the anime. Like many who have ever watched it, I agree with the fact that this is one of the most iconic Japanese animation series and for good reason. So what's so great about the Cowboy Bebop? Why is this story about space bounty hunters so attractive?
A couple of times I heard a comparison with which I completely agree - Cowboy Bebop is very similar to the works of Dostoevsky and Gorky, where the authors often described people represented in the eyes of society as marginal. He is especially often compared with Dostoevsky's Notes from the Underground, where one of the main ideas of the work is that people are prone to suffering and self-destruction. In this book, he shows not heroes fighting the injustice of the outside world, but people who feel their hopelessness in it. Just like Gorky tells in his play “At the Bottom” the story of people who have nowhere to go and spend most of their time in quarrels and squabbles.
Although we do not know whether the director of the series Shinichiro Watanabe read Dostoevsky, there are definitely common motives in his work and in "Notes from the Underground", although they are not immediately revealed. Behind all the chaos that occurs in the series at the very beginning and in the subsequent, something completely different is hidden, and over time you realize that each of the characters is fleeing from their past, not accepting the present, discarding the desire to move forward into the future.
Jet lost his career, family and hand, but at the same time he cannot accept the family closeness that arises with the rest of his ship, who, by the will of fate, end up on him. Spike Spiegel lost his beloved, reputation in the triad, and also nearly lost his life when he fell out of the church window. At the same time, he cannot accept his "life from scratch" in any way and is looking for a new chance to die again. This is why Spike is such a daredevil. Faye has lost the memory of her past after cryogenic sleep, but she spends more time destroying a new life than trying to mend it.
Characters from individual episodes also reflect this idea against the background of the main characters. For example, when Jet finds his ex Alice, who left him for a long time without saying a word. After some time, Jet meets her on Ganymede and it turns out that she lives with a young criminal. Alice tells him that she left, since he always cared about her, and she wanted to manage her life herself. With him, she did not have to solve anything, Jet could settle all her problems, if she just wanted. But she wanted to live her life and make mistakes, even if they have dire consequences.
From what we know about Jet, it's unlikely that he somehow limited her freedom, but for some reason she was not happy. More precisely, her life with him was so carefree that she stopped feeling alive. Therefore, to the surprise of both Jet and the audience, the reason for her disappearance is not some concrete or familiar to us, but rather abstract.
In addition to the fact that other characters emphasize the theme of internal conflict, the importance of fighting with ourselves and the past we see even in music and environmental design. The futuristic anime universe is far from utopia. The result is many backgrounds that support the mood of the show. These are conflicts of order and chaos, contrasting between a huge technological genius on Venus and decay on a shattered Earth. Jazz also often switches between a frivolous, uplifting mood and a somber melancholic tone. All of this serves to emphasize the depth of the anime.
The latest episodes culminate in this conflict, where it is shown how the heroes still cannot escape their past, which is haunting them. This is especially evident in Spike's behavior. He informs Jet that he is going to end his past and go to kill Vicious.
To this, a former police officer tells him a story about a hunter who received a leg injury in the savannah; she begins to rot, there is nowhere to wait for help and the hunter almost dies. Before his death, he is rescued at the last moment and lifted up by a helicopter, the hunter looks down and sees a white surface, realizing that this is the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and remembers that he wanted to get there. Jet ends up hating the story, as in such cases, people begin to cling to the past before dying, desperately trying to prove to themselves that they are alive.
After that, Faye flies into Spike and asks him not to do it. Spike replies that since he survived, he sees the past with one eye and the present with the other and does not know what is true. To Faye's question: "Are you going to go and fuck up your life there?" he replies: “I’m not going to die there, I just want to know if I’m really alive.”
All of this leads to an end that you never expect. And that's what the whole series is about - it's one complete surprise, where everything does not go the way you saw before. Many anime follow patterns - Cowboy Bebop goes against them. It would seem that any other series ended with the characters accepting themselves and their lives, but not this one. He was and remains something that you have never seen before. The real and compelling essence of Cowboy Bebop is that it shows how people turn their own lives into tragedy, simply to remind themselves that they can feel, are free and at least for a while alive. In many ways, this is what sets it apart from many other shows.
The Topic of Article: Space Western Notes: What's the Depth of Cowboy Bebop?.