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30 Day Anime Challenge – Day 29: Your Highest Rated Anime (Cowboy Bebop)

‘I think it’s time we blow this scene. Get everybody and the stuff together. OK. 3 2 1. Let’s jam.’

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I’m going to make this bold ass statement: If series such as Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, and Pokemon jump started the Western anime craze of the 1990s, then Cowboy Bebop snatched that craze and carried it to unimaginable heights  during the early 2000s – thus shaping how anime is viewed in the eyes of mainstream America today.  If Cowboy Bebop never made it to the States or became such an overnight hit, then (maybe) mainstream interest in anime here in would had die out.  Don’t get me wrong: those shows  did well here in the States, but Cowboy Bebop was a game changer.  I (personally) believed that the show helped changed the stereotype that anime is childish in America.

Putting my major (and fact-less) bias aside, Cowboy Bebop is Sunrise Studio’s 1998 legendary anime series produced by the equally legendary team up of director Shinchiro Watanabe, writer Keiko Nobumoto, character designer Toshiro Kawamoto, and composer Yoko Kanno.  The series revolves around the adventures of a ragtag crew of bounty hunters attempting to make ends meet day-by-day.

The crew consist of the zen, free-spirited Spike, his best friend; the wise and mature Jet, the provocative opportunist; Faye, and finally, the quirky teenage super-genius;  Ed.  What’s unique about these characters is their connection to their (tragic) pasts, and how it crafts their present-day lives and personalities.

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Spike declares himself “dead”, due to his past with the Red Dragons crime family, as well as feeling guilt towards Julia – the only person he truly cared for.  This results in his “Whatever happens, happens” mantra in combination of his carefree spirit.   Jet’s struggles with his past is rooted in the betray of his friend; whom ambushed and shot him – resulting the loss of his arm.   Faye perhaps has the most unstable, complex connection to the past (next to Spike)  of the main cast.  She lacks knowledge of her own past due 50+ years of deep cryogenic sleep.  Further in the series, she learns about it through an old, homemade Betamax recording of her younger self. It’s revealed that she was an once a hopeful, shy, kindhearted, innocent kid full of wild dreams.  Those dreams were ruined after her family were slaughtered by space pirates, leaving her the lone survivor. The injuries she suffered from the attack forced doctors to put her in deep sleep, which resulted in her memory lost and personality change.

Oh well, whatever happens, happens.

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What makes Cowboy Bebop my highest rated series is how it was such a game changer for me as a teenager.  Prior to my encounter with it, I was used to shows such as Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon, and Outlaw Star to name a few.  Great shows mind you with good stories, but they weren’t really deep or thought provoking (Outlaw Star and Sailor Moon S did made me think a little bit with their themes, but it wasn’t like Cowboy Bebop level deep).  Cowboy Bebop had this more adult branding to it; it made me feel in love with the series.  You had jazz music playing in some of the major fights, characters drinking, smoking (both weed and tobacco on screens), poppin’ pills and trippin’ off shrooms.   There were beautiful, kickass female characters who were treated not just as eye-candy, but humans.  Cow or Bebop showcased characters that had legit issues that you could relate to such as debt, struggling with the past, burdens etc.  No longer was I limited to anime that had your typical fuckin’ bullshit “defeat the monster-of-the-day” or “I wanna be the strongest in the world” fantasy shit.

Cowboy Bebop was the real shit because it was real.

 ‘Once upon a time, in New York City in 1941… at this club open to all comers to play, night after night, at a club named “Minston’s Play House” in Harlem, they play jazz sessions competing with each other. Young jazz men with a new sense are gathering. At last they created a new genre itself.

They are sick and tired of the conventional fixed style jazz.

They’re eager to play jazz more freely as they wish then… in 2071 in the universe… The bounty hunters, who are gathering in the spaceship “BEBOP”, will play freely without fear of risky things. They must create new dreams and films by breaking traditional styles. The work, which becomes a new genre itself, will be called… COWBOY BEBOP’

-Cowboy Bebop’s tagline pitch

AFTERWORD

 

29 days down, just one more.  Day 30 – Your Favorite Anime.

This…will be fun.

While you’re waiting for that, please check out these amazing  video by Digibro on Cowboy Bebop:

 

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30 Day Anime Challenge Day 6: Favorite Anime Ending Theme

I’ve been looking forward to Days 5 and 6  of this list. I love music.  I love anime.  This will be a challenge indeed. There are far too many endings songs I love that I can not possibly just choose one as my favorite.  I’m going to do ten songs, five opening and five ending themes for each day and let you in on why I love them so much.

 

5.An Evil Angel and a Righteous Devil
Dragon Ball Super ED 8
Performed by The Collectors

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With the Tournament of Power Arc introducing a new ending theme this week (Haruka by Lacco’s Tower), I thought it would be a great idea to start off this list with the Arc’s first ending theme.  An Evil Angel and a Righteous Devil is my personal favorite of the Dragon Ball Super ending themes due to the political tone and themes of the lyrics and music video (choosing a side, deception,  the tragedy of war, etc.), something I  would never expect from a Shonen series such as Dragon Ball.

I’ve already given an in-depth analysis on the song  in an earlier post, so please check out the link provided.

‘Angels and devils: even if the devils were really angels
Righteousness and evil would still hold no meaning
Winning or losing doesn’t benefit anyone –
Everyone is simply hurt, crying at the end’

Number Four:
Dou Kangaete mo Watashi wa Warukunai (lit. No Matter How  I Look at It, I’m not Popular)
Watamote Ed 1
Performed by Izumi Kitta (voice actress of series heroine Tomoko Kuroki)

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Great  songs are the ones that are personal.  It’s even better if find parallels in the lyrics to your own life  or if the performance of the song matches the spirit of the song’s central theme.   The first ending theme of   “Watamote” captures this as voice actress Izumi Kitta’s  performs  as Tomoko the series socially awkward main character I coudn’t help but find a sense of similarity by   listening to Tomoko sing about her  inability to commute with “normies”, wasting her life online, and her loneliness.

I also couldn’t help but laugh as in reflection of my old  days of being a shut-in weeaboo back in middle and high school – feeling superior to my normie peers.

…god i was such a special snowflake trash back in the day.

‘After all the time I’ve spent online
My voice won’t even come out after all this time
In rain or shine, it doesn’t change
Is that right?! It’s not my fault!’

Number Three
Hiru no Tsuki (lit. Daytime Moon)
Outlaw Star ED 1
Performed by Arai Akino

‘This serene feeling…
Tell me, what’s the word people use for it?’

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“This serene feeling”.   It’s the feeling I had towards  Hiru no Tsuki ever since I was a child watching Outlaw Star.  Despite being ignorant to the Japanese language and the context of Hiru no Tsuki  back then,  I always felt this peaceful, yet sorrowful presence in Akino’s performance and in the song itself.  11-year-old Benjamin couldn’t quite tell exactly  what or why the reason  for the feeling back then but he knew that there was more to Outlaw Star than just the simple story of  ragtag crew traveling through space finding treasure and collecting money.

Hiru no Tsuki fueled the feeling.

Emily Brown and Ayako Kawasumi’s  (American and Japanese voice actresses of Melfina) performance of Hiru no Tsuki in Episode 21 (Grave of the Dragon) drove the sorrowful emotion point home with Melfina singing acapella – possibly reflecting on her longing to understand the purpose and reason on why does she exist; despite her artificial creation.

The pain in her heart.

Will the time come? When you will know the pain in my heart?
Then you’d be able to be gentler than you are now.

 

Number Two
Ride on Shooting Star
Fooly Cooly ED
Performed by The Pillows

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Ride on Shooting Star doesn’t make sense.  You can not make sense of it, no matter how much you want it to.  It’s confusing. It’s crazy.  It’s nonsense.  It’s perfect for FLCL!

Think about it: Fooly Cooly is a crazy and outlandish anime series.  You know what else is crazy and confusing?  Puberty – and the changes that it brings.  Unexplained changes and experiences you did not  understand at all as a teenager.  What’s one of Fooly Cooly’s creative themes?  Dealing with puberty and not knowing how to deal with it.  That’s why Ride on Shooting Star is perfect as the series’s ending theme.   It doesn’t need to make sense and that’s why it’s perfect.

‘Ride on shooting star
With the voice of my heart, like a shotgun
I kept on singing’

Number One
The Real Folk Blues
Cowboy Bebop ED
Performed by Mai Yamane and The Seatbelts

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‘THE REAL FOLK BLUES
I just want to know real sadness
Sitting in the muddy river, this life isn’t so bad either
If it ends once.’

The lyrical music of Cowboy Bebop is of  an expansion of the series’s story beyond simple background atmosphere.  Cowboy Bebop is heavily influences by music so it shouldn’t be a shock  how the music in the series work in synergy  for the narrtive  of Cowboy Bebop with songs such as “Rain”,  “Blue”, and  ending theme song “The Real Folk Blues”.

Spike’s tale is that of a depressing, saddening one.  While there are many things about Spike and his past that we may never know, we do know and are aware of the sad realities of it. One could consider The Real Folk Blues  as additional information on Spike,  with lines in the song such as “The despair that grew out of hope
And this chance with a trap laid in it “ and  “How long must I live to be healed?”.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed my top five anime ending themes!   What are some of your favorites?  Please tell me in the comments below and see ya later!

 

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30 Day Anime Challenge Day 5: Favorite Anime Opening Theme

I’ve been looking forward to Days 5 and 6  of this list. I love music.  I love anime.  This will be a challenge indeed. There are far too many opening songs I love that I can not possibly just choose one as my favorite.  I’m going to do ten songs, five opening and five ending themes for each day and let you in on why I love them so much.

Keep in mind that there’s order to this list (although number one is based off personal bias)

  1. Dan Dan Korko Hikareteku (lit. Bit bv Bit My Heart is Charmed)
    Dragon Ball GT OP
    By Field of View

There are only three good things about Dragon Ball GT –  the animation, the new ideas presented (that were poorly executed sadly), and the music.  When I’m talking about GT’s music, I am not speaking of the horrible American original soundtrack (OST).  And I’m especially not talking about horrible attempt at hip-hop that is “STEP INTO THE GRAND TOUR”  trash (still to this day I cringe every time I hear that shit).

I’m talking about the superior Japanese OST, mainly GT’s opening theme song “Dan Dan Kokoro Hikareteku” or “Bit by Bit My Heart is  Charmed”.
There’s a certain, nostalgic charm with this song,  setting it apart from other Dragon Ball opening themes.  To start, Dan Dan Kokoro Hikareteku is actually a love ballad. The character iit reminiscing on the first time he first met the one he fell in love with . On the surface, it seems out of place to have a long song in the Dragon Ball series, but if you dig a little bit, it make sense (plus, original Dragon Ball had a few romantic ending themes and as of recently with the Tournament of Power Arc , “Boogie Back” [the second ending theme of that arc] also carries that romantic feeling of longing).

Dragon Ball as a whole, is a charming series of adventure with unique and lovable diverse characters.  Plus, I can promise you that we Dragon Ball fans can remember the first time when we first watched Dragon Ball and fell in love – our hearts charmed by the show bit-by-by.  It works.

Finally, the best thing about the song is how it was used in the final episode of  Dragon Ball as we relive main character Son Goku’s life, trails, and victories from Dragon Ball, Z, and GT.

‘You see, when I met you
I remembered the view which I had treasured when I was a child’

  1. Smile Bomb

Yuu Yuu Hakusho OP 1
Sung By Sara White

Another intro that gives me a sense of nostalgia.  Maybe it’s how the English version still kept that 90s Shonen  anime vibe with the lyrics, instrumental arrangement, and  singing. Maybe it’s the lyrics and it reflection on friends supporting you on your journey. That’s probably it.

  1. The Hero!!
    One Punch Man OP 1
    Performed by JAM Project

Have you ever listen to an anime song that you just knew it fit just right with the series?  The lyrics fit perfectly with the series’s tone, or the song was just full of so much energy that it felt just right using it as a theme song?  That’s “The Hero!!” to me. I don’t think words can even describe the emotion in it, so I’ll just provide the full version below.

‘I wanna be the strongest HERO’

 

Seriously any version of the iconic Lupin the 3rd Theme
Lupin the III
Composed by Yuji Ohno

Do I really have to explain why I love this song? Seriously I kinda don’t wanna because I have to go to a friend’s house soon.  Fine, I’ll explain why.  Ready?  70s acid jazz in an anime with a charming thief, the OG Femme Fatale, the stoic wandering samurai, and a smooth gunman.   This song makes me want to go out and do some high level criminal things with my crew.

Theme of Lupin the 3rd

1. Tank!
Cowboy Bebop
Performed by The Seat Belts

The moment when I first heard the horns section blaring in the first bar of Tank, I knew Cowboy Bebop would be dissimilar to any anime series I’ve watched prior.   Cowboy Bebop’s opening combined two of my loves: jazz music and anime.  Never would I imagine that somebody in the world would put those two things together and make it work.   Let me tell you something, It was at that moment in the year 2001 at the age of 12 that I knew Cowboy Bebop would be a game changer in the American anime fanbase.

With that, those were my favorite anime opening theme.  Stay tuned in the future when I’ll drop my top 5 anime ending themes!  In the comments, please tell me some of your favorite anime theme songs of all time!