Review Summary: "I think is time to blow this scene, get everybody and the stuff together.
Okay 3, 2, 1 Let's Jam."Cowboy Bebop
has been lauded as one of the greatest animated series to come out of Japan. Praised for its humor, likable cast, and poignant story, the series has enjoyed incredible success, even outside of its nation of origin. Although it has all the makings of a groundbreaking, wonderful anime, it has something especially stunning, something intertwined into the very fiber of what the series actually is: the music.
What separates Cowboy Bebop
from the glut of mediocre, poorly thought out anime so prevalent today , is the incredibly diverse soundtrack. Sure it truly is great on its own merits, but there is something special, something staggeringly profound about the music. If one were to have never watched the series, it would be difficult to gauge the soundtrack’s importance, and the impact it has on virtually every aspect of the series. Everything from the story and mood, right down to the episode titles is affected by music.
The soundtrack is so wonderful, so groundbreaking, and so unique because of one woman: Yoko Kanno. Yoko Kanno is the first and last word on anime and video game soundtracks, with her astounding vision and creativity being prevalent in nearly everything she composes. Being at the helm of several popular television series, such as Macross
, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
, and Wolf’s Rain
, the forty-six year old Japanese composer has created quite a name for herself. She also leads The Seatbelts, a grandiose big band swing act. Added to that, Kanno has helped to launch the careers of many aspiring J-Pop musicians, and even has work featured in advertisements. However, her largest contributions have come in the form of soundtracks. While she has many impressive scores piled onto her résumé, none have yet to, nor may they ever ,surpass her greatest contribution to music in the anime world: Cowboy Bebop.
While the soundtrack embeds itself into the series, affecting it in many vital ways, it is still a wholly incredible experience on its own. It’s a smorgasbord of jazziness, with large doses of big band swing, folk, country, and of course, bebop. While this mixture seems gimmicky and convoluted, the end result is something with an obscene amount of character, personality, and variety. For example, “Tank!” is without a doubt the soundtrack’s most incredible track, featuring bouts of swing and jazz, moving with the pace of a freight train. It’s astoundingly catchy, and the individual parts for the horns, strings, and woodwinds have been written in such a way that they seem completely off the cuff, yet meticulously planned.
It is safe to say that “Tank!” was Kanno’s greatest contribution to the series. Being the theme song featured as the opener, it sets the tone for each following episode, as it is the epitome of the frenetic, yet chilled energy of the show. And while nothing can really match the excellence of “Tank!,” the rest of the soundtrack does an excellent job attempting to do so. Little details sparsely added to every song make the album pop. The mind blowing trombone solo on “Rush” is another highlight of the album, featuring an incredibly versatile musician with a flair for the bombastic and absurd. The harmonica featured on “Spokey Dokey” gives the song a bluesy
feel, with the lax atmosphere making the track seem completely organic. Interestingly, “Bad Dog No Biscuits” opens up with a Tom Waits cover, eventually spiraling into a maddening reinterpretation. And while the vast majority of the album is outrageously fantastic, a couple of songs range from so-so, to downright terrible. The only track to stand out as expressly bad would be “Rain.” “Rain” is cheesy as hell, featuring an organ accompanied by some very sub-par vocals that amateurishly croon out some very stereotypical, very mediocre, lyrics. Other songs that struggle to impress are “Pot City,” which kind of bores, and “Felt Tip Pen,” which is fairly forgettable.
This particular work transcends anime soundtracks, being a different entity entirely. It’s so full of life, charisma, and heart, that it creates a completely vivacious atmosphere for the series. Cowboy Bebop
is a fantastic series in its own right, but Kanno‘s work with the soundtrack has breathed so much life into the anime, that it simply cannot be ignored. There is just so much here to enjoy for fans of any and all forms of music. It is fun, poignant, and unique, making for a simply wonderful listen, whether you are a fan of the series or not.
See you, Space Cowboy.