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Naked from the Neck Up
Tuesday, 9 March 2004
TV - See You Space Cowboy...
Topic: TeeVee

I'm a big believer in creative work within limitations, both external and self-imposed. I don't see boundaries as walls that stop you, but as purchases that allow you to climb within a structure. I embrace Orson Welles' statement that "Art without limits is its own worst enemy."

That's one of the reasons I like the TV series Cowboy Bebop. It is a show that works within a framework of self-imposed limitations, but is unusual because a key part of this structure is informed by musical forms rather than traditional narrative ones. While "Bebop" is the name of the vessel the leads travel in, it's much more than that. The improvisational form of jazz relates to both the free-form nature of the series (stories do not follow a rigid formula) and to the lives of the characters, who are making it up as they go along but riffing on their individual themes. The musical component is not thematic only, for music plays a big part in the series, from the jazzy big band title sequence through the original compositions that appear throughout the "sessions" (episodes). Even the session names are mostly song titles ("Honky Tonk Women", "Sympathy for the Devil", "Bohemian Rhapsody").

Even the series title is more thematic than literal. There are not Cowboys per se, rather Cowboy is the lifestyle of individuals struggling to make a living out on the frontier. The show follows three none-too-lucky bounty hunters, a youthful hacker and a "data dog" on various adventures throughout the solar system. Each character has a past that is gradually revealed over the course of the series' 26 episodes (and one feature film), and the whole thing has a definite beginning and ending. It's beautifully designed, spare on dialogue, and frequently relies on cinematography to convey emotions and story points. It's also got one of the hottest title sequences I've ever seen, and it has some relatively decent science to its science fiction (ships have centrifuges to generate artifical gravity, ships without fuel coast to their destinations, etc.). All pluses in my book!

The most surprising thing about my liking this show is that it's Japanese animation, aka animé, a genre I've never cared for both in look or content. But Bebop doesn't often traffic in those animé conventions that put me off, so I've become quite taken with it. I know it's not likely to be everyone's cup of saké, but it's surely one of mine.

Click here for a good Bebop website.


Posted by molyneaux at 1:02 PM PST
Updated: Wednesday, 20 May 2009 12:29 AM PDT
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