Although the movie takes place in 2071 when other planets have been colonized (specifically in this case Mars), personnal jets are not uncommon, the internet can be accessed with your mind via a crazy set of immersive goggles, and nano-machine bio-terrorism is very real, the icongraphy and general visual make-up of their society has not yet drastically changed from contemporary society today. Coca-cola and Kodac ads (among others) permeate city streets on which people dressed unlike ourselves at all do 20th century activities. A good example of this is the opening sequence showing just that in nostalgic black and white. This feeling of nostalgia is reinforced by the jazzy, blues-y and sometimes country music that serves as the movie’s soundtrack. The stratification of classes has not seemed to have changed either, complete with your run of the mill corrupt government officials, unethical military tactics, and screwy pharmaceutical companies. I may just not know enough about today’s population of bounty hunters, if it exists at all, but the one thing that does strike me as odd is the apparent presence of a huge number of bounty hunters in the Bebop world (considering they have a TV show dedicated to that entirely). In one scene there are trees lining a city street, so I dare say that Cowboy Bebop has less to do with post-humanistic philosophy and more to do with the individual and his own experiences/memories and the abuse of power.
The cast of Bebop are some of my favorite anime characters ever, with Spike Spiegel being right up towards the top of my list. He is a man who is often completely reliant on chance as a driving decision-making force and who is called too laid back and carefree by some (including Jet). In fact though his rather unruffled exterior only serves as a wall to disguise his very grief-ridden and violent past in which we was betrayed by close friends and lovers. Haunted by the past and negligent and/or fearful of the future (each of his eyes sees one or the other at a given time, he says at one point in the series), Spike questions his role in a life that is dreamlike to him because it is so divorced from who/what he was before the aforementioned betrayals. Throughout the series Spike is connected with imagery of a stairway to Heaven and is said to be knocking on its door; I believe this is a metaphor for Spike’s rather cynical desire to die or at least find some escape from his unsatisfying life. After being thrown from the monorail and coming back from the brink of death, Spike says that he and Vincent have similar souls, and so he must find him and confront him.
This leads us to Vincent Volaju, a character exclusive to the movie and who is also searching for a doorway leading out of this life that is, for both he and Spike, a kind of Purgatory. Vincent was a member of the Mars Special Forces Attack Team. Due to the corrupt nature of the people in charge, Vincent is drawn into what is later called the Titan Wars despite the fact that all involved were merely guinea pigs upon whom nano-machine biological warfare was tested. He was the only survivor, but the price was that he lost all memories of his early life, including those of his lover Electra. Whereas Spike is aware of his past and consciously decides to seperate himself from it, Vincent is not even given the “luxury” of that choice because he is stripped of it completely. I will not begin to debate whose story is more tragic, but it should be noted that both characters are plagued with nearly the exact same demons. Something that does depart from Spike in Vincent’s character is his vindictiveness and penchant towards insanity, which is actually more in tune with the character of Viscious in the series, Spike’s former best friend and surrogate brother.
My rating of the movie: 8/10 (but that is pale in comparison to my rating of the series, so check that out too!)