Episode 1 of Cowboy Bebop begins with a casino heist. It’s a slick, well-rehearsed opener, one that immediately sets the scene for a stylish, visual treat to ensue.
With a thug named Tanaka calling the shots, it takes the arrival of bounty hunters Spike and Jet to turn the tables.
In the midst of all this fighting, the toilet flushes and out steps Frank. The guys are incredulous, wondering just what he’s doing in the middle of a heist. Unfortunately, he happens to hold a disruptor. This powerful weapon manages to get a shot away but not enough to take out Spike and Jet, who dodge the bullet and have enough wherewithal to hold onto something.
They’re all on a spaceship, as it turns out, and as jazz music picks up an absolutely gorgeous shot whizzes the camera outside this ship to drink in the marvelous scenery of this roulette-table-turned-spaceship.
After knocking the emergency airlock and saving the day, our two bounty hunters prepare to deliver their package. They make their way to Europa but the fee for dropping off Tanaka is less than ideal. They’re charged for damages to the casino, thanks to Frank’s disruptor.
After receiving his check, Jet runs into an old friend. Well, friend is doing a lot of heaving lift in that sentence. This guy is a shady cop from the past called Chalmers. He gives Jet a nudge in the right direction, pointing out a big bounty coming up – off the grid of course – following a bloodbath in New Tijuana (TJ).
After the incident at the casino, Spike owes Jet one and the pair head off to meet their target. This happens to be a guy called Asimov, who happens to be a smuggler controlling vials of something called Red Eye. The Syndicate appear to be after this too, and as Asimov ingests one of the vials, we see him stronger, faster and more deadly than before. His eyes also change to – yep, you guessed it – a shade of red.
Spike and Jet show up at the bar and take a look around. Interestingly, they’re not the only bounty hunters after this target. A young woman with purple hair and a gun rocks up behind Spike. This is Faye Valentine, whom we’ll see more of across the season ahead. For now, she rudely interrupts him while he’s wooing a girl in the street.
She’s been hired by swanky businessman Ellis Montgomery to bring this woman home. Spike’s romantic aspirations take a dent though when he learns the woman is called Katerina and she’s Ellis’s daughter. Spike, ever the chivalrous man, decides to help her but in doing so, winds up indirectly helping Asimov – go figure!
Katerina and Asimov happen to be partners in crime; our very own Bonnie and Clyde. Anyway, Spike lets them go but instead, locks up Faye Valentine inside Jet’s ship, the Bebop.
With the two hunters alone, they head down to the docks and corner Asimov and Katerina. The Syndicate soon jump in though, leading to a big shootout. Spike and Jet come out on top, but that also means Asimov and Katerina manage to high-tail it away and into space. That’s too bad, especially as Faye appears with Jet’s gun.
Spike Takes off in a ship of his own and gives chase. Unfortunately, Asimov is too far gone, having taken one too many bullets on the ground to make it to Mars, where Katerina intends to go. With nowhere else to go, Katerina decides to sacrifice herself and flies the ship directly into traffic; a barrage of bullets from the ships kill them both instantly.
When the Syndicate feed back to their leader, Vicious, that “Fearless” (Spike’s nickname) is still alive, Vicious grits his teeth and demands the gang head out and track him down.
The Episode Review
There will be some people from the off that instantly dislike Cowboy Bebop. Live-action remakes of anime very rarely go down well and Cowboy Bebop is such an iconic show that it was always going to be a tough job to remake it. Now, as someone who has watched some of the original, way back when it released in the 90’s, I’ll admit my memory is hazy but the jazz soundtrack and atmosphere, do feel quite similar.
The story feels more like a remix right now than an outright remake, taking bits and pieces of the original and changing it to fit this new world. Whether that will actually entice enough people to stick it out until the end, remains to be seen.
Some of the action sequences here are really impressive though, especially that casino heist right at the start. That was beautifully shot segment and moments like this really help Cowboy Bebop stand out. For those who have never seen the anime though, there should be plenty here to like and the first episode sets the scene nicely for the season to grow into. It won’t be to everyone’s taste. but if you can take to what’s here, there’s plenty to like.