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Musical breakdown of cowboy bebop: video essay

To celebrate the release of Netflix Cowboy Bebop adaptation, we take a look back at the mind-blowing music of the classic anime. Watch the video essay above; a full transcript follows.

Shinichiro Watanabe 1998 series Cowboy Bebop is more than one of the greatest anime ever produced; it is often cited as the catwalk show for non-animated fans to enter the middle.

Why is that?

You could say it’s the gripping stories, its endearing crew of intergalactic bounty hunters, or its beautiful flowing animation; or maybe the English dub is one of the few unassailable examples of the form. But for me? It’s the music.

From those opening trumpet bursts of the series’ iconic opening theme, “Tank!”, It’s clear that Be-bop is more than just a word in the title of the show – it’s a thesis statement. The saxophone blossoms and the frenzied cymbals hang over the monochrome portraits of the main characters, guns, ships, an impressionistic shock to the senses that prepares the viewer for the dynamism of the next 22 minutes.

(The style of the title sequence obviously refers to the geometric abstractions of Saul Bass and Maurice Binder, but there is also a note of Reid Miles’ innovative and effortless cover albums for Blue Note Records from the 40s to the 70s. Like Spike Spiegel from his criminal past, Be-bop just can’t escape its jazz fundamentals.)

Bebop, a subgenre of jazz popularized in the 1940s by musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonius Monk and Charlie Parker, relies heavily on fast tempos and adventurous improvisation. It was one of the first true stylistic rebellions in jazz, as young musicians tested the limits of the more swing-oriented jazz of their time.

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