Future Blues 2020 — Last Session: See You Space Cowboy

I am sitting here in front of my laptop, sipping on whiskey, and listening to the vinyl release of the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack while banging out this final post in the Future Blues 2020 series. I don’t know how it felt to read all of this, but I certainly felt great writing it.

Revisiting Cowboy Bebop was a constant presence on my list of things to do once hitting adulthood. But between getting used to the Real World, dealing with life challenges, and being so removed from my initial viewing 19 years ago, sitting back down with it felt like it would be an undertaking. Thankfully, it was anything but.

While coronavirus has fucked over the world, the circumstances have afforded me time to reconnect with things I like, such as Cowboy Bebop. In fact, it was this revist to Bebop that inspired me to dust off other old anime series I used to be obsessed with. Having the chance to see Bebop and those other shows in a new light as an, um, “adult”, has helped me mentally make it through the mess we are dealing with as a society… and learn something about myself, I guess?

Anyway, as I mentioned in the inaugural post in this series, Cowboy Bebop Is Still Good. If you are a fan who has put off taking another look at the series for a decade and change, I suggest you go back and watch it. Dubbed, subbed, whatever–just watch the damn thing again. You won’t regret it.

Special Thanks

I would like to take the opportunity to offer special thanks to the following sites that helped me in putting together this series of posts.

The Cowboy Bebop Wiki: Being a well-organized fan-Wiki, this site helped me recall some of the baseline info to help jog my memory when writing these posts.

The Jazz Messengers & The Real Folk Blues: …but it turns out modern Wikis don’t have all the answers. These old-school fan-sites have everything you’re looking for when it comes to Bebop.

Minitokyo: I was surprised to learn this site was still up. This is where I got a lot of the imagery used for these posts, namely those great scans from the recent Blu-Ray release… which I must get my hands on, at some point.

I also want to give a corny shoutout to Watanabe Shinichiro, Nobumoto Keiko, Kawamoto Toshihiro, Kanno Yoko, and the rest of the Bebop production crew. I’ve had the honor of meeting Watanabe, Kawamoto, and Kanno, and have their signatures scribbled on collateral either here in Japan or in the United States. The sensibilities they weaved into the show proved very instrumental in how I became the adult I am today… for better or for worse. Watanabe and crew, I hope to eventually drink with y’all one day.

I should also give a shoutout to the folks from the Bebop Board–an old defunct forum which has now turned into a private Discord. It was thanks to Bebop that I met these folks, and chatting with them on a nearly daily basis has also helped me to navigate the terror that is 2020.

Bebop in 2020

The Bebop train continues to chug on in 2020. Near the start of the year–the “before times”–I had the pleasure of visiting Ikebukuro’s Marui location to see their modest Bebop exhibition. I had some time off, so I visited on a weekday when there were very few people–on that day it was just me and a fujoshi who was either talking to herself, or to her friend on the phone (it was hard to tell). While the exhibition was a simple selection of production art, screenshots, and some original development sketches, the visit was a cool way to get reacquainted with the series, and is probably what pushed me to ultimately watch the show again after so many years. Well, that and the aforementioned extra time afforded by the global pandemic.

This year has also seen a lot of announcements with regards to the upcoming Netflix live action series. I personally feel that there is no need to remake Bebop, so I won’t watch this new series unless it turns out to be exceptionally good. I personally take issue to even calling it Cowboy Bebop–I am happy to watch something inspired by Bebop, but calling it Bebop outright invites comparisons to the original that are not needed. Furthermore, given Bebop‘s heavy influence from classic anime, I think the show can only really work in its animated form. But what do I know? Maybe this new Netflix series will be awesome. Someone let me know how it turns out.

Mentioned at the start of this post, the release of the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack on vinyl by Milan Records is the biggest bit of Bebop news for me this year. There are a number limited-edition versions of this release featuring the discs pressed in different colors, but given my residence in the Land of the Rising Sun, I got the standard colored edition that was on Amazon Japan.

The double record release houses the 17 tracks that comprise the first Cowboy Bebop soundtrack on sides A – C, and selected tracks from the Tank! THE! BEST! album on side D. The music is very well suited for vinyl, and sounds great to my admittedly untrained ears. I played it on a RokBlok paired with a Bluetooth speaker because I don’t have room in my apartment for a full turntable. As such, I will refrain from commenting on how much depth or texture the vinyl has compared to the old compact disc release–maybe I’ll provide an update once I move to a bigger place and set up a real stereo system.

To offer a bit of criticism, it would have been nice if the folks at Milan Records had approached this as more of a “greatest hits” release, and carefully curated the track list. While it’s great to have that first whole Bebop soundtrack on vinyl, given the diversity of the show’s music, I would have prefered a release that showcased Bebop’s wide range of sounds; perhaps even shifting musical themes per side. Also, the lack of The Real Folk Blues is a touch disappointing.

But hey, we are living in the hell year of 2020–we have to appreciate what we have. The two records are expertly packaged, featuring original art by character designer Kawamoto Toshihiro. The cover is a new illustration spotlighting a sultry-looking Faye at the forefront and a weathered-looking Spike staring at us from the background. The rest of the artwork featured on the packaging is past key art, which has been blown up beautifully for this release. You won’t see these pieces of artwork in such high resolution anywhere, even if you own every Cowboy Bebop artbook out there. It’s clear a lot of care was put into selecting iconic Bebop illustrations, making the packaging alone worth the price.

In short, the Milan Records release of the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack is a must-have for fans–especially for those over 30 who enjoy quiet nights with a glass of whiskey and their anime tunes on vinyl. Pick it up if you still can.

Bang

Perhaps some of you are wondering, “Why Future Blues 2020?” Astute Bebop fans will immediately pick up that Future Blues is the title of the soundtrack for Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door. And since 2020 turned out to be nothing even close to the shining future many of us might have envisioned when we were bright-eyed young kids watching Toonami and Adult Swim, I felt Future Blues was an accurate title to cop when writing about Cowboy Bebop in 2020.

And with this final post, I have probably written everything I could ever hope to write about Cowboy Bebop. Who knows, perhaps a future revisit will inspire new insights which will warrant even more long-winded blog posts.

But, until then…

See You Space Cowboy

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