I recently finished a months-long project to watch COWBOY BEBOP, the classic anime about a ragtag team of space bounty hunters getting into scraps from one end of the galaxy to the other. I enjoyed the characters, the music, the noir-ish elements during critical episodes. But for #RRSciFiMonth, I wanted to write about one particular element of the show I adored: the attention to detail in this futuristic setting.
One of the first things that let COWBOY BEBOP worm its way into my heart was the effort to make this futuristic tech feel as realistic as possible. Ships don’t magically pop willy nilly all over space, but have to use wormhole gates and refuel at spaceports. There are lower gravity planets and portions on larger spaceships where there’s zero g. Transmissions over distances take time to relay. Space debris clutters certain orbits. The animators and writers of the show painted a “real” environment at a level that some live-action sci-fi shows of the past never achieved (although limitations in budgets and effects admittedly has much to do with that).
On top of that, COWBOY BEBOP doesn’t skip over the more mundane aspects of space flight. Ships aren’t always ready to go. They require repair, maintenance, and fuel. Not everything works right all the time. In fact, more often than not things on the titular ship Bebop are broken, or there’s not enough money to stock up on food. These are characters living paycheck to paycheck. These are small details, but it’s part of the charm of the show. It creates a galaxy that feels lived in.
Contributing to that feeling are the planets themselves. There are plenty of areas of the BEBOP universe that are shiny and chrome, but our heroes operate on the outskirts, where the people living day to day would kill for a little extra elbow room. Mars is a central location in the COWBOY BEPOP universe, the main city contained under a dome. It’s busy, it’s crowded, it’s clean in some parts and dirty in others. And then there’s Earth. Nobody much lives there anymore. At some point in the recent past, the moon broke apart and meteors rain down on the planet on a regular basis. What’s left is rubble, and the people who still try to scrape by on this planet shelter where they can. These are planets where the creators have thought about how life would change in the future and how humans would adapt to new circumstances.
I’m a relative anime novice, so tell me, dear readers – now that I’ve finished COWBOY BEBOP, are there other space anime that will scratch this itch? Send your recs my way!