Hey hey all you Heroes and Travelers out there today I’m bringing you all a very special post!! Back in December I mentioned that I’d joined OWLS: Otaku Warriors of Liberty and Self-Respect, a group of bloggers and vlogger that hope to spread a message of acceptance and understanding through thoughtful community activism!
So, in order to spread our message of self acceptance and tolerance, we’ve decided to hold Monthly Blog Tours! During Blog Tours, we each write individual theme posts on our blogs that promote our group’s values, with a bit of an otaku twist and January’s Blog Tour topic is Disruptors!
What Does it Mean to Disrupt?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary there are three main definitions for disrupt
to disrupt (v.)
- a: to break apart: rupture b: to throw into disorder
- to interrupt the normal course or unity of
Even when you scroll down to the auxiliary definitions there is a theme of negativity that prevails throughout. So the OWLS decided to put a positive spin on the word, by looking at disruptions not as a negative act, but as a means of civil disobedience and by looking at the motivations of the individuals involved rather than the act itself… We even came up with our own definition:
Disruptors: An individual or a group disturbing a system or social norms/conventions that they believe is destroying what is morally right.
Of course since we all consider ourselves otaku bloggers, we decided to explore disruptions through an anime lens. So far we’ve had posts from Katrina, Matt, Venus, Arria, LynLyn, and Crimson, with each blogger putting their own spin on the topic! And now it’s my turn… In my Blog Tour post, we’re going to take a trip into space with the Spike, Faye and the rest of the Bebop crew as we explore disruptors in the critically acclaimed anime series, Cowboy Bebop!
In the year 2071, humanity has colonized several of the planets and moons of the solar system leaving the now uninhabitable surface of planet Earth behind. The Inter Solar System Police attempts to keep peace in the galaxy, aided in part by outlaw bounty hunters, referred to as “Cowboys”. The ragtag team aboard the spaceship Bebop are two such individuals.
Mellow and carefree Spike Spiegel is balanced by his boisterous, pragmatic partner Jet Black as the pair makes a living chasing bounties and collecting rewards. Thrown off course by the addition of new members that they meet in their travels—Ein, a genetically engineered, highly intelligent Welsh Corgi; femme fatale Faye Valentine, an enigmatic trickster with memory loss; and the strange computer whiz kid Edward Wong—the crew embarks on thrilling adventures that unravel each member’s dark and mysterious past little by little.
Well-balanced with high density action and light-hearted comedy, Cowboy Bebop is a space Western classic and an homage to the smooth and improvised music it is named after.
How Cowboy Bebop Disrupted Anime Norms
Before I get into the in series acts of disruptions, I wanted to take a moment to discuss how as a series, Cowboy Bebop disrupted the status quo of anime with it’s fluid genre splicing narrative. While Cowboy Bebop is usually labeled as a space western or as an action series by most sources, the show doesn’t completely adhere to just one category, instead it blends elements from several genres concurrently for a wholly unique viewing experience. And it was this fluidity that garnered the series so much critical and commercial success over the years. But, while genre blending is common in anime, Cowboy Bebop revolutionized the practice, disrupting the status quo and creating what director Shinichiro Watanabi claimed to be a , “a new genre unto itself“!
It was the first time a series tiptoed along genre lines, not just between episodes as some episodic series have been known to do, but within the episodes themselves, while still maintaining a cohesive narrative. It wasn’t just a niche anime series that would appeal to a small subset of the viewing audience, Cowboy Bebop was, and remains to this day, a show that broke the mold for mainstream success for an anime series!
Are Bounty Hunters Disruptors?
So, we’ve established that as a series, Cowboy Bebop transcends traditional anime devices with it’s genre fluid narrative. But, what about the characters within the series? Where do they fit in with the disruptor theme? Can they even be considered disruptors?
Short answer: Yes. Bounty hunters by their very nature aren’t crusaders of justice, nor are they completely without morals, instead they toe a very thin line between the two moral centers. They are literally a disruptive force that is built into the social framework of the series, whose necessity was borne out of society’s innate corruption. Bounty hunters aren’t beholden to the law or even basic human moral obligation. Instead they are driven by their desires, be they money, sex, or just a hot meal, the characters of Cowboy Bebop choose how they illicit change.
Bounty hunters or Cowboys as they are referred to in the series, don’t hunt down criminals for the sake of the greater good, they do it because it’s their job. Sure there are times when Spike and the rest of the crew work in a way contrary to their own self interest, by helping out innocent bystanders or by giving up on a bounty altogether, but those instances are few and far between. Any effect that they have on others, be it positive or negative, is determined the individuals involved and not some higher authority figure.
a central character in a story, movie, or drama who lacks conventional heroic attributes.
And that’s because Spike and the gang aren’t heroes in the traditional sense, they are instead anti-heroes. Usually, characters are divided into one of two categories: either they’re a hero or they’re a villain, there just isn’t room in people’s minds for the middle ground. Typically we prefer to have things defined into simple concepts, black or white, good or evil. But, the show disrupts that notion by introducing not one four morally ambiguous characters.
There are no heroes in Cowboy Bebop and that directly contradicts the apparent need for a heroic figure in mainstream anime series. Some might argue that deep down the characters are in fact heroes, because despite being lawless vagabonds, Spike and the rest of the team act in favor of the greater good. But, by labeling as such, viewers miss the point, they aren’t supposed to conform to traditional hero ideology, instead they are meant to serve as a foil to the hero narrative.
Well guys, that’s all I have to say about disruptors in Cowboy Bebop and I really hope you all enjoyed reading my post!! This was a tough one to write, but I really hope that I was able to do justice to the topic and that I didn’t flub it up too much.
There are still two more Blog Tour stops left in January from Pink-chan of Pinky’s Palace and from Takuto of Takuto’s Anime Cafe, so definitely be on the look out for those posts in the coming days!! Also if you haven’t already, please subscribe to the Official OWLS Twitter account @OWLSbloggers, to stay up to date on all OWLS news and announcements!
If you are interested in becoming a member of the OWLS team, please feel free to fill out the contact form, HERE! So don’t be afraid to reach out to any of us on our blogs, on twitter, or at the contact page to learn more about us!! You just need an open mind and a willingness to have fun!!