Debating with Daniel: Cowboy Bebop is not a cheap airport thriller!

I am really a fan of The Sound and the Fury. But I am also really a fan of Cowboy Bebop. I’m not angry with Daniel for responding to my ‘bait,’ but I really think that Cowboy Bebop has more parallels to The Sound and the Fury than is obvious and that it is more than ‘a well-written, yet cheap, airport thriller.

This is one of the best anime ever.

I have only watched Bebop twice. That’s not a lot, true, but I haven’t rewatched many series as well. Since this isn’t a research paper I’m not going to refer to critical texts: I’m just going to use my observations to offer parallels.

1) Both examples are highly fragmented.

If one didn’t have enough patience with Cowboy Bebop one would have immediately concluded it as just another episodic criminal-of-the-week anime series. The plot comes together only in spurts, and most episodes really just build the characters up subtly. It all comes together by the end, however, and simple occurrences possess heavy suggestions, but one must be patient.

The same can be said with The Sound and the Fury. All the impatient reader will see is a mass and a jumble of text if he does not spend the time to dissect it thoroughly. The text itself demands patience because it is a palimpsest of events told by untrustworthy narrators (‘a tale told by an idiot’). If one read only the section of Benjy (the retard), one could not make sense of what really happened, seeing that there are more than fifty different events there. The plot only comes together when one arrives at Dilsey’s section, and that is the last section of the book. Many people would say that the novel is only impatient rambling by Faulkner, but we know otherwise.

Cowboy Bebop is also told as if Benjy was the storyteller: the plot jumps from place to place, but it is stylistically and technically better because the revelation becomes more hard-hitting and evocative.

2) Both represent different kinds of doomed loves.

As much as I like action as the other guy, I am also fond of love stories. While I am happier with cheerful endings, the ones that impress upon me more are the tragic ones. Both Cowboy Bebop and The Sound and the Fury possess different characters, all with doomed loves.

Benjy, the retard, loves his sister so much that the rest of his empty life his thinking is pervaded by images of her; Quentin, the intelligent madman, loved the honor of their family and of the Old South, but both have irretrievably disappeared and he tried to cope with it by supposedly committing incest, since incest was better (he deemed) than the defamation of the Compson name; Jason, the miser, loves his money so much only to lose all of it because of his greed; Julia loved Spike so much she was willing to stay away from him if only to preserve his life; Spike loved Julia so much that he went to his death to try to discover if he was still alive; Jet loved but he couldn’t let his manliness express it; and finally, Faye: she knew she loved Spike and admired him but she was trapped in her own selfishness until it was too late: he already had set his mind on death.

The final bang or the plop of the flat irons were the culminations of the heroes’ doomed loves. I actually cried after Spike said his last line.

3) Both depend heavily on sound.

There is a scene in The Sound and the Fury where (was it Luster?) an African-American who takes care of Benjy howls, and Faulkner emphasizes on it by using capital and small letter O’s to emulate the sound, like whoOooOooOey. I don’t need to say much on how Cowboy Bebop relies on sound, do I? Daniel (another one) writes well about it here.

3) Both are exemplary and supreme works of art.

I’m sure The Sound and the Fury leads Cowboy Bebop in terms of its age, but when it comes to repercussions within both their respective media both are masterpieces of art. I won’t bring Cowboy Bebop down to any airport thriller, because while I don’t think it ranks with The Sound and the Fury, I think it also ranks high up there, near it. 🙂

I’m sure you guys can add more. I have school, so I can’t (or at least, not right now).

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14 Responses to “Debating with Daniel: Cowboy Bebop is not a cheap airport thriller!”

  1. Barclay Says:

    one could also easily add that the sound and the fury’s obsession with time and its subjectivity is related to cowboy bebop’s obsession with each characters different subjective flashbacks

    although the flashbacks in cowboy bebop are slightly easier to decipher than benjy or quentins(those are the only sections i have read)

  2. IKnight Says:

    I think you’re writing against a straw man: I said ‘Cowboy Bebop‘s proper counterpart is a well-written, yet cheap, airport thriller’, not ‘Cowboy Bebop is a well-written, yet cheap, airport thriller’, and my comparison was meant to suggest that both items are used/received in a similar way. My point was – I think! – that both are considered material for entertainment rather than analysis. (I hold of course that inherent depth is an illusion, so really the hypothetical airport thriller and Cowboy Bebop are both valid targets for critics . . . but most of the time, they’re both received as pure entertainment.)

    So it’s possible that I chose the wrong thing to compare Cowboy Bebop to. Perhaps a better phrase would have been a ‘popular classic’ – as Cowboy Bebop is a classic, one of anime’s gateway drugs, at least in terms of English-speaking fandom. But it is a popular classic, unlike The Sound and the Fury. Similarities in construction (points (1) and (3) in your post) and in theme (point (2)) don’t really come into the question of the work’s reception by the world. (I’d argue that being a supreme work of art (4) doesn’t really come into it either, otherwise Laocoön and His Sons would be more famous!)

    Though the similarities in construction between the novel and the anime are very interesting, and you’ve written a good survey of some of them: a good post, even if I think we might be talking past each other.

  3. Michael Says:


    I think I reacted against the term cheap. While it could be taken as something that is inexpensive, another denotation of it is of something with little or no value, or deserving of little to no respect. I think it deserves a lot of respect, and I think it’s very valuable as a representative classic. I believe that by making that statement you’re reducing Cowboy Bebop to the level of ‘cheap,’ and I don’t really like that.

    I agree, however, that Cowboy Bebop is more popular. lol

  4. korosora Says:

    HA! If only politics were run like the anime blogosphere…
    Oh wait.

  5. IKnight Says:

    In retrospect, then, perhaps I shouldn’t have used the word ‘cheap’. After all, I’ve never seen an expensive airport thriller.

    @ korosora: Thankfully, we bloggers don’t control money or tell other people what to do. And hopefully some of the time we remember not to take ourselves entirely seriously!

  6. Michael Says:


    Perhaps inexpensive was a better term? :3



  7. RyanA Says:

    I haven’t read TSatF, but do believe it would be a bit more complicated than Bebop. I think it boils down to accessibility; Bebop being more accessible than TSatF. Perhaps this is partly due to visual vs textual media, era, and other notes, but more so, the level of complication, involvement, and storytelling between the two create a gap in accessibility.

    This being said, there is little to assume based on accessibility; something less accessible is not necessarily “greater”, but something more accessible doesn’t always change the value either.

    Accessible… 🙂

  8. Michael Says:

    “This being said, there is little to assume based on accessibility; something less accessible is not necessarily “greater”, but something more accessible doesn’t always change the value either.”

    That’s my point, just because it’s more accessible and it’s more popular doesn’t make Cowboy Bebop the lesser example.

  9. Baka-Raptor Says:

    Sorry for not commenting earlier. I keep getting sidetracked by the ad for Cowboy Bebop Ringtones.

    I didn’t really care for Bebop’s episodic stories. Back when I first got into anime, plot was everything. Nowadays I’m still a plotophile (Claymore turned me on), but I can fawn over strong character development as well. Perhaps I’ll rewatch Bebop again someday…

  10. Michael Says:

    Cowboy Bebop Ringtones, eh!?

    Rewatch Bebop now. 😐

    I mean, it has a lot of plot, when you look into it, really.

  11. korosora Says:

    @Michael: It may have any amount of plot if you look into it…

  12. RyanA Says:

    Bebop.hasFlare() = true;

    Yea, the plot is there, Jupiter Jazz + Real Folk Blues do quite a bit on their own.

  13. IKnight Says:

    @ korosora: And style has a substance all of its own, eh?

  14. Getting off the High Horse: Picking on Cowboy Bebop « In Search of Number Nine Says:

    […] Horse: Picking on Cowboy Bebop Recently, I read an interesting exchange between Daniel and Michael about Cowboy […]

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