Disappointing Power Ranger nostalgia

Nostalgia is difficult to understand. It frequently brings back films or series in our collective memory. For good or bad, they are everywhere. Partly because we live in a period where a lot is possible by technological developments. So companies see value in doing remakes. It is a chance to bring back a beloved franchise into our collective memory and rekindle the passion for the old one. Not to mention the potential to earn a decent income on the new product and related merchandise. It’s no wonder we live in a time of remakes. Remakes seek our feeling of nostalgia. We fondly remember that amazing Lion King opening and long to see it again. Only this time we bring our kids to the theater so that they hopefully have the same experience.

Another way to invoke nostalgia is to celebrate an anniversary. Like the 25th anniversary of Friends or today’s subject: 30 years of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

GoGo Power Rangers!

I grew up watching the first season of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (MMPR). The colorful suits, zords, monsters and explosions really spoke to my imagination. So I really didn’t care that the show was an adaptation of the Japanese Kyouryuu Sentai Zyuranger and that some things looked strange. Like many other kids I was sold on the idea that if you were a teenager with attitude; you could become a Power Ranger. An idea that was reinforced for the better part of of the ten years1 that I initially watched the series.

I cannot really remember why I stopped watching in the early 2000s. Most likely because of school and I couldn’t see it on tv. Since then I sometimes watched a bit when I encountered an episode; only to find that I’ve outgrown the series. To see now that a lot of the Power Ranger series are rated mediocre at best does not surprise, even though that hasn’t stopped the franchise from doing the same trick over and over again. 

As a returning viewer I was skeptical when the initial trailer dropped. It seemed really strange that the Rangers could use all their powers after the destruction at the end of MMPR2.

Aiai, there are issues with this one

The issue with the connected Power Rangers world is that it looks like they’re only sometimes trying to tie it together. Which causes worldbuilding issues. The concept for the Forever Red episode is nice, but raises the question about the status of some powers. Based on the ending of a series, a viewer can assume the ranger powers were destroyed and their connection to the Morphin Grid lost. If you’re a Power Ranger enthusiast you might know everything about it. But if you’re returning now to Once & Always after an absence for some 25 years, you’ll need a lot of your suspension of disbelief to make it work in your head. 

I think that as an anniversary show Once & Always (O&A) should be a celebration, or an homage to the original show. With a fun story and perhaps some nice cameos. You don’t need the original cast to act in their suits. They aren’t superheroes who can still fight buff aliens in their fifties. They are humans whom are enhanced by some mystical power (suits). Wouldn’t it be easy to make an extended episode about passing the torch or reminiscing on the old adventures? With the message that you can outgrow something, yet it will always be a part of you. 

Unfortunately, this is not what we got. To be short: the plot has heart, the dialogue and action are mediocre and the CGI looks like it was stolen from a 21 years old fan project. I jest a little, but the CGI is easily the worst part. Luckily it’s also the shortest.

Target audience

This leads me neatly to the big question I have regarding O&A: Whom is this for? Is it for returning viewers of the original show? Like I said before, they need to suspend a lot of disbelief. Turn off the thinking mind to enjoy the easter eggs and callbacks. With 3 of the original cast members missing, I’m not sure what’s there for them besides seeing Billy, Zack Rocky and Kat in action. 

Or is O&A for die-hard fans of the Power Rangers series? Maybe. There is something to say for the tried and true format of defeating a villain. But as an extended episode O&A drags on unnecessarily.

In regards to new viewers: I’m not expecting them to come in without someone who watched the original. I don’t consider it a good entry to the franchise. New viewers are better off watching the original on the official Youtube channel.

It feels like O&A is a rushed show, created with the same mindset as the original, yet actually being a creative original work. Which doesn’t help the show, but probably also doesn’t hinder it either. Most people who, like myself, were mildly interested watched it regardless of what people say about it on the internet. All the power to people who liked it, but I found myself wanting more.

How to correctly do Sentai nostalgia

If we take a step back from O&A and list the things that would, on paper, make this a great 30th anniversary I would say we need the following:

  1. A contemporary story;
  2. with the original cast and cameos of replacement rangers;
  3. easter eggs;
  4. grounded themes;
  5. a look at the future.

Because MMPR is a sentai adaptation it’s easy to look towards Japan to find out how they did this in the past. And there is that one season which celebrated being the 35th Super Sentai in a most successful way: Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger3.

Gokaiger did a number of things pretty good. First of: each character had a clear backstory and goals. Then there was the team goal. It which united them and made them a force to be reckoned with. That goal was to collect the ranger keys which would lead them to “The Greatest Treasure in the Universe”. Each (set of) Ranger Keys of the previous 34 Super Sentai Teams would grant the ability to morph into the chosen sentai/ranger to fight the enemy. 

Gokaiger is obviously created for a contemporary audience; the tributes to the original series are very present. Yet it is also aware that old fans might be watching, so it feels very mature in its writing. 

To provide structure, each episode does the following:
1. progress the main story of the fight against the enemy; 
2. provide background information on one of the main characters; 
3. have the team encounter a character of one of the previous teams 
4. Any combination of the above.

If option 3 happened, the themes of that specific Sentai Team would also be present in that episode. Which would result in the Gokaigers learning about that team before receiving the Ranger Keys and/or the Great Power of that team4.

To top this off the show has a fun ending credits which lists each Super Sentai show and what they’re about. And that ending is in my opinion the cherry on the cake. It makes me curious about shows that I haven’t seen before. The endings and the updated, full versions of it, made me watch episodes of some of the Older Sentai series on Youtube. That’s the goal. To get old and new eyes on the franchise. Which Gokaiger did very well.

What can we learn from this

If the big question is what we can learn from a successful nostalgia show like Gokaiger; then it would be (1) to treat your audience fair, (2) insert the correct themes and be smart about what you use as plot. (3) Let it be its own, contemporary thing. 

As research for this blog I read a lot of Power Rangers lore to have questions answered. Questions I had after watching the O&A special.  Because of that, I have ideas in my head. And I do not want that to be spend unnecessarily. So I’m taking a bold move to write a basic plot for my version of the 30th anniversary special. One which aims to do the things I mentioned earlier. I hope would’ve interesting enough to get all actors on board if we were in the same timeframe as when O&A was shot. 

I respect the actors’ choices to not participate in O&A but I can safely say that I missed them dearly. Not seeing them lessened the experience of watching the O&A special. I do not mean to discredit the other actors, but it is something that I believe O&A needed. Besides the fact that this positive spin gives me an extra layer of closure. Thank you for reading. May the Power Protect you!

Read my basic plot here

  1. The chronological list of the series.
  2. That’s how I remembered it ending. Powers destroyed so they sought new ones. I figured that there must’ve been some retconning and worldbuilding choices made to facilitate the starting point of this special. Things that I wasn’t aware of. That starting point wasn’t good. Assuming retcons certainly did not help either. I was confused. Watching the Once and Always special did not improve this, so I can’t imagine how it must be for someone who only watched MMPR until Zeo.
  3. Gokaiger ratings: IMDB: 8,6; Mydramalist: 8,4
  4. As mentioned, the subject theme of an episode can be a callback to one of the previous Super Sentai series. As an example: there is an episode about traffic safety which relates to carranger. The Great Power they receive is a Megazord addon the Gokaiger can summon.

Edgerunners: Eyes that skirt the abbyss

The abyss. The pitch black place of moral depravity where normal people do not come. For if you enter it, you are lost to humanity.

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners (C:E) is an exploration of the people susceptible to the call of the abyss. A show dedicated to the cyberised punks who are skirting the edge in search of money and glory. If you’re not familiar with the Cyberpunk universe, C:E does a great job of introducing you to the dystopian sci-fi of Night City in the year 2076. While the show is colorful, there is an unmistakable grittiness to the visuals on screen. The below walk through Night City shows everything you need to know.

The rest contains spoilers for Cyberpunk Edgerunners.

The people

Night City looks like a place where normal people have a hard time living. In a world run by mega corporations and streets dominated by gangs, a simple question is: where does the middle class fit?

We get a glimpse of this in the opening episode where we see Gloria. At first glance, she is an honest, hardworking woman. A single mother who works double shifts to keep herself and her son David alive. She also works for David’s education in one of the major corporations in Night City. But David’s education at Arasaka isn’t what makes him happy. Despite his good grades he doesn’t feel like they are his people. The rich boy bullies also  contribute heavily to this alienation. What David wants is a family. One that he finds on the bad side of the law. The one that his mother was trying to protect him from.

Eyes of the Lost

Stepping over the line and engaging with the outlaws and mercenaries of Night City makes you vulnerable to the call of the abyss. The abyss is not a physical place for the people of Night City. Yet it is a real place for those experiencing it. Anxiety pumped up to eleven caused by a constant input of data in the mind. It’s the reason a person cannot sleep. Not until the mind completely switches off. The individual’s sense of normalcy is reduced and they lose all empathy to resort to the one thing they know: to kill. These Lost or Cyberpsychos are identifiable by their eyes.

When we learn that Gloria was making extra money by selling hardware as a black market dealer we question her concerned eyes. Did they see the abyss? In a way Gloria was part of the ecosystem that produced Edgerunners and Cyberpsychos. So the only option she must’ve had was to be a part of the system or know that her wish for her son to have a proper life would not be realized.


In a sense Edgerunners are all like Batman. A man who has seen the abyss, walks along its edge, but refuses to give in. It requires a great mental fortitude to not jump into the dark. It is stated often in C:E that everyone who has chrome installed will fall eventually. Which makes the notion that Batman is able to remain steadfast until his elderly years even more impressive. Especially when you don’t seem to have that big of an impact on the world. When pondered, it is understandable why the allure of installing more chrome is present. David is the prime example. To make an impact, protect those you care for. Even if you become Lost while doing so.







Spezzaferri, Mitchell & Collins, Gary & Aguilar, Jenny & Larsen, Anne. (2017). Moral Depravity: Going Beyond Just an Attribute of Psychopathy. Journal of Forensic Psychology. 02. 10.4172/2475-319X.1000122.

Cowboy Bebop: Adapting a classic

Let’s talk about the question that I had after finishing the Netflix remake of Cowboy Bebop. How do you adapt a classic series into a different medium? This remake has generated a lot of attention on the internet over the last months. And it wasn’t all good. From casting, story decisions and the intro; fans were worried.

The 1998 anime has that place in television history that if you’ve not seen it you have probably heard of it. If both of these do not apply to you let me explain why an animated show created over 2 decades ago still can be the topic of heated conversation. This show is one of the few that made anime popular in the west. It is a serious, character driven series with slick animation and an epic soundtrack. Many people regard it as one of the best or the best anime ever created. Which is a big statement to put on a show. It creates expectations of what it is or isn’t. And though there are certainly many people who don’t like the Cowboy Bebop anime, it is still a show that a great deal of people find entertaining and inspiring to watch.

With the release of the Netflix remake the world could finally give its unfiltered opinion on what the writers and showrunners did with the source material. Everyone who has seen it at least once knows what kind of herculean task it must have been. I’d argue the challenge is equal to adapting The Lord of the Rings into a film trilogy. There are only two options. Succeed and praise will be given in spades. Fail and the masses call “I told you so.” 

I intentionally had my expectations set low. The first reason being that the remake remains a close-media adaptation. Meaning that the original medium (animation) is similar to the medium it’s adapted to. 

Second: There are elements of the original that, in my opinion, work better in animation. And not in live television unless you might have a Foundation sized budget.

Third: I wanted to give the show a fair shot. Especially since I recently gained a deeper understanding of the original. Not just in the context of its animated peers, but also as a piece of art. 

And fourth: the 1998 show has high nostalgia value for me, which means I’m very biased.

Let’s have a look at four elements of the show that are vital to what makes Cowboy Bebop what it is and what happens if you change those.

1. Conceptual

To understand Cowboy Bebop is to understand its core phrase: “it’s not a kind of space opera; it’s a sort of space jazz.” Meaning it’s not an epic story set in a far future with fleets of space ships battling each other. It’s a story about people. In this case, they are bounty hunters. A lonely profession similar to what cowboys are when usually seen in western films. Which is purposfully the first part of the title.

Then there is the second part of the title. While you may not know what Bebop means, it sounds funky and adds a pleasant flow to the word Cowboy. It is there because the story of the people in this show is told in a Bebop way. But what is bebop?

Bebop (or “bop”) is a type of small-band modern jazz music originating in the early 1940s. Bebop has roots in swing music and involves fast tempos, adventurous improvisation, complex harmonies and chord progressions, and a focus on individual virtuosity. The name “bebop” originates from the sound of nonsense syllables that scat singers improvised in vocal jazz performances.


When the associations and (cultural) meaning of both words are combined we get a sort of space jazz. The people in this show are cowboys, Bebop is how the story and action are presented.

The starting point of both shows may be the same. But early on in the remake we clearly see that there is a difference. The remake focuses less on the bounty hunting and more on the characters progression, resulting in a show that is less serialized. The storyline is much more present, giving us a clear ongoing plot. Which is a very modern thing to do. But as a result, the show limits itself in what it can do with the characters.

The original focuses more on bounty hunting as the main narrative of each episode. And we learn things about the characters as we see them react to each situation. There are some character focussed episodes, but even those often start when the characters are hunting a bounty of sorts. We get to see the Bebop presentation used to make the Cowboys shine.  

2. Demystifying characters

Because the original has more focus on showing how characters react to situations and other characters, there is a level of mystique about them. Things aren’t very clear. And only by watching and rewatching episodes one might decipher what is going on. This is one of the strengths of the original and similarly the reason why people turned away from it.1

The remake wanted to make the show accessible for a greater audience and “modernise the characters”. So they expanded the characters’ storylines. They shaped the characters out of their respective tropes into something that could fill the role in the new plot. As an example, I will go with the Vicious and Julia plot. This is the most obvious one and has the greatest impact on the series as a whole.

In the original we didn’t know Vicious and Julia because we didn’t need to. We could clearly see that Julia was the one person Spike always followed. Every single shred of information he followed in a way that Jet “Black Dog” Black would be jealous of in his younger years. We see her maybe 5 times, and each time leaves an impression because we know how important she is to Spike. Vicious is a fearsome enemy because we only see him enough to get a basic understanding of his personality. One that thrives in chaos and bloodshed. Which makes him a formidable enemy. Not because he instills fear in the people surrounding him, but because of his charisma and how it affects those around him. These characters have a certain mystique because we know so little and yet so much about them. I agree with the assessment in the Glass Reflections video that they are a respective shadow and ghost because of the roles they play in the original. Vicious and Julia are side characters that serve as a tool for the viewer to understand the main characters. They are used as plot progression and fade into the background until they are needed again.2

The remake put these characters front and center to tell the expanded story which the original (partly) implies. This decision changes the role these characters play in the overarching narrative. Which changes the dynamic between (all of) the characters. It is sad that this change isn’t taken into account and the remake leans heavily on certain moments that were key in the original, but greatly devalued in the remake. An example would be those flashes we see in Ballad of Fallen Angels when Spike falls out of the church. The scene is copied into the remake and then rendered worthless because of the creators decision to tell us exactly everything that happened between the characters.

3. Show or tell

Show or tell is a balancing act. One that every writer should know. The original was more on the showing side of things. Because of that approach the dialogue was short and on point. If it didn’t need to be said, it wasn’t spoken. 

The Netflix remake is quite the opposite. Characters talk a lot. And while I find some of the banter between the main cast amusing at times, it often is a bit much for my personal tastes. Especially when characters are info dumping. Then there is this show‘s nasty habit of naming things. For example: they gave Spike the most stupid, on point nickname. Sure, it is a representation of his behaviour in his past life, but of all the times characters spoke the name Fearless, only 1 or 2 times were justified. The other 9 billion times they just could’ve referred to Spike as “Him” and everybody would’ve understood who the subject matter was.3

In the end the remake failed to use the visual medium that tv is. There are some genuinely great shots and some of the set pieces are really cool, but this show fails at delivering on promises given. 

4. Character stories

To me, the original is ultimately a story about broken people. People without a place in the system. People who don’t belong anywhere except with this little family they’ve created. They live on the fringes of society, trying to forget or escape from their past. That is part of the reason why Toys in the Attic takes place in the void of space. It is in that limbo that the main cast recites their (life) lessons. Lessons that are integral to their character’s plot over the show’s runtime. While it may not always be apparent, it is what caused them pain in the past. And this experience is part of what gives them their view on life. It is part of what makes them three-dimensional characters.

Which makes it sad that they changed the core of the characters in the remake. Sometimes to a point that they just aren’t who they were in the original. Or worse, when characters become caricatures of their former self. For example, Vicious is changed into a non-threatening antagonist. He is never a real danger. The moment he kills the elders, it feels like the height of his viciousness. It’s like changing Sauron into Lawrence Limburger. Everybody knows the latter will always lose while the former will be a threat until the end.

Adapting a classic

Adapting a classic is never easy, especially when the source material is in a similar medium then the one you’re adapting it to. I’m glad they went in their own direction and did not copy the original 1:1. Because that would be an unrealistic bar to reach. While the remake tries to do it’s own thing, most of the ten episodes suffer from the poorly written dialogue, badly shot scenes and broken worldbuilding. But the entire show suffers from the removal of the most important elements of the original: Cowboy and Bebop. It also doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. So it ends up being a jack of all trades but a master of none. It is not a goofy sci-fi buddy-comedy. And not a thought-provoking show about the human condition.

It is a show that would’ve fared better without the link to the original, or even without the original characters. The world of Cowboy Bebop is interesting and could’ve given us a great show with the original cast popping in on familiar events. But to paraphrase Spike: “whatever happened, happened. “

My wish is that this remake draws people into the original and into the broader world of animation. Because there are genuinely great shows that will blow your mind. The 1998 anime Cowboy Bebop is a great example of that. One that will pull people in because it is what it is: The work, which becomes a new genre by itself.

See you Space Cowboy

  1. At least I believe so because it makes everything a bit vague. Which is not something everyone likes.
  2. This is exactly what I mean: only important in the moment
  3. Sidenote: In the anime everybody calls him Spike.

The mark of the 1998 Anime Space Westerns part 4: an experience by itself

The last few months I’ve been giving a small insight into my experience watching Trigun, Outlaw Star and Cowboy Bebop. While every one of these shows has elements of a space western in it, all three shows provide a slightly different take on the genre. So there is no necessity to compare these shows with each other. So I won’t. Instead, I’ll focus on genre and the overall viewing experience now that I’ve had the time to distance myself from these shows.


When I think of western as a genre I mostly think of the dusty, desert frontier with gunmen riding into the sunset. And I really blame Sergio Leone for that. This image isn’t really created anymore, but I’m happy that elements of the western genre can be found in many other media. And how could it not be, our current culture of Sci-Fi-Fantasy adaptations creates a playground for elements from all genres to be combined. So naturally we find our westerns there as well.


Of the three shows Trigun looks visually the most like a western. It shows survival in a desert and brings many worldbuilding elements we associate with the old west. Think of hoarding water, wanted posters and train robberies. You name it and Trigun delivers.

But while it delivers the experience closest to a western, it is also the anime that I personally liked the least. As mentioned by BennettTheSage in his video on Trigun, the anime’s appeal is directly related to the main character. And this is where I have a disconnect with the show. I do think Vash is an interesting character. But I personally need a bit more than a unique protagonist. I want Vash to have more meaningful interactions with the world to keep me interested. Trigun delivers some interesting opponents, but with the lacking narrative the complete package isn’t capable of holding my attention. 

Like I mentioned in my blog, it was in fact the only show where I was actively questioning if I should continue to watch. For me Trigun is mostly a slow paced “new town, same problems” kind of a show, and I don’t find that interesting enough. Especially if the big selling point of the show isn’t capable of holding my attention, even though I tried very hard to find something akin to my taste in the show1.

Outlaw Star

It has been a while since I’ve watched something like Outlaw Star. By that I mean a self-conscious, fun, episodic show. The science fantasy of this universe is great but I am still convinced that there is a lot of unused potential. Even though I am aware that the main plot just serves as a the initial catalyst to start of the series.

The shows imagination of what strange species and places are out there are on par with Star Wars, and I find it a pity that we did not see more Tao magic in action. What gives this show it’s stickiness is the sense of grand adventure. That there are worlds to explore without limit. Something the other two shows don’t really have in them. In Outlaw Star, space is still a dangerous frontier and I find it a pity that there isn’t more adventure to it.

Cowboy Bebop

I’ll be short since you’ll probably know what comes next if you read my piece last month. Cowboy Bebop is a mix of hommages and tropes, exerted to the fullest. That might be the most accurate description I can give. It’s not just the characters or the storyworld. It is the combination of elements packed in a beautiful wrapper of sound and imagery. And every time I watch it it gets me. Not just the western or noir elements. It’s the complete package. Especially episodes like Ballad of Fallen Angels or Jupiter Jazz are a treat to watch. I’m not really sure how these will look and feel when experienced in live action.


I have no doubt that most of the people involved in the remake of Cowboy Bebop have the best intention to make it as good as they can. But I do question the need of doing one in the first place. My personal ruleset for doing a remake would be: 

1. Is the original story still worthwhile to tell. 

2. Has the animation aged poorly? 

3. Are the technical advancements in the medium improved enough to warrant one?

4. What does it add to the (tv) medium to do this remake?

Obviously the answer to question 1 would be yes. From my perspective the answer to 2 and 3 would be no. Even when considering that a live-action adaptation is something different than an animated remake, all three of the shows mentioned here don’t need a remake when purely looked at the visual quality. The nineties animation might be a bit dated, but it sure is not bad2.

Which leaves us with question 4. The only reason I see for doing a remake is that it shines light on a great product that should receive (more) recognition. 

Because this adaptation is in a different medium than animation, it doesn’t add anything to said medium. And based on the released opening credits I’m not sure what this show will add to the medium of (streaming) television. At this moment we are a month away from the Netflix release and the only thing we can do is wait. If the remake can capture the essence or the viewing experience of the original it will most likely receive less negative critique than when it doesn’t. We can only tell after the fact.

The viewing experience

While all of these 3 shows have a big “made in the nineties” stamp on them, they all are vastly different from each other. And while I have my preferences, each show had some aspects that I enjoyed. Overall the viewing experience was good and I did not regret it. Should you find yourself in a situation where you do not know what to watch, know that 1998 saw the release of 3 great animated shows. They might not all be as easily identified as westerns, but if you look closely, you will find that each of the protagonists are dealing with their own frontier.


  1. Perhaps this review from Glass Reflection may be your selling point to watch it.
  2. Disclaimer: This could be my nineties nostalgia speaking

The mark of the 1998 Anime space westerns part 3: Cowboy Bebop

Much has already been said and written about Cowboy Bebop. The characters, story and storyworld have been put under a magnifying glass by countless people. With the Netflix remake coming soon the influence of the show cannot be denied. Even 13 years after its debut many people remain fascinated by a show which, according to some, stands alone in the medium. I’m not here to discuss that. Instead I want to focus on what I think gives this show its stickiness: Atmosphere. This is the third part in my series on the 1998 space western anime. You can find part one on Trigun here and part two on Outlaw star here.

3, 2, 1 let’s jam!

The atmosphere of Cowboy Bebop

From the first episode it’s clear that this is a strange world. The unfamiliar scenes of spaceships travelling through hyperspace gates are blended with the familiarity of bar shootouts and smoking, lots of smoking. It might not be very far fetched to say that the smoke is the connecting tissue between the show’s western and noir elements with the science fiction part of it. Rickety space crafts are piloted by (smoking) gangsters and other dirty characters. In fact, the whole world seems to be filled with less than honest people. 

In this world we find Spike, Jet and Faye1. A strange group of bounty hunters or cowboys who hunt criminals of all shapes and sizes to claim the reward money. At first sight they seem to be on the good side of the law, but all of these characters are deeply flawed with a dark past. And while some are stuck in their past, others seem to just ignore it.

The portrayal of these characters, especially in combination with the close up shots, give us a picture of a world that is unfair. A world where the characters are disconnected, simply because they believe they cannot influence it anymore. They feel powerless and always return to the one place or mental state that they feel comfortable with. The Bebop itself is a relic that supports this notion. A ship that feels as lived in and looks like it’s flying on the fumes of the last earned reward. Much of the world is shown this way: dirty and gray. Especially in the episodes where we explore a bit of the characters history it looks like humanity is trying very hard to just sustain itself, rather than moving forward.

It’s Noir

This thick layer of Film Noir is all over Cowboy Bebop. The Britannica says this about the genre:  “Classic images of noir included rain-soaked streets in the early morning hours; street lamps with shimmering halos; flashing neon signs on seedy taverns, diners, and apartment buildings; and endless streams of cigarette smoke wafting in and out of shadows.”

This is the world of Cowboy Bebop in a nutshell. And it’s not just the images on screen, but also the music that empowers this feeling that the show is trying to convey to the viewer. While listened to out of context the OST might give you just the notion that it’s just blues or jazz, but combined with the imagery it creates a feeling of nostalgia. Nostalgia of an imaginary time long ago when the world was perhaps a more depressing place to live in. A world where characters make selfish decisions for their own benefit and nothing that lasts comes from it. 

Watching Cowboy Bebop is a good experience

Due to time constraints over the last few weeks rewatching the entire show to write a blog was a bit of a scary prospect for me. I already knew the episodes well enough to just start writing. And I probably would have been able to write an interesting piece in this anime western series, even if I wasn’t able to find a specific hook to start with.

But that notion left me as soon as the opening credits rolled on episode one. I could not suppress a big grin, knowing that watching the whole thing would be a good experience. I created time in my schedule to watch the entire series and wasn’t disappointed. The world and characters remain interesting; the shots feel important; and the music completes the bittersweet package. 

Though I am heavily biased when it comes to this show, I continually find that there’s something special with it. For me it is the combination of genre elements; the use of the animated medium and the nostalgic feeling of a time when I was younger. A time when the outside world seemed less detached then it is now. Perhaps that is a reason to watch the show. To remind yourself of that feeling and to realise that things aren’t as bad as they might seem. Because for all the detachment and somberness shown on screen, the music of this show shines a light of hope on the world that is sorely needed.

Should you watch it?

Somewhere on the background images of the commercial bumpers it says: “it’s not a kind of space opera; it’s a sort of space jazz.”

I believ that this is how you should approach this show. See it as a sort of jazz. Sometimes it’s slow and methodical and a few minutes later it’s a high energy dance. You alone can decide if this is for you, but you’ll never know if you like it if you haven’t tried. After rewatching this show, I can only conclude that Cowboy Bebop remains a staple in the medium. A character show where the characters don’t seem to progress that much over it’s 26 episode run. And that’s fine, given how contradictory it sounds. I also believe it was a good decision of the creators to end it. Sometimes it is just better to stop with a great project to let it live. Especially for Cowboy Bebop, since its ending allowed it to breathe amongst the community. And we now know the result of this decision. Cowboy Bebop remains a show that fascinates people like myself for many years to come.

Next month in the final part of this series I will put all previous parts together. And also comment on the value of doing a remake. Because I believe that there are valuable comments to make. See you then, space cowboy.

1. I’m not denying that Edward and Ein aren’t part of the crew. They play a different role in the show.

The mark of the 1998 Anime space westerns part 2: Outlaw Star

The science fiction and fantasy genres are a fun and creative place for creators. Strange looking races, unexplained magic, technologies and world-ending threats are their prerogative. And a quite popular one since all the Sci-Fi/Fantasy flavors are on the forefront of our media. Not just superhero films with world-ending threats; but also stories a little lighter on the fantasy elements like one of a young boy and girl who find their lives intertwined with the arrival of a comet. 

Animation can facilitate all of the above in many different styles. Last month I talked about Trigun and how things just aren’t what they seem to be. Outlaw Star is pretty straighforward and definately takes itself less serious when compared to Trigun. The universe of Outlaw Star is a large and mysterious place, where a lot of fun is to be had with the many species and the Tao magic users. So why not spin these together in a high energy story about freedom, family and the power of following your dreams. So you better get ready!

The wacky world of the Outlaw Star

Humanity has moved to the stars. Along the way they encountered different species and created alliances and enemies. Eventually three human factions formed: The Outlaws, Space pirates and Space Forces.

On the planet Sentinel III we find Gene Starwind1, a roguish entrepreneur who accidentally becomes the owner of an experimental spaceship dubbed and its bio-android navigator. He sets out to find the great treasure that can be found with this ship to create fame and fortune for himself as an outlaw.  He starts with just his friend and business partner Jim Hawking2. After Melfina they quickly pickup the assassin “Twilight” Suzuka and eventually the Ctarl-Ctarl Aisha Clan-Clan to join them on their journey across the stars.

A slow ride to freedom

The initial episodes start the series off really strong. There are a bunch of strange and cool characters, a fancy ship and Tao magic! So you strap yourself in, ready for a crazy ride. Only to have the pacing of the main plot drop like a brick after episode 4. 

While I personally don’t really mind that the show shifts into an episodic format, this can be a big let down for a lot of people. Because most of the episodes explore different aspects of the characters in a rather mundane way, the show creates a discrepancy of expectations with the audience. While I think the episodes are fun to watch, if you were expecting a high paced race to the finish line prepare to be thoroughly disappointed. 

Especially since the plots of the episodes are never referred to again. How interesting would it be if Jim later found out that the young girl he befriended was actually the Kei Pirate assassin they killed. And when he learned the girl’s background he would go from resentment to sympathy. Alas, we can’t always get what we want. 

What I do want to emphasize is the aspect of freedom that the show bolsters. When the Outlaw Star is grounded, Gene is lazy and in a worse state of mind than when they are on the move. Gene is a horny teen who only wants “the big score” while the others seem to do their part to keep them (financially) afloat. But when the Outlaw Star takes flight into the beautifully illuminated darkness of space there is a role reversal. This is the place where Gene is in his element, experiencing personal freedom and the power that comes with it. This dichotomy is really interesting and only became apparent to me after I let the show simmer in the back of my head for a few days.


I think most of us will recognise that there is much more to Outlaw Star than shown in the 26 episodes. I’m not sure how faithful the anime is to the manga, but if anything Outlaw Star makes me want to explore its story universe more. It’s the tip of the iceberg and I am left wondering how much I can find beneath the water. There are a lot of plot treads open that can be used to start another story. And because the themes of family, friendship and freedom are involved most writers interested in this particular universe can find a suitable hook to start. This also leads me to the conclusion that it is no surprise that elements of Outlaw Star made it into other shows like Firefly. Shelving the discussion of accidental or intentional copy, it shows that Outlaw Star’s creator Takehiko Itō had the correct elements in his mind when penning the manga. 

Should you watch it?

Overall Outlaw Star is a fun show to watch. Unlike Trigun it never had me questioning whether to stop watching. The main reason for this is the fun worldbuilding.

The outlandish characters this universe can produce made me stick around to see what the next episode would bring, even if I knew that there was a chance they could quite miss the mark. For me the episode that stands out is the absolute bonkers comedic fan service that is  “Hot Springs Planet Tenrei”. It’s so silly that it leaves no doubt in my mind that the creators were having fun placing the characters in all kinds of situations.

I watched the English dub on Youtube and it’s not bad3. Though the pacing of the main story is an issue, it’s not something that hindered my overall enjoyment of the show. The animation and backgrounds are beautiful and the soundtrack is pretty good as well4.

My biggest issue with the show is the commercial bumper. I can only describe it as over the top flashy in your face. If I had the power of remaking this show this would be the first thing to go. 

In conclusion: If you like a show that blends its fantastical elements like the caster weapon with some harder Sci Fi elements (like ship navigation); and you’re not scared by the prospect of the pacing issues; Outlaw Star is for you. If you’re not sure I can only encourage you to watch the opening six episodes and decide for yourself. Because if the show hasn’t bought your attention by then, it probably won’t. 

See you next month when I finally take a look at Cowboy Bebop

  1. A supposed reference to Gene Roddenberry
  2. Which I assume is a nod to treasue island’s Jim Hawkins
  3. The VA who plays Aisha is very good
  4. Big shoutout to composer Kow Otani, known for his work on Shadow of the Colossus and Gundam Wing

The mark of the 1998 Anime space westerns part 1: Trigun

The old west is dead. The frontiers we still have as humanity are arguably the deep sea and space, the final frontier. The western, with heroes riding their horses into the setting sun, rarely graces our screen. Instead the western genre has become a place of flawed characters, who defend our way of living by venturing to the edge of the abyss. Killing others who’ve fallen into it. It is in this context that we find three distinct anime. Three space westerns released in the same year: 1998. At a time when the change of the millennium was ever coming closer, we got three distinct storyworlds where the bad guys needed to be stopped: Trigun, Outlaw Star and Cowboy Bebop

I do not know if the writers of these shows all were inspired by the same sources like spaghetti westerns and sci fi movies, or that it was just a big coincidence they dropped in the same year. But the fact is that we have three entertaining space westerns who somehow ended up in multiple top 10 lists of 1998.1

While Cowboy Bebop still is one of the heralds of the animation medium, Trigun and Outlaw Star fly a little bit under the radar. I’ve been playing with the idea to bring these three shows into a similar spotlight. And it also provides an insight in why people prefer one over the other. So in the coming months I will dive into one anime per blog to see what the stickiness factor of each of these shows is. Note that there will be some spoilers.

Trigun and the power of facade

We see a deserted landscape. A post-apocalyptic view of dust and sand where humanity lives in small towns similar to the old west. The lightbulbs towering over the wooden and limestone houses tell us that this is not the world as we know it. This is the frontier of Trigun, where the highest bounty known has been issued on the head of Vash the Stampede. The humanoid Typhoon, who leaves destruction wherever he goes. The man is a legend and most people fear him. When they hear that Vash is in their town they either run or try to collect the bounty placed on him. Men and woman who tried all failed because when they encounter the main character of the show he doesn’t look like a dangerous killer, but like a stumbling idiot. 

Opening credits:

Yes, the main character of the show is not a homicidal maniac. He is a pacifist. But that doesn’t mean he can not be dangerous. He just prefers to solve his problems in a different manner. This facade, this way of presenting himself to the world is not just to make him look inconspicuous to people who encounter him. It is also to protect them from those that intend to harm him. Because those people, bounty hunters and desperate townsfolk alike usually destroy small cities in the process of assaulting Vash. Leaving the Bernadelli Insurance Company with ever-increasing costs to repair it. So they do the most sensible thing: send two girls to find The Humanoid Typhoon and try to sway him with donuts to limit the damage.

Evolving genre

At first glance Trigun seems like a comedy. Even the scenes depicted in the early part of the opening credits strengthen this image. But as the credits continue we see a more mature, serious and even threatening side of Vash. This is a great representation of the show as a whole. The series starts with a quite light-hearted and comedic tone which fades into the background later on. This starts at episode 12: Diablo, when the show becomes more serious and shows a darker side to Vash that we did not quite see before. The stakes are raised again for our main character in episode 17 where we learn of Vash’s tragic past and how the facade of the world around him is broken down as well. The first of Vash being a godlike alien being and the second that he is stuck on a planet with a remnant of humanity.

These are the two main instances where the show changes, or flips elements of the narrative to push the plot forward. The stakes rise for our main character. We learn a bit of his past and eventually get an view of the “end boss” of the show. But because Knives is a shadow in the background for most of the episodes, coupled with the lack of exposition this does quite hamper my enjoyment of the show.

Lack of worldbuilding

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed learning about the Vash as a character and watch him interact with the world. Which is especially important because we learn very little about the side characters. For example we know more of Wolfwood then we know of Milly, Meryl and perhaps even Knives. So it was a treat to learn about Vash’s past and how he sees the world around him. 

But the mentioned lack of plot and world exposition is in my opinion detrimental to the show. For me Trigun is now a villain of the week show where the backstory is only important to (A) push the plot in a new direction and (B) to finish the series.

I personally do not mind being left with questions about the workings of a world or the future of a character when a series concludes. But for me Trigun the anime leaves a bit too many questions unanswered. Like it desperately wants to uphold some facade after the final episode. Even if that one was an info dump on steroids.2

Should you watch it?

Having said all this, should you watch it? Well, Trigun is for you if you like a space western story with comedic elements. Even when it changes into a more serious tone later on the comedy will pop up. It is an interesting story about a lone gunman whose appearance is deceiving. Vash is not only enjoyable but honestly quite adorable to watch. And despite its flaws, Trigun is a show where the ending is true to its nature, even if you don’t expect it. Love and Peace!

Next month in part 2: Outlaw Star

1 Anime lists of 1998: IMDB, Anime News Network, Listal, Top-ten.tv

2 If you have questions after watching the show I recommend reading this fandom page. The manga section answers most questions I had.

The Report – Short story and explanatory blog

A couple of weeks back I woke up before my alarm clock. Usually I need to visit the toilet or my mind just wanders off again until the alarm clock wakes me. This was a different morning. I sleep very often with a slightly open window for fresh air. And only when the cold comes drifting in and I feel like my toes will freeze off I close it completely. But it was somewhere in October and the temperature was really not that cold yet. The thing, or rather sound that intrigued me was a strange gurgling sound that came from outside.It was around six in the morning and there is usually very little sound in my neighborhood. So this sound that came from outside was very strange to me. It did not sound like anything that I could identify. Like water or any car or machine that I know of. So I made a little story about what it could have been.

It’s the first published story in the storyworld that I’m building. Enjoy.




A large raven landed silently on the railing of the apartment building. He avoided being caught in the light of the near lamps and perched in the shadow.

Hurr enjoyed the quietness of the early morning. It wouldn’t be long before the humans would dominate the streets and he wanted to be well on his way by then. There weren’t to many places where he could enjoy the silence. Especially during the day when the sky seemed to be the best place to find it. Luckily he wouldn’t be out among the humans for a couple of days after he delivered his report. He would enjoy the luxury of a fine drink with his fellow officers bleating about their accomplishments while he tried to ignore them. Hurr hated this planet.

He didn’t think it would be this different when he’d signed up for this mission. Most of his people signed to explore new places, hone their transformation skills and subsequently boast about them against anyone willing to listen.

For Hurr, it was a chance for power and recognition in the Armada. But he’d sadly found himself stuck on a polluted, overcrowded world dominated by a primitive species who hadn’t even properly left their own solar system. There wasn’t much recognition to be found here. For that, he had to be in a warzone.


“Dreaming on the job?” The sweet voice catched him off guard.

Hurr turned to see the black cat slowly approaching: “You’re late”.

She smiled: “What if I was watching you from a distance? Deciding if I wanted to eat you or not.”

He eyed her wearingly. Clearly, she was playing with him. With her slowly wagging tail and her mesmerising eyes….

He snapped out of her eyecatch and opened his wings, showing his stature markings that flashed dangerously. His eyes burned with fury: “Do not play me like a fool, Lowborn. We are on a mission: report!”

The cat hissed, acknowledging that she overstepped and carefully took a position that would allow her to respond immediately to any threat. Aerr knew that Hurr was dangerous. Even for one with limited transformation skills, he still had the power to kill her instantly if she was not careful.

“Well,” she started: “It is very much a divided planet. It will take time before they evolve out of planetary habitation, though technology seems to improve fast. These improvements blurr reality, and the people find their enjoyment in the consumption of media. While some are more fanatic then others, most have a real addiction in their escape into media.”

“So it is not so different from the city planets. I thought so. The way to the people is found through media. What else, cat?”

She chose to ignore his stinging comment. Aerr was never happy when she was addressed in her taken form. But she knew the moment that Hurr was appointed as her messenger superior that he would keep their relationship ‘professional’.

She continued: “The human from the case. I studied him. He has gentle behaviour, but a heavy heart. From what I can see in his eyes he doesn’t feel at ease. Like he’s lost meaning.”

Hurr cocked his head, slowly processing her message: “Meaning, of what?”

She sighed: “He’s lost meaning in life. Like he lost a piece of himself. I caught his eyes last week and he feels like someone who is searching for something.”

Hurr remained silent for a second: “That matches with our latest intel. Since his return to Earth he’s lost all trace of Dragon energy in and around him that was recorded earlier. Our readings of his body after return and the weeks following showed that he lost the power source or gave it away.”

Aerr stared past Hurr: “It’s sad to see such potential wasted, though. These people can be valuable allies.”

Hurr snapped at her: “be careful with your sympathies, cat. When the time comes, he may turn out to be an enemy of the Empire. He has sided with them before.”

He paused for a moment: “But, I will make an extra note of this in the report. You make a valid point to consider.”

Aerr blinked surprised: “Thank you, I just want to be of good service to the Lord Commander.”

“And He will be pleased with your findings on such short notice. Keep going like this, and you may receive a more…difficult challenge.”

She bowed slightly as a thanks.

“Next report in two weeks, cat.” Hurr folded his left wing to his chest: “For the Empire!” He jumped off the building and flew north. Only a incidental shadow cast by a city light betrayed his alien form.

As Hurr in disappeared in the distance the cat smirked at him: “Yeah, for the Empire.”


When she made her way to the edge of the railing a light blinked on in an apartment below. A familiar face looked through a window. Aerr thought on Hurr’s words. If she eventually wanted an out of her current life, this poor soul could be the key she needed. But for now, that was not important. Aerr knew that she would be playing a dangerous game if she’d go with it. So she had to plan this carefully.

She waited until the human left his apartment to go to work, some time later. Aerr had already moved out of sight when he came out of the door, so she would not be seen. He stopped for a moment and scanned the building, like if he was searching for something. When the man saw nothing he walked away.

She looked at him, smiling. He probably heard their conversation, but that didn’t matter. Their native tongue sounded like gurgling to other species, so even if he had an active translator chip he could not understand them.

She jumped on a garden wall while making her way down. She had to catch some breakfast before the humans would take control of the streets. Maybe that stray cat she encountered earlier had enough meat on him to satisfy her for the moment.



Image used for atmosphere. It is not used in any way to make profit. If you are copyright owner and want it removed, please contact me.