At the end of last month, a one-off event in Edinburgh brought the director of Cowboy Bebop, Shinichiro Watanabe, to Scotland for a screening and Q&A session. There are few anime fans who've seen Bebop and dislike it, but it's getting pretty old by now and despite listening to Yoko Kanno's soundtrack albums fairly regularly I'd not seen it in a few years.
There were two episodes shown, both selected by Watanabe - Session #6 Ballad of Fallen Angels and Session #22 Cowboy Funk. According to the question-and-answer session afterwards, Watanabe picked the most serious and least serious episodes - and remarked that it's difficult to believe they're from the same series.
I often feel like anime series' are trying to split the difference between super-serious and slapstick; recent shows in particular, like Gargantia or Oreshura have really interesting setups that get regularly sidelined by wacky adventures. If they were just comedy or just drama I'd enjoy them a lot more, but sitting on the fence often just highlights the weaknesses in both elements of a show.
But it's a testament to how great the characters, atmosphere and design in Cowboy Bebop are that it not only manages to pull off such disparate storylines, but I can't imagine either the comedy or drama being removed from the show. I think it comes down to the personalities of the characters; they're such believable people that having a laugh makes sense. They get on each others' nerves, tell jokes, fight and work together in a way that makes sense.
Two episodes wasn't really enough. While I've not found the time yet to start a rewatch - I might wait for the Blu-ray release at the end of next month - I'm really keen to give it another run through.
The photo at the top of this post is of my now most prized posession. The cel cost me a few hundred dollars when I bought it eight years ago; I'm sure it's probably worth a fair bit more now. I was originally planning to ask Watanabe to sign Moanin', by Art Blakey, but realised I'd only bought a digital copy of the album.