There may be readers of Otaku USA younger than Cowboy Bebop, the 26-episode series that originally aired in 1998. Thankfully, there are multiple essays on this very site about the allure of Bebop, alleviating me of the burden of describing just what was so great about the series for so many of us.
Maybe responsibility comes closer than burden—but in any case, Bebop is one of those shows you want to do right by when writing about it. I want to be as good to it as it was to me, but it’s hard to do it justice with mere words. Bebop was the Full Package—music, screenwriting, animation—so to really do it any service, it feels like in addition to a keyboard, you need a paintbrush, a saxophone, and maybe a skillet.
Because Bebop was about a lot of things, but one of those things was definitely food. The series may have been set in space, but it had some very earthly concerns: More often than not, our heroes were after nothing more than their next meal.
This long preamble brings me to the fact that Bebop, which is celebrating its 20th this year, is uniquely suited for one of Japan’s frequent “collaboration cafes,” in which food and drink based on anime are served up in a space decked out in visuals from said anime.
The menus at these cafes can sometimes be a stretch, but again, Bebop’s 26 episodes serve up a diverse selection of cuisine. Who can forget the Andy’s Son of a Gun Stew? “Mushroom Samba”’s psychotropic mushrooms? Bell peppers and beef… with no beef?
All are on offer at the cafe (okay, the mushrooms don’t have the same effect as in the series), which runs in Tokyo and Osaka until June 10. Also on offer are drinks named after Spike, Jet and Faye—an Old-Fashioned, Cowboy and Martini, respectively.
On my visit, I ordered up the Bell Peppers and Beef with No Beef, while my buddy grabbed the Son of a Gun Stew, and with the Yoko Kanno soundtrack playing in the background, our senses were enveloped in Cowboy Bebop goodness.
Two of our senses, anyway. While the food and music were as Bebopy as could be, the visual aspect of this collaboration cafe was seriously slack. Sure, there were a few placards around, plus some cardboard cutouts of the crew—even a couple sketches from, ostensibly, Shinichiro Watanabe. But unlike some cafes I’ve reported on in the past, there was no real attempt to dress it up like a bar from the series, say (and there are plenty of bars in the series to choose from), nor any original cels or genga.
Ah, well. 20 years ago, Cowboy Bebop offered the Full Package, but it may be asking too much of the cafe to do the same. At the very least, it was fun to eat some poor cowboy grub while talking about one of our old favorites. Maybe the 30th anniversary cafe will do the 20th one better—until then, see you, space.. ah, you know the rest.