Every debate over whether or not Cowboy Bebop—Shinichiro Watanabe’s science-fiction masterpiece—is the pinnacle of anime is a semantic one. It is, full stop. Its particular blend of cyberpunk intrigue, Western atmosphere, martial arts action, and noir cool in seinen form is unmatched and widely appealing. Its existential and traumatic themes are universally relatable. Its characters are complex and flawed, yet still ooze cool. The future it presents is ethnically diverse and eerily prescient. Its English dub, boasting some of America’s greatest full-time voiceover talents, somehow equals the subtitled Japanese-language original. Its 26-episode run was near-perfect, and episodes that might have served as filler in another series are tight, taut, and serve the show’s thesis even as they do not distract from its overarching plot, which is compelling but not overbearing. It’s accessible to new hands and still rewards old-timers with every repeated watch. Yoko Kanno’s magnificent, jazz-heavy soundtrack and score stand on their own. Its opening credits are immaculate. It’s an original property, not an adaptation. It feels like a magnum opus produced at the pinnacle of a long career despite being, almost unbelievably, Watanabe’s first series as a director. It is a masterwork that should justly rank among the best works of television of all time, let alone anime. We eagerly await a rival. watch free animes We’re not holding our breath. —John Maher
For many, Brotherhood is the essential anime experience, and it’s easy to see why. A more faithful adaptation to Hiromu Arakawa’s mega-popular manga series than the original adaptation, Brotherhood contends with loss, grief, war, racism and ethics in mature and unique ways, ahead of its time in nearly every aspect. What’s more, the show is paced perfectly, with neatly wrapped arcs that lead into each other and bolster a greater global narrative on selected themes. Brotherhood is just the right length, never overstaying its welcome and proving how versatile and malleable the conventions of shounen anime can be.
Brotherhood has a sizeable cast of characters all of different nationalities and ideologies, with motivations that often oppose one another—the show manages to use these moving forces to form factions, alliances, and foils that flow in multiple directions, paralleling the often messy, always chaotic nature of human relationships during wartime. The show’s emotional core revolves around the plight of the Elric brothers, Ed and Alphonse, two alchemists sponsored by the authoritarian Amestris military. It’s not your classic military drama, though, as Ed and Alphonse quickly learn how far Amestris’ authoritarianism stretches.