The music. That’s what stands out the most on Cowboy Bebop. That’s saying something when set against the wonderful backdrops, deep characters, wicked smart and funny plot, slick animations, and amazing story telling. It’s the music. It’s something that’s a major part of this cult classic anime. Shinchiro Watanabe directed the show, and is largely and rightfully credited with guiding this masterpiece. Composer Yoko Kanno however, deserves just as much credit. Just listen to the amazing opening credits of the song “Tank!“, composed by Kanno.
Running for the standard 26 episodes, each one is called a session, with music themed titles like Asteroid Blues, Gateway Shuffle, and Heavy Metal Queen to name a few. Animated by Sunrise, it’s slick style still holds up today, 15 years later. The show originally aired in Japan from April – June on TV Tokyo in 1998. Due to the amount of violence, the show had an odd broadcasting schedule, airing only 2, 3, 7 – 15, and 18. In October the same year, the show aired in it’s entirety on satellite network WOWOW. Due to disruptions in broadcasting, the final episode was delivered to the network the day it aired. This is funny considering something similar happened to Watanabe’s next show, Samurai Champloo.
In September 2001, Adult Swim aired this as it’s first anime, helping people make it’s U.S. debut. The show was an amazing success for the network, airing repeatedly through 2005, rerunning again every year from 2007 – 2011. If you’ve watched Adult Swim any time in the last decade for more than just Family Guy reruns, you’ve probably caught an episode or two.
Set in 2071, the show follows bounty hunters, or cowboys, on the spaceship Bebop. Travel through the galaxy is easy due to hyperspace gateways. Colonies are set up on Mars and the moons of Jupiter. Partners Jet Black and Spike Spiegel work together trying to cash in on bounties. Spike is a former member of the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate, and a master with firearms and hand-to-hand combat. Jet is a former police officer who retired after losing his left arm. Eventually they are joined by amateur bounty hunter Faye Valentine. Faye has a gambling addiction and doesn’t remember much of her past. “Radical” Edward is a barefoot preteen girl that is a master hacker and genius. She spends most of her time with the 5th member of the crew, Ein; a genetically engineered data-dog Welsh Corgi. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more eclectic cast before.
As the show progresses, we learn more about the characters and their mysterious pasts. Every character has an entertaining personality and back story that we get to explore during their misadventures. The tone of the show varies wildly. Many episodes are lighthearted fun, like Mushroom Samba. The crew crash lands after being sideswiped, and poisoned with psychotropics. Basically they hallucinate the entire episode. If there is an episode to watch, it’s this. This is juxtaposed against episodes like Jupiter Jazz, where Spike confronts parts of his past, looking for his ex-girlfriend Julia.
In 2001 a movie was released in Japan that eventually made it’s way to the States in 2003. I was extremely fortunate to see it in theaters. If you ever get the chance to see an anime in theaters, I suggest you do. Good or bad, it’s an experience worth having. The movie takes place somewhere around episode 23, and is a good companion to the show.
Cowboy Bebop has earned it’s cult status. In the late 90’s and early 00’s, the only anime to make it’s way over was typically top tier, and this is no exception. Any and every anime fan has seen this show, and loved it. Yes, I am making a generalization, but that I stand by it. This is definitely one still worth watching. Seeing this show, it’s easy to understand why anime fans are created.
Did you catch Bebop on Adult Swim? What’s your favorite episode? Comment below!
See you Space Cowboy…