A very cool anime from Sunrise Animation Studios.

It's set something like 100 years in the future, in a solar system thoroughly colonized by humans. Spike, the main character (a bounty hunter), is reminiscent of Lupin (or however the hell you want to spell his name) in many ways; his rakish grin and his amazing combination of luck and unluck. The show has this great old west feel to it, in fine Space Opera style. Marvelously entertaining, Cowboy Bebop would make a good roleplaying game.

And I know I mentioned it before, but the music is really really good. Yoko Kanno (of Macross Plus and Escaflowne fame) is a genius.

Alright, it's possible that in all the wonderful writeups that came after mine, something was missed, and I'm now going to try and elaborate on what that something might be. Mild spoilers ahead!

Cowboy Bebop lies the intersection of many genres (and indeed, many media) that are dear to the heart of fans: Space opera, cyberpunk, gangster film, Hong Kong action, animation, and jazz. There are others, but those readily spring to mind. It has a flair for the dramatic and the over-the-top without sacrificing believable characters and small human stories. Its future is one that seems entirely believable; maybe we can travel faster than light, but that doesn't mean there still won't be slums and gangsters, smoke-filled bars, neon, and jazz.

Maybe it's created in Japan, but really it a mishmash of cultural influence. Cowboy Bebop is the most multicultural, postmodern TV series I've ever watched. The characters all come from recognizably different cultures, and their conflicts reflect this fact. Spike, the triad war veteran. Faye, the amnesiac schoolgirl-turned-bounty huter. Jet, the cop who tries to be cynical but just can't find it within himself, Ed, the brilliant, insane hacker-child. How the hell do they get along?

How, indeed.

How do any of us get along in the 21st century pastiche of sound and fury? Cowboy Bebop answers that question in fine dramatic style, with unerring visual design and a timeless soundtrack that will be as relevant a hundred years from now as it is today.

Whether you are an anime enthusiast or not, you should watch the first 5 episodes of Cowboy Bebop. I have faith that you'll want to watch the rest.

Cowboy Bebop was first aired on Japanese television back in 1998. It quickly became one of the most popular series ever to air. The animation is done very well with smooth movement, and bright colors. The character design is also far superior to anything i've seen before.

The plot of the series doesn't get going until episode 6. The action scenes and sub-stories until this point haven't had much to do with story wide plot, but mainly just introduct characters, and give you a feel for the series.

As the series progresses the plot and story become a major issue in the series. The backgrounds of each character is analyzed and different clues are left to hit at things. Meanwhile, the story contines to progress.

The main themes of this series is friendships, and personal identity. The characters are running from their past, and continually run into them. This makes them grow from their experiences.

Cowboy Bebop also has new and insperational cinematic effects. From the non-tratitional camera angles, to the focusing of the camera. The way music and video are mixed, and the way it is edited. These are all new and cutting-edge ways of film. It is not only a superb anime, but also a great movie for "good movie lovers". There is a large element of "western style" cowboy movies involved, from the title, to the unemotional personalities of the characters trying to hide from their sad pasts.

I also highly reccomend this to anyone who likes anime, or tv, or good entertainment, or high quality artistic expression.

Cowboy Bebop is now showing on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim in an impressively less edited form. While they got away with few edits in these episodes, future episodes risk stiff editing, if not being completely dropped altogether. We must wait and see...

Well 6 episodes have run in 3 weeks (last 2 were delayed a week). Episode 6, "Sympathy for the Devil" was dropped in its entirety. Most other edits have been the removal of some blood, and painting bathing suits on pictures in the magazines that show up at times (a la Tenchi).

Cartoon Network's second run of Bebop is underway, and while the edits are in full force, all 3 episodes that were dropped from the previous run will be included. This puts CN roughly equal with WOWOW (except for the edits).

The Cowboy Bebop Metanode


All DVD Listings cover the US 6 DVD release. The Japanese release, total, covered 10 DVDs (9 show, plus Session 0, an extras disc which was spread out among the 6 US DVDs)

Session 1 DVD:
Session 2 DVD:
Session 3 DVD:
Session 4 DVD:
  • 15. My Funny Valentine (マイ・ファニー・ヴァレンタイン) Mai Fani- Varentain
  • 16. Black Dog Serenade (ブラック・ドッグ・セレナーデ) Burakku Dogu Serenade
  • 17. Mushroom Samba (マッシュルーム・サンバ) Masshurumu Sanba
  • 18. Speak Like a Child (スピーク・ライク・ア・チャイルド) Supiku Raiku A Chairudo
Session 5 DVD:
  • 19. Wild Horses (ワイルド・ホーセス) Wairudo Hosesu
  • 20. Pierrot Le Fou (道化師の鎮魂歌) Doukeshi no Chinkon Uta - Note here in the Japanese preview, Jet says "rekuien," which would be taken as an alternate reading. A rough translation would be "Clown's Requiem"
  • 21. Boogie-Woogie Feng-Shui (ブギ・ウギ・フンシェイ) Bugi Ugi Fenshiei
  • 22. Cowboy Funk (カウボーイ・ファンク) Kauboi Fanku
Session 6 DVD: Soundtracks:
Other Cowboy Bebop Related Nodes:

Not many US fans know that when Cowboy Bebop originally aired on TV Tokyo, only 12 of the 26 total episodes were aired. Many, such as all but two of the Spike vs. Vicious episodes were cut due to violence, some episodes were cut for content, or some because they were filler. Also, no episode over 19 was aired on TV Tokyo.

The entire series was released on DVD and VHS, and was shortly thereafter picked up by Japanese satellite network WOWOW, which aired all 26 episodes in their entirety.

The following is a list of all the episodes that didn't air on TV Tokyo:

Asteroid Blues
Gateway Shuffle
Ballad of Fallen Angels
Sympathy for the Devil
Black Dog Serenade
Mushroom Samba
Wild Horses
Pierrot Le Fou
Boogie Woogie Feng Shui
Cowboy Funk
Brain Scratch
Hard Luck Women
The Real Folk Blues Part 1
The Real Folk Blues Part 2

カウボーイ・べボップ: 天国の扉

Released in August 2001, Cowboy Bebop: Tengoku no Tobira (English Title: Knockin' on Heaven's Door)

The movie promises to be badass, and with any luck the rumored licensors, Columbia Tristar, will give it the treatment they gave Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

The subtitle "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" will not be present in the American release, due to worries of copyright violations.

Fanboys will be pleased, Faye Valentine gets a shower scene

The movie sits between the episodes Cowboy Funk and Brain Scratch, and features the crew of the Bebop chasing Vincent Volaju down after his reign of bio-terrorism, to the tune of 300,000,000 woolongs.
The Columbia Connection - Yes, in Wild Horses, Doohan does rebuild and fly the Space Shuttle Columbia. Sadly, this can no longer be the case. In response to the incident, Cartoon Network _did_ drop the episode from its lineup that week. Due to their previous action like this, I believe it will be present next time around.

Someone sent me a message with the exact date the episode did not air on, and I now forget. If you'd be so kind as to send me a message, I'd be grateful.

I think it's time we blow this scene. Get everybody and their stuff together. Okay.
3, 2, 1, let's jam!

01 The Crew

Director - Shinichiro Watanabe
Story Editor - Keiko Nobumoto
Character Designer - Toshihiro Kawamoto
Mechanical Designer - Kimitoshi Yamane
Composer/Arranger - Yoko Kanno

Main Voices:
Spike Spiegel - Koichi Yamadera
Jet Black - Unsho Ishizuka
Faye Valentine - Megumi Hayashibara
Ed (Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV) - Aoi Tada

02 The Story

It is the year 2071, the galaxy ignores most of the original governments and ethnicities are lost among each other. Due to the Phase Difference Space Gates created in 2022, humanity has been able to spread itself throughout the galaxy. Which is good considering that Earth now has meteorites continually slamming into its already damaged surface. Criminal organizations and criminals have increased greatly due to the widening gap between the rich and poor. Most crime is now regulated by the independent states of the planets and the ISSP, the Inter Solar System Police. However, when the criminals get out of hand the governments can always go to the age-old method of bounty hunters. That's where Spike Spiegel and Jet Black come in.

Jet: Despite being a nobody, he's worth 2.5 million.
Spike: Don't feel like it.

Spike Spiegel mostly keeps to himself, even though he has been Jet's partner for quite awhile. He's a devout follower of Jeet Kune Do, and always carries around a Jericho 941, a semiautomatic pistol. He also can pilot like a pro in his speedster space ship, The Swordfish II. Spike is a great fighter, but he feels that he has already died, and so lacks a great sense of preservation.

Jet Black was originally an ISSP agent, but after a mission went wrong almost causing his death he left the force. He has an cybernetically augmented arm due to his injury and a scar across his right eye. He tends to be very fatherly, giving his advice to the crew. He normally carries a Walther P99, and pilots his converted space tower, The Hammerhead. The Bebop is also his, which was a converted trawler, and has a great amount of space for storing ships and people.

On Spike and Jet's hunts, they also attract new members: Ein, Faye Valentine, and Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV.

Ein is a Welsh Corgi that was used in labratory experiments and made into a data dog. He's quite more intelligent than any of the members know.

Faye Valentine is a thief and gambler, but don't blame her it's because of her upbringing. She meets up with the crew of the Bebop due to having her head on a bounty. She ends up sticking with the crew due to the simplicity of freeloading and adventure. She prefers to carry a Glock 30, and pilots the Redtail.

Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV, or simply known as Ed, is the youngest member of the crew at the age of (probably) thirteen. However, she's also the most computer literate of the crew. A top-notch hacker, she can nearly get into any computer... if she feels like it.

03 The Backstage

In 1998, Shinichiro Watanabe presented the idea of a new anime, named Cowboy Bebop, to TV Tokyo. TV Tokyo was known for being careful of how much questionable material they released including violence and suggestive forms. In the past year, they had also run into a few other problems. Their series Pokemon had created a great amount of bad press when an episode caused epileptic fits in people due to them sitting too close to the television and the rapidness of the changing colors. In national news, school violence had risen having such problems as students stabbing their teacher due to them complaining of their tardiness, a peer joking about their "frizzy hair," and a student attempting to steal a policeman's gun.

TV Tokyo, extremely wary, told Watanabe that they would show only twelve of the Cowboy Bebop episodes. The rest would not be shown due to their violence, and the ones that they did show were also edited down. The episodes that did end up being shown were: Stray Dog Strut, Honky Tonk Women, Heavy Metal Queen, Waltz for Venus, Jamming with Edward, Ganymede Elegy, Toys in the Attic, Jupiter Jazz, Bohemian Rhapsody, My Funny Valentine, Speak Like a Child, and an extra thirteenth episode that was a montage of the previous episodes named Mish-Mash Blues. These episodes were aired from April 3, 1998 to May 26, 1998 on every Friday.

At the end of Mish-Mash Blues there was a small message:

This is not the end.
You will see the real "Cowboy Bebop" someday!

They weren't lying. On November 23, 1998, the satellite station WOWOW began showing Cowboy Bebop in all its glory. They showed all 26 episodes without any editing. Also starting on December 18, 1998, Bandai began releasing all of Cowboy Bebop on VHS, DVD, and Laserdisc.

On September 14, 1999, Pioneer began released Cowboy Bebop in the States on VHS, and then on DVD on April 4, 2000. On September 2, 2001, Cowboy Bebop began to be shown on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. However, it was also edited to suit American television standards.

The series also spawned a movie Knockin' On Heaven's Door which was released on September 1, 2001 and two manga series. The movie takes place between Episodes 23 and 24.

04 The Tunes

Cowboy Bebop's music is one of the many things that make the series so popular. Most of the songs in the series are performed by The Seatbelts and composed by Yoko Kanno. The songs were actually part of a personal project that Yoko Kanno was doings, and were purchased for Cowboy Bebop after they had already been recorded. The songs are extremely varied going through different styles.

There are five soundtracks of the Cowboy Bebop TV series and two released for the movie. All of the soundtracks were released by Victor Entertainment in Japan. The OST CDs have sold over 700,000 copies, and "Music for Freelance" has sold over 70,000 copies.

Cowboy Bebop
Original Soundtrack 1

  1. Tank! The Opening Song (3:30)
  2. Rush (3:34)
  3. Spokey Dokey (4:04)
  4. Bad Dog No Biscuits (4:09)
  5. Cat Blues (2:35)
  6. Cosmos (1:36)
  7. Space Lion (7:10)
  8. Waltz for Zizi (3:29)
  9. Piano Black (2:47)
  10. Pot City (2:14)
  11. Too Good Too Bad (2:34)
  12. Car 24 (2:49)
  13. The Egg and I (2:42)
  14. Felt Tip Pen (2:39)
  15. Rain (3:23)
  16. Digging My Potato (2:34)
  17. Memory (1:31)

05 The Scenes

The sessions(episodes) have a general theme to their naming. They're named either after songs, or a musical style is combined with another word in the title. This tends to help the feel of the series, as well as making references to many of the works that helped inspire the series.

Most of the sessions tend to be able to stand by themselves, however there are certain story arcs that do occur. Many of these are based around a single character.

Spike's story arc is the Vicious cycle. Spike and Vicious used to be friends, but things changed due to a woman. Now Vicious is in a high position in an important crime syndicate, and Spike is still looking for information on his lost love. The episodes that cover this conflict are: Ballad of Fallen Angels, Jupiter Jazz, Real Folk Blues.

Jet also has a past that he doesn't tell much of to Spike. It tends to go back to when he was working in the ISSP. These episodes are: Ganymede Elegy, Black Dog Serenade, and Boogie-Woogie Feng Shui.

Faye has a clouded past due to a lack of memories. She was woken up from cryogenic sleep only to find that she could remember nothing of why she was there. The search for her past is covered in episodes My Funny Valentine, Speak Like a Child, and Hard Luck Women.

The movie, Knockin' On Heaven's Door, was released after the series ended and takes place between Episodes 23, Brain Scratch and 24, Hard Luck Women.

    Volume 1
  1. Asteroid Blues
  2. Stray Dog Strut
  3. Honky Tonk Women
  4. Gateway Shuffle
  5. Ballad of Fallen Angels

    Volume 2
  6. Sympathy for the Devil
  7. Heavy Metal Queen
  8. Waltz for Venus
  9. Jamming with Edward
  10. Ganymede Elegy

    Volume 3
  11. Toys in the Attic
  12. Jupiter Jazz (Part 1)
  13. Jupiter Jazz (Part 2)
  14. Bohemian Rhapsody

    Volume 4
  15. My Funny Valentine
  16. Black Dog Serenade
  17. Mushroom Samba
  18. Speak Like a Child

    Volume 5
  19. Wild Horses
  20. Pierrot Le Fou
  21. Boogie-Woogie Feng Shui
  22. Cowboy Funk

    Volume 6
  23. Brain Scratch
  24. Hard Luck Woman
  25. Real Folk Blues (Part I)
  26. Real Folk Blues (Part II)

06 The Manga

There have been two manga series released in Japan that were spawned off the series. The first was written by Hajime Yatate and illustrated by Cain Kuga. The character designs in the first manga have a few differences from the anime. This series ran for two volumes.

The second manga series was also written by Hajime Yatate, but was illustrated by Nanten Yutaka. The character designs are more similar to that of the anime, but there are still some noticeable differences. The manga ran weekly in Asuka Fantasy DX. It was collected in three volumes, each able to stand on their own much like the anime series. It has been translated and released in the States by Tokyopop.

07 The Sources

Amazon.com - http://www.amazon.com.
Cowboy Bebop - Knockin' On Heaven's Door - http://www.cowboybebop.org/.
Emily's Cowboy Bebop Page - http://www.futureblues.com/.
The Jazz Messengers - http://www.jazzmess.com/.
The Real Folk Blues - http://rfblues.aaanime.net/.
"Teen Violence Rising in Japan." CNN - http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9803/14/japan.teen.violence/.

Plenty has already been said about the main characters and the music in other writeups, so here's my contribution of things not yet mentioned:

Cowboy Bebop is set in 2071 and happens all over the solar system. Long distance travel relies on "hyperspace gates." In 2021, there was a major hyperspace accident that pretty destroyed a large portion of the Moon. As a result, Earth now has an asteroid belt and is constantly bombarded by meteors. Venus has been terraformed, and Mars has large habitable areas.

A few of the ships which appear in Cowboy Bebop:
The Bebop
This is the large ship where much of the series takes place. It's Jet's ship and was bought second hand on Ganymede. It was supposedly a fishing ship, which makes the rest of the character's ship names make a little more sense(Swordfish? Redtail? They're all named after fish).
The Swordfish II
This is Spike's ship. It's a small red racing ship with wing-mounted machine guns and a plasma cannon.
The Redtail
This is Faye's ship. It's a squat blue ship with gun arms that also prop the ship up when it's on the ground. It has two machine guns as well as rocket launchers. She can control is with a remote hidden in her bracelet.
The Hammerhead
This is Jet's combat ship. It's a small brownish ship with a swivel arm on top that fires a grappling claw.
Space Shuttle Columbia
Ok, it only appears in one episode, but it's still there. Doohan, the mechanic who made the Swordfish for Spike, has fixed up the original space shuttle Columbia. In episode 19(Wild Horses) he actually pulls it out and flies it.

A few memorable one-episode characters:
Pierrot Le Fou
This character, who appears in the episode with the same name, is a giant killing machine. He wears a suit, an undershirt with a frilly white collar and a top hat. He carries an insanely large amount of weaponry and uses a gun built into his cane.
Andy is another bounty hunter they meet in Episode 22, Cowboy Funk. Andy takes the on going cowboy/bounty hunter theme a step too far. He rides around on a horse, wears a cowboy outfit, uses a six-shooter and asks people to call him Wyatt Earp. His personality is very similar to Spike's, which leads to no end of conflict between the two.
Doohan appears in Episode 19, Wild Horses. He is the mechanic who built the Swordfish and gave it to Spike. He is of a philosophical bent regarding machines. On his assistant's suggestion that they add something to silence the Swordfish's engine, he comments "If you put one in, then I can't hear what it's telling me." When his assistant goes further and suggests adding a better computer system and autopilot, he says "Do you want to use a machine or do you want the machine to use you?"

A few characters from Spike's past:
This is a character from Spike's past, and is a member of the Red Dragon syndicate. He always has a large black bird with him and fights with a sword. He is a villian that appears occasionally in the series.
Another character from Spike's past, flash backs of her are certain to appear in any episode involving Vicious. Who she is, and what relation she is to Spike and Vicious would definitely be called a spoiler, so I won't spend any more time on her.

The Jazz Connection
Aside from an excellent soundtrack featuring plenty of original jazz music, the series and one of the ships being named after a jazz movement, and most of the episode names refering to jazz songs or styles there's also the occasional jazz reference in dialogue. For example, at the beginning of episode 3 (Honkytonk Woman) Jet claims to have had a dream where Charlie Parker told him "Only hands can wash hands." Jet uses this dream to rationalize making a ton of money at a casino.

Warning: Spoilers ahead!

Like many anime series, Cowboy Bebop has an underlying thread, a message that permeated each and every episode, and foreshadowed the conclusion long before the last episodes. IMHO, this thread is that You can't run from your own past, for it will always come back to haunt you. In order to get on with your life, you have to take deal with your past, and take responsibility for your actions...

Each and every episode revolves around this one thread. In the first episode Asimov uses the drug bloody-eye to get into a state of high metabolic speed, freezing time around him and allowing him to temporarily escape his pursuers. But when Maria is hit with a bullet and her "pregnancy" is revealed as a blind to hide the drug, it is apparent that their intended bright future never had anything new or bright about it: one cannot create a future by running away, the past one is trying to escape will eventually abort one's hopes, which never honestly existed anyway.

This is true even for the comedic episodes, such as Toys in the Attic: Spike's laziness to clean out the fridge comes back to haunt the crew.

Consider the fates of the main characters: Faye learns about the past she forgot and escaped from, but desperately longed for, and sees that everybody she might have loved (family, friends) are dead and her house is destroyed; Jet loses his best friend Spike and learns that his old best friend was a traitor; Ed finds her irresponsible, and quite possibly insane father (note his eyes), trying to ensure the future by mapping the ever-changing surface of the Earth (while properly caring for Ed would probably be the better investment into the future); and finally the cornerstone, Spike who ran away from the final confrontation with Viscious by pretending to die, only to be caught up in the past he was trying to evade, losing Julia and ultimately dying while fighting Viscious. The point is that when you carry a heavy weight, that weight eventually becomes a part of you that you can't leave behind or move past. The past, and all that comes with it, cannot be unwritten. And so, in the end, the fellowship is broken because of errors made in the past.

Still not convinced that CB is really about taking responsibility for one's past? Let the last CB title card speak for itself:

You're gonna carry that weight.

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