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 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.