Cowboy Bebop (カウボーイビバップ Kaubōi Bibappu?) is an influential, critically-acclaimed, and award-winning 1998 Japanese anime series directed by Shinichirō Watanabe, written by Keiko Nobumoto, and produced by Sunrise. It is one of the most highly acclaimed anime and is regarded as one of the greatest anime series ever created. It is the highest rated anime series on IMDB top 50 anime of all time, placing at number one. Its 26 episodes ("sessions") comprise a complete storyline: set in 2071, the series follows the misadventures and tragedies of a group of bounty hunters, or "cowboys", traveling on their spaceship, the Bebop.
The series' art direction centers on American music and counterculture, especially the beat and jazz movements of the 1940s-60s and the early rock era of the 1950s-70s, which the original soundtrack by Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts recreates.
Cowboy Bebop was a commercial success both in Japan and international markets, notably in the United States. After this reception, Sony Pictures released a feature film, Knockin' on Heaven's Door (2001), to theaters worldwide and followed up with an international DVD release. Two manga adaptations were serialized in Kadokawa Shoten's Asuka Fantasy DX.
In 2022, the explosion of an experimental hyperspace gateway severely damaged the Moon which resulted in a debris ring that threatened the surface of Earth with meteor bombardments that decimated a large portion of the population. As a result, many survivors abandoned the barely-habitable Earth to colonize the inner planets, the asteroid belt and the moons of Jupiter.
The series sets in the year 2071, when the entire Solar System has been made accessible through reliable hyperspace gates. Mars has become the new central hub of human civilization, and interplanetary crime syndicates exert influence over the government and the Inter-Solar System Police (ISSP), limiting their effectiveness in dealing with crime. As a result, a bounty system similar to that in the Old West is established to deal with fugitives, terrorists, and other criminals. The series often refers to Bounty Hunters as cowboys.
Cowboy Bebop revolves around a crew of bounty hunters living in the spaceship named Bebop. They are a team of bounty hunters who travel the Solar System trying to apprehend bounties. Jet Black is the owner of the Bebop who has partnered with Spike Spiegel for his diverse combat skills. During their travels, the Bebop ship gained new crew members such as Ein, Faye, and Edward.
Throughout the series Bebop crew members' pasts catch up with them, and the series regularly turns to the history of the main characters in flashbacks. Spike's past as a syndicate enforcer is a major element of the series, while other episodes deal with Jet's previous occupation as an ISSP officer on Ganymede, Faye's mysterious past and significant debt problems, and Ed's childhood. The day-to-day life of the crew is also explored throughout the series.
Spike Spiegel – a former member of the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate. Spike is a master in firearms and hand-to-hand combat, practicing Jeet Kune Do, and is also a skilled pilot. He flies a sleek custom designed Mono Racer, red-painted, atmosphere capable spacecraft called Swordfish II. Despite his outwardly carefree attitude, he is haunted by the memory of his time in the syndicate, particularly of his romantic relationship with a mysterious woman named Julia, and his conflict with arch-rival and former syndicate partner, Vicious.
Jet Black – a former ISSP officer and the owner of the Bebop. Once called "The Black Dog" by his fellow officers for his relentless nature, he left the ISSP after becoming fed up with the corruption and red tape of the organization, and turned to bounty hunting as a way to pursue justice. Despite the ability to have it replaced, he voluntarily bears a cybernetic arm as a reminder of what happened when he rushed into trouble without looking first. Like Spike, he too is haunted by the memory of a woman, Alisa, his longtime girlfriend who left him without giving a reason.
Faye Valentine – a femme fatale with a persistent gambling addiction. She joins the Bebop uninvited, to the consternation of Jet and Spike. Though she abandons the ship several times during the course of the series, her attachment to the crew always brings her back. These feelings are apparently reciprocated, as Jet and Spike always allow her to return despite claiming they're pleased to see her leave. She pilots a generic heavy spacecraft called Red Tail which is pale yellow despite the name and has been heavily modified with armament and tracking sensors. Her gambling, cheating, and competitive skills are unrivaled except by Spike. Much of her past and her real last name are a mystery.
Edward – a young, eccentric computer genius and master hacker. Ed is a girl, though her name and androgynous appearance suggest otherwise. She had followed the travels of the Bebop before encountering the ship, and agrees to help the crew track down a bounty-head in exchange for becoming a member of the crew. While her intelligence far exceeds that of the other members of the crew, she is clearly the child of the group, looking up to Jet as a father figure and Spike and Faye as a big brother and sister. She gave herself the fanciful name "Edward Wang Hwe Pepel Cybulski 4th" after running away to an orphanage, but after her father is found, it is revealed that her real name is Françoise Appledelhi. She goes by the name Radical Edward when hacking, and spends much of her time with Ein.
Ein – a Pembroke Welsh Corgi and former lab animal identified as a "data dog" by the scientists who created him. The reason for this title is never explained, but it is suggested that he possesses enhanced intelligence, which he displays in subtle ways throughout the series, including showing the ability to speak to other animals, and possibly Ed, and perfectly hacking the 'Scratch' website in session #23. Despite his enhanced intelligence and comprehension, the rest of the Bebop crew, with the exception of Ed, often fail to notice these qualities and treat Ein as an average pet.
Vicious – grim enforcer of the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate, a former friend of Spike's and now his sworn nemesis. Vicious sports an emaciated, embittered look, wields a katana for a weapon and is always accompanied by a strange, crow-like bird perched on his shoulder. He lives up to his name both through his violent actions and his two-timing scheming within the syndicate. With only five appearances throughout the entire show, Vicious is arguably the series' main antagonist, or at any rate the only recurring one.
The balances of the atmospheres of the planets and the racial groups of the people in Cowboy Bebop mostly originate from Shinichiro Watanabe's ideas, while collaboration from set designer Isamu Imakake, Shoji Kawamori, and Dai Satou also formed the balances. The staff of Cowboy Bebop established the particular atmospheres early in the production. Initially in the production, the ethnic groups were not solidly established. Watanabe wanted to have many racial groups appear in Cowboy Bebop.
Mars was the planet most often used in storylines in Cowboy Bebop. Satoshi Toba, the cultural and setting producer, explained that other planets "were unexpectedly difficult to use." Toba explained that each planet in Cowboy Bebop has unique features, and in the plotlines the producers had to take into account the characteristics of each planet. Toba explained that it was not possible for the staff of Cowboy Bebop to have a dramatic rooftop scene occur on Venus, so "we ended up normally falling back to Mars."
In the United States, on September 2, 2001, Cowboy Bebop became the first anime title to be shown as part of the U.S. Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming block. It was successful enough to be broadcast repeatedly for four years. It was rerun again in 2007, 2008, the first part of 2009 and 2010. It is currently being shown on Adult Swim Video and on Adult Swim on Saturday nights. In the United Kingdom, Cowboy Bebop was first broadcast in 2002 as one of the highlights of the ill-fated "cartoon network for adults", CNX. From November 6, 2007, it was being repeated on AnimeCentral until the channel's closure in August 2008. In Australia, Cowboy Bebop was first broadcast on pay-TV in 2002 on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. It has recently started broadcasting on the Sci Fi Channel on Foxtel. In Australia, Cowboy Bebop TV series was first broadcast on free-to-air-TV on ABC2 (the national digital public television channel) on January 2, 2007. It has been repeated several times, most recently starting from Monday, December 29, 2008 and finishing on Monday, June 22, 2009. Cowboy Bebop: The Movie also aired again on February 23, 2009, on SBS (a hybrid-funded Australian public broadcasting television network). In Canada, Cowboy Bebop was first broadcast on December 24, 2006, on Razer.
Cowboy Bebop almost did not appear on Japanese broadcast television due to its depictions of gratuitous violence. It was first sent to TV Tokyo, one of the main broadcasters of anime in Japan. The show had an aborted first run from April 3, 1998, until June 19, 1998, on TV Tokyo, broadcasting only episodes 2, 3, 7 to 15, and 18.
Later that year, the series was shown in its entirety from October 23 until April 23, 1999, on the satellite network WOWOW. Because of the TV Tokyo broadcast slot fiasco, the production schedule was disrupted to the extent that the last episode was delivered to WOWOW on the day of its broadcast. Cowboy Bebop won the Seiun Award in 2000.
The full series has also been broadcast across Japan by the anime television network Animax, which has also aired the series via its respective networks across Southeast Asia, South Asia and East Asia. Cowboy Bebop was popular enough that the movie, Cowboy Bebop: Tengoku no Tobira (Knockin' on Heaven's Door), was commissioned and released in Japan in 2001, and later released in the United States as Cowboy Bebop: The Movie in 2003.
A 2004 poll in Newtype USA, the US edition of the Japanese magazine Newtype, asked its readers to rank the "Top 25 Anime Titles of All Time"; Cowboy Bebop placed second on a list that included such anime as Mobile Suit Gundam. In a recent poll by TV Asahi, Cowboy Bebop was 40th for Japan's Favorite Anime of 2006. The American Anime magazine Anime Insider (No. 50, November 2007) ranked the 50 best anime (available in America) by compiling lists of industry regulars and magazine staff, with Cowboy Bebop ranked as #1. In 2009, IGN published a list of the "Top 100 Animated Series", on which Cowboy Bebop placed fourteenth, making it the second highest ranking anime on the list.
In the U.S., Cartoon Network has regularly rotated Cowboy Bebop in and out of its Adult Swim block line-up.
T.H.E.M Anime Reviews said the series has "sophistication and subtlety that is practically one-of-a-kind" and that "puts most anime...and Hollywood, to shame."
On May 16, 2006 IGN published an article by Josh Pool entitled "Top Ten Anime Themes and Soundtracks of All-Time." Cowboy Bebop was listed as number one, "And the winner is Bebop! Yoko Kanno strikes again. From beginning to end this may be one of the best anime ever and certainly is tops when it comes to music."
In March 2009, the print and web editions of The Onion's A.V. Club called Cowboy Bebop "rightly a huge hit", and listed it as a gateway series to understanding the medium of anime as a whole.
Cowboy Bebop has been released in three separate editions in North America.
The first release was sold in 2000 individually, and featured uncut versions of the original 26 episodes. In 2001, these DVDs were collected in the special edition Perfect Sessions which included the first 6 DVDs, the first Cowboy Bebop soundtrack, and a collector's box. At the time of release, the art box from the Perfect Sessions was made available for purchase on The Right Stuff International as a solo item for collectors who already owned the series.
The second release, The Best Sessions, was sold in 2002 and featured what Bandai considered to be the best 6 episodes of the series remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS surround sound.
The third release, Cowboy Bebop Remix, was also distributed on 6 discs and included the original 26 episodes, with sound remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 and video remastered under the supervision of Shinichiro Watanabe. This release also included various extras that were not present in the original release. Cowboy Bebop Remix was itself collected as the Cowboy Bebop Remix DVD Collection in 2008.
One of the most notable elements of Cowboy Bebop is its music. Episodes are called "sessions", each of which follows a different musical theme, and episode titles are borrowed from notable album or song names (i.e. "Sympathy for the Devil", "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Honky Tonk Women", "My Funny Valentine") or make use of a genre name ("Mushroom Samba", "Heavy Metal Queen").
Performed by Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts, a band Kanno assembled to perform music for the series, the jazz and blues themed soundtrack helps to define the show as much as the characters, writing, and animation. Cowboy Bebop was voted by IGN in 2006 as having the greatest soundtrack for an anime.
|1||"The Real Folk Blues"||The Seatbelts feat. Mai Yamane||1-12, 14-25|
|2||"Space Lion"||The Seatbelts||13|
|3||"Blue"||The Seatbelts feat. Mai Yamane||26|
Tim Jensen produced lyrics on some songs:
- "Ask DNA" sung by Raj Ramayya
- "Gotta Knock a Little Harder" sung by Mai Yamane
- "Call Me, Call Me" sung by Steve Conte
- An official side story to Cowboy Bebop was released on the original website called Cowboy Bebop: UT. Taking place long before the series started, it features Ural and Victoria Terpsichore (V.T. from the episode "Heavy Metal Queen") when they were bounty hunters. The story is available at the site mirror hosted by jazzmess.com.
- Bandai released a Cowboy Bebop shoot 'em up video game in Japan for the PlayStation in 1998. A PlayStation 2 video game, Cowboy Bebop: Tsuioku no Serenade, was released in Japan, and the English version had been set for release in North America during the first quarter of 2006. However, in November 2007, GameSpot reported that the North American release had been canceled.
- Two short manga series based on the Cowboy Bebop property were released in the US by Tokyopop.
On July 22, 2008, IF Magazine published an article on its website regarding a rumor of a live-action Cowboy Bebop movie in development by 20th Century Fox. Producer Erwin Stoff said that the film's development was in the early stages, and that they had "just signed it". Keanu Reeves has been confirmed as playing the role of Spike Spiegel. Variety confirmed on January 15, 2009, that the production company Sunrise Animation will be "closely involved with the development of the English language project." The site also confirmed Kenji Uchida, Shinichiro Watanabe, and series writer Keiko Nobumoto as associate producers, series producer Masahiko Minami as a production consultant, and Peter Craig as screenwriter. It was originally slated for release in 2011, but problems with the budget have delayed its production. The script that was submitted was sent back for rewrite to reduce the cost and little has been heard about it until an interview with producer Joshua Long on October 15, 2010.
After the creation of the series, an interviewer asked Watanabe if he had any plans to create more Cowboy Bebop material. Watanabe responded by saying that he does not believe that he "should just keep on making Cowboy Bebop sequels for the sake of it." Watanabe added that ending production and "to quit while we're ahead when people still want more" is more "in keeping with the Bebop spirit". In a more recent interview from 2006 with the Daily Texan Watanabe was asked if there would ever be more Cowboy Bebop. Watanabe's answer was "someday... maybe, someday."
- It seems a manga adaptation was published before the anime premiered. The first Shooting Star volume was released on May 1998 (ISBN 4048529358) by Asuka Comics DX, so it's safe to say that the manga began on November 1997 at the latest . It takes an average of six months to publish enough chapters to fill a tankōbon and the first volume was released on May 1998.
- "Yoko Kanno’s score is equally eclectic, evoking Charlie Parker, Charlie Musselwhite, Johnny Cash and U2." Kyle Nicholas (June 16, 2006). "'The Work Which Becomes a New Genre Itself': Textual Networks in the World of Cowboy Bebop". Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Dresden International Congress Centre, Dresden, Germany. All Academic, Inc. Retrieved 2009-10-08.
- Cowboy Bebop Anime Guide Volume 4. Tokyopop. April 2002. 64. ISBN 1-931514-08-9.
- Cowboy Bebop on Cartoon Network - Cowboy Bebop Spoilers, Episode Guides, Message Board | TVGuide.com
- Cowboy Bebop: Asteroid Blues
- Cowboy Bebop: Asteroid Blues
- Cowboy Bebop: The Real Folk Blues part 2
- Newtype Press Release - Anime News Network
- Japan's Favorite TV Anime. Anime News Network (October 13, 2006). Retrieved on September 10, 2007.
- IGN - 14. Cowboy Bebop
- THEM Anime reviews - Cowboy Bebop
- Robinson, Tasha (2009-03-05). "Gateways To Geekery: Anime". A.V. Club. The Onion. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
- "Cowboy Bebop: Perfect Collection". Anime News Network. 2002-01-12. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
- "Cowboy Bebop box set "box" available separately". Anime News Network. 2001-11-07. Retrieved 2009-04-28.[dead link]
- "Otakon 2002: Bandai Panel". Anime News Network. 2002-07-29. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
- "New Cowboy Bebop Special Edition". Anime News Network. 2005-02-16. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
- IGN: Top Ten Anime Themes and Soundtracks of All-Time, IGN.
- Dai Sato (2001-04-16). "Cowboy Bebop: UT". Bandai. Retrieved February 11, 2007.
- "Cowboy Bebop for the PS2". GameSpot. Retrieved February 28, 2007.
- IF Magazine: Live-Action 'Cowboy Bebop' Movie Is In The Works, IF Magazine.
- FirstShowing.Net, Cowboy Bebop Movie
- "Keanu Reeves Hopes to Star in Live-Action Cowboy Bebop". Anime News Network. 2008-12-17. Retrieved 2009-01-07.
- "Keanu Reeves To Play Spike Spiegel In Live-Action ‘Cowboy Bebop’ Movie".
- Siegel, Tatiana (2009-01-15). "Keanu Reeves set for 'Bebop' Actor to star in live-action adaptation of anime". Variety. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
- "The Director's Voice Shinichiro Watanabe Interview." CowboyBebop.com.
- McNamara, Jonathan (2006-02-14). "Cowboy Bebop director Watanabe talks anime". The Daily Texan. Retrieved February 23, 2009.[dead link]
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- Official website (Japanese) & Official website (English)
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- Cowboy Bebop (TV series) at Allmovie
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- Adult Swim - Official Adult Swim Cowboy Bebop
- Mahalo Guide to Cowboy Bebop
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