Cowboy Bebop Anime TV Show: A Primer
Cowboy Bebop Live action was just released on Netflix, but this is about the animated show from the ’90s. Another article reviewing the show and comparing it to the animated series is forthcoming.
Cowboy Bebop Background
Created in 1998 by Shinichirō Watanabe, Cowboy Bebop is a character-driven story that blends together space adventure, western, and film noir while being scored by blues and jazz. At the time of its release, Bebop was extremely innovative. Jazz was never before used for the soundscape of space. The themes of the show were often thought of as being too violent and mature, so only 12 of the original 28 episodes were allowed to air at the time of their creation. All of this from a show that was originally commissioned by BANDAI to sell spaceship toys thanks to the popularity of Star Wars.
Cowboy Bebop follows Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Faye Valentine, Ed, and Ein the Corgi as they travel across the solar system looking for bounties in their ship the Bebop. They often find themselves at the crossroads of doing the right thing and getting paid. These characters seem like an unlikely fellowship, but they all have something in common: they are all running away from their pasts. This series explores each of their unique fears and struggles in the 28 episode run, and in many ways those struggles are the central themes.
Spike is a former gang member from a group known as the Red Dragon Syndicate. They buy politicians, commit violence, traffic illegal goods, and other general crimes. Spike faked his death to get out of the Syndicate to be with a woman named Julia. She did not join him once he left the life. Spike is a smart-mouthed, ace pilot who does most of the groundwork for the crew of the Bebop.
Spike is a character running from his past and all the pain he left behind. Unfortunately for him, what he loves most is in the past too. He grapples with feelings of loneliness even when surrounded by others.
Jet Black is often seen as the parental figure onboard the Bebop. He cooks, he cleans, he flies the ship, and he was a cop in another life. Jet Black has perhaps the strongest moral compass on the show with the strictest views of right and wrong. However, he is also the most forgiving of the other characters’ flaws.
Whenever the others make a mistake, Jet is always there to pick up the pieces. His most defining feature is his metal arm. He lost his organic arm while working as a cop. He struggles because of his protective nature. He feels like he is from an older time when it was easier to tell right from wrong and always strives to protect everyone from the bad guys. Jet is a man who sees time passing him by and is powerless to do anything about it.
Faye Valentine is a lying compulsive gambler with no past. She was cryogenically frozen and only woken up 3 years before the start of the show. She has no memory of who she was before she was frozen and is trying to find her place in the galaxy. She is a woman out of time. She doesn’t know what she wants and struggles to figure out who she is.
She has no family and no friends and has been abandoned by everyone she trusted since she woke up. Faye is the saddest character in the crew of the Bebop. While all the other characters have lived and left something behind, she can’t even remember what she has left behind, her struggle is learning to see the potential in the future instead of wishing she had a past.
Ed's full name is Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV. They are an interesting case because they are one, a canonically nonbinary character and two, running from loneliness. Ed is the only character in the crew that feels that they are not alone while surrounded by all the other lonely characters. They just want to be part of a family. While completely insane, they are also highly intelligent, able to hack into secure systems, and known in the show as their hacker persona Radical Edward.
The show benefits a lot from the soundtrack, and the music is integral to the feel of the show. Watanabe is known for using music to influence and inspire his shows. In Cowboy Bebop, the music featured is jazz and blues. Both genres are known for being a mishmash of influences and being somewhat sad and created by people at the bottom of the economic ladder.
From Cult Hit to the Main Stream Success?
The animated show is definitely a vibe. It can be silly and dramatic, going from film noir storytelling to western shootouts all while showing viewers the struggles of trying to get by while living at the bottom of society. In many ways, this 28 episode animated show was ahead of its time. This show made sure to include characters from different ethnicities as well as different sexual orientations. While not without its issues, this series was a strong step forward in diversity and inclusiveness in anime.
The new live-action show looks to keep the same or similar music. They also seem to make the show more accessible due to changing Faye’s highly sexualized image to something more grounded in reality. It is exciting to see the growth of a title and the expansion to mainstream audiences.
3, 2, 1, Let’s Go.
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Christopher Thomas is a contributing writer here at thepyrrhic.com. He enjoys movies, television, and other forms of nerdery.