Cowboy Bebop (カウボーイビバップ Kaubōi Bibappu?) is a Japanese animated television series produced by Sunrise and created by Shinichiro Watanabe. Set in 2071 and centered on the adventures of a gang of bounty hunters in space, the series delves into the unresolved issues of the protagonists' past, exploring concepts such as existentialism, boredom, loneliness, and the influence of the past.
The anime aired for the first time in Japan on TV Tokyo from April 3, 1998 to June 26, 1998, but because of the controversial content of the series only 12 out of the 26 episodes produced, plus a special, aired. The totality of the episodes later aired on the satellite channel WOWOW from October 24, 1998 to April 24, 1999. Other media based on the anime includes two manga, published in the magazine Asuka Fantasy DX of Kadokawa Shoten, a film titled Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' on Heaven's Door, and two video games distributed by Bandai for PlayStation and PlayStation 2.
Cowboy Bebop has gained widespread critical and commercial success both in Japan and internationally. The series has won numerous awards in the field of animation and science fiction and has been recognized for its style, characters, plot, dubbing, animation, and soundtrack. Over the years the series has unfolded as a masterpiece of Japanese animation, and many critics consider it one of the best anime of all time.
In 2071, the accidental explosion of an experimental gate device that allows for hyperspace travel seriously damages the Moon, causing a drift of a swarm of meteorites and asteroids to bombard the surface of the planet Earth, wiping out much of the population. The survivors then abandoned the now inhospitable planet to colonize new habitable systems: Mars, Venus, the asteroid belt, and Jupiter's satellites. By 2071, the technology of the Astral Gates had stabilized and developed thriving civilizations on many of these planets, most notably Mars, the new hub of human civilization.
Politics, society, and economics changed with the times. New generations grew up with no memories of the Earth, and ethnic groups and nations gave way to planetary allegiances. As these new communities flourished, the economy boomed (similar to the economic productivity nations encountered after World War II). However, this also widened the disparity between the rich and poor, and interplanetary crime syndicates began to exert influence over the planetary governments and the Inter-Solar System Police (ISSP). In order to control the criminal activity, a "bounty-reward scheme" was introduced similar to that of the Old West. These new bounty hunters of the solar system were therefore often called "cowboys" and had a disreputable or envious reputation depending on who one talked to.
Technology of the era was a mix of old and new technologies. Individuals could own cars or space ships and freely travel the Solar System if they had the woolongs (their currency).
The crew of the Bebop
Spike Spiegel, a former affiliate of the Red Dragon, and Jet Black, a former ISSP investigator, are two bounty hunters who move from planet to planet aboard their spaceship, the Bebop. They are eventually (and hesitantly) joined by three new companions: the hyper-intelligent Pembroke Welsh Corgi Ein, the provocative scammer wanted by creditors Faye Valentine, and the eccentric and brilliant pre-adolescent hacker Radical Edward.
While the crew pursue bounties, usually unsuccessful, inconclusive, or low profit, they also each face unresolved issues from their pasts. Traumatic memories, lost memories, unexplained abandonment, and troubled love affairs come to a head for each of them, treated with a strong philosophical, mature, psychological, and existential note reflecting both the best and worst moments of four lost people. Behind many of the bounties, the crew realized there was more than met the eye. They met other people with their own issues, whether they were of their own ambitions, another's deception, or allegiance to a syndicate.
The Cowboy Bebop Manifesto
Background text is visible in the opening titles of the series, providing a manifesto about the intent of the series. The full text is presented here with the original grammatical errors left intact:
Once upon a time, in New York City in 1941....
At this club open to all comers to play, Night after night
at a club named "MINSTONS PLAY HOUSE" in Harlem,
they play jazz session competing with others.
Young jazz men with new sense are gathering.
At last, they created a new genre itself.
They are sick and tired of conventional fixed style jazz.
They eager to play jazz more freely as they wish. then...in 2071 in the universe.
The bounty hunters, who are gathering in spaceship "BEBOP",
will play freely without fear of risky things.
They must create new dreams and films by breaking traditional styles.
The work, which becomes a new genre itself, will be called
EDWARD WANG HWE PEPEL CYBULSKI 4th
- Main article: Character List
The series features a cast of main characters that emulate both a dysfunctional family and a competitive workplace. The first Session opens with just Spike Spiegel and Jet Black as a bounty hunter team. In later Sessions they reluctantly allow Ein, Edward and Faye to live on their converted fishing vessel, the Bebop.
Spike Spiegel is an ex-Syndicate member and a bounty hunter aboard the Bebop. He is proficient in martial arts, zipcraft flying, and gunfights, but he also has comical and aloof sides of his personality. If there are three things he can't stand, its kids, pets, and women with attitudes, and he's got all three on the Bebop.
Jet Black is an ex-ISSP Special Forces Officer and the Captain of the Bebop. He is a bounty hunter and is called the "Black Dog" because once he sinks his teeth in he never lets go. Jet enjoys American Jazz music, taking care of Bonsai trees, and has a knack for investigative work.
Faye Valentine is a coma survivor of over 50 years and she is trying to regain her memory. She got into a lot of debt upon entering this futuristic world, and she had to resort to a life of crime and hustling to survive..that is, until she decided to live on the Bebop and become a bounty hunter.
Edward is a net diver from Earth. Edward is a child prodigy for hacking and has an aptitude for anything mechanical, even though Edward has some eccentricities in other parts of her personality. For instance, Edward speaks in third person and sometimes behaves like a wild animal. That's just Edward being Edward.
Ein is a data dog, which is to say a very intelligent dog. He was enhanced in an illegal research facility but now spends most of his days relaxing on the Bebop. While not being an official bounty hunter, he does occasionally assist the crew in their cases.
Vicious is Spike's rival. He is a member of the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate and prefers to use a sword instead of a gun. He leads a coup against his Capo, Mao Yenrai, in order to take his place as the new crime boss. Vicious is just like his name, darker and more sadistic than Spike.
Julia is Spike's former love interest. She was involved in the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate and was in a love triangle with Spike and Vicious.
According to character designer Toshihiro Kawamoto, of the four protagonists Ed is the only one based on a real person, the series's music composer Yoko Kanno. He has also said he wanted their designs to be distinct and different from each other, while the creator has repeatedly said that he considers them a part or extension of his personality such as Spike: "I don't smoke, drink, and fight, but I want to, so Spike does."
- Main article: Cowboy Bebop Sessions
The TV series, or sessions, aired in 1998-1999.
A live action TV show was announced in June 2017. It is being produced by tomorrow studios, Midnight radio, ITV studios, and Sunrise (Who created the original series). It has no current release date or window. It is being produced by Marty Adelstein, Becky Clements, and Matthew Weinberg. Chris Yost (Thor: The Dark World, Thor: Ragnarok) will pen the script.
20th Century Fox had officially announced plans to adapt Cowboy Bebop into a live action feature film. This project was still in its very early stages when it was canned with a tentative release of 2011. Many of the original creators of the series were being brought in as Associate Producers or Consultants. Peter Craig was writing a screenplay and Keanu Reeves was billed to star as Spike Spiegel. The project was later canceled because of costs, which could have exceeded over 500 million dollars. In June 2017, it was announced that tomorrow studios and midnight radio would be making a live action TV show with no current release date or window.
There are 2 Cowboy Bebop games & 1 Crossover game.
- Cowboy Bebop (PlayStation game) for Sony PlayStation.
- Cowboy Bebop: Tsuioku no Serenade for Sony PlayStation 2.
- Super Robot Wars T for Sony PlayStation 4 & Nintendo Switch.
- Main article: Manga
The two Cowboy Bebop manga series were adapted from the television show using the original cast of Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Faye Valentine, Edward and Ein, in original adventures.
The mangas were released by the Japanese publisher Kadokawa Shoten within their magazine Asuka Fantasy DX. The magazine was targeted to Shōjo, females ages 10 to 18, and fans of Science Fiction.
The first volume of Cowboy Bebop: Shooting Star was released May 1998, just one month after Cowboy Bebop originally aired on TV Tokyo on April 3, 1998.
Cowboy Bebop was produced by the studio Sunrise under the famous pseudonym Hajime Yatate. The director of the creative team was Shinichirō Watanabe, his first job as director after assistant directing Macross Plus and Vision of Escaflowne. Other members were the writer Keiko Nobumoto, character designer Toshihiro Kawamoto, mecha designer Kimitoshi Yamane, and composer Yoko Kanno. Many of the staff members had worked together previously. Nobumoto scripted Macross Plus, while Kawamoto had designed the characters from Gundam, and Kanno had composed Macross Plus and Vision of Escaflowne. Yamane, however, had never worked with Watanabe, although he had previously been involved in the development of Bubblegum Crisis and Vision of Escaflowne.
Initially, Cowboy Bebop was sponsored by Bandai's division of toys, hoping to sell models of spaceships from the show. According to Watanabe, the only directive he received was "as long as there will be spaceships (in the series) you can do what you want." However, after the completion of the test material, it became clear that the director's vision differed from that of the company, which shelved the project considering it not suitable for creating merchandise toys. Successively, Bandai Visual recovered the show, giving Watanabe full creative freedom.
The director's intention was to create a series that was not only addressed to a traditional audience of teenagers, but also to adults. In fact, despite vulgarity and profanity being absent, a few episodes deal with sensitive issues such as drugs, terrorism, or organized crime. Cowboy Bebop was later described by Watanabe himself as "80% serious and 20% funny." Speaking of the development of the series, Watanabe began to realize the characters, explaining, "The first image that (occurred) to me was Spike, from there I tried to build a story around him, trying to make him cool." The numerous action scenes received special attention and drew benefit from the fact that among the filmmakers there were people already experienced in live action film. The finale was planned by Watanabe from the start, but it was opposed by the other staff,only to keep the original idea the director had in mind.
The atmosphere of the planets and ethnic groups was conceived by Watanabe in collaboration with Isamu Imakake, Shōji Kawamori, and Dai Sato.
"I wanted to create a futuristic world, but a world that people actually live in. Only movie characters could live in the worlds in the worlds they depict in Star Wars and other science fiction films. I wanted to make a world where people live and breathe. Even if it's just a shot of an empty sidewalk, there should be cigarette butts or some other visible traces that people actually walk through that setting." (Shinichiro Watanabe)
The entertainment team decided the appearance of planets in the early stages of production and only subsequently focused on the people who would live in them. During the events narrated In Cowboy Bebop, Mars is the planet most often used because, as explained by the head of sets Satoshi Toba, others were "unexpectedly difficult to use." In fact, each planet had some unique features that the writers had to consider in the course of history. Toba added that although the dramatic final scene should've happened on Venus, Mars was instead used at that time.
Watanabe has said that, since the early stages of production of Cowboy Bebop, he tried to motivate the creative team saying that they were working on something that would be remembered for the next ten, twenty, or perhaps even thirty years. Although many were skeptical then, the director said he was pleased to gave demonstrated the truth of his prediction and joked that if Bandai Visual had not intervened then, "now I'd be working behind the counter of a supermarket."
- Main article: Music
The soundtrack of Cowboy Bebop was composed by Yoko Kanno, who formed the Jazz/Blues band The Seatbelts specifically for the series, participating as a keyboard player. The Jazz, Country, and Blues music has been universally appreciated by critics and has contributed decisively to the climate and pace of the series. From the first broadcast of the series, Kanno and the Seatbelts have released seven albums, two extended plays, and two collections of the soundtrack of the series, all under the label Victor Entertainment.
Watanabe has said of Kanno, "It was inspired by herself and her her imagination, she came to me an said 'these are the songs we need in Cowboy Bebop' and has composed something completely on her own." Watanabe has also said, "Some of the songs in the second half of the series we had not even asked for, she just made them and we took them'" a behavior normally considered "unforgivable and unacceptable", but Watanabe believed this contributed to the success of Cowboy Bebop. The compositions of Kanno also inspired the director to create new scenes, not originally foreseen in the script, which in turn inspired the composer to create more music. Watanabe then described his collaboration with Yoko Kanno as "a game of catch between the two us in developing the music and creating the series," and he later that, although his work is often influenced by music, it is not the cor but rather part of a "fusion, action, and animation."
Genre and Style
The Japanese and American television broadcasts of Cowboy Bebop, before and after commercials, featured the words, "Cowboy Bebop is a new genre unto himself," written by Watanabe as a promotional presentation for the project and then added by a designer in the final cut without asking for the approval of the director. Although Watanabe has said of this phrase as an exaggeration, the genre of the show is a hybrid that goes from comedy to noir to action to thriller. The anime draws heavily from Western culture, particularly western, hardboiled, pulp fiction, and blaxploitation. But there are also strong influences of Hong Kong heroic bloodshed films such as The Killer and Hard Boiled. Obviously the influence of science fiction plays an important role in Cowboy Bebop, as evident of the setting and futuristic technology available, although the style is often considered retro. The western genre still holds the greatest influence within the show, generating a perpetual feeling of lawlessness noticeable for both those that are wanted and the members of the crew of the Bebop. The examples of the influence are manifold. The first example is Big Shot, the inconclusive TV show for bounty hunters watched by the protagonists almost every episode. Then there are the constant presences of saloons, desert landscapes, firearm battles, and Mexican standoffs.
The dark tones eventually permeate Cowboy Bebop in many of the characters. Spike considers himself dead already, having lost the woman he loved while he was in the syndicate and does not have expectations for the future. As a result, he would say he is "living in a dream I can't wake up from." Jet Black is a disillusioned ex-detective who fought against corruption in his department only to find that it prefers to act outside the law. He desperately tries to believe the world he lived actually existed, but finds it increasingly hard to do so. The morals of the characters were most ambiguous in Faye Valentine, who would use the mantra "leave before being abandoned" to describe her self-reliance. She was, however, an insecure and emotionally vulnerable person despite her confident exterior. Edward is the counterbalance to these themes, a light-hearted but oblivious girl who befriends the crew despite her abandonment by her forgetful father.
In the landscape, the influence of film noir can be seen mainly with the rainy and polluted city in Session 10: Ganymede Elegy and Session 20: Pierrot Le Fou. The series often plays around the word "blue" both the musical genre and the color as a symbol of sadness.
The main story and cinematic styles are inspired from The Crow, Reservoir Dogs, Dirty Harry, Star Trek, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, A Better Tomorrow 2, and Enter the Dragon.
- Main article: Influence
Cowboy Bebop has had influence on other media including Gemini Rue. Artistic direction of dark and noir elements and its syndicates were present as well as Cowboy Bebop character appearances.
- Sunrise (October 23, 1998 - April 23, 1999). Cowboy Bebop. episode 1 - 26. WOWOW.
- Cowboy Bebop Complete Anime Guide'. 1. Tokyopop. February 26, 2002. ISBN 1-931514-84-4.
- Cowboy Bebop Complete Anime Guide'. 2. Tokyopop. March 26, 2002. ISBN 1-931514-85-2.
- Cowboy Bebop Complete Anime Guide'. 3. Tokyopop. April 23, 2002. ISBN 1-931514-86-0.
- Cowboy Bebop Complete Anime Guide'. 4. Tokyopop. May 21, 2002. ISBN 1-931514-08-9.
- Cowboy Bebop Complete Anime Guide'. 5. Tokyopop. June 18, 2002. ISBN 1-59182-022-7.
- Cowboy Bebop Complete Anime Guide'. 6. Tokyopop. July 23, 2002. ISBN 1-59182-023-5.