What is Cowboy Bebop?

A.E. Jaquith

Cowboy Bebop is a Japanese Anime television series that premiered in 1997, and was later broadcast in many other countries. The show takes place in the year 2071, where national governments have collapsed and mankind has colonized most of the solar system. Cowboy Bebop follows the exploits of a group of bounty hunters, often referred to as cowboys, as they chase bounties through space in their star ship, the Bebop.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

The main protagonist of Cowboy Bebop, Spike Spiegel, is a former member of a crime syndicate who is trying to escape his past. At the beginning of the series, Spike's only bounty hunter companion is Jet Black, a former police officer with a cybernetic arm. Later in the series the two are joined by Fey Valentine, a beautiful woman with no memory of her past, and Ed, a female (yet slightly androgynous) child. Ein, a Welsh Corgi, also joins the group.

There are several themes that are common throughout the show's 26 episodes. The crew is usually very poor, and just barely manages to buy enough food to live. Each member of the Bebop's crew has a mysterious past, and throughout the series their pasts are slowly revealed. In some way, each main character in Cowboy Bebop is trying to escape from their past, and eventually has to deal with it.

The world of Cowboy Bebop is highly advanced. In order to break away from a devastated Earth, humanity has terraformed numerous planets, moons and asteroids. Giant hyperspace gateways have been created to allow for faster travel throughout the solar system. Cybernetic limbs and organs can replace their natural counterparts, and the World Wide Web has been replaced with the Solar System Web. Technology such as videocassettes and compact discs are now collectors items.

Cowboy Bebop is widely recognized for its soundtrack, which borrows heavily from American jazz and rock and roll culture. Each episode is referred to as a session, and throughout nearly every session, jazz music is played. Action sequences usually provide an upbeat, energetic song, whereas dramatic and emotional scenes offer smooth jazz.

Yoko Kanno performed most of the music for Cowboy Bebop with her band, The Seat Belts. The show was recognized enough for its music, and Kanno has since released several albums of Cowboy Bebop music. The program itself received numerous awards for best soundtrack in an Anime series.

A Cowboy Bebop movie titled Knockin' on Heaven's Door was released by Sony Pictures after the show's original run. It was met with international success, and was shown in movie theaters across the globe. Knockin' on Heaven's Door takes place during the time line of the original series.

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