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Cowboy Bebop

is a Japanese animated television series. Directed by Shinichirō Watanabe and written by Keiko Nobumoto, Cowboy Bebop was produced by Sunrise. Consisting of 26 episodes, the series follows the adventures of a group of bounty hunters traveling on their spaceship, the Bebop, in the year 2071.

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 to theaters worldwide and followed up with an international DVD release. Two manga adaptations were serialized in Kadokawa Shoten's Asuka Fantasy DX.

Cowboy Bebop has been strongly influenced by American music, especially the jazz movements of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s and the early rock era of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Many of its action sequences, from space battles to hand-to-hand martial arts combat, are set and timed to music. Following the musical theme, episodes are called Sessions, and the episode titles are often borrowed from album or song names ("Sympathy for the Devil", "Honky Tonk Women", or "My Funny Valentine" to name a few), or make use of a genre name ("Mushroom Samba" or "Heavy Metal Queen") indicating a given episode's musical theme.

Plot

In the year 2071 AD, the crew of the spaceship Bebop travel the solar system trying to apprehend bounties. Nation-states have collapsed, and various races and peoples live throughout the solar system. In the slang of the era, "Cowboys" are bounty hunters. Most episodes revolve around a specific bounty, but the show often shares its focus with the pasts of each of the four main characters and of more general past events, which are revealed and brought together as the series progresses.

Background

In the year 2021, ring-shaped hyperspace gateways (also referred to as "Astral Gates") were constructed across the solar system, allowing very fast and easy interplanetary travel between the colonies on other planets, moons, space stations, and asteroids. Unfortunately, the Gate network contained a fatal instability that was revealed to -but subsequently ignored by- the Gate contractors who built the transport system. Because of their negligence, the instability between the Astral Gates grew, and eventually came to a head when the Gate between Earth and the Moon exploded, releasing a powerful burst of energy that cracked the Moon and shattered a massive piece of it. In a catastrophic disaster referred to as The Gate Accident, meteoric debris from the devastated Moon rained down on Earth, destroying much of the besieged planet's surface. The death toll was by far the single most catastrophic in recorded history; around 4.7 billion lives were lost in the initial incident alone. Decades later, debris from the disaster still falls on Earth with the same frequency as rainstorms ("rock showers" are a part of daily weather forecasts), forcing the remaining people on Earth to live mostly underground. Most left Earth after the Gate Incident and spread out across the solar system, living in colonies on Venus, Mars, some habitable asteroids, Saturn's moon Titan, and the Galilean moons of Jupiter, as well as many space stations and a penal colony on Pluto. As shown by posters and ads, the solar community is still very racially and culturally diverse, and English, French, Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish, Russian, Turkish, Korean, Mandarin and Japanese are some of the languages shown to be currently used. The total population of the solar system in 2071, when the series takes place, is only 1.5 billion.

Many of Mars's impact craters were domed and transformed into thriving metropolitan areas for those who could afford to live there. Venus was terraformed, with oxygen provided by a species of oxygen-producing plants floating in the atmosphere. This is not a perfect process, however, since the spores of these plants cause “Venus Sickness” in some people. This condition, left untreated, may lead to blindness or death, and proper treatment is expensive. Many moons of Jupiter, such as Callisto, Io, Europa, and Ganymede, have been terraformed and colonized with varying degrees of success. Callisto is a cold, almost-inhospitable moon (with the entirely male city, Blue Crow). Meanwhile, Ganymede is almost completely covered by water and is known for its declining fishing industry. Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is a barren desert world whose population has been at war since the 2060s. The Titan War II in 2068 was survived by veterans such as the characters Vicious, Gren, Vincent, and Electra. There is a Solar System Penitentiary on Pluto, and certain asteroids (such as Tijuana, the asteroid colony seen in the first episode) have been colonized for their minerals and other natural resources.

After the advent of space travel, the bounty system of the Old West was reinstated by the government to help curb growing crime levels. Bounty hunters are encouraged to capture criminals and return them (alive and relatively unharmed) to the authorities for monetary rewards, in part through a regular television broadcast of "Big Shot", a bounty-hunter news program featuring a heavily-accented Mexican named Punch and a perky blonde named Judy (a reference to the puppets of the same name). In addition, ruthless crime syndicates have large influence in the Solar System, indulging in such fields as bribery, murder, extortion, drug dealing, money laundering and other criminal offenses. The Woolong is the universal currency, and paper money is less common since more people carry convenient money cards and rely on digital transfers.

The technology in the world of Cowboy Bebop has undergone advances to accommodate 21st century life in the Solar System. Medical advancements such as artificial organs, organ regrowth and cryogenic freezing have been mastered and are in full use. Hardware called the “Alpha Catch” provides a mind-machine interface for capturing or projecting video from memories. Virtual reality gaming is standard, and analog hardware such as videocassettes (VHS or beta) can only be found as antiques. Finally, World Wide Web has evolved into a massive Solar System Web (SSW). With these technological advancements also came a new breed of hackers, known as "Net Divers" in slang.

Space travel is made relatively easy, but artificial gravity is still limited to centrifugal force. Some directed energy weapons have also been built, but ballistic and explosive weapons are principally used. In addition to that many gun models present today are widely used in the series.

Characters

The series features a crew of distinct main characters. The first two introduced in the series are Spike Spiegel and Jet Black. The two pilot their former fishing trawler spaceship, the Bebop, and work as bounty hunters. As the series progresses, more characters are introduced and become members of the Bebop crew.

Antagonists include a variety of bounties that the crew hunt to collect funding, including Faye. Although the Bebop crew is typically broke, its members manage to keep themselves afloat financially by capturing the occasional bounty-head.

Spike Spiegel is a former member of the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate who is haunted by the memory of his time in the organization, namely his romantic relationship with a mysterious woman named Julia, and his former syndicate partner, Vicious.

Jet Black, a former Inter-Solar System Police (ISSP) officer and the owner of the Bebop. Once called "The Black Dog" by his fellow officers for his relentless nature, he bears a cybernetic arm as constant reminder of what happened when he rushed into trouble without looking first. Like Spike, he is haunted by the memory of a woman: Alisa, his longtime girlfriend who left him without notice.

Ein, a 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. Despite his enhanced intelligence and comprehension, the rest of the Bebop crew typically fail to notice these qualities.

Faye Valentine, an amnesiac awakened from a 54-year cryogenic slumber after being injured. She is tricked into assuming the debt of the man that woke her, and constantly attempts to gamble on quick cash as a solution to her debt. Her past and her real name are a mystery as the name "Valentine" was given to her by a doctor. Her history is unraveled progressively throughout the series.

Edward, a young, eccentric computer genius and master hacker. Though she is a girl, there is a popular confusion as to Ed's gender due to her name and androgynous appearance. She gave herself the long and fanciful name "Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV" after running away to an orphanage, but after her father is found it is revealed later on that her real name is Françoise Appledelhi. She goes by the name Radical Edward when hacking, and commonly spends the most time with Ein.

Vicious, Spike's former syndicate partner and the only recurring antagonist of the series. He is seen in several episodes grabbing for power within the organization by killing members of the organizations leadership. His relationship with Spike and Julia is displayed through flashbacks that Spike experiences, but never explained in detail.

Julia, a beautiful and mysterious woman from both Spike and Vicious' pasts. Despite being among the main driving points for the entire series, Julia only appears in flashbacks until the final two episodes of the series. She acts as a stark contrast to the world around her—her blond hair, bright red umbrella and automobile stand out in the otherwise drab environments that she inhabits.

Production

Staff

Reception

Japan

Cowboy Bebop almost did not appear on Japanese broadcast television due to its depictions of 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. With 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, who 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.

In a 2006 poll by TV Asahi, Cowboy Bebop was voted 40th for Japan's all-time favorite anime.

International

  • 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 broadcasted repeatedly for four years. It was rerun again in 2007 and 2008.
  • 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. As of November 6, 2007, it is being repeated on AnimeCentral.
  • In Australia, Cowboy Bebop was first broadcast in 2002 on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, and began broadcasting on ABC2, a digital free-to-air network, on January 2, 2007.
  • In France, Cowboy Bebop was broadcast during summer 2000 on Canal+.
  • In Germany, Cowboy Bebop was broadcast during 2003-2004 on MTV.
  • In Poland, Cowboy Bebop was broadcast several times by Hyper and TVP Kultura.
  • In Israel, Cowboy Bebop was broadcast during 2001-2002 on Bip's late-night anime block.
  • In Spain, Cowboy Bebop was broadcast during 1999 in Cartoon Network, in the first Toonami version programming block, Thursday and Saturday's late-nights with Samurai Jack and Outlaw Star, during the early 2000s in K3's 3XL.net and the summer of 2006 on Cuatro's late-night show Cuatrosfera.
  • In Canada, Cowboy Bebop was first broadcast on December 24, 2006, on Razer.
  • In Italy, Cowboy Bebop was broadcast after November 1999 on MTV and again in 2007.
  • In Singapore, Cowboy Bebop was broadcast on Arts Central at the 11 pm time slot, and had several scenes cut for violence and other graphic content.
  • In Portugal, Cowboy Bebop was broadcast on SIC Radical in 2001, 2007 and started once again in May 2008.
  • In The Netherlands, Cowboy Bebop was broadcast by TMF in 2005 Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, starting September.
  • In Latin America, Cowboy Bebop was broadcast in 2001 on Locomotion.
  • In The Philippines, Cowboy Bebop was first broadcast on 2006, on GMA Network.

Legacy

A poll in the Japanese magazine Newtype USA asked its readers to rank the "Top 25 Anime Titles of All Time"; Cowboy Bebop placed second (behind Neon Genesis Evangelion) 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 the U.S., Cartoon Network has regularly rotated Cowboy Bebop in and out of its Adult Swim block line-up several times. The network has also moved Cowboy Bebop out of its anime lineup periodically in order to show other anime features such as Read or Die and Blue Gender.

T.H.E.M Anime Reviews say the series has "sophistication and subtlety that is practically one-of-a-kind" and that "puts most anime...and Hollywood, to shame.

Influence on pop culture

At the conclusion of the final broadcast of Cartoon Network's long-standing Toonami block, the host character TOM (who had been voiced by Steven Blum, the American voice actor who played Spike Spiegel) uttered "Bang!" right before the broadcast signed off for the final time, which was also the final line spoken by Spike in the final episode of Cowboy Bebop.

Soundtrack

One of the most notable elements of Cowboy Bebop is its music. 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 even animation. Many fans find the soundtracks enjoyable to listen to as albums on their own, independent of the series. Cowboy Bebop was voted by IGN in 2006 as having the greatest soundtrack for an anime.

Cowboy Bebop The Series

Cowboy Bebop The Movie

Theme songs

Tim Jensen produced lyrics on some songs:

Other media

  • An official side story to Cowboy Bebop was released on the Original Cowboy Bebop 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 Cowboy Bebop video game was released in Japan, and the English version had been set for release in North America during the first quarter of 2006. However, as of November 2007, GameSpot reports that the North American release has been canceled.
  • Two short manga series based on the Cowboy Bebop property were released in the US by Tokyopop.

Live-Action Movie

On July 22, 2008, IF Magazine published an article on its website regarding a rumor of a live-action Cowboy Bebop movie that is 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 is being rumored to play Spike Spiegel.

Continuation rumors

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.

References

External links

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