Cowboy Bebop

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Cowboy Bebop (Japanese: カウボーイビバップ, but most often written in English, even in Japan) is a 26 episode Japanese anime TV series by Shinichiro Watanabe that initially ran starting in 1998.

The show was quite popular in Japan and has also been widely popular in the United States, often credited with significantly broadening the popularity of anime with U.S. viewers. Bandai licensed Cowboy Bebop in the United States. Two Cowboy Bebop manga series were created based on the TV show, which were not made by Watanabe but by Yutaka Nanten; TokyoPop publishes both the first and second series in English. Both were published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten.

It has been suggested that the success of Cowboy Bebop is due in large part to the layered nature of its storyline. While the general plot concerns a team of bounty hunters set in a world of the future, the story revolves foremost around the characters and their interactions. Each character has a distinct back story that shapes his outlook, personality, interpersonal interactions, ambitions, desires and motivations.

The multiple layers and deep characters combined with a very free-flowing feel to the story itself (heavily influenced by American culture, especially the jazz movements of the 1940s, hence "bebop") and a large number of action sequences (from space battles to hand-to-hand combat) that were considered well-choreographed make Cowboy Bebop widely-respected and well-liked by many who have seen it.

Contents

History of Bebop

Cowboy Bebop almost did not make it on Japanese television. It had an aborted first run on TV Tokyo, broadcasting only episodes 2, 3, 7–15 and 18 starting on April 3, 1998 and running until June 19. Later that year, the series was shown in its entirety on the satellite network WOWOW, starting on October 23 and running until April 23, 1999. Cowboy Bebop was popular enough that a 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 2001, Cowboy Bebop became the first anime title to be shown as part of the U.S. Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block of programming. At the time, it was quite the risk as a more "adult" anime had never been broadcast in such a mainstream venue before. However, it turned out to be a rousing success, continuing to broadcast off and on, even today, and it prompted Cartoon Network to add more anime to its Adult Swim lineup, including InuYasha, Lupin the Third and Wolf's Rain.

In the U.K. Cowboy Bebop was shown in 2003 as one of the heights of the schedule of the ill-fated 'cartoon network for adults' CNX.

Bandai released a Cowboy Bebop shooting video game on rails for the Sony PlayStation console in 1998 in Japan. A second Cowboy Bebop video game is planned for worldwide release in October 2005 for the Sony PlayStation 2 console. This action game is also being released by Bandai. [1] (http://www.bandaigames.com/games/cb.html)

Plot

In the year 2071, the crew of the ship, Bebop, travel around the Solar System, trying to catch "bounty-heads." Each of the four (or five) bounty hunters contribute their own unique abilities to catching bounties. The story follows less of their actual travails in bounty hunting, but more of exploring the pasts of each character, slowly unravelling each of their stories as the series progresses.

List of Bountyheads in Cowboy Bebop

Background

In the year 2021, a series of ring-shaped hyperspace gateways were constructed across the Solar System, allowing for easy interplanetary travel. Unfortunately, the gate network contained a fatal instability - one that was ignored by the contractors who built the system. The instability grew until a gateway near Earth exploded, releasing a powerful burst of energy that cracked the Moon. Meteoric debris from the Moon destroyed much of Earth's surface, driving some people underground. Most humans, however, left Earth after the "Gate Incident" and spread out across the solar system, living in colonies on Venus, Mars, some habitable asteroids, and the Galilean moons of Jupiter. Some of the colonies are more hospitable than others - rough Callisto has an all-male population, Io is toxic and volcanic, and Saturn's largest moon Titan is a barren desert world which had been at war since the 2060s. There is even a Solar System Penitentiary on Pluto.

At some point between the present day and the events of Cowboy Bebop, the Woolong was established as a universal currency.

The crew of the Bebop. From left to right: Spike, Jet, Ed, Faye, and Ein (the dog)
Enlarge
The crew of the Bebop. From left to right: Spike, Jet, Ed, Faye, and Ein (the dog)

Characters

Spike Spiegel 
A 27-year-old bounty hunter who was born on Mars, Spike was an up-and-coming player in the Red Dragon crime syndicate. Initially teamed with his ex-friend, Vicious, a series of events occurred (that are only alluded to in the series) that caused Spike to leave the syndicate, appearing to die in a blaze of glory. Spike lost one of his eyes in this fight, had it replaced with a "fake" (believed to be a cybernetic implant), and has extremely sharp sight as a result. His philosophy is based on the ancient samurai ideal of immediacy, considering oneself as dead, and the idea of death being an awakening from a dream; these are all elements of Bushido illustrated in the Hagakure. Given Spike's previous association with the syndicate, he is well versed in weaponry (usually his personal Jericho 941 and grenades) and hand-to-hand combat skills. He specializes in Jeet Kune Do, the fighting style created by Bruce Lee. Otherwise, Spike is very laid-back and lackadaisical, often a source of consternation for his crewmates. Although fans often claim him to be of Jewish descent (due to his last name and his "fuzzy" hairstyle), director Shinichiro Watanabe stated at Otakon 1999 that he and the staffers initially chose the name Spiegel because they simply liked the sound of it. Most of the other Bebop crew think he's a "lunkhead."
Jet Black 
Jet, a 36-year-old former cop, acts as Spike's foil during the series. Where Spike acts lazy and uninterested, Jet is hard-working and a jack-of-all-trades. Jet was an investigator in the the Inter Solar System Police (ISSP) for many years until he lost his arm in a sting that went awry. His arm was replaced with a cybernetic limb but his loss of limb coupled with the general corruption of the police force, Jet quit the ISSP in disgust and became a freelance bounty hunter. Jet also considers himself something of a renaissance man: He cultivates bonsai trees, cooks, and enjoys jazz/blues music, especially Charlie Parker. As a character, Jet is a quintessential oyaji.
Faye Valentine 
Faye is vice personified. 23 years old (though she was actually born 77 years ago and cryogenically frozen), she is corrupt, mercenary, and totally self-centered. Being a bounty hunter is conducive to her independent-minded lifestyle. Kleptomaniacal and addicted to gambling, Faye uses her skimpy attire and significant sex appeal to get whatever she wants. However, her vain and merciless exterior hides a frightened girl. Stored in cryogenic sleep for 54 years due to a space travel accident, Faye awoke with total amnesia, in a mysterious world that she didn't understand, surrounded by people who were all-too-willing to take advantage of her navet, which hardened her personality. The surname "Valentine" was merely a name given to her by the doctor that thawed her; the circumstances of her accident, her previous life, even her real name all remain a mystery, and are only gradually revealed as the series progresses. It was hinted that she came from Singapore on Earth. She is also known as "Poker Alice."
Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV
The assumed name of an elite netdiver from Earth, Ed is a very strange young girl (assumed to be about 13). Ed could be considered a "free spirit." She is a font of silly exclamations and childish rhymes, easily distracted, and the show's primary source of physical humor. Over the course of the show she rarely walks anywhere, preferring to run, crawl, flip, roll, or even just saunter. Not much is known about her origins, only that she spent some of her earlier childhood in an orphanage. (A man named Applederry Siniz Hesap Lutfen eventually claims to be her father and called her Franoise.) Ed's primary use to the Bebop crew is as a hacker; she is a genius behind a computer, possibly the best ever. Ed has a good rapport with Jet, who acts as a surrogate father, and Faye, who acts as something of a big sister (much to Faye's chagrin). Ed also seems to be the only person who can understand Ein the dog.
Ein 
Ein is a Pembroke Welsh Corgi brought aboard the Bebop by Spike after a failed attempt to capture a bounty. Ein is what is known as a "data dog": while the televised series never explains what this means, the manga shows Ed accessing data stored in Ein's brain via a virtual reality-type interface where she has a conversation with a human proprietor. It is obvious that Ein is abnormally intelligent, as he is able to answer the telephone, use the Internet, and generally do a number of other things that an average canine shouldn't be able to do. Ein initially takes a shine to Jet, but when Ed joins the crew, he comes around to her as well. Frequently the two trade roles, with Ein expressing very human sentiments via facial expression and Ed regressing to a feral state.
Vicious 
Vicious is a man out of Spike's past. The two were partners together in the Red Dragons crime syndicate, but they began to fall out as a result of loving the same woman, Julia. Vicious lives up to his name: he is ruthless, blood thirsty, cunning and ambitious, willing to do anything in order to secure his position of power. Vicious' weapon of choice is not a firearm, but a katana that he wields skillfully. The blood feud between Spike and Vicious is an ongoing storyline throughout Cowboy Bebop. Vicious believes that he is the only one that can kill/"awaken" Spike.
Julia 
Julia is a beautiful and mysterious woman out of both Spike and Vicious' past. A love triangle between the three led to the falling out between Spike and Vicious, eventually causing Spike to leave the syndicate. Julia herself only appears in flashback until the final two episodes of the series. Julia acts as a stark contrast to the world around her — her blonde hair and her bright red umbrella and automobile standing out in the otherwise drab environs that she inhabits. She really does love Spike, but doesn't want to spend her life on the run from Vicious and his men.

Sessions (episodes)

The Cowboy Bebop series consists of 26 episodes, referred to as "sessions". Also included in the continuity is the Cowboy Bebop movie, placed between sessions 22 and 23. Many episodes are named explicitly for famous songs - "Honky Tonk Woman," "Jamming with Edward," "Sympathy for the Devil," "Bohemian Rhapsody," "My Funny Valentine," "Speak Like a Child," "Wild Horses," "Hard Luck Woman," "The Real Folk Blues," etc. Titles which do not name a specific song generally combine some plot element of the episode with a broader musical style - "Mushroom Samba," "Cowboy Funk," and "Waltz for Venus," for example.

The Cowboy Bebop movie carries the subtitle "Knockin' On Heaven's Door". However, due to a copyright dispute over the title, Columbia Tristar released it in America with the shortened title Cowboy Bebop: The Movie.

List of Cowboy Bebop Sessions

Soundtrack

One of the most remarkable elements of Cowboy Bebop is its music, mostly performed by Yoko Kanno and her band, The Seatbelts. The many blues and jazz style tunes that are incorporated in the series have an incredible strength that often completely change the mood of the scene or define it completely. Along with the remix album, Music For Freelance, there are 3 original soundtracks of Cowboy Bebop, and a mini-album. There is also a CD Box Set, which includes a variety of tracks from the first original soundtracks, as well as rare/new versions of certain songs, and dialogue tracks from the Japanese version of the show.

Soundtrack list

Staff

Cowboy Bebop was created by a top-notch staff. The series was created by "Hajime Yatate," a collective pseudonym for members of the staff at Sunrise, the animation studio that also developed Mobile Suit Gundam, Big O, Outlaw Star and Vision of Escaflowne. Cowboy Bebop was directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, who also directed Macross Plus, Samurai Champloo and the two short films A Detective Story and Kid's Story from the Animatrix. The spectacular music of Cowboy Bebop was all composed by the incomparable Yoko Kanno, who also composed music for Earth Girl Arjuna, Macross Plus, Vision of Escaflowne, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Wolf's Rain.

The Cowboy Bebop movie was animated by Studio BONES, a new studio created by many former employees of Sunrise, and was one of their first projects. They have since developed other popular series like RahXephon, Wolf's Rain and Fullmetal Alchemist.

Influences

Cowboy Bebop's influences are many and varied. Cowboy Bebop is heavily influenced by American culture: from cinema, including mobster movies and westerns to the free-form jazz music out of the Harlem nightclubs of the 1940s. It is referred to as Space Jazz by its creators, as opposed to Space Opera, although it has strong similarities to the character-centered action-packed genre. It is likely that it is referred to as Space Jazz due to its lighter side, as it is more humorous than the standard Space Opera, often poking fun at the genre.

Cowboy Bebop is also influenced by Kung Fu movies of the 1960s and 1970s. Spike's innate fighting abilities and martial arts style (Jeet Kune Do) were borrowed from skilled fighter Bruce Lee, whose influence is seen many times in the series. The name of the bounty in the second episode is Abdul Hakim, borrowed from the Bruce Lee film Game of Death that co-starred Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who played a character called "Hakim." On two other separate occasions, Spike also makes mention of both Enter the Dragon and Way of the Dragon, two more Bruce Lee films.

Spike's lanky and laid-back character was also heavily influenced by the charismatic thief Lupin the 3rd, from the anime and manga Lupin III, and they share many of the same personality characteristics. Likewise, Jet was influenced by Lupin's partner Jigen.

Yet another major influence on the character of Spike Spiegel is the Sergio Leone film character known as The Man With No Name, played by Clint Eastwood in the Spaghetti Western films "A Fistful of Dollars", "For a Few Dollars More" and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly", which are in turn based heavily on the samurai films of Akira Kurosawa. He is bounty hunter who typifies toughness and self-reliance, who appears morally ambiguous at times yet lives by his own, iconoclastic code of honor, who wanders from place to place looking for work, and who is virtually unbeatable with his gun or his fists. Spike's frequently slack and off-center posture seems to be a major visual cue taken from Eastwood's character. Western aesthetics and influences flood the series, culminating with one of the funniest antagonists in anime, Cowboy Andy, the old-fashioned pure white cowboy with trusty steed who contrasts with Spike's grim Leone antihero version of the archetype.

According to mechanical designer Kimitoshi Yamane's notes, Spike's Swordfish II MONO racer was inspired by Britain's Fairey Swordfish torpedo-bomber of World War II. The Cowboy Bebop movie includes a cameo of the Fairey Swordfish along with a dialogue reference to the sinking of the Bismarck battleship. (Fairey Swordfish bombers were crucial to the sinking of the Bismarck.) There is also fan speculation that the Swordfish II is based on the Swordfish, an experimental airplane in Edgar P. Jacobs' comic series Blake and Mortimer, although the creators have not stated this.

The episode Pierrot Le Fou was influenced by Alan Moore's "V for Vendetta" and was a tribute to the comic story. The villain of the episode is a creation of a government laboratory project that involves physical and mental torture and which ultimately goes horrifically wrong, producing an uncontrollable and unmatchable killer who slays the staff working on him and escapes. Although this character shares physical appearance (itself based on British terrorist/revolutionary Guy Fawkes) and dominating combat competence with the protagonist of "V for Vendetta", he has neither his mental prowess nor his political motivation as a basis for his homicidal activities. The episode's name is also a reference to the Jean-Luc Godard crime film Pierrot le fou (1965), in which the assassin Tompu is brainwashed.

The setting is rooted in cyberpunk; specifically the blending of science fiction and noir and a healthy flavoring of the old West.

Many of the stories of Cowboy Bebop and even cinematic stylings were also lifted from other movies. These include influences from or homages to 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Crow, John Woo, Alien, blaxploitation films, Star Trek and Dirty Harry.

Attentive fans have noted that every episode title in the series has a musical connection. Many episodes are named explicitly for famous songs - "Honky Tonk Woman," "Jamming with Edward," "Sympathy for the Devil," "Bohemian Rhapsody," "My Funny Valentine," "Speak Like a Child," "Wild Horses," "Hard Luck Woman," "The Real Folk Blues" and also the subtitle of the Cowboy Bebop movie, "Knockin' on Heaven's Door." Titles which do not name a specific song generally combine some plot element of the episode with a broader musical style - "Mushroom Samba," "Cowboy Funk," and "Waltz for Venus," for example.

Reaction to Real Life

Shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks, Cartoon Network decided not to air episode 22, Cowboy Funk, which featured a terrorist who blew up tall buildings with bombs. After some time, the episode was eventually put back in the regular sequence of episodes. The real-life terror attacks and subsequent anthrax scare were also credited with delaying the release of the Cowboy Bebop movie in the United States by Sony Pictures, which featured a bounty-head who used technobiological terrorism.

Following the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003, Cartoon Network also decided not to air episode 19, Wild Horses, in which the Columbia shuttle was featured as a prominent plot point in the story. The episode had been shown in previous airings of the series, and has since been put back into the rotation.

Longevity

Cowboy Bebop has still managed to resound in the hearts of anime fans in both Japan and the U.S. A recent poll in Newtype magazine asked the notoriously fickle Japanese anime fans to rank the top 20 anime titles of all time and rated Cowboy Bebop number eight on a list that includes perennially-respected favorites like Mobile Suit Gundam and Neon Genesis Evangelion. In the U.S., Cartoon Network has dropped Cowboy Bebop from its Adult Swim line-up several times, only to return it later due to its popularity.

Other information

External links

fr:Cowboy Bebop ja:カウボーイビバップ es:Cowboy Bebop pl:Cowboy Bebop

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