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Cowboy Bebop
Cowboy Bebop Title Card
Genre Sci-Fi Noir, Space Western
Format Animated Series
Directed by Shinichirō Watanabe
Starring Kōichi Yamadera
Unshō Ishizuka
Megumi Hayashibara
Aoi Tada
Steve Blum
Beau Billingslea
Wendee Lee
Melissa Fahn
Country of Origin Japan
Language(s) Japanese
No. of Seasons 1
No. of Episodes 26 (List of Episodes)
Running Time 24 minutes (approx.)
Composer(s) Yoko Kanno
Production Company(s) Sunrise
Madman Entertainment
Anime Limited
Original Channel TV Tokyo (Japan)
WOWOW (Japan)
Cartoon Network (Adult Swim) (United States)
First Shown 1998
Original Run Shortened TV Tokyo run:
April 3, 1998 – June 26, 1998
Complete WOWOW run:
October 24, 1998 – April 24, 1999
Status Ended

Cowboy Bebop is a 1998 Japanese anime series developed by Sunrise. It featured a production team led by director Shinichiro Watanabe, screenwriter Keiko Nobumoto, character designer Toshihiro Kawamoto, mechanical designer Kimitoshi Yamane, and composer Yoko Kanno. The twenty-six episodes ("sessions") of the series comprise a complete storyline set in the year 2071. It follows the adventures, misadventures, and tragedies of a bounty hunter ("cowboy") crew travelling on the Bebop, their starship. The show had a shortened first run from April 3, 1998, until June 26, 1998, on TV Tokyo, broadcasting only episodes 2, 3, 7 to 15, 18 and a special. Later that year, the series was shown in its entirety from October 24 until April 24, 1999, on the satellite network WOWOW.

In 2001, Cowboy Bebop became the first anime title to be broadcast on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim in the United States. Since then, the series has aired continuously in rotation due to its success.

From May 26, 2012 to October 19, 2013 Cowboy Bebop aired on Adult Swim's Toonami block. The series returned on July 26, 2014.

In December 2012, Anime Limited announced via Facebook and Twitter that they had acquired the home video license for the United Kingdom. Part 1 of the Blu-Ray collection will be released on July 29, 2013, while Part 2 and the standard DVD Complete Collection was released on September 23, 2013. In North America the series was acquired by Funimation who announced that they plan to release the series on Blu-Ray in 2014.


The 26-episode series revolves around the often violent adventures undertaken by the arguably mismatched crew of the BeBop spaceship. The crew is made up of four unique characters: Jet Black, a former ISSP police officer who retired following a mob hit that cost him his arm, Spike Spiegel, a laid-back exiled hitman of the ruthless Red Dragons' Syndicate, Faye Valentine, a beautiful amnesiac con artist who awakened into the future world after a lengthy period of cryogenic hibernation, and Radical Edward, a hyperactive and barefooted preteen girl with a reputation as a prolific computer hacker. They are also accompanied by Ein, a hyper-intelligent stray Corgi.

By a strange twist of their respective fates, this foursome ends up partnering together, using their unique talents to become a ragtag team of bounty hunters, although their fortunes as such are at best mixed.

Throughout the series, Bebop crew members' deal with unresolved issues from their pasts, and the show regularly utilizes flashbacks to illustrate the history of the main characters. The day-to-day life of the crew is also explored throughout the series. The series is set in the year 2071, when the entire Solar System has been made accessible through reliable hyperspace gates. In 2022, an explosion of an experimental hyperspace gateway severely damaged the earth and the moon, resulting in a debris ring and meteor bombardments, and eradicating a large portion of the earth's population. As a result, many survivors abandoned the barely habitable earth to colonize the inner planets, the asteroid belt, and the moons of Jupiter.

Mars has become the new central hub of human civilization, and interplanetary crime syndicates exert influence over the government and the Inter-Solar System Police (ISSP), limiting their effectiveness in dealing with crime. As a result, a bounty system similar to that in the Old West is established to deal with fugitives, terrorists, and other criminals; the bounty hunters involved are frequently termed "cowboys".The standard currency is the woolong, which is roughly equivalent to the present-day Japanese yen.

The technology in Cowboy Bebop's world is a mixture of the futuristic (cybernetics, jump gates, energy weapons) and the modern (cars, handguns, zippo-styled lighters), both of which are blended together. Yet, even "new" technology often looks a bit older and battered.

The three main classes of vehicles are ground vehicles, air vehicles, and space vehicles. Ground vehicles are the most mundane of the three, being wheeled automobiles not much different from modern automobiles. Aircraft are mostly jet-powered, although helicopters are not uncommon. Spaceships range in size from small one-man "fighters" to immense passenger liners and cargo ships.


Spike Spiegel (voiced by Kōichi Yamadera in Japanese, and Steve Blum in the English dub) — Spike is the main protagonist of Cowboy Bebop, Spike is a former member of the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate. Spike is a master in firearms and hand-to-hand combat, practicing Jeet Kune Do, and is also a skilled pilot. He flies a red customized Mono Racer, an atmosphere-capable spacecraft called Swordfish II. His right eye is cybernetic. He is haunted by the memory of his time in the syndicate, and particularly by his romantic relationship with a mysterious woman named Julia, and his conflict with arch-rival and former syndicate partner, Vicious. He is also a skilled pickpocket.

Jet Black (voiced by Unshō Ishizuka in Japanese, and Beau Billingslea in the English dub) — Jet is a former ISSP (Inter-Solar System Police) detective and is the owner of the Bebop. Once called "The Black Dog" by his fellow officers, he left the ISSP in disgust due to its corruption and red tape, and turned to bounty hunting as a way to apply justice. Although medical science could replace his lost arm, he voluntarily wears a cybernetic prosthetic as a reminder of the consequences of rushing into danger. He also owns a small yellow utility ship called Hammerhead. The Hammerhead has been equipped with a mechanical claw, and a harpoon that can be used as a tow cable. Like Spike, he too is haunted by the memory of a woman, Alisa, his longtime girlfriend who left him without reason.

Faye Valentine (voiced by Megumi Hayashibara in Japanese, and Wendee Lee in the English dub) — Faye is a novice bounty hunter with a gambling addiction. She joins the crew of the Bebop uninvited, to the consternation of Jet and Spike. Though she abandons the ship several times during the course of the series, her attachment to the crew always brings her back. These feelings are apparently reciprocated, as Jet and Spike always allow her to return despite claiming they're pleased to see her leave. She pilots a generic heavy spacecraft called Red Tail which is pale blue despite the name and has been heavily modified with armament and tracking sensors. Her gambling, cheating, and competitive skills are unrivaled except by Spike. Much of her past and her real last name are a mystery, however it appears that she was severely injured in a space shuttle accident and was then cryogenically frozen until she could be healed. This expensive medical procedure left her deeply in debt, made worse when she inherited the debts of her husband (a man who married her shortly after her surgery, then later faked his death in an automobile accident). She emerges from the cryonic sleep in an amnesiac state, from which she eventually recovers. All vestiges of her past — home, family, possessions — are gone.

Edward (Ed) (voiced by Aoi Tada in Japanese, and Melissa Fahn in the English dub) — Ed is a young computer genius and master hacker. She uses the alias Radical Edward when hacking. Ed is a girl, though her name and androgynous appearance suggest otherwise. She had followed the travels of the Bebop before encountering the ship, and agrees to help the crew track down a bounty-head in exchange for becoming a member of the crew. Although extremely intelligent, Ed is still a child, and looks up to the crew of the Bebop as members of her family. She uses the fanciful name Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivruski IV, but an odd encounter with her father reveals that her real name is Françoise Appledelhi. She spends much of her time with Ein.

Ein (voiced by Kōichi Yamadera) — Ein is a former lab animal identified as a "data dog" by the scientists who reared him. The scientists used him for unspecified experiments, enhancing him to give him extraordinary data-sniffing and pattern-recognition abilities. It is suggested that he possesses enhanced intelligence, which he subtly displays throughout the series, including showing the ability to speak to other animals (and possibly Ed), and perfectly hacking the Scratch website in session #23. The rest of the Bebop crew, with the exception of Ed, often fail to notice these qualities and treat Ein as an average pet.

Vicious (voiced by Norio Wakamoto in Japanese, and Skip Stellrecht in the English dub) — Vicious is a grim enforcer of the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate, a former ally of Spike within the syndicate and now his nemesis. Vicious wields a katana for a weapon and is always accompanied by a strange, black bird perched on his shoulder. He lives up to his name both through his violent actions and his treacherous scheming within the syndicate. Vicious is the series' only recurring antagonist, appearing in five episodes.


In the late 1990s the space adventure genre was a very popular TV theme in Japan. Notable examples of such include Sunrise's Outlaw Star and Madhouse's Trigun. Sunrise became very enthusiastic to create a series of the same genre and consequently assigned its top talents towards its development.[1]

The leader of the creative team was director Shinichiro Watanabe, most notable at the time for directing Macross Plus, the futuristic adventure anime OVA series, and Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory.[1] Other leading members of Sunrise's creative team were screenwriter Keiko Nobumoto, character designer Toshihiro Kawamoto, mechanical art designer Kimitoshi Yamane and composer Yoko Kanno. Most of them had previously worked together, in addition to having credits on other popular anime titles. Nobumoto had scripted Macross Plus, Kawamoto had designed the characters for Gundam, and Kanno had composed the music for Macross Plus and The Vision of Escaflowne. Yamane had not worked with Watanabe yet, but his credits in anime included Bubblegum Crisis and The Vision of Escaflowne.[2] Watanabe wanted to create a program that would also appeal to adults, exploring a number of philosophical concepts and themes in the process. The most important of the many elements of Cowboy Bebop were its existentialist and philosophical concepts.[2] The dialogue of the series was kept "clean", but its level of sophistication was appropriate to adults in a criminal milieu. Themes such as drug dealing and homosexuality were key elements of some episodes.[3]

The atmospheres of the planets and racial groups in Cowboy Bebop mostly originate from Watanabe's ideas, with some collaboration from set designers Isamu Imakake, Shoji Kawamori, and Dai Satou. The staff of Cowboy Bebop established the particular atmospheres early in the production. In early production, ethnic groups were not fully established. Watanabe wanted to have many racial groups appear in Cowboy Bebop.

Mars was the planet most often used in storylines in Cowboy Bebop. Satoshi Toba, the cultural and setting producer, explained that other planets "were unexpectedly difficult to use". Toba explained that each planet in Cowboy Bebop had unique features, and in the plot the producers had to take into account the characteristics of each planet. Toba explained that it was not possible for the staff of Cowboy Bebop to have a dramatic rooftop scene occur on Venus, so "we ended up normally falling back to Mars".


Cowboy Bebop has a total of 26 episodes spread over 1 season that were produced from April 1998 to April 1999. Cowboy Bebop Session XX is a special clip show that was created as the final episode of the show's shortened broadcast in 1998, which excluded many episodes due to incidents in Japan, including violence in schools. A movie was released in 2001, titled Cowboy Bebop: The Movie. The movie is a midquel taking place between episodes 22 and 23 of the anime series.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Patten, Fred (March 31, 2003). "Cowboy Bebop: The Movie… At Last ". Animation World Network. 1. http://www.awn.com/articles/anime/icowboy-bebop-moviei-last/page/1%2C1. Retrieved on May 2, 2012. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Patten, Fred (March 31, 2003). "Cowboy Bebop: The Movie… At Last ". Animation World Network. 2. http://www.awn.com/articles/anime/icowboy-bebop-moviei-last/page/2%2C1. Retrieved on May 2, 2012. 
  3. Patten, Fred (March 31, 2003). "Cowboy Bebop: The Movie… At Last ". Animation World Network. 3. http://www.awn.com/articles/anime/icowboy-bebop-moviei-last/page/3%2C1. Retrieved on May 2, 2012.