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Cowboy Bebop (Japanese: カウボーイビバップ Hepburn: Kaubōi Bibappu ) is a 1998 Japanese anime series developed by Sunrise. It featured a production team led by director Shinichirō 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. Cowboy Bebop also explores philosophical concepts including existentialism, loneliness, and the influence of the past.
The series premiered in Japan on TV Tokyo from April 3, 1998 until June 19, 1998, broadcasting only twelve episodes and a special due to its controversial content. The entire twenty-six episodes of the series were later broadcast on WOWOWon October 23, 1998 and ran until April 23, 1999. The anime was adapted into two manga series which were serialized in Kadokawa Shoten's Asuka Fantasy DX. A Cowboy Bebop film was later released to theaters in Japan and worldwide.
The anime series was dubbed in the English language by Animaze, and has been licensed by Bandai Entertainment for releases in North America. It was also licensed by Beez Entertainment for English releases in the United Kingdom, and byMadman Entertainment for releases in Australia and New Zealand. In 2001, Cowboy Bebop became the first anime title to be broadcast on Adult Swim in the United States. Since then, the series has aired continuously in rotation due to its success.
Cowboy Bebop received widespread critical acclaim and became a commercial success both in Japanese and international markets, most notably in the United States. The series became a cult classic and later came to be regarded as a masterpiece. Cowboy Bebop is now considered to be one of the greatest and most influential anime of all time. It garnered major science fiction awards and has received universal praise for its characters, story, strong voice acting, animation and soundtrack.
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 Moon, resulting in a debris ring and meteor bombardments that eradicated 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 world of Cowboy Bebop is filled with anachronisms. The technology is a mixture of the futuristic (cybernetics, jump gates, energy weapons) and the modern (wheeled cars, handguns, zippo-styled lighters), both of which are blended together. 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.
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, genetically-engineered stray Corgi dog.
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' must 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.
Spike Spiegel 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 sleek red customized Mono Racer, an atmosphere-capable spacecraft called Swordfish II. His right eye is cybernetic. Despite his outwardly carefree attitude, 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 an accomplished pickpocket. He is the first bounty hunter to debut.
Jet Black 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 for his relentless nature, he left the ISSP in disgust due to corruption and red tape, and turned to bounty hunting as a way to pursue 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. He is the second bounty hunter to debut.
Faye Valentine 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 Tailwhich 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 adopted 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 long gone. She is the fourth bounty hunter to debut.
Edward is a young, eccentric 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. She is the fifth and last bounty hunter to debut.
Ein is a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, a former lab animal identified as a "data dog" by the scientists who created 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 displays in subtle ways 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. He is the third bounty hunter to debut.
Vicious – grim enforcer of the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate, a former friend of Spike and now his sworn nemesis. Vicious sports an emaciated, embittered look, wields a katana for a weapon and is always accompanied by a strange, crow-like 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.