Cowboy Bebop originally aired this month in 1998.
One of the most critically acclaimed anime television series ever turns 25. A neo-noir sci-fi set in 2071, Cowboy Bebop ran for 26 episodes starting in 1998 in Japan. The English dub of Cowboy Bebop is regarded as one of the greatest anime dubs. It played a crucial role in popularizing the medium for a new audience in the West in the early 2000s. Steve Blu voices the main character Spike Spiegel. He also is the voice of TOM, the host of Cartoon Network’s anime programming block, Toonami. Spike is a laid-back bounty hunter with a violent past. Partnered with a former cop named Jet Black (voiced by Beau Billingslea), the two form an uneasy alliance with Faye Valentine. She is an amnesiac thief who goes from a nuisance to a trusted teammate. They’re joined by Ed, an eccentric and prolific hacker, and Ein, an “enhanced” Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
Music plays a central role in the series, specifically jazz.
Each episode starts with the iconic big band jazz theme song that teleports the audience into the world of the space Western. The series’ soundtrack was composed by Yoko Kanno and performed by The Seatbelts. In addition to jazz, the show blends rock, funk, pop, and orchestral music, among others. Most episode titles reference various hit songs or musical genres like “Honky Tonk Women,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” or “Gateway Shuffle.”
Cowboy Bebop’s themes of loneliness, existentialism, and outrunning one’s past were heavy topics that set it apart from other animated series of the time. In addition, the series’ synthesis of music, animation, sci-fi themes, and top-tier voice acting created what director Shinichirō Watanabe called “a new genre unto itself.” A feature-length film, Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, followed the series, as did two video games and a live-action adaptation, which Netflix canceled after one season. Opinions on other anime series may vary, but Cowboy Bebop remains universally adored.