Cowboy Bebop opens in the year 2071, a time when Earth is damaged from a warp gate accident and mankind has terraformed and colonized the inner planets. The series follows the mishaps of the spaceship Bebop and a group of bounty hunters. The show blends the wild west with science fiction where bounty hunters are the cowboys. Episodes revolve around attempts to net a bounty by the Bebop’s crew. Throughout their misadventures Jet Black, the owner of the Bebop, and his partner Spike Spiegal pick up additional crew members and mouths to feed. Despite their best efforts to live in the moment, each member of the Bebop has a past they cannot avoid. Particularly Spike’s past as a syndicate enforcer causes trouble for the crew.
The series is a pleasing ride on the battered steel stallion Bebop throughout the wild west of space. From crazed bombers seeking television time to millionaires keeping boredom at bay, the bounties and characters the Bebop crew encounter are just as varied and eccentric as they are. The cowboys gallop from the new earth of Mars to the distant and barely habitable moons of Jupiter. Now if only food and fuel wasn’t so expensive or if some members of the crew would just leave…
Cowboy Bebop follows the exploits of the 5 crew members. While there are central characters such as Julia and Vicious to the storyline, they make only a handful of appearances.
Spike Spiegal is a former member of the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate. Trained as an enforcer, his skills in combat, firearms, and as a pilot are vital to the few successes the crew has with bounties. Despite his carefree attitude, he is haunted by this past in the syndicate and his relationships with Julia and Vicious.
Jet Black is a former Inter-Solar System Police officer who left the force out of disgust. He chose the life of a bounty hunter to mete out justice in a world of corruption and red tape. Jet is also haunted by a past, particularly the memories of his girlfriend Alisa.
Faye Valentine is a mysterious gambler that joins the Bebop uninvited. Slowly she becomes attached to the crew and often leaves only to return. She remembers nothing of her past but is chronically pursued by debt collectors.
Edward is the genius computer hacker. Despite appearance, Ed is a girl. Ed offers her expertise in return for becoming a member of the crew. She quickly begins looking up to Jet as a father and Spike and Faye as older siblings.
Ein is a “data dog.” Equipped with enhanced intelligence and computer abilities, Ein subtly assists the crew throughout the series. With the exception of Ed, everyone considers Ein an average mutt.
Cowboy Bebop deals with the themes of camaraderie and avoidance. Most of the characters grow to appreciate the friendships they establish with each other. Although, no one on the crew freely admits this. Each of the characters have a past they thought they left behind. Despite their efforts these pasts return and force a confrontation. Cowboy Bebop teaches that pasts, particularly troublesome ones, cannot be ran away from and must be resolved at one point. One other theme that is a comedic source is chronic lack of money and hunger.
Cowboy Bebop is considered a classic. The blend of Wild West and Space Age creates a pleasing and believable world. While the animation is becoming a little dated, it still stands up as one of the best. The characters are painfully human and identifiable. The planets are harsh and nicely varied. In short, Cowboy Bebop is one of the pinnacles of anime.