Netflix recently announced that its live-action adaptation of the classic anime series Cowboy Bebop will premiere on November 19th. They also revealed the first images of the show’s main protagonists: Spike Spiegel (played by John Cho), Faye Valentine (played by Danielle Pineda), and Jet Black (portrayed by Mustafar Shakir). For the uninitiated or curious, here are ten reasons to get into the anime version of Cowboy Bebop before the live-action series premiers.
1. The opening credits are iconic.
The opening horns of Cowboy Bebop’s opening song “Tank!” immediately grab your attention, but it’s when the Seatbelts say “3, 2, 1 let’s jam!” that things really take off. Spike Spiegel is running, Faye Valentine’s heels slowly walk across the floor, and guns are being fired. The black backgrounds juxtaposed with reds and blues are reminiscent of an old noir film mashed up with James Bond. The next thing you know, the characters are dancing to the music just before a flurry of horns ends the opening. Not only do the opening credits make you want to tune into the anime, but it also serves as a fantastic introduction to the series’ core characters.
2. The premise is wild and compelling.
To put it simply, Cowboy Bebop is about a group of bounty hunters who fly around in space aboard their ship The Bebop to elude authorities. As the series progresses, you see that each of the bounty hunters is also either running from their pasts or searching for an answer to their respective personal problems. Despite each of them having a bounty on their heads, they gradually develop the desire to become something more than who they used to be.
3. The main characters are fun as hell.
Although the live-action series has yet to show this, there are actually four members of the Bebop crew. Spike Spiegel is a lazy jerk with a soft side, Jet Black is gruff yet fatherly with a love of blues and jazz, and Faye Valentine is an abrasive femme fatale with an emotionally vulnerable side. Last but not least, there is Edward, the happy-go-lucky and eccentric child genius. Together, all of them make up a rough around the edges crew with an amusing camaraderie.
4. Yoko Kanno’s jazz score is positively luscious.
Underscoring all the gun shooting, running, and spaceship flying is the music by Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts. While the intro music alone is worthy of praise, there are also other moments in the series where the jazz music will catch your ear. For example, the psychedelic song “Space Lion” plays as a couple of characters have some blasts from their pasts. While jazz is not the only music genre used in the series, it serves as a prominent motif for the storyline.
5. It combines different genres such as spaghetti Western, crime noir, and sci-fi.
The mystery behind each Bebop crew member and the tension between them and other characters gives the series, the retro feel of a crime noir. At the same time, certain standoffs between specific characters are shown in a manner that is similar to the shootouts seen in spaghetti Westerns. Finally, the sci-fi influence comes from outer space misadventures featuring criminals on various planets. There is also the fact that this is a 90’s anime imagining the world thousands of years into the future.
6. There is a strong influence of Black culture in this anime.
One of the most notable influences in this anime is that of Charlie Parker, a jazz saxophonist and one of the developers of the jazz subgenres known as bebop. Jet Black, one of the main characters of the show, loved Charlie Parker so much that he named his spaceship after Bebop. Another influence is that of Blaxploitation films, especially the 1973 film Coffy. In one episode, there is a bounty hunter named Coffee who is the spitting image of Pam Grier’s iconic character.
7. The cinematography is gorgeous.
When people think cinematography, fight scenes usually come to mind and this anime has plenty of good ones. In fact, the ones for Spike Spiegel are some of the best due to the influences mentioned earlier as well as the influence of kung fu films. One of his best scenes is from the Cowboy Bebop animated film that takes place between episodes 22 and 23 and features Spike fighting with a mop against a woman with a gun.
8. The ending will leave you shook AF.
By the time this series climaxes and ends, things will have ended quite explosively. Without getting into spoilers, the ending will leave you shocked due to it being the end of a climactic confrontation the series had been building up to over the course of several episodes.
9. It’s a good entry point to anime and the work of director Shinichirō Watanabe.
There is an egregious misconception that anime is all pornographic or immature content. While there is something to be said for anime’s overtly sexual depiction of some female characters, there is none of that in this series. Not only do the female characters have depth and some sex appeal without being over-the-top, but the series as a whole shows how artistic different anime genres can be. It is also a good introduction to the work of Shinichirō Watanabe, whose work also includes Samurai Champloo, Michiko and Hatchin, and his most recent series Carole and Tuesday.
10. It’s one of the most influential anime series ever.
Since its original premiere, the series has gone on to inspire creators in both film and animation. Its character designs and contemporary musical stylings can be seen in LeSean Thomas’ anime Cannon Busters, while its violent aesthetics can be seen in films like Rian Johnson’s Brick.
Latonya Pennington is a freelance writer from the southern United States specializing in entertainment and pop culture. In addition to BlackSci-Fi.com, her pop culture work can be found on The Mary Sue, Black Girl Nerds, and Buzzfeed. When she isn’t freelancing, she can be found tweeting, reading, doing creative writing, or streaming music, shows and anime online. Find her on Twitter.