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The Japanese anime series Cowboy Bebop consists of 26 episodes, referred to as "sessions." Most episodes are named after a musical concept of some sort, usually either a broad genre (i.e. "Jupiter Jazz") or a specific song (i.e. "Honky Tonk Women"). The first episode premiered on TV Tokyo on October 23, 1998, and ran until April 23, 1999. In the U.S., the series has aired continuously in rotation since 2001 on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.
The scenario of the show takes place in 2071, and is about a group of bounty hunters who stick with each other in an effort to stave off loneliness, hunger, and to find purpose in their existence in a brutal, chaotic and unforgiving universe. Trying to catch up with their human prey (at which they fail, more often than not), and then escape the trouble they run into while trying to score the bounty to make a living.
The main characters are five bounty hunters. They are Jet Black, a retired cop-turned-bounty-hunter, the owner of the "Bebop," (the name of the main ship), a bonsai artist and the ship's chef; Spike Spiegel, Jet's partner in bounty hunting, former member of the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate, and hotshot ace owner/pilot of the "Swordfish II," a smaller spaceship that Spike docks in the Bebop; Faye Valentine, a gambling-addicted amnesiac who always finds herself in financial debts; "Radical" Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivruski the IV, barefoot and creative, yet strange, prodigious computer hacking young girl; and Ein, the Bebop's data dog and Ed's faithful companion.
Each episode is a stand-alone story in itself, and can be viewed without knowing anything about other episodes; however, most episodes also include continuous background storylines running throughout the series as well, focusing on each of the main characters with varying detail and significance. A few episodes, especially the last two, focus directly on issues about a character's past. The most introspection is given to Spike and his vague, shady interactions with underworld-type characters and seedy black-market dealings. Usually characters' backgrounds are only obscurely alluded to, and the audience is never directly explained details or shown the full picture until the end. There are brief flashbacks, or characters will speak of things that happened in the past, and holes are intentionally left up to the audience to fill in. Episodes have a tendency to end without finality, giving the series an apathetic if realistic essence.
A recurring aspect throughout the series is the show within the show, "Big Shot for the Bounty Hunters." In this show, a male and female host dressed in elaborate and showy sequined cowboy outfits send updates to "all 300,000 bounty hunters in this star system," showing mugshots, listing their bounties, and some basic information on the criminals and law-breakers. Often the broadcast will initiate the plot for the particular episode or will give details about events happening elsewhere.
With the exception of Asteroid Blues, each episode includes a commercial bumper. These bumpers continually change throughout the series. Some read as boasts, such as the phrase "The work, which becomes a new genre itself".
"Asuteroido Burūsu" (アステロイド・ブルース)
|October 23, 1998|
Fellow bounty hunters Spike Spiegel and Jet Black head to the New Tijuana asteroid colony to track down a bounty-head who is trying to sell off a stolen cache of a dangerous combat drug called Bloody Eye.This episode pays homage to Desperado, with Asimov resembling Antonio Banderas's mariachi character and Katrina resembling Salma Hayek's character.
|2||"Stray Dog Strut"|
"Norainu no Sutoratto" (野良犬のストラット)
|October 30, 1998|
Spike and Jet's next hunt takes them to Mars, where their target, a professional thief, has stolen a very valuable, genetically engineered "data dog" from a corporate research facility.
This episode makes several references to Bruce Lee's Game of Death. Abdul Hakim's appearance and name are modeled after NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The episode's title is a reference to the Stray Cats' "Stray Cat Strut".
|3||"Honky Tonk Women"|
"Honkī Tonku Wimen" (ホンキィ・トンク・ウィメン)
|November 06, 1998|
With Ein as a new companion, the crew of the Bebop cross paths with Faye Valentine, a wanted fugitive drowning in debt, who ends up being forced to act as a middle-woman for an illegal transaction at a space station casino.
"Geitowei Shaffuru" (ゲイトウェイ・シャッフル)
|November 13, 1998|
After gambling away all the money she obtained, Faye ends up getting her hands on a mysterious suitcase while exploring the wreckage of a derelict spaceship. Meanwhile, Spike and Jet pursue a bounty on the leader of the Space Warriors, a group of eco-terrorists armed with a terrifying biological weapon.The commercial bumper has the same as that of episode 3 except the words Cowboy Bebop are in brue.
|5||"Ballad of Fallen Angels"|
"Datenshi-tachi no Baraddo" (堕天使たちのバラッド)
|November 20, 1998|
While pursuing the bounty on an executive of the Red Dragon Syndicate, Spike ends up confronting Vicious, an old enemy of his.The episode pays homage to John Woo movies. The shootout in the church, dual-wield guns and the stand-off between Spike and Vicious are all trademarks of Woo's films.
|6||"Sympathy for the Devil" (A Song to Sympathize with the Devil)|
"Akuma o Awaremu Uta" (悪魔を憐れむ歌)
|November 27, 1998|
Spike and Jet chase a dangerous enemy who, despite having the appearance of a little boy, is actually more than eighty years old.The title of this episode is a reference to "Sympathy for the Devil" by The Rolling Stones.
|7||"Heavy Metal Queen"|
"Hevi Metaru Kuīn" (ヘヴィ・メタル・クイーン)
|December 04, 1998|
The crew of the Bebop chase a bounty named Decker, who is running a load of high explosives. While nursing a hangover at a diner, Spike meets a cargo hauler pilot named V.T., who hates bounty hunters, but ends up lending him a hand.The character Otto was modeled after the character portrated by Bunta Suguhara in Trucker Yarō ("Trucker Guys"), a series of ten films from 1975-1979 directed by Noribumi Suzuki. The names of other trucker characters, including Love Machine, Sneaky Snake, and Spider Mike, originate from the 1978 film Convoy. The line "Breaker One-Nine," stated in the episode by the character Victoria Terpsischore (V.T.), also originates from Convoy, though it is an actual term used by truckers, "Breaker" meaning a driver is coming on to a channel, and "One-Nine" being the East-West bound travel in North America, "One-Four" being North-South travel. Watanabe said that he liked watching Convoy and Trucker Yarō as a child.
|8||"Waltz for Venus"|
"Warutsu Fō Vīnasu" (ワルツ・フォー・ヴィーナス)
|December 11, 1998|
While the crew hunts down a Venusian mobster, Spike meets Rocco Bonnaro, who is on the run from the same mobster the crew is tracking for stealing a very rare and valuable plant, which he plans to sell to pay for surgery to restore his sister's eyesight.
This was another episode that was preempted on Adult Swim after the 9/11 attacks, because a hijacking is depicted in the first few minutes.The character Piccaro Calvino, the bounty for the episode, was modeled after the American rapper Notorious B.I.G. Also, three of the criminals behind the plane hijacking are named Huey, Duey, and Louie, references to Disney character Donald Duck's nephews.
|9||"Jamming with Edward"|
"Jamingu Wizu Edowādo" (ジャミング・ウィズ・エドワード)
|December 18, 1998|
The crew enlists the help of an elite computer hacker nicknamed "Radical Edward" to help them track down a bounty-head who has been vandalizing Earth's surface with hacked laser satellites. However, when they finally meet Edward face-to-face, the hacker's true identity proves to be a surprise for everybody.The title of this episode is a reference to Jamming with Edward!, an album recorded with three members of The Rolling Stones.
"Ganimede Bojō" (ガニメデ慕情)
|January 01, 1999|
|Jet is even more taciturn than usual as the Bebop lands on Ganymede, his last post before leaving the ISSP and the home of his ex-girlfriend, Alisa, whom he has never quite left behind. Meanwhile, Spike pursues bounty Rhint Celonias, who just happens to be Alisa's new boyfriend.|
|11||"Toys in the Attic" (Heavy Rock in the Dark Night)|
"Yamiyo no Hevi Rokku" (闇夜のヘヴィ・ロック)
|January 08, 1999|
A strange blob-like creature with a poisonous bite infiltrates the Bebop and incapacitates Jet, Faye and Ein. With half the crew out of action, it's up to Spike and Ed to destroy the creature and find out where it came from. This episode makes reference to the movie Alien, with Spike using a motion tracker and a flamethrower and by having the characters slowly attacked by an unknown alien one by one. The scene where Spike ejects the refrigerator into space was inspired by the scene in Aliens where Ripley gets rid of the Alien queen. The episode's use of Waltz of the Flowers from the Nutcracker is reminiscent of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey's use of well-known classical music.The title of this episode is a reference to "Toys in the Attic", a song and album title by Aerosmith.
|12||"Jupiter Jazz (Part 1)"|
"Jupitā Jazu (Zenpen)" (ジュピター・ジャズ(前編))
|January 15, 1999|
|Faye cleans out the crew's safe and leaves the Bebop for Callisto, one of Jupiter's moons. While Jet chases after her, Spike decides to follow up on some clues about the location of his ex-girlfriend Julia, which leads him to another confrontation with Vicious.|
|13||"Jupiter Jazz (Part 2)"|
"Jupitā Jazu (Kōhen)" (ジュピター・ジャズ(後編))
|January 22, 1999|
|Faye is helped by Gren, a man who holds a grudge against Vicious. After explaining his story to Faye, he chases after Vicious, and when he and Spike end up reaching him at the same time, a three-way battle takes place.|
"Yoseatsume Burūsu" (よせあつめブルース)
|Special (June 26, 1998)|
|Due to the violence portrayed in the series, and the violence occurring at the time in Japan, the series was briefly canceled and "Mish-Mash Blues" was created. The characters provide a philosophical commentary and it ends with the words: "This Is Not The End. You Will See The Real 'Cowboy Bebop' Someday!"|
"Bohemian Rapusodi" (ボヘミアン・ラプソディ)
|January 29, 1999|
The Bebop crew hunts for Chessmaster Hex, the rumored mastermind behind a series of robberies at hyperspace gate tollbooths. However, while trying to dig up dirt on their target, they unearth some very valuable data regarding the gate accident that devastated Earth fifty years earlier.The title of this episode is a reference to "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen.
|15||"My Funny Valentine"|
"Mai Fanī Varentain" (マイ・ファニー・ヴァレンタイン)
|February 5, 1999|
Faye ends up meeting an important man from her past, and part of her origin is revealed, including the source of her massive debt.The episode is named after the jazz standard "My Funny Valentine". Keiko Nobumoto, a Cowboy Bebop scriptwriter, decided to model the appearance of the character Whitney Hagas Matsumoto, the bounty of the episode, after actor George Clooney. Watanabe said that one thing he likes about animation is that one can "write in whatever actor you want cheaply."
|16||"Black Dog Serenade"|
"Burakku Doggu Serenāde" (ブラック・ドッグ・セレナーデ)
|February 12, 1999|
An ISSP prison ship has undergone a mechanical malfunction, and has been taken over by the prisoners it was transporting, led by Udai Taxim, the Syndicate assassin who took Jet's arm. Jet's former partner, Fad, enlists him for the retrieval operation, but Fad's motivations might not be as noble as they seem.
"Masshurūmu Sanba" (マッシュルーム・サンバ)
|February 19, 1999|
The Bebop, out of food and fuel, is sideswiped in a hit-and-run off of Europa and crash-lands on Io. Ed, with Ein by her side, is sent out to procure food, and ends up running across Domino Walker, a bounty-head who is smuggling hallucinogenic mushrooms.Watanabe said that he took inspiration from funk and soul record jackets and 1970s Blaxploitation films to add "more spice" to this episode. The names of the minor characters in this episode originate from films. For instance, Coffy's name originates from Coffy, the main character of the 1973 film Coffy. The Cowboy Bebop Anime Guide Volume 4 adds that the Cowboy Bebop character Coffy has an appearance similar to the one of Jackie Brown, the main character of the film Jackie Brown. The actress Pam Grier portrayed both the 1973 film Coffy and the Jackie Brown character. The character Shaft originates from the 1971 film Shaft. Volume 4 of the anime guide stated that the coffin pulling may have originated from the actions of Django, the protagonist of the spaghetti western Django. Also the volume states that the design of the character Domino may have originated from a funk record jacket.
|18||"Speak Like a Child"|
"Supīku Raiku A Chairudo" (スピーク・ライク・ア・チャイルド)
|February 26, 1999|
While Faye wastes money betting on horse racing, a package addressed to her arrives on the Bebop containing an old Betamax tape, prompting Spike and Jet to look for an appropriate device to view its contents.This episode is named after a jazz song titled "Speak Like a Child" by Herbie Hancock.
"Wairudo Hōsesu" (ワイルド・ホーセス)
|March 5, 1999|
While Spike takes his mono-racer in for maintenance, Jet and Faye take on a group of pirates who use computer viruses to terrorize cargo ships.space shuttle rescues the crew. The Cowboy Bebop Anime Guide Volume 4 stated that the outward appearance of Doohan, a character, appears similar to that of film director Nicholas Ray. The fictional team Blue Socks had inspiration from the Hanshin Tigers. In a further homage to baseball, the names of the three pirates in the episode were George, Herman, and Ruth, Babe Ruth's birth name. Spike's "dead reckoning" system using lines scored on the window of his ship to estimate entry attitude is very similar to that employed by American astronaut Gordon Cooper during the Faith 7 mission.
|20||"Pierrot le Fou" (Requiem for a Clown)|
"Dōkeshi no Chinkonka" (道化師の鎮魂歌)
|March 12, 1999|
Spike is targeted by an insane, seemingly indestructible assassin named Mad Pierrot after accidentally witnessing the killer in action.The title makes reference to the French mime stock character Pierrot and the Jean-Luc Godard film Pierrot le Fou. Mad Pierrot shares characteristics with The Penguin and The Joker, both Batman villains.
|21||"Boogie Woogie Feng Shui"|
"Bugi Ugi Funshei" (ブギ・ウギ・フンシェイ)
|March 19, 1999|
Jet, spurred on by a cryptic e-mail, tries to find an old acquaintance but discovers only his grave—he disappeared under mysterious circumstances. His daughter, Mei-Fa, an expert in feng shui, asks for his help finding a "sun stone" that can lead them to her father's location.
"Kaubōi Fanku" (カウボーイ・ファンク)
|March 26, 1999|
A terrorist known as the "Teddy Bomber" has been using explosives hidden in teddy bears to bring down high-rise buildings in protest of humanity's excesses. Spike attempts to stop him, but constantly runs afoul of "Cowboy Andy", a fellow bounty hunter who is far more similar to Spike than either would care to admit.
The character Cowboy Andy is an homage to the character "Nobody" played by Terence Hill in Tonino Valerii's film "My Name is Nobody". The music in this episode pays homage to Ennio Morricone, in particular the scores he wrote for Spaghetti Western films directed by Sergio Leone.Teddy Bomber is based on Ted Kaczynski, aka The Unabomber.
"Burein Sukuratchi" (ブレイン・スクラッチ)
|April 02, 1999|
Unbeknownst to the rest of the crew, Faye goes undercover to infiltrate SCRATCH, a cult that believes in achieving eternal life by digitizing the soul and uploading it into the Internet, in order to collect the bounty on the cult's leader, Dr. Londes. Faye soon finds herself in danger, however, and while Spike goes looking for her, Jet and Ed try to track down Dr. Londes themselves.SCRATCH is based on Heaven's Gate, a group of people who committed suicide together in 1997 in order to ride a space ship that they believed was following the Comet Hale-Bopp. Dr. Londes bears resemblance to Marshall Applewhite, the leader of Heaven's Gate.
|24||"Hard Luck Woman"|
"Hādo Rakku Ūman" (ハード・ラック・ウーマン)
|April 09, 1999|
While heading to Mars, the Bebop is diverted to Earth (unplanned, of course). After arriving, Faye decides to investigate her past by traveling to the landmarks she sees in the video she recorded as a child, taking Ed along with her. She and Ed manage to find what looks like an orphanage where Ed had stayed at previously, where it is revealed that Ed's father had been looking for her several months back. Faye and Ed manage to find one of the locations in the video, whereupon Faye is surprised by an old schoolmate. Jet and Spike notice a bounty on their computer which looks to be a lucrative payoff. After having returned to the Bebop and dwelling on what has happened, Faye leaves again. Jet and Spike find their bounty, but are interrupted by Ed maneuvering the Bebop by remote control, whereupon it's discovered that their bounty is not only just a measly fifty woolongs (instead of the fifty million they mistakenly thought it was), but is Ed's father. Ed's father asks if she wants to stay with him, but before Ed can answer, he and his assistant see another meteorite strike the Earth's surface in the distance and they hastily and absent-mindedly speed off, leaving Ed behind, dumbfounded. Faye manages to find herself at the bottom of the hill from her old house and runs to the top, like she did when she was younger, only to find ruins where her home used to be. After having briefly seen her father again, Ed decides to leave the Bebop, and Ein leaves with her.This episode title is a reference to the song "Hard Luck Woman" by Kiss.
|25||"The Real Folk Blues (Part 1)"|
"Za Riaru Fōku Burūsu (Zenpen)" (ザ・リアル・フォークブルース(前編))
|April 16, 1999|
Left alone by the rest of the crew, Spike and Jet are ambushed by members of the Red Dragon syndicate. They are saved by Lin's brother, Shin, who explains that Vicious has tried to seize control of the organization and was sentenced to death. He also states that all people connected to him are also being hunted down, and Spike rushes to find Julia.This episode is named after a series of blues compilations released between 1965 and 1967, The Real Folk Blues. Incidentally it is also the name of Cowboy Bebop's ending theme.
|26||"The Real Folk Blues (Part 2)"|
"Za Riaru Fōku Burūsu (Kōhen)" (ザ・リアル・フォークブルース(後編))
|April 23, 1999|
Reunited, Spike and Julia pick up where they left off in their plans to escape the Red Dragon syndicate, but Julia ends up being shot and killed. Spike returns to the Bebop for a meal with Jet and Faye, and then storms the Red Dragon's headquarters to confront Vicious for one last battle. Shin helps him, but is killed, managing to reveal that if Vicious is killed, Spike will be the new leader of the syndicate. Spike fights his way to the top floor of the Red Dragon syndicate skyscraper, but is badly wounded, and then fights Vicious, getting wounded during the battle. The pair manages to get the other's weapons and they trade, with a brief struggle, in which Spike manages to shoot Vicious in the chest, killing him. It then cuts to Spike as he stumbles down a large set of stairs and faces the syndicate members that rushed to the scene. Making a gun with his fingers and saying "Bang", Spike collapses as the song Blue plays to the final credits.
The ending of this episode is likely an homage to a similar scene from Taxi Driver
Unlike all the previous episodes, this did not use the regular animated opening credits. Instead, it features a black screen with the title logo in Katakana and English with a copyright notice in white, shown for two seconds in silence.
The ending credits continue after to a brief shot of the sky, where Spike's star fades out, followed by a shot of his body. Following it is a simple statement, "You're gonna carry that weight".This episode is named after a series of blues compilations released between 1965 and 1967, The Real Folk Blues. Incidentally it is also the name of Cowboy Bebop's ending theme.