It’s Cartoon Friday, again!

Putting your feet up while watching Cowboy Bebop

Kick back with Spike, Jet and the rest of the Bebop crew.

Since I’m at the 100 Year Starship Symposium this week, I thought we’d take a little trip into space. I thought about selecting Star Trek: The Animated Series, since Trek is so influential here, but it’s not widely available. Instead, take our first visit to Japan in a while. I apologize that this is English dubbed rather than subtitled, but it is one of the better modern dubs.

Cowboy Bebop takes place in the year 2071, where the invention of hyperspace gates led to routine travel throughout the solar system. A crew of five cowboys (bounty hunters) aboard the space ship Bebop wander the galaxy, looking for money and misadventure. Much like the ever-popular Firefly, the sprawl of humanity leads to a wild west-style frontier though this show gives it a distinctly Japanese and Jazz-age spin. Each episode of the show is called a “session,” with music being a major influence. Bebop has one of the most stylish opening title sequences of any cartoon, and one of the best soundtracks since Tex Avery and friends discovered the blues.

In episode 17, “Mushroom Samba,” the crew of the Bebop are in bad shape. Running out of power and completely out of food, they crash land on a desolate world for repairs and supplies. Pilot Spike Spiegal and gruff police detective turned cowboy Jet Black work to repair the ship while bounty hunter Faye Valentine recovers from eating expired rations. This leaves Ed, a young hyperactive (female) computer hacker and Ein, a hyperintelligent Welsh corgi, to search for food. As usual, nothing goes according to plan.

Cowboy Bebop ran for 26 episodes in the late 90s, with a followup feature length film. Director Shinichiro Watanabe, previously of giant robot anime like Macross Plus and Mobile Suit Gundam, sought to create a series that would entertain adults while frequently exploring mature, thoughtful themes. It’s influenced by everything from classic Westerns to blaxploitation. Bebop was so good it aired in the US on Adult Swim, and is considered by many a gateway into the genre of Japanese animation (Wikipedia).

What are your favorite cartoons? I’ll try to use your suggestions in future installments.

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Photo by hobvias sudoneighm released under a Creative Commons license.