Best of Animation: 5 Reasons Why Cowboy Bebop is the Greatest Anime Ever

Call us old but anime today seems derivative. Everything is set in a classroom of kids who have the ability to:

  1. Control Giant Robots
  2. Cast some sort of Magic
  3. Attract the attention of girls whilst blushing

Stylish, mature and beautifully crafted, Cowboy Bebop was probably Shinichiro Watanabe’s magnum opus. Some say it inspired Firefly, Quentin Tarantino and Rian Wilson’s Brick.

#1 It’s not us. It’s them

“sophistication and subtlety that is practically one-of-a-kind” and that “puts most anime…and Hollywood, to shame.” T.H.E.M Anime Reviews


“What can I say, except that to my vast surprise, I found this series brilliant. It’s often funny, sexy in a mostly chaste kind of way – these are drawings, after all – and the action is gripping. But what held me was a combination of strong relationship-based storytelling, a moody visual style that never got old and really smart dialogue.” Orson Scott Card


“Its warmth and romanticism doesn’t feel cheesy or clichéd, its violence is still mildly shocking for a cartoon, its 26 episodes are perfectly paced, and, most notably, its sense of adventure still feels new and exhilarating.” The Atlantic


But I love Cowboy Bebop!” Robin Williams

#2 The Relationships  

Ignore the fantastical locations, the ludicrous science fiction, the beat-up Millennium Falcon like spaceship. The most enjoyable part about Cowboy Bebop was the relationships – how every character is grounded in human emotion (when stuck in a small spaceship).

The story telling process is but a tool to help his characters (or embryos) develop. Dan Harmon explains it best here.

Dan Harmon Circles

Harmon calls his circles embryos—they contain all the elements needed for a satisfying story—and he uses them to map out nearly every turn on Community, from throwaway gags to entire seasons. Their actions tell the story. At the start, neither one of them goes out of his or her way to help the other. But this changes little by little. 

Shinichiro Watanabe may not have revolutionized storytelling but proved with Cowboy Bebop, how there was a place for mature and real human stories in anime.

#3 References! 

The attention to detail in Cowboy Bebop was perhaps best seen in the number of pop culture references in every episode. Nearly every episode was a homage. Similar to Tarantino’s way of dropping easter eggs in his films, there was always something new to find every time you re-watch a Cowbop Bebop episode. Cowboy Bebop rewarded the viewer for being a pop culture junkie.


Taken from Ghost Lightning

References were not just thrown in just for the sake of it. Watanabe respected source material and the John Woo inspired scene (complete with doves) demonstrates this.

#4 The Music

Bebop’s composer, Yoko Kanno, is a genius. Her opening, Tank, is easily one of the best opening sequences for any TV show.

Full of punch, it completely sets the style the viewer should expect of the show. The funny thing is that Kanno did not know anything about jazz or funk before she agreed to the gig.

“I went coast to coast on a Greyhound bus. I didn’t have money to stay in hotels, so I usually slept on the bus. It was something that was possible because I was young at the time… There was a person playing a banjo on the street in Los Angeles, which I thought was cool but I began to notice as I kept moving East the groove of street musicians would swing harder. There were kids the age of high school students playing fantastic funk grooves on just one snare drum. It was through this trip I learned that even within a genre there are differences in the style. This was really exciting for me. I learned that the beat is a form of language.” Yoko Kanno

The full soundtrack is 6 hours long and every bit of it is solid gold. Jason has a really good write up on the diverse genius of Yoko Kanno here.

#5 It was stylish as fuck

Asteroids, Spaceships, Lasers. Yes. Science Fiction. But Cowboy Bebop wasn’t about the science fiction. It was a genre mashup, a nexus of genres, it so lavishly paid tribute to.

Honorable Mention

SINGAPORE was in it. How cool is that.

cowboy bebop faye

See you later space cowboy.



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