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Why you need to watch Cowboy Bebop on Netflix


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The earth is shattered and humanity adapts. On Mars, a colony arises. The year is 2071, though the likes of Elon Musk are making sure that we reach the Red Planet even earlier.

The professions that exist are, for the most part, similar to the ones we knew. However, the most lucrative job in this post-apocalyptic world is not in banking, but in bounty hunting. It is this path that our cowboy protagonist, Spike Spiegel, has chosen, and it is his journey that we, the viewers, join. 

Cowboy Bebop is one of the most critically acclaimed ‘animes’ to date, picking up awards for its soundtrack, story, and animation, just to name a few. Released on TV Tokyo in 1998, and then on Adult Swim in 2001, it is largely credited with introducing American audiences to this profound and peculiar side of Japanese culture.

The show helped place the anime genre into the worldview of grown-up Western spectators, foregoing wide-eyed, spiky-haired children in exchange for multi-layered, morally ambiguous adults. Cult classics like Pulp Fiction heavily influenced the conception and development of Cowboy Bebop which contains thriller, action and film noir elements.

Although the show is largely episodic, the general plot follows the four main characters, Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Faye Valentine, and Edward Wong, along with their dog, Ein, as they attempt to make a living hunting down dangerous criminals in exchange for sums of cash.

As our enjoyment of the show gradually soars - and one episode becomes three episodes, becomes five - we gradually learn of the complex pasts that envelop their respective characters. Spike had previously operated as a hitman for an egregious crime syndicate; Jet roamed the solar system as a police officer before a former partner betrayed his trust; Faye woke up from 50 years of cryogenic sleep with total amnesia; Ed lived his young life as an orphan.

Loneliness and dejection marrs each of their pasts, but the strength and humour evident in their current selves, usually as a result of these afflictions, renders them exceptionally admirable. Indeed, the show pays homage to an age-old adage: "what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger."

The show’s profound resonance derives from the multi-faceted and complex personalities of these characters. Themes of lost love, broken promises, and early abandonment are interspersed within scenes containing Jeet Kune Do action and sub-automatic machine-gun showdowns.

As a mature introduction into the world of anime, Cowboy Bebop is probably the best starting point for those curious about the genre in general. In this article, I have hesitated to give many examples, lest I give too much of the story away.

At this stage, you only need the gist of the plot and an insight into the show’s characters. I aimed to strike a balance between sufficient information and an alluring sense of mystery. It is the latter which, I hope, will prompt you to indulge in the dark, humourous, and entertaining anime that is Cowboy Bebop.

Cowboy Bebop is now available to watch on Netflix.

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