It has been 20 years since the Japanese anime Cowboy Bebop first broadcast and it’s still one of the best anime ever.  U.S. distributor Funimation is bringing back the 2001 feature film Cowboy Bebop: The Movie to theaters nation-wide this August.  The Japanese-language version with English subtitles will screen Wednesday, August 15.  The English dubbed version will screen Thursday, August 16.  Funimation currently distributes the series in the U.S. and streams the 26-episode series on its website.

What is Cowboy Bebop?

Cowboy Bebop takes place in the year 2071 after humanity has colonized the solar system.  While travel between planets and modern conveniences are available to everyone, the police and government are corrupt.  To fill their gap are “cowboys,” bounty hunters who capture criminals through any means necessary.  They are like the mythic figures from the Old West, who often break as many laws as the bounties they are chasing.

The series follows the crew of the spaceship Bebop. They are a loose group of bounty hunters who are not friends or family.  But nevertheless, risk their lives for money and each other.  Cowboy Bebop surpasses most anime with its fluid animation and original story telling.  Between bouts of action the stand-alone episodes often explore philosophical concepts like existentialism, existential ennui, and loneliness.


The show is heavily influenced by American culture.  The cities are the gritty streets of New York or Chicago.  Towns are homages to classic Hollywood westerns.  Shots are taken from Hollywood action and noir films.  The music is as diverse as the multicultural citizens that inhabit this world.  Written by the legendary Yoko Kanno, the music can go from jazz to pop to opera in the same episode.

The Crew of the Bebop

But even with all that, Cowboy Bebop has a definitively Japanese aesthetic.  The characters are not sarcastic American heroes but thoughtfully developed people just trying to get by.  Spike Spiegel is a man with a dark past who hides it with a careless attitude.  Jet Black is a former cop fed up with the corruption who becomes the unofficial dad of the group.

Faye Valentine is the femme fatale with a penchant for gambling and a murky past.   Ed is a prodigy hacker whose bizarre antics and androgynous appearance have a logic of their own.  Finally, Ein is a Pembroke Welsh Corgi “data dog” whose intelligence and abilities often catch the crew of the Bebop by surprise.  The Japanese cast is a who’s who of voice actors including, Megumi Hayashibara, K?ichi Yamadera, and Unsh? Ishizuka.

Knockin on Heavens Door

Originally called Knockin on Heavens Door in Japan, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie features a stand-alone adventure of the Bebop crew.  Chasing down the largest bounty ever, the crew get embroiled in a terrorist plot.  Thus, catch their target, the cowboys must unravel a government conspiracy and stop a madman from killing millions.