Based on the core cast, as well as side characters who’ve been confirmed, these are the Cowboy Bebop anime episodes to watch ahead of the new live-action series on Netflix.
Cowboy Bebop is one of the most celebrated and revered anime series of all time. Created by Hajime Yatate (the name of a collective of contributors that includes director Shinichirō Watanabe, screenwriter Keiko Nobumoto, character designer Toshihiro Kawamoto, mechanical designer Kimitoshi Yamane, and composer Yoko Kanno), Cowboy Bebop is a space western centered on a crew of bounty hunters traveling through space chasing criminals on a spaceship called Bebop. The crew is an eclectic mix: Spike Spiegel is a former hitman; Jet Black is a former Inter Solar System Police (ISSP) officer; Faye Valentine is an amnesiac con artist; Edward is a teenage girl who’s also a hacker prodigy; and Ein is a Pembroke Welsh Corgi with human-like intelligence (thanks to genetic engineering). Through the Bebop crew’s misadventures, the anime series touches on themes like existential ennui and the inability to escape one’s past, with its jazz-centered soundtrack complimenting the overall melancholy atmosphere of the show.
Because of its popularity, it was inevitable that the anime, which was released in 1998, would get a live-action adaptation at some point. On Friday, November 19th, Netflix will release Cowboy Bebop, a 10-episode live-action series that finds the Bebop crew portrayed by John Cho (Spike), Mustafa Shakir (Jet), and Daniella Pineda (Faye). (We’ll get into the casting for the other two below.)
Now, if you’re interested in getting into Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop, but haven’t watched the anime, that’s OK. For the most part, you don’t have to watch each episode from the anime, considering some episodes aren’t tied to the main arc of the series. (Also, Cowboy Bebop isn’t a heavy lift like most anime series, with the show only having 26 episodes.) So, based on the core cast, as well as side characters that have been confirmed for the live-action adaptation, here’s a guide on which episodes to watch from the anime before getting into the Netflix series.
OK, three, two, one — let’s jam.
The First Five Episodes (“Asteroid Blues,” “Stray Dog Strut,” “Honky Tonk Woman,” “Gateway Shuffle,” and “Ballad of Fallen Angels”)
The first five episodes of Cowboy Bebop are important because they introduce the core cast (save for Ed, who makes his debut in episode nine), as well as guest characters that will be appearing in the live-action series. This is the case with the first, second, and fourth episodes. “Asteroid Blues” is essentially Bonnie and Clyde in space, as Spike and Jet track down lovers on the run — Asimov and Katerina Solensan (portrayed in the live-action series by Jan Uddin and Lydia Peckham, respectively) — from the law, with Asimov hoarding (and trying to sell) a deadly combat drug known as Bloody-Eye. This episode also introduces Punch and Judy (portrayed in the live-action series Ira Munn and Lucy Currey, respectively), the hosts of a bounty hunter public program called Big Shot, where bounty hunters learn about the biggest bounties out.
“Stray Dog Strut” finds Spike and Jet hunting down a thief named Abdul Hakim (portrayed in the live-action series by Cali Nelle), who has stolen a valuable lab animal, while “Gateway Shuffle” is centered around eco-terrorist Maria Murdock (portrayed in the live-action series by Adrienne Barbeau) and her group the Space Warriors, who’ve created a virus that turns humans into apes.
The fifth episode is arguably the most important episode of the five because it sets up Cowboy Bebop‘s main story arc: Spike’s longtime rivalry with former partner Vicious (portrayed by Alex Hassell in the live-action series), and his love interest Julia (portrayed by Elena Satine), an affiliate of the Red Dragon. “Ballad of the Fallen Angels” introduces not just Vicious but Mao Yenrai — the leader of the Red Dragon crime syndicate that Spike and Vicious were partners in — and Anastasia, a friend of Spike’s and Mao’s. Judging by reports on the casting for the live-action series, it seems that Mao (portrayed by Rachel House) will instead be leader of the White Tiger — the Red Dragon’s rival in the anime series — while Anastasia (portrayed by Tamara Tunie) will be the proprietor of a jazz club and act as a surrogate mother to Spike (in the anime, she was the owner of a convenience store).
“Jamming with Edward” (Episode Nine)
“Jamming with Edward” introduces Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV, better known simply as Ed. A hacker prodigy from Earth, Ed is a teenage girl who the Bebop crew get to help them track down the culprit behind vandalizing the Earth’s surface with hacked laser satellites. Although it hasn’t been shared who will portray Ed in the live-action series, the character is expected to appear in the show.
“Jupiter Jazz Pt. 1 and 2” (Episode 12 and 13)
Parts one and two of “Jupiter Jazz” continue to explore the storyline between Spike and Vicious, while also introducing characters that will appear in the live-action series, like Lin (portrayed by Hoa Xuande) and Gren (Mason Alexander Park). The former serves under Vicious as a part of the Red Dragon — he previously served under Spike when he was still a part of the organization — while the latter is a saxophone player that has a bone to pick with Vicious, because the Red Dragon member betrayed him while they were soldiers fighting in a war together. For the live-action series, Gren will still be a jazz musician, but he’ll be working for Ana, bringing together two characters that never cross paths in the anime. Also, Gren will be non-binary and have they/them pronouns in the live-action adaptation, which is a cool and progressive nod to Gren as an intersex character in the anime.
“Pierrot le Fou” (Episode 20)
A fan-favorite, “Pierrot le Fou” pits Spike against a deranged assassin named Pierrot le Fou (portrayed by Josh Randall), who seems impossible to kill. It’s understandable why the live-action series would adapt this episode: it’s one of the most memorable from the anime series, as Spike comes face-to-face with someone (other than Vicious) who can match his combat prowess. But it’s also terrifying, the episode a half hour of horror as viewers learn of the horrific scientific experimentation Pierrot endured that led to him being the killer he is.
“Cowboy Funk” (Episode 22)
One of the more comedic episodes, “Cowboy Funk” finds Spike trying to apprehend a terrorist known as “Teddy Bomber” (Rodney Cook will serve as the voice of the character in the live-action series) who uses explosives hidden in teddy bears to bring down high-rise buildings. (He’s essentially a counterpart to Maria Murdock int hat he destroys these buildings to protest humanity’s excesses). However, trying to capture Teddy ends up being a bit of a challenge, as Spike goes up against a fellow bounty hunter named “Cowboy Andy,” who serves as a hilarious foil to Spike.
“The Real Folk Blues Pt. 1 and 2” (Episode 25 and 26)
“The Real Folk Blues” ends Spike and Vicious’ long battle, as well as the series as a whole. Everything comes to a peak in these last two episodes: Spike is reunited with Julia, Vicious goes rogue, and a lot of people die. But even in these last episodes, significant characters are getting introduced. Such is the case with Shin (portrayed by Ann Truong in the live-action series), Lin’s brother, who comes to Spike’s aid in the final episodes. Part two ends in ambiguity, yet another instance of how the series plays with storytelling and narrative throughout its 26 episodes. If the live-action series recreates the anime’s final moments, it’ll be interesting to see if they divert at all from it or not.