Cowboy Bebop (カウボーイビバップ, Kaubōi Bibappu) is a Japanese anime series. Directed by Shinichirō Watanabe and written by Keiko Nobumoto, the series was produced by Sunrise in 1998. Its 26 episodes comprise a complete storyline: the series, set in 2071, follows the misadventures and tragedies of a group of bounty hunters, or "cowboys", traveling on their spaceship, the Bebop.
Despite its title, the series only makes a nod to the western and space western genres. The series was adapted into two manga series which ran in the shojo manga magazine Asuka Fantasy DX. Cowboy Bebop's art direction centers around American music and counterculture, especially the beat and jazz movements of the 1940s-60s and the early rock era of the 1950s-70s, which the original soundtrack by Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts recreates. Episodes are called "sessions", each episode follows a different musical theme, and episode titles are borrowed from notable album or song names (i.e. "Sympathy for the Devil", "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Honky Tonk Women", "My Funny Valentine") or make use of a genre name ("Mushroom Samba", "Heavy Metal Queen").
Cowboy Bebop was a commercial success both in Japan and international markets, notably in the United States. After this reception, Sony Pictures released a feature film, Knockin' on Heaven's Door, to theaters worldwide and followed up with an international DVD release. Two manga adaptations were serialized in Kadokawa Shoten's Asuka Fantasy DX. In 2004, it ranked second in Newtype USA''s survey of their readers' favorite anime of all time.
The crew of the spaceship Bebop are a partnership of bounty hunters, called "cowboys", who travel the solar system trying to apprehend bounties. Jet Black is the owner of the Bebop, but has partnered with Spike for his diverse combat skills. Though he is reluctant to admit it, Jet has also come to rely on Spike for companionship in the normally solitary field of bounty hunting.
Most episodes revolve around attempts to bring in a specific bounty, but the show also examines the pasts of the main characters and more general past events, which are revealed and brought together as the series progresses. Some of the Bebop's varied targets include small time thugs, gangsters, hackers (known as "net divers" in slang), religious leaders, psychopaths, genetic experiments, mutant creatures and petty thieves.
In 2022, the explosion of an experimental warp gateway caused major damage to the Moon and the Earth, killing nearly all life and effectively ending Earth civilization. As a result, the survivors abandoned the now-uninhabitable Earth to colonize the inner planets and moons of Jupiter. Little to no knowledge remains of the history of Earth and humanity prior to the accident, creating a cultural void. In the show's timeline, decades after the accident, the entire solar system has been made accessible via reliable warp gates, but the crew of the Bebop spend much of their time on Mars, the new central hub of human civilization.