Unofficial Anime: Cowboy Bebop full series/Knockin' on Heaven's Door notes by episode

  • R.I.P. EZAnime. We barely knew ye.

    I was hoping that we'd eventually get around to discussing Cowboy Bebop. Looks now, however - like that day may never come. So it being seven days away from the 20th Anniversary of the initial Japanese broadcast of Cowboy Bebop, I thought that over the next week, I'd go through the entire series episode by episode, in chronological order (so, Knockin' on Heaven's Door, AKA Cowboy Bebop The Movie in between episodes 22 and 23) with notes and cool easter eggs I notice, musical references, visual and stylistic references, in-jokes, lore that people don't necessarily know, and other funsies, etc.


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    So just to begin, what is it? Where can you watch it? How long is it? Blah Blah Blah...

    Cowboy Bebop is a serialized Japanese animation which blends styles of Jazz, Funk, Pop, Rock, and Blues music and references, into American Western, Sci-Fi, Noir, Gangster, and Asian Yakuza and martial arts films. It sounds weird, but it's incredibly well done. Each episode is a stand-alone story that has a unique tone and style, while always following the same group of characters. One episode will be Jackie Chan-style action stunt and martial arts heavy, and one will be Alien inspired horror. The next will be Western Cowboy slapstick. There are 26 episides plus a feature film that was made after the series ends, but slots in between episodes 22 and 23 on the overall timeline. Each episode is on average about 24 minutes in length. The film is listed at 115 minutes.

    You can watch the series for free (with ads) on Crunchyroll :

    You can also watch it streaming on HULU if you have a subscription to that.

    I am watching my copy of the Cowboy Bebop Complete Series Blu-Ray from Funimation available at Amazon

    Don't THINK the Cowboy Bebop movie is streaming anywhere. It is available on Blu ray through Amazon.

    Things to note: This show happened before Wide Screen was really a thing. It's 4:3 format. So It's never going to be "full HD". It's a little weird at first, but the show is so good, you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you let that stop you from watching it.

    The English dub is great. This series has some of the least amount of Sub v Dub warfare out there (note that I didn't say that there was NONE). Both the original Japanese voice actors, and the English voice cast are equally amazing and bring different nuances and style to each character. Neither one of them is "wrong" so just pick whichever will get you to watch the show. :)
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  • Lets start right out of the gate with the opening credits:
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    Stylistically, the credits are an homage to The Blue Note album covers, some examples are as follows:
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    As well as James Bond and other "spy" intros of the 1960's

    The opening to the FX animated show "Archer" has a similar style and draws from similar references.

    Tank! The Main Theme of Cowboy bebop is "Tank!" is the series' opening song. The song, written by Yoko Kanno and performed by Seatbelts, has an extensive alto saxophone solo played by Masato Honda, as well as a fill part at the end. The song is a big band jazz piece in a Latin-infused hard bop style with a rhythm section that combines a double bass and bongo drums. If you want to hear more songs with a similar Japanese Jazz style, check out artists like Soil and Pimp Sessions and Takuya Kuroda.

  • Each episode is named, most of them directly named after songs.
    Episode 1: Asteroid Blues is one of the few that isn't a direct reference.

    The first shot of Cowboy Bebop is a contextless flashback, the actual story of which will slowly unravel throughout the series. Everybody in this show is clinging to something in their past, unable to move on, and this event is the most significant for the protagonist Spike.
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    Spike's martial arts style is "Jun Fan Jeet Kun Do" which is the martial arts style created by Bruce Lee. When you first see him, in the beginning "Bell Peppers and Beef" conversation, he's running through a similar exercise to the one that Lee is seen doing during Enter The Dragon. Here's a comparsion between Lee's side kick profile and Spike's just for funsies:
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    The whole stylistic design of Asimov Solensen (a nod to Issac Asimov) and Katerina is based on Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek from the Robert Rodriguez film Desperado.
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    When Spike goes to see Laughing Bull, the Native American seer - hes sitting next to a bunch of busted up legacy computer parts. I see a floppy drive, a vcr, and there's a PS1 right next to Spike's leg when he's sitting there smoking and chilling in his tent.

    Overall, not the strongest episode, but it's pretty good, it sets the table for the relationship between Jet and Spike, and introduces you to recurring themes . A little bit of universe lore: Spike's ship The Swordfish II, and Jet's Hammerhead are named after fish. Almost all of the small space capable craft on the show are built around a "monopod" which is a clear spherical cage that the pilot sits in. The various configurations of smaller spacefaring ships for different purposes all seem to be based off this same design, the main difference being where the "pod" is attached.

    More to come tomorrow!

  • Episode 2: Stray Dog Strut A reference to The Stray Cats 'Stray Cat Strut'
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    The villain of this episode, Abdul Hakeem is based on Kareem Abdul Jabbar, a very tall basketball player and actor who was one of Bruce Lee's martial arts students in Los Angeles. The Bruce Lee and Kareem fight in the unfinished film "Game of Death" is a classic.
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    Lots of Bruce in this episode. There's a poster, the nunchucks, etc.

    The first appearance of reoccurring "Bounty Hunter show" Big Shot. The two hosts are named Punch and Judy. (in reference to the classic puppets) and uh.. Judy apparently does not believe in shirts. If you pay attention to this expositional background noise, you'll notice that even in this, there's a little miniature story arc that plays out throughout the show. There is some pretty good lore and worldbuilding presented in these short clips if you're paying attention. "Hi Amigos, all 300,000 bounty hunters in the star system!"... Bounty hunting seems pretty popular!
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    Hakeem says his codename is "Snoop". One of the musical tracks on this episode is "Doggy Dog"

    This episode is the one that introduces Ein to the crew. On the surface, Ein appears to be a jovial and good natured Welsh Corgi. In reality, Ein is a "data dog" and through some sort of scientific experimentation, his intelligence has been increased severalfold. It's not exactly quantified, but in my head, I believe he's actually the smartest member of the Bebop crew. Despite Ein's enhanced intelligence, he is incapable of speaking (other than barking like any dog). Because of this, his intelligence largely goes unnoticed. When asked a question, he will bark once for yes and twice for no. I don't know if anyone ever picks up on that during the show. I don't remember.
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  • this is incredible. thanks for taking the time to do such an in depth write up. you've definitely peaked my curiosity!

  • @mango only 24 more episodes and a movie to go!

    (I may not finish before the anniversary. lol)

  • Episode 3: Honky Tonk Woman a reference toThe Rolling Stones song 'Honky Tonk Woman'
    Are you ready for some history lessons?

    Honky Tonk Woman was apparently written about Catherine James, a model, dancer, and rock and roll muse of the highest order. (Think Almost Famous) I read her autobiography Dandelion once and she's had a pretty incredible life. Here's to the original Honky Tonk Woman.
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    Anyhow, back to Bebop. The title, i suppose, refers to the gambler, femme fatale, and trouble magnet - Faye Valentine. She's referred to during this episode several times as the reincarnation of "Poker Alice" , who was a real person back in the wild west. She was apparently the most famous female gambler of the era. More on Poker Alice here, if you care to dive deeper.

    The space casino is named "Spaiders from Mars" A mis-spelled but obvious David Bowie reference. (The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars). There's also a sign for "Seven Stad Poker" which is not a thing. There are 10 floors of toilets. Floors 50-60 are all toilets.

    Spike has a cigarette in his mouth in the elevator, but Jet points out that the elevator is a non-smoking area. Spike frequently smokes in non-smoking areas.This prompts Spike to eat his cigarette.
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    There's a giant indoor waterfall inside the casino. This would be problematic if the artificial gravity was ever to fail.

    Oh, I didn't mention that the bounties or big scores the Bebop crew are chasing almost never come to fruition, by the way. They learn a lot of life lessons and gain crewmembers or allies quite frequently though. Usually after a lot of property destruction. Same goes here.

  • Keep doing some good work, my man! Love the Bebop.

    One thing I wanted to add for episode one - if you've ever heard Huber just randomly say "Keep those eyes open!", he's quoting a line from this episode. It's actually a favorite phrase of mine to say as well when playing any multiplayer game.

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    I still havent watched Bebop, but people keeps bringing it up. So what you say is that its worth giving a shot? :3

  • @lotias It's worth it.

    It's relatively short/binge-able. It's not like there's 100+ episodes of it. I'd honestly recommend starting with the Dub unless that's 100% against your religious beliefs.
    It really is an excellent dub.

  • @lotias It's super short and I can easily say without a doubt, the best anime I've ever encountered, nothing even comes close. And agreed, the dub is quite good, Steve Blum in particular gives a lot of life to Spike.

  • Episode 4: Gateway Shuffle This is another one that's not directly referencing any specific song.
    It miiight be referencing a few things. None of this is confirmed as far as I know:
    The Melbourne Shuffle is a type of dance step first invented in the mid 1980's electronic dance music scene. It's similar to or a derivative of certain Jazz dance steps and African American "stepping" and other shuffling type dances. I think the reference in this case, if i could project my reasoning onto it - is that the crew puts down one foot in front of the other, and yet doesn't really progress? So like a metaphor, i guess? There's a pretty in-depth documentary about The Melbourne Shuffle here:
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    Orrrr what in my opinion is more likely

    It could be referencing the classic confidence game (performed by a con artist) The Kansas City Shuffle. In order for a confidence game to be a "Kansas City Shuffle", the mark must be aware that he is involved in a con, but also be wrong about how the con artist is planning to deceive him. The con artist will attempt to misdirect the mark in a way that leaves him with the impression that he has figured out the game and has the knowledge necessary to outsmart the con artist, but by attempting to retaliate, the mark unwittingly performs an action that helps the con artist to further the scheme.
    In this case, the crew of the Bebop pull a kind of a unwitting Kansas City Shuffle on the bad-guys of this episode, which ultimately brings them to justice, though not necessarily the kind of justice that Bounty Hunters get paid for. :)

    The entire set up of the episode is also kind of a misdirection, so it kind of fits too.

    If you're a film nerd and the Kansas City Shuffle sounds familiar, it's essentially the main plot device of the movie Lucky Number Slevin (which I enjoy and recommend)
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    Or it could be referencing neither of those things! It's just my speculation. :)

    Now onto the episode itself, you see Faye stranded in space after running out of fuel (after escaping at the end of last episode), she's eating her way through a bunch of rations and trying to flag down anyone who can help her. You can see she's eaten a packet of Chicken and Rice, and a packet of Chocolate. But also there's a packet of salt that's been opened (which reasonably could have seasoned the chicken and rice) but also a packet of sugar (which I'm assuming she just ate). She also drank an entire packet of what looks like it might have been TANG.
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    This is some cool lore building because it establishes not only that Faye tends to eat her way through boredom and stress, (She's probably been stranded less than a few hours) but that she's impulsive (not rationing food, not planning how much fuel she needs) and the fact that she's trying to leech a ride off any random passerby that happens along shows you that she's pretty confident in her preference to "wing it" and deal with consequences as they come up.

    Spike and Jet are staking out a bounty at a space port near Ganymede, one of the moons of Jupiter. It's a place known for the local delicacy "Ganymede Sea Rat" which is apparently quite disgusting. The menu of the restaurant appears to be written in Greek, Japanese, and English. They are after a criminal named Morgan who's crime is essentially unimportant and he's worth the tidy sum of 8 million woolongs (which is the galactic currency in the Bebop universe) His height on Jet's fancy bounty readout is an improbably 6 foot 7 inches. His crime is unimportant because he's immediately gunned down at his table by Eco-Terrorists for ordering the Sea Rat. These new baddies are called the Space-Warriors. A not so subtle or flattering reference to The Sea Shepherds and Greenpeace. They don't like the harming of the Sea Rats and aren't above murder, terrorism, and extortion to ensure that the Sea Rat becomes a protected species.
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    The bad guy's extortion plot revolves around holding the entire govt. hostage with a bio-engineered virus that alters the "small percentage of DNA that separates humans from monkeys" and de-evolves humans into monkeys. (not teeechnically a thing, but I don't want to write a diatribe about misconceived commonly held beliefs about biology or DNA here) Whether or not it's scientifically possible, it's a fun storytelling mechanism! Also, references to Darwin, and possibly a slight nod to the band Devo, who's entire shtick was De-Evolution. Even if I'm imagining it, I'm going to go with it because there hasn't been any music to post in this episode yet, so here's my favorite version of my favorite song by DEVO!
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    Anyhow, Faye ends up eventually joining the crew of the Bebop and nobody gets paid!

  • Episode 5: Ballad of Fallen Angels is one of my very favorite episodes of Bebop!
    There's a rumor out there that may be speculative in nature that the title references "Fallen Angels" by the band Aerosmith. That song was released a year before Bebop came out, so it's possible that it's a reference... but I'm not sure thematically it hits the right spots for me. I've always thought maybe it was referring to Jazz artist Charlie Haden and The Liberation Music Orchestra's song The Ballad of the Fallen:
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    Many of the sequences in this episode are direct homages to other films and media. A lot of people will point out that you can see John Woo's The Killer referenced in the church fight. To me though, It's always looked like it was also heavily influenced by The Crow. For example, the church itself.
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    Those large circular windows are called Rose, or Catherine Windows. They are featured heavily in churches built in the Gothic architectural style. Also The main baddie of this episode (and Spike's mysterious past, which is further fleshed out a bit in this episode) Vicious - is a long haired sword wielding guy with a big black bird of some sort. Seems reminiscent of Michael Wincott's (as always) excellent villain in The Crow "Top Dollar". Here's a part of the scene in The Crow in the church.
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    The scene in which Faye goes off to find Vicious on her own is a nod to the Royal Albert Concert Hall sequence in the 1956's The Man Who Knew Too Much:
    I think the one real glaring plot hole in this episode is that yeah, Vicious knew that killing Mao might bring Spike back for revenge, if he was still alive - but why would you need to bring Mao's body around to the Opera to bait the trap? Like, do they just haul the corpse around to all the stuff on his calendar in the hopes that maybe someone might show up someday? Turns out they didn't catch Spike after all, they caught Fay. I think this is my favorite Fay outfit during the entire show, though. So I forgive the weird nonsense opera trap plot. It's a burgundy cocktail or evening gown with a matching hat. Her hair is in a pseudo-messy updo, and she's inexplicably wearing a yellow and green duster with HYUUUGE lapels. I'm not sure why, but this ensemble works for me.
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  • Happy birthday, Bebop! I'll be back at this later on this week. Movies getting in the the way.

  • We go from one of my favorite episodes to one of the ones I usually skip. Episode 5: Sympathy for the Devil. Another Rolling Stones reference.
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    In this episode, Faye is hungry, and finds no food onboard the Bebop, and so she eats Ein's last can of dog food. Faye is always hungry.

    You learn a little more historical lore about the astral gates in this episode. Namely that early experiments with the technology during the testing phase caused an explosion that exploded part of the moon, causing rock showers to strike the earth that killed 4.5 billion people. The Earth, now largely uninhabitable due to constantly falling lunar debris was mostly abandoned in favor of colonies on the other planets using the same gate technology that caused the devastation.
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    The character "Fatty Rivers" is a reference to Jazz Musician Muddy Waters.

    The crew of the Bebop do not catch the bounty again.
    Episode ends with Spike's finger gun. "bang"

    Wiki trivia:

    This episode was unaired due to a child being killed on and themes of violence. The scene of Wen getting hit in the forehead had the impact replaced with a Hit Flash and his bullet mark digitally removed in the Adult Swim airing. On top of that, this was one of three episodes delayed in the wake of of the 9/11 attacks, as it contained a scene of a man falling from a high-rise building and a child (Wen) emerging from burnt corpses and later the burning rubble of a destroyed building. The beginning dream of Spike in surgery had his lower nudity blacked out on Adult Swim.