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So You Want To / Be The Next Shinichiro Watanabe

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Shinichiro Watanabe, the creator of such legendary classics as Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and Space Dandy, has acquired renown for his mastery of Genre-Busting, episodic series, and creating anime that's extremely well-loved in the west. So, it's no surprise that many wish to achieve a degree of his greatness by learning how to write like him.

Necessary Tropes

  • Shinichiro Watanabe is the undisputed master of writing episodic series, for one good reason: Although he has Running Gags aplenty, his stories are never Strictly Formula. Spike Spiegel and Jet Black may always hunt down a new bounty but never score a single woolong, but no two bounties were quite the same—bounties included a drug dealer addicted to his own product, a crazed eco-terrorist, and a cult leader, and not all of the villains of the week were even bounties to begin with—the question of bounties was never brought up for the Big Bad Vicious or the most memorable villain Tongpu. Heck, they even successfully caught a bounty in the Batman Cold Open of one episode and spent the rest of it focusing on Spike training someone! This continued with Samurai Champloo, which dealt with Mugen, Jin, and Fuu going from town to town trying to reach Edo and encountering different people, but some were action-packed swordfight-centric episodes while others dealt with more mundane stuff like Mugen learning how to read.
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  • Genre-Busting. Shinichiro Watanabe blended sci-fi, westerns, Heroic Bloodshed, and Film Noir together through jazz in Cowboy Bebop, brought Jidai Geki and hip-hop together in Samurai Champloo, and fused The '50s and disco with a parody of Raygun Gothic shows with Space Dandy. Generally, you'll want to mix a music genre with a bunch of story genres.

Choices, Choices

What genres are you going to mix together? Heavy Metal and post-apocalyptic fiction, Progressive Rock with a combination of Medieval European Fantasy and Wuxia, or perhaps a mix of Two-Fisted Tales and New Weird brought together by jazz fusion? Go crazy mixing genres—you're only limited by your imagination!




Potential Subversions

  • The biggest way you can deviate from Shinichiro Watanabe is to pick a single genre and stick to it, as well as using arc-based storytelling instead of episodic formats.
  • Watanabe's signature protagonist type is a Tall, Dark, and Handsome male, but even he has deviated from that with Carole & Tuesday with a duo of women. You could also deviate—maybe you'd prefer to focus on a Kid Hero or a girl
  • Watanabe loved his characters to have Perpetual Poverty—maybe you are different. Maybe you'd rather they weren't always broke and instead held on to a sizeable amount of wealth for a few episodes? Hell, perhaps you'd prefer your main character to be downright rich!


Writers' Lounge

Suggested Themes and Aesops


Potential Motifs


Suggested Plots



Set Designer / Location Scout


Props Department


Costume Designer


Casting Director

Stunt Department

  • First and foremost, you'll want to have the main protagonist practice a martial art that mirrors the musical genre you've chosen for your work in some way, shape or form. Spike Spiegel had Jeet Kune Do, which was Bruce Lee's attempt at blending different martial art styles into something that defied all previous traditions, much like how jazz and bebop did. Mugen had a breakdancing-influenced style called "Champloo Kendo" that takes bits and pieces from other martial arts and making up the rest as he goes along, which mirrors hip-hop's use of sampling and improvisation.
  • Secondly, for one-on-one fights, match up the character with a person who fights incredibly differently from the main character himself. Spike, a Jeet Kune Do and Gun Kata master, had Vincent, a Master Swordsman, for his mortal nemesis, and Mugen's rival Jin was the most traditional master of kenjutsu you could find in the Samurai Champloo world.

Extra Credit

The Greats

The Epic Fails


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