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YMMV / Cowboy Bebop

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The anime:

  • Alternate Aesop Interpretation: Faye states that people can't trust each other and should take advantage of each other whenever possible.
  • Complete Monster:
    • The appropriately-named Vicious is Spike Spiegel's Arch-Enemy. Formerly Spike's friend and partner in the Red Dragon Syndicate, the psychotic Vicious is defined by his bloodlust, ambition, Lack of Empathy, and penchant for betraying anyone remotely close to him. He murdered his and Spike's mentor, Mao Yenrai, because Mao signed a peace treaty with a rival syndicate, then desecrated Mao's body to lure Spike out of hiding. In the past, during the Titan War, he spied on his own side then framed Gren, a fellow soldier who was fiercely loyal to him, for his crime. When he and Gren meet years later for a drug deal, Vicious tries to kill him with a suitcase bomb just because. After one of his men dies by taking the bullet for Vicious, the latter is appalled by the former's dedication and self-sacrifice, saying there is nothing in life worth believing in. In the finale, it's revealed that, prior to the series, Vicious responded to the revelation that his lover, Julia, was cheating on him with Spike, by trying to force her to choose between killing Spike herself or both of them dying. After murdering his superiors and usurping control of the Red Dragon Syndicate, he keeps the former hits ordered on Spike and Julia going, leading to Julia's death, and Spike's possible death in his final battle with Vicious.
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    • Udai Taxim, from "Black Dog Serenade", is a psychopathic assassin and the Arch-Enemy of Jet Black, who is named "the devil himself". Introduced after having slaughtered a group of guards on his prison ship to escape, Udai goes on to kill the pilots of the craft. Engaging the police with his gang when they come to stop him, Udai continues his killing spree, having his men wipe out the cops' attack force. Confronted by Jet, Udai reveals that years ago he conspired with Jet's former cop-partner to kill Jet, which led to Jet losing his arm in a shootout, before Udai attacks and tries to kill him once again.
  • Crazy Awesome:
    • Some of Spike's plans are pretty eccentric, and a few of them are suicidal.
    • Mad Pierrot is a dapper gentleman in a suit and top hat, with a body shape that's almost perfectly round like a balloon. He's as fast and agile as a rubber ball, almost completely unstoppable, and crazy as a loon:
    Pierrot: Hello, gentlemen. I have come to take your lives.
    • Doohan the mechanic coming to save Spike in the Columbia Space Shuttle!? Hell, the very first shot of Doohan is him walking into frame apparently not caring that he's on fire.
    • Edward usually is in her own little world, but whenever she's set on something, this is the result. In her first appearance, she outsmarts the police, hacks into government satellites to find her new AI friend, carves a smiley face into the continent with a laser from said AI, keeps tabs on the Bebop and manages to blackmail them into joining the crew, and has a little fun taking the ship for a spin remotely from her laptop.
  • Creepy Awesome: Vincent Volaju in the movie and Tongpu, a.k.a. Mad Pierrot.
  • Death of the Author: Shinichirō Watanabe encourages viewers to interpret whether Spike dies or not as they will, but seems to personally prefer the conclusion that he's just sleeping.
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  • Die for Our Ship: Julia, according to Spike/Faye fans. Even though she, y'know, already dies.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • A lot of fans regard Andy very fondly. Teddy Bomber from the same episode is also one of the few one-shot villains fans remember.
    • Tongpu is another rare instance of a one episode villain leaving a huge impression on the fanbase. He's memorable for his terrifying presence, Crazy Awesome super powers and surprisingly tragic backstory and death.
    • Wen, the Creepy Child of episode 6, is probably the third best remembered one-shot villain of the show, particularly due to his harmonica playing skills and having a memorable Alas, Poor Villain death that even serves as foreshadowing for how the series ends.
  • Evil Is Cool: Vicious is a pretty entertaining antagonist and his backstory and his betrayal of everyone is generally seen as a good part of the story. Vincent from the movie also counts.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Spike/Faye by a mile- not that there's much competition. Their exchange, and her subsequent reaction, before he heads off to his final fight in the last episode just hammers it home.
  • Genius Bonus:
    • In The Movie, when all the classic war planes are taking off one of the planes is piloted by the three old guys. As they're taking off one of them asks the others where they're going and gets the (incorrect) response that they're "going to sink the Bismarck". The plane they are flying in is the same model of plane that delivered the crippling torpedo shot to the Bismarck. In a further bonus the name of that model of plane is Swordfish.
    • In the two halves of the finale, Jet and Spike make references to The Snows of Kilimanjaro and the Japanese children's book The Cat Who Died a Million Times. Both deal with characters who view the world in terms similar to Spike, and both savage that view mercilessly.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: While it was a commercial hit in Japan and is still respected there, this series is one of the most beloved anime in Europe and especially America. This is partially because it uses so many American action movie and Western tropes that at times it seems like it was made for a Western audience.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • The episode "Wild Horses" has the space shuttle Columbia, now a long-disused antique, being brought out for one last mission. Cartoon Network actually pulled this one off the air for a while after the Columbia was destroyed during re-entry. Even worse, the episode mentions the shuttle's heat-resistant tiles being damaged, which is what caused the real Columbia to be destroyed.
    • Cartoon Network pulled "Cowboy Funk" from its first run in September 2001 for its depiction of a pair of identical skyscrapers being destroyed by a terrorist.
    • "Waltz for Venus" was pulled due to the opening scene where terrorists taking over a commercial airliner.
    • The Movie didn't get an American release in theaters until two years later due to its terrorism theme and that the movie made its run in Japanese theaters just days before 9/11.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight: The relationship between Spike and Julia ended with their deaths—but their respective English voice actors, Steve Blum and Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, entered into a relationship that, as of 2018, sees them engaged.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Back in the early 2000s, some advertisements mistakenly stated that Cowboy Bebop was a part of Toonami, which was still airing on Cartoon Network at the time. Fast forward to 2012 where the series finally made its debut on Toonami, albeit as a holdover from [adult swim] Action.
    • A character voiced by Maaya Sakamoto named Stella.
    • "Cowboy Funk" ends with Andy becoming a samurai. The hindsight comes in the form of Samurai Champloo, which features a samurai who's an expy of Spike.
    • The plot of the PlayStation 2 video game features the crew of the Bebop on a hunt for the lost treasure of a legendary Space Pirate named "Captain H." It appears there's no need for a "pirated" version as they meet the real deal in Super Robot Wars T.
    • There's another Andy who also loved to play cowboy and appeared more than three years earlier before "Cowboy Funk" aired.
  • Ho Yay:
    • Gren admits to Faye that he is "not interested in women," and much of his interaction with Vicious could be read as jilted former lovers. At the very least, it's very much in Vicious' character to be aware of Gren's affections and manipulating him through them.
    • Ed rubbing her head against Faye's thigh in "Ganymede Elegy". Also, Faye's constant glancing at Julia in "The Real Folk Blues".
  • Hype Backlash: Considering its status as an apparently universally beloved anime that is so great that people should like it even if they don't like anime, someone is bound to be disappointed by it. Even if a viewer likes the series' style, the episodic stories that the show focuses on can be seen as underwhelmingly average.
  • I Am Not Shazam: No character is actually named "Cowboy Bebop". "Cowboy" is an in-universe slang term for bounty hunters, while the ship used by the main group of hunters is named the Bebop.
  • It Was His Sled: Anime fans to whom the ending isn't spoiled are a rare breed.
  • Jerkass Woobie: It's impossible not to feel bad for Tongpu when he cries for his mother after Spike throws a knife into his leg.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • Related to the spoiler above and much more common nowadays: "Bang", or "You're gonna carry that weight."
    • Generally, within three posts of SPIKE DIES there will be a MAYBE
    • "Don't talk to me or my son ever again". Explanation 
  • Moe:
    • Edward, full stop. She's like a little sister you would love to own.
    • Ein, he's a Welsh Corgi, one of the most adorable puppies ever, so yes he's definitely this.
    • Faye as a child.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Udai Taxim breaks it through his Establishing Character Moment, which is breaking out of jail and slaughtering everyone inside who isn't assisting him.
    • Vicious breaks it by betraying Gren and giving him a nasty drug that changes his sexuality. This is despite Gren being loyal to him.
  • Most Wonderful Sound: Whenever Edward giggles or chants.
  • Narm:
    • Spike's arch-enemy and former ally goes by the name of Vicious. Although many people say that Faye's reaction to hearing him introduce himself by name to her helps to subvert it and effectively establish him as someone to be feared.
    • The ending of the episode "Pierrot le Fou". Let's just say the sight of a grown man squirming on the ground crying out for his mommy just before being stepped on by a big goofy dog thing doesn't exactly help his previously established image as a stone cold assassin who is Immune to Bullets and kills for the love of killing.
  • Narm Charm:
  • Nausea Fuel: In the third episode, Spike's response to Jet pointing out a "No Smoking" sign is to swallow his cigarette.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: While this series is still among the pantheon of anime classics, some aspects are not perceived as they once were:
    • The English dub is something this series has been praised for. However, given that the quality of dubbing in anime has improved since 2000, this isn't as big of a selling point as it once was.
    • While Spike is still an indisputably popular character for his badassery and cool attitude, he ends up coming across like a clone of countless other generic cool guys that are a dime a dozen in anime that followed.
  • Signature Scene:
    • Julia getting shot, then falling to the ground in excruciating slow-mo is one of the most iconic moments in all of anime, not to mention a major Tear Jerker.
    • Spike's final moments on the stairs at the end of the series.
    • Spike's fall from the cathedral to the music of "Green Bird" in "Ballad of Fallen Angels".
  • Superlative Dubbing:
    • One of the most well-known examples. The series is very often used as the example of what an English dub can/should be.
    • The Mexican Spanish dub is not a slouch in this department, despite having some not-too-serious translation mistakes.
    • Cowboy Bebop is one of the most consistently well dubbed animes of all time. Other famous good dubs of this anime are, among others, the Western European languages: European Spanish, French, German and Italian.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: When the back story of Tongpu is revealed, minimalist synthesizer music with a marked similarity to "On the Run" by Pink Floyd can be heard in the background.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!:
    • One that came up years after the series stopped airing, but if you don't want to get ranted at for a long time, don't remind anyone of the Spike pencil drawing by the original designer in a Cartoon Network stairwell that some intern doodled over with a sharpie.
    • This series is held in such a high regard that the simple announcement of a live action movie in the works led to this sentiment.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Ed. In her introductory episode, she's positively eager to join her idolized Bebop, which is literally the only motivation she shows in the entire series, and even manipulates events around so she can do so. After joining, however, she spends the rest of her screentime barely doing anything to even help the Bebop's crew in the first place, aside from very sporadic info breaks and a fortuitous solo bounty hunt played for laughs. This not only clashes with her initial mindset, but also prevents a lot of the action she might have produced in their next battles with her masterful abilities.
  • Time Marches On: When "Speak Like a Child" was made in 1998, videotapes and tape recorders were commonplace, and part of the humor was about Spike and Jet being completely unfamiliar with how these familiar devices (to the audience) work, while the audience As these devices are becoming relics of the past, some of the jokes will lack some of the punch with future viewers, such as Spike and Jet trekking into the ruins of Earth to find a tape player, only to learn that it's the wrong format for the tape they wanted to watch.
  • Too Good to Last: Shooting Star, the first manga spinoff. It was meant to run for a year but got cancelled after just ten installments. Due to its being made while the anime was still airing, it had an almost completely different continuity, which may have been the deciding blow against it. Yet, many reviewers in the West considered Shooting Star superior to the second manga spinoff (this one simply named after, and hewing much closer to, the show) due to its lively artwork and interesting, though abortive, story arc.
  • Viewer Gender Confusion:
    • In addition to several characters in-universe, many viewers initially assumed Ed was a boy.
    • VT from "Heavy Metal Queen" also a very masculine appearance and a deep voice which can cause some initial confusion.
  • The Woobie:
    • Everyone and their dog, really. Spike's a seemingly happy go lucky thrill-seeker that couldn't care less about his safety, using the adrenaline rush to mask his suicidal and apathetic outlook, still running from a dark past he refuses to acknowledge. Jet's a cynical cop that's haunted by his failures to protect his love and stay an honorable man in a police force gone corrupt, believing the world has no place for him, vainly attempting to project a wiser image of himself to his few friends. Faye's a Fish out of Temporal Water forced into an unfamiliar world with amnesia, feeling she cannot belong to a past with a home and family she cannot remember nor the present with people that have only betrayed her. The only exception is Ed, who seems cheerfully oblivious to everything around her, having fun in her own little world where she skips to her own beat, speaking in silly rhymes in a singsong voice without a care in the world. Not even learning she's an orphan with a father that abandoned her seems to slow her down much, though her last scene in the series suggests otherwise.
    • As for the not-main cast, Gren takes the cake. Despite fighting alongside Vicious and considering him a close comrade, Vicious frames Gren for a major crime that he didn't commit. To say that this shattered his faith in making friends is putting it lightly.

The live action series:

  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Several sources mistakenly credited John Cho as the one playing Kato (once portrayed in live-action by Bruce Lee) in The Green Hornet remake. With this series, he'll finally portray a Bruce Lee Clone in Spike, who's a Jeet Kune Do practicioner.
  • "Holy Shit!" Quotient: Not only were people surprised by the idea of Netflix doing a live action of the anime, but the fact that out of all the cast decisions (despite the bottom), John Cho would be chosen as Spike.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: The race lifts in the cast have become rather divisive in the fandom. This doesn't improve when one considers how ethnically diverse was already the original party (a character is vaguely Caucasian, another is Asian, another is dark-skinned, and yet a fourth one might be credibly considered Jewish even against official info) and how jarringly was it changed anyways (the Caucasian became black, the Asian became half-Hispanic white and the Jewish became Asian).


How well does it match the trope?

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