Like what the website of Japan Powered says, the United States is not as large of an anime market as Japan, but anime has left its mark on popular culture in the US. Japan Powered provided a list of the top 10 most influential anime in the US, and Cowboy Bebop is #3. Cowboy Bebop is a Japanese anime series developed by Sunrise in 1998. The director was Shinichirō Watanabe, the screenwriter was Keiko Nobumoto, the character designer was Toshihiro Kawamoto, the mechanical designer was Kimitoshi Yamane, and the composer was Yoko Kanno. Cowboy Bebop is known for its believable adult characters, its gangster feel, and its amazing jazz score. It even has a Wild West science fiction theme, and it is set in the year 2071. Cowboy Bebop basically follows Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Faye Valentine, Edward, and Ein (the cutest dog ever in an anime!) while they seek out food and fugitives for bounties on their spaceship called the Bebop. Cowboy Bebop was even adapted into two manga series and a film. Cowboy Bebop was definitely a commercial success worldwide especially in Japan and the US. It has received major science fiction awards and praise for its characters, story voice acting, animation, and soundtrack. Cowboy Bebop ran from October 23, 1998 to April 23, 1999, with 26 episodes.
Cowboy Bebop is very well known for its music. Each “session” or episode follows a different musical theme, and even the episode titles are from well-known albums or song names. Some episode titles are even genre based. For example, episode 14 is titled “Bohemian Rhapsody,” episode 15 is titled “My Funny Valentine,” and episode 17 is titled “Mushroom Samba.” The music for Cowboy Bebop is arranged and performed by Yoko Kanno (pictured above) and the Seatbelts (pictured below). Yoko Kanno is a Japanese composer, arranger, and musician. She is well known for her work on soundtracks for many games, anime films, TV series, live-action movies, and advertisements. She is also a great keyboardist. Yoko Kanno also assembled the Seatbelts. The Seatbelts is a Japanese blues and jazz band. There are actually Japanese, New York, and Paris musicians in the band. The Seatbelts also have guest vocalists such as Mai Yamane.
For episodes 1-25, “Tank!” (featured in the video above) is the opening theme song written by Yoko Kanno and performed by the Seatbelts. It includes an alto saxophone solo played by Masato Honda. It also combines a double bass and bong drums. It is basically an instrumental piece, but it does have some spoken male vocals by Tim Jensen. Jensen’s final lyrics are “I think it’s time we blow this scene. Get everybody and the stuff together. Ok, three, two, one let’s jam,” which leads into the instrumental part.
For episodes 1-12 and 14-25, “The Real Folk Blues” (featured in the video above) is the ending theme song also performed by the Seatbelts featuring vocals from Mai Yamane. The lyrics were written by Yuho Iwasato, and it was sung in Japanese. For episode 13, “Space Lion” is the ending theme song also performed by the Seatbelts. For episode 26, “Blue” is the ending theme song also performed by the Seatbelts featuring Mai Yamane.
The Cowboy Bebop anime series has many soundtrack albums by Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts. Cowboy Bebop is the first album created for the anime series. It was released on May 21, 1998, with 17 tracks including “Tank!” In 2006, Cowboy Bebop was actually voted by IGN as the greatest soundtrack for an anime. Cowboy Bebop Vitaminless is the first mini-album. It was released on June 3, 1998, with 8 tracks including “The Real Folk Blues.” Cowboy Bebop No Disc is the second album. This album includes different styles of music such as heavy metal, Japanese pop, swing, and scat singing with the usual blues and jazz pieces. It was released on October 21, 1998, with 18 tracks. Cowboy Bebop Blue is the third album, which features more vocal pieces. It was released on May 1, 1999, with 17 tracks. Ask DNA was a mini-album released on July 5, 2001, with 5 tracks. Future Blues is the main soundtrack from Cowboy Bebop: The Movie. It has other musical styles such as country western and Arabic music. It was released on August 29, 2001, with 18 tracks. Cowboy Bebop Tank! THE! BEST! contains previously-released material with three new songs from the 2005 Cowboy Bebop game. It was released on December 22, 2004 with 12 tracks.
The Nihon Review by Kavik Ryx does a great job in analyzing Cowboy Bebop. Kavik Ryx says that the soundtrack is “brilliant Kanno Yoko jazz style,” the animation is “fluid like water,” the characters are “quirky, dynamic, and just plain likable,” the style is “amazingly unique,” and the one drawback is “could have gone on longer.” And I could not agree more with Kavik Ryx. It is so interesting how important music is for anime especially for Cowboy Bebop. Did you even know that the episode titles were based on albums, song, or genres? That is pretty amazing.
Written by Camille Garcia