It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since the premiere of Cowboy Bebop. The Japanese premiere, that is. North American audiences wouldn’t see the show until 2001 when it appeared on Cartoon Network’s newly minted Adult Swim programming block. Still, Bebop has been around for a long time.
While the series’ praises have been sung the world over, as with most Japanese animation, there are tons of extra elements that never made their way outside of Japan. For Cowboy Bebop’s 20th, let’s take a look at a few of these wonders.
One of the most iconic elements of the show is Yoko Kanno’s brilliant soundtrack. “Tank!” is probably one of the most recognizable anime openings of all time. Unfortunately, none of the soundtrack albums have ever been officially released outside of Japan. Considering there are over 10 of them including box sets and various remixes, that’s a damn shame. Check out this Amazon Japan link for all the different albums.
Two video games
There are two Cowboy Bebop video games. The first was released in 1998 for the original PlayStation. Simply titled Cowboy Bebop, it puts you in the cockpit of Spike’s Swordfish II aircraft in an on-rails shooter. The main Japanese voice cast reprised their roles for their Star Fox-style, talking head in-game banter. Yoko Kanno also returned to provide some soundtrack compositions. Overall, the game is serviceable if you can get past the early 3D graphics.
The other Cowboy Bebop game is subtitled Tsuioku no Serenade (“Serenade of Reminiscence” in English). Released in 2005 for the PS2, this one features a 3D beat-em up style. The gameplay is pretty sloppy and the camera is horrendous, but the original voice cast once again return along with Yoko Kanno. It also features an original story with cutscenes that basically make it a better episode than a video game. It’s worth just checking out the playlist below for what could be considered an extra episode of the series (and there are English subtitles).
A whole episode that was never released
When Cowboy Bebop first aired, it was considered too violent for Japanese TV, so the original broadcast was cut short, airing only a selection of 12 episodes across the entire series (the full 26 episodes were eventually aired on satellite TV a few months later). To top off this original TV run, a 13th recap episode, “Session XX: Mish-Mash Blues” was created.
Recap episodes are usually the bane of the anime fan’s existence, but Bebop took things in an interesting direction with the main characters providing philosophical musings over all of the recap scenes. The short monologues reveal aspects of the characters that were unexplored throughout the rest of the series. This episode was never released officially in other countries, but thanks to YouTube and some dedicated fans, we have a fully subtitled version.