Cowboy Bebop is receiving a second wind of popularity thanks to the upcoming Netflix adaptation. Set to hit our screens in November this year, the series promises to induct more devotees into this iconic anime. Netflix is wisely putting the anime on its service around the same time so people can see just how damn good it is. Because it really is that good.
Bebop is that rare beast that has something appealing in every episode. So, you can imagine how hard it is to whittle down the series to the 10 best episodes. But hey, we’ll give it a try regardless! What are the top 10 best Cowboy Bebop episodes?
10) Perriot Le Fou
This is definitely one of the more action-packed Bebop episodes and easily among its best. This Spike-centric episode has the wisecracking ex-mobster go head-to-head with a murderous psychopath who happens to be an ISSP experiment gone wrong. Now embued with almost superhuman abilities, ‘Mad Perriot’ – who has the mentality of a child – is determined to kill Spike.
What ensues is one of the most thrilling battle sequences in the series, as the two tango in an otherwise empty amusement park. The visuals are also pretty impressive, drawing somewhat from film noir amidst its slick animation. And while it’s not one of the most story-oriented episodes, it will leave you on the edge of your seat.
9) Speak Like A Child
On paper, Speak Like A Child doesn’t sound like the most exciting twenty minutes of television. Basically, Faye receives a mysterious package from the Life Extension Service and subsequently flees, anxious that they might be chasing her up for the money she owes them. However, Jet is hugely curious as to the contents of the Betamax tape and thus, he and Spike set off to find a Betamax player to use it on.
The reason this episode is so good is down to what makes much of Bebop so good – the character interactions. Jet’s determination to discover the tape’s contents contrasts humorously with Spike’s skepticism and indifference. It also subtly exposes Faye’s loneliness – after failing to win at the dog races, seemingly parting ways with the group for good, it isn’t long before she returns. But mostly it’s how impactful the ending is, when it’s revealed the tape is a time capsule recorded by teenage Faye. It’s emotionally effective and gives us the first glimpse into Faye’s past.
8) The Real Folk Blues Part 1
The Real Folk Blues Part 1 sets up the finale of Cowboy Bebop while remaining one of the series’ best episodes. Here, Vicious takes over the Red Dragon Syndicate and Spike finally reunites with the mysterious Julia. All hell starts to break loose as it seems Spike and Vicious are destined for another confrontation.
The Real Folk Blues is great because not only does it deliver some fantastic action, it has incredible emotional stakes. Jet’s worrying over Spike also shows that the old goat does care for his partner deep down.
7) Jupiter Jazz Part 2
Jupiter Jazz is the first two-part episode of the series and man, what a two-parter it is. That said, Part 2 wins out by a fraction due to the way it ties up its story. It revolves around a former war ally of Vicious called Gren who spent a long time in prison due to being accused of being a spy. Turns out Vicious is the one who testified against him – a bit of a bummer for Gren who admired him during the Titan War.
Jupiter Jazz is one of Cowboy Bebop’s best episodes for many reasons. It allows us to see just how messed up Vicious is, going so far as to frame supposed comrades. The experimental drugs Gren takes that have him involuntarily grow breasts also further adds to the craptastic nature of Bebop’s universe. The final ship battle scene is also great, followed by the ethereal coda ‘Space Lion’.
6) Toys in the Attic
Toys in the Attic is reportedly Cowboy Bebop‘s homage to Ridley Scott’s Alien. This is an odd thing to say about an episode that centers around the group’s attempt to expunge an anthropomorphic out-of-date foodstuff from their ship. Yet, the imagery of Spike warily investigating the gang’s poorly-lit ship with a large gun seemingly confirms this.
The episode is memorable because every member of the Bebop crew gets their time to shine. Ed’s eccentricity, Faye’s sarcasm, and Jet’s ‘old man’ attitude are on full display here. That, alongside the episode’s tension, makes this a worthy contender among Cowboy Bebop‘s best episodes.
5) Ganymede Waltz
Ganymede Waltz gives us an insight into Jet’s past – and the complex human drama that Bebop is capable of exploring. Here, Jet reunites with his ex-girlfriend on Ganymede while delivering a recently-captured bounty. Cue one of the saddest stories in the series.
We get a glimpse of Jet’s past love life in the form of Alisa. We see that Jet once had a stable, normal life with a woman he loved before his turbulent days as a cowboy. Yet, Alisa disliked the way Jet made all the decisions in their relationship and decided to call it quits. My summation doesn’t do this beautiful episode justice, so watch this one as soon as you can.
4) The Real Folk Blues Part 2
The Real Folk Blues Part 2 is as gruelling a finale as you could hope for. Spike is finally reunited with the love of his life – only for her to die in the middle of a gunfight. Now, with nothing to live for, Spike prepares himself for a final showdown with his arch-rival, Vicious.
This very Spike-centric episode finishes off Spike’s character arc and the series whole. It ends ambiguously (is Spike dead or just unconscious?) but there’s no doubt it’s a jam-packed finale with some profound character moments. See you, space cowboy.
3) Asteroid Blues
What a series opener! Asteroid Blues does a stellar job of introducing us to Spike and Jet and their risky job as bounty hunters. Here, Spike and Jet are tasked with taking down a steroid-jacked dealer called Asimov Solensan – a small-time criminal with a record of death following his every move.
The brilliant thing about Asteroid Blues is that it showcases everything that Bebop does so well. The slick animation, excellent fight choreography, the humor, the tragedy – it’s all here. And the image of Katerina’s corpse floating ominously in space will forever haunt your mind. Just pure classic excellence.
2) Hard Luck Woman
Hard Luck Woman is a great episode because it ties up two character arcs within the span of twenty minutes. And yet, despite that, it’s still an incredibly satisfying episode. But paradoxically, it’s also one of the saddest since it splits up our principal cast.
Here, Faye Valentine, who forgot her life before being carbon froze, finally learns about her past. So too does Ed, who meets their long-lost father. The tragic thing is that despite this, neither character is satisfied by their respective revelations, playing on the show’s existential themes to a tee. We are left with a long ‘coda scene’, where Spike and Jet feverishly eat a bunch of eggs while their former shipmates flee the nest. The melancholy ballad ‘Call Me, Call Me’ is used to devastating effect here and highlights the show’s dramatic flair.
1) Ballad of Fallen Angels
The Spike-centred episodes always have the most dramatic moments in the series. ‘Ballad of Fallen Angels, the first episode to touch on his past, is no exception. We see the usually cocky, self-certain Spike Spiegel go serious as he locks horns with his old rival, Vicious.
Kicking off with his old boss’s murder, the episode keeps you glued to the screen from start to finish. The most iconic scene, where Spike finally faces off against Vicious, is so beautifully animated and visually riveting, it’s the moment where people see why the series is so widely lauded. And then there’s the flashback scene as Spike falls to his possible demise, which gives us images of his mobster past while a profound operatic score plays overhead. It’s a beautiful example of the powerful subtlety of Bebop’s storytelling – and but one example of why this episode is one of the series’ best.
What do you think are the best Cowboy Bebop episodes? Do you agree or disagree with this list? Share your thoughts in the comments below!