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Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"I need better back-up than C3PO and Stick Figure Barbie."
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January 13 2004

Cowboy Bebop! Miss Firefly? The vision of the future in the anime series Cowboy Bebop is very similar to our dear Firefly (or at least I think so). The same mishmash of cultures, great music, and frontier attitude. There's even a crazy (yet gifted) girl, a space vixen, a lovable brute, and a pretty boy. Oh, and they're all bounty hunters.

The series was done in the late nineties and consists of only 26 episodes. There was also a movie in 2001. The series is currently running in the states in Cartoon Network's fabulous Adult Swim block.

It's a thin connection for Whedonesque, I know. But I just wanted to bring it up in case there are others out there craving similar stories, at least until the Firefly movie finally gets made.

It doesn't seem like a thin connection to me; it seems to me that at least one of the Mutant Enemy writers is an anime fan, and probably even Joss himself. Didn't one of them say as much in one of the Buffy or Angel DVD commentaries? I think they acknowledge drawing inspiration from (or sometimes, in Doug Petrie's tongue-in-cheek words, 'ripping off' ;-) ...) Japanese anime in general, which very plausibly includes Cowboy Beebop.

I have not yet seen Firefly, but I have now seen five episodes of Cowboy Beebop, and the movie. I can already see quite a lot of similarities just based on what I have read about Firefly on Whedonesque and some fan sites.

Let's just say that all the available discs are in my Netflix queue for both Cowboy Beebop and Firefly.

If you go to you'll also notice that their little "people who bought this disc set also bought" section features Cowboy Beebop on the Firefly page. Not a coincidence!

They both seem really fun, not taking themselves at all too seriously.
Here's a quick CB primer:

- The Cowboy Bebop is a ship piloted by bounty hunters, former government agent Jet Black and his partner, cooler-than-cool martial arts dervish Spike Spiegel. It's the late 21st century - Earth was wrecked by one of the experiments that allowed warps and interplanetary colonization. There are no aliens, not much of a government. During the series Spike and Jet pick up a sentient dog, Ein; a rehabilated crogenesis patient, Faye, who in her new life is a sassy gambling addict; and Ed, a tween computer hacker and technology savant with a goofy personality.

I love that series, but thematically it's very different than Firefly. CB's through line is a strange romantic saga involving Spike, his archenemy, and his mysterious past, all tied to a shadowy organization Spike and Vicious (said enemy) were once part of. The politics and culture of the future are never discussed ... it's just a big mess with cool stuff scattered throughout. Firefly's themes were deeper and less overtly cool, which is probably one of the reasons for its shaky viewer reception.
We had a wee bit of a discussion about this before.
Heh. I've actually gotten several friends to become huge Firefly fans by describing it as being somewhat like a slightly better written, live action version of Cowboy Bebop. I love Joss's shows more than any other television series ever, but I was initially a bit unsure of Firefly. I never managed to tune in to it untill "Objects in space" aired, and I was instantly struck by the stunningly beautiful image of River balanced on the railings. It was one of the best looking shots I had ever seen, and since then I've always thought of Firefly as an awesome live action anime. Yup.
I seem to remember Joss complaining in an interview about how everyone thought FIREFLY was just like "some Anime show." Sounded like he'd never heard of CB.

The parallels between the two _are_ conspicuous, right down to the cowboys. Thematically, the shows are very different, but on the surface, they're practically identical.

My brother has CB on DVD, and I've watched it all twice. I like it quite a lot.
Pratically identical? Even on the surface they are ridiculously different. The only reason people feel this great need to compare the two is that they're both very good. You can probably find parallels in just about anything though. Because of this people love to compare things that are worlds apart, either to promote it (Firefly is awesome! It's like a live-action Cowboy Bebop!) or deride it (Firefly is terrible! It's a Cowboy Bebop rip-off).
Um, I hope I didn't come off wrong. I have never said it IS a live action Cowboy Bebop, just that the two shows ARE a bit alike in terms of style. Firefly is a very different show as far as plot and such, but the imagery and general genre of the shows are very much alike. Firefly is awesome because it is Firefly, not because it is like Cowboy Bebop. It really is like live action anime, but that's really not the main reason I and most of my friends love it.
I always heard that Firefly was compared to Outlaw Star, so I went and downloaded a few episodes to watch. I could understand why someone would think that, but I didn't entirely agree with it. It seems if you crossed Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star - you might have something like firefly.

Also, on the Anime influence. Watch glory in season five (where she sucks people's brains and tortures spike) and then watch fist of the north star. I just happened to watch fist if the noth star after watching Glory torture spike and I was able to see the influences. You really only need to watch the first 10-15 minutes of fist of the north star (the movie - I"ve never seen the ova).
Outlaw Star made a great deal of sense especially in terms of River in Firefly if you compare her origins to that of Melfina in OS. Objects In Space also reaffirmed this until they revealed River hadn't become one with the ship. Surface-wise OS is closer to Firefly than Cowboy Bebop.
Don't really have much to add. Just wanted to say that if you haven't you need to check out Cowboy Bebop. I don't like much anime, but the series is amazing. The discs can get a bit pricey, but I found a less flashy set on for around 30 bucks. Not bad compared to what some other sets are going for.
Cowboy Bebop is great but Firefly is better. There are similarities but Firefly's characters would fit perfectly in a western while the major western connections with CB are the fact that bounty hunters are called '"cowboys" and a little western flavor to the soundtrack here and there. FF's major cultural influences are American and Chinese but BB's all over the place. In the commentary to the DVDs the Chinese/American thing is explained more in detail. To me the sci -fi/western theme of Firefly works seamlessly. It's really a western that happens to be set in the future (which I get) but Cowboy Bebop is basically just sci-fi with a few cowboy references (that don't really need to be there).

BTW, I bought the $30 set of Cowboy Bebop and it's really not worth it. The image gets all bitmappy when there's alot of action on-screen (explosions, gunfights, etc). The six disc collection doesn't have that problem. It's better to just buy them individually if you want a good picture. You can find individual sessions on Amazon for under $10 if you're patient.

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