This show is one of the big names of recent television anime. The reason for this is that it is a really great show!
It follows the exploits of Spike, Faye, Jet, Ed and Ein the dog, who make up bounty hunting crew of the spaceship Bebop, as they track down their various bounties and try to get through all the problems fate throws at them.
It is a difficult show to categorise as many of the episodes have a unique feel to them. It goes from fun comedy to action adventure to introspective drama to dark thriller, all within the one series. While this is definitely not a show for children it does manage to have a little something for pretty much everyone. At times it has the feel of a more western animation in the plotting, making it more accessible to those who are new to anime.
Interestingly only about one fifth of the show focuses on the main plot, with the rest of the series being one-off filler episodes. While this would usually be a bad point for most people, in Cowboy Bebop it really works, and is actually required to give the shows it's appeal.
This is because the real focus of this show is not on the story, good as it is, but on the characters who participate. Each has their own appeals and bad points with their own histories and secrets to let out, with entire episodes devoted to just that. It really draws you into their lives and you will find yourself wanting to see the next episode just to see what the characters will do and how they will react to the next situation. You get to see how the characters react to each other as they spend more time together. The character development isn't the main focus, it's finding out who the characters really are.
This animation has had a lot of money spent on it for a television series, and it shows with some great animation and a beautiful, if sometimes unconventional musical score. The character designs themselves are very nice indeed with plenty of detail and tons of personality. The colours, particularly the contrasts in the darker episodes, are gorgeous. The show makes liberal use of computer graphics throughout but it usually manages to fit in with the visual style of the scenes, particularly the space based scenes and the strange effects that help give the supernaturally based horror/thriller episode 'Pierrot Le Fou' it's atmosphere.
The show also has a great ending. It may seem a small point, but plenty of good shows can leave a bitter taste because the ending fell short of the rest of the show. With Cowboy Bebop the ending works superbly and manages to bring the whole thing to a close with true style. Some people have said that this wouldn't be half the show it was without the final few episodes, and to an extent that is true, as with the amount of stand alone episodes it has it needs a conclusive ending to help give the show structure. The fact remains it does have a great ending, so the show does work well. Really well.
A special mention has to be made for the English language dub for this show. It is one of the few dubs I have heard that manages to stand up to, and even surpass, the original Japanese. Of course not speaking much Japanese myself I am hard put to tell how good a Japanese track actually is, but I will usually prefer to listen to a show in it's original language. With this show I can honestly say I don't mind which is playing. At some points the dub exceeds the Japanese through the English script or just though the acting itself. It is truly a joy to hear English anime voice actors bring real life to the characters they play and I can only hope to hear more dubs of this quality in the future.
In the end there will be a few who will not like this show, but I cannot honestly recommend this highly enough. A true must see.