One of the most popular, acclaimed anime series of all time is Cowboy Bebop. Following the adventures of space-faring bounty hunters Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Faye Valentine, Ed Wong and Ein, the series ran for 26 episodes from 1998 to 1999, with a spinoff animated film released in 2001. With its effortless sense of cool, atmospheric jazz soundtrack, and neo-noir influences, the series has won over millions of fans worldwide and would inspire two separate manga adaptations.
These manga adaptations, originally published by Kodakawa Shoten before being licensed by Tokyopop for publication in North America, feature all-new adventures for the crew of the eponymous spaceship with noticeable deviations from the anime source material. Now, CBR is taking a look at how both volumes of the Cowboy Bebop manga are different from the anime series they were inspired by.
Cowboy Bebop: The Anime
After an unseen apocalyptic event makes Earth uninhabitable, humanity settles on the other planets across the solar system. To combat the lawlessness between the planets, bounty hunters bring in various criminals including the crew of the Bebop, led by Spike Spiegel and Jet Black, joined by pilot and gambler Faye Valentine, tech specialist Ed Wong, and the hyper-intelligent dog Ein. While most episodes of the anime were relatively self-contained, details about the character's respective pasts would connect the overall series.
Across the series, Spike's history as a hitman for the criminal Red Dragon Syndicate was revealed as was his running rivalry with fellow killer Vicious, with the two parting ways after Spike began seeing Vicious girlfriend. Crossing paths several times in the series, the finale had Spike reunite with his girlfriend only for her to be killed by Vicious' men after the villain violently took control of the Red Dragon Syndicate. Leaving behind the crew of the Bebop, Spike confronted the entire criminal organization before facing Vicious in a bloody duel that left the two former friends presumably killed.
Cowboy Bebop: Shooting Star
The first manga adaptation of the anime series, Cowboy Bebop: Shooting Star, was written and illustrated by Cain Kuga and published from 1997 to 1998, predating the actual premiere of the anime itself. Telling original stories set in the world of the series, the manga followed with the crew of the Bebop running bounties while being targeted by Scorpion, the teenage leader of the Dragon Head criminal syndicate. the manga adaptation stayed relatively true to the characters though there were noticeable redesigns
The manga adaptation stayed relatively true to the characters though there were noticeable redesigns of several of the characters' appearances. Spike's trademark unkempt hairstyle is depicted as considerably more tame here, while Jet receives a hipper design than in the anime, complete with stylish eyewear. One of the biggest departures is Ed being portrayed as a male character as opposed to the non-binary identity of Ed's anime counterpart. In a series a mostly standalone adventures like the anime, the circumstances behind Faye, Ed, and Ein joining the Bebop are slightly modified and streamlined for pacing but are still largely true to their depictions in the anime source material. Cowboy Bebop: Shooting Star has been collected into two volumes.
Cowboy Bebop: The Manga
The second manga adaptation, simply titled Cowboy Bebop, was written and illustrated by Yutaka Nanten and originally ran from 1998 to 2000. The second volume leaned closer to the style and tone of the anime series than the first adaptation, with its own set of subtle differences.
The manga series of standalone adventures for the crew of the Bebop would more actively put the three main characters competing against one another for the same bounty with one chapter going as far as to place a large bounty on Faye's head, leaving Spike and Jet to contemplate bringing her in to capitalize on the reward. The biggest noticeable departure came from a retelling of Ed's origin, framed for vandalizing the surface of Mars while already a crew member of the Bebop rather than prompting their initial recruitment as seen in the anime. Instead, the crew relies on another child named Tomato to help clear Ed's name while rescuing their companion. The second manga adaptation has been collected into three volumes.
The Cowboy Bebop manga adaptations are interesting side stories that take some creative liberties with the source material without excessively deviating from it. For those looking for additional adventures of Spike and company while waiting for Netflix's upcoming live-action adaptation, the two manga series offer the same standalone style of the anime with subtle differences.