Cowboy Bebop quickly became one of my favourite shows ever, and after my first viewing I created a top 10 episodes list. After a recent rewatch, I now feel comfortable ranking them all!
Some episodes went up in my estimations, and some ended up disappointing me, but the quality was unbelievably high across the board. How would I rank them all?
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24 – Wild Horses
“Wild Horses” has a bit of a cult following within the Bebop fanbase, but both times I’ve watched it I’ve been bored out of my mind.
The plot is so paper-thin, and the action only barely picks up in the final few minutes. Other than Spike’s famous line “Whatever happens, happens“, there’s nothing of note here.
23 – Boogie Woogie Feng Shui
The only other episode that I’m more negative on than positive, “Boogie Woogie Feng Shui” is a Jet-centric story done poorly.
His crush on his friend’s underage daughter is really weird, and the plot zips around without a real focus. It’s no wonder everyone seems to hate this one.
22 – My Funny Valentine
From here on out, the rest of the episodes are pretty solid. That being said, I think “My Funny Valentine” could have been done better.
Faye’s backstory might just be the most interesting of the lot, and her tale of getting conned certainly has its moments, but the resolution of the episode feels a little out-of-the-blue and anticlimactic.
21 – Heavy Metal Queen
The most middle-of-the-road episode of the lot, “Heavy Metal Queen” has both some great action and some long stretches of tedium.
The titular character isn’t the most interesting, and the plot is a little generic, but the character moments and interactions make up for it.
20 – Speak Like a Child
“Speak Like a Child” was the biggest disappointment on my rewatch. It used to almost crack my top 10, but now it barely makes the top 20.
The videotape ending has enough emotion to knock it up a few places, but the fifteen minutes leading up to it are so aimless and filler.
19 – Stray Dog Strut
The episode dedicated to introducing Ein to the group, “Stray Dog Strut” is pretty good.
It’s not the craziest plot, and the Bebop crew feels a little thin in these early stages, but the dialogue and action are as good as ever.
18 – Bohemian Rhapsody
A sprawling tale of political intrigue and lies, disguised under a silly story of chess.
It’s endearing seeing Ed take such a liking to the chess match, and the political plot beats are interesting, but it doesn’t quite come together in the way I’d want to.
17 – Gateway Shuffle
The first episode of the show that isn’t focussed on introducing a new character to the Bebop crew, and it’s not bad.
The enviro-nuts are a little over-the-top for my liking, but the final space battle (with the banger of a tune in the background) is a great way to close it out.
16 – Cowboy Funk
The epitome of Cowboy Bebop silliness, “Cowboy Funk” doesn’t have a single serious moment – and it’s about a terrorist that blows up skyscrapers!
Andy The Cowboy is such a fun one-off character, and his final battle with Spike is awesome. If I had to nitpick, I’d say that Spike and Andy get in each other’s way a little too often in this episode.
15 – Black Dog Serenade
Jet’s backstory episodes are always the most serious of the lot, and “Black Dog Serenade” finally answered what happened to his arm.
The final reveal of betrayal could have been a bit more shocking, but the lead-up to it and the final fight are cool enough.
14 – Jamming with Edward
We had to wait quite a while before the final member was added to the Bebop crew, but then Radical Edward suddenly burst onto our screens.
Ed makes such an impact so quickly, and the story surrounding “Jamming with Edward” is both whimsical fun and deeply thought-provoking. That just about sums up any Cowboy Bebop episode, now that I think about it.
13 – Honky Tonk Woman
“Honky Tonk Woman” was the biggest improvement on my rewatch – not only does Faye get an excellent character introduction, but the action is superb.
A scene in particular that has always stood out to me is the poker chip transaction – it’s our first indication that Spike is a master of brains as well as brawn, and it’s cool as hell.
12 – Mushroom Samba
A.K.A. The one where the Bebop crew gets high on mushrooms while Ed and Ein run about like headless chickens.
This is the least serious episode of all, and the fun vignette of Ed getting his hands on the mushrooms has tons of hilarious moments.
11 – Toys in the Attic
Evil leftovers! Run for your lives!
The charm was lost a little bit on my rewatch, but “Toys in the Attic” is still a fun homage to films like “The Thing”. Spike lighting a cigarette with a flamethrower is up there with his most badass moments.
10 – Waltz for Venus
Cowboy Bebop has a nasty habit of taking you on a fun, silly ride, and then immediately ripping your heart from your chest.
Roco is such a breath of fresh air, and his lessons with Spike are genuinely insightful, but then his tragic death hit me like a ton of bricks. The final scene in the hospital with Spike and Roco’s sister is heart-breaking.
9 – Brain Scratch
One of the most off-beat and philosophical episodes, “Brain Scratch” does an excellent job of getting under your skin.
The villain that brainwashes his enemies is genuinely terrifying, and the reveal that he was just a sick kid all along was a classic Cowboy Bebop subversion.
8 – Asteroid Blues
After my rewatch, I can comfortably say that “Asteroid Blues” is one of the strongest pilot episodes I’ve seen.
We’re immediately clued in to Spike and Jet’s bounty hunter way of life, and the visual style / worldbuilding is phenomenal. In hindsight, I love how it tells a short story that works as a twenty-minute vignette.
7 – Ganymede Elegy
The Jet-centric episodes aren’t always my favourite, but the clear stand-out is “Ganymede Elegy”.
As this show does so well, it presents an impossible situation that can only end in tragedy. The scene of Jet chasing his ex-girlfriend to the sombre soundtrack is a personal favourite moment.
6 – Sympathy for the Devil
The most underrated episode of the show, the story of Spike and the boy who can’t age is one that really hit me.
The ending scene, where Spike shuns off the boy’s words about death, hits so much harder once you’ve seen the finale.
5 – Hard Luck Woman
“Hard Luck Woman” was already a really good episode, with both the Spike / Jet bounty hunting plot and the Faye learning about her past plot firing on all cylinders, but the ending sent it up a tier.
The gang splitting apart, accompanied by the ever-powerful “Call Me Call Me”, is probably my favourite scene in the show. Even though nothing intrinsically tragic is happening, I’ve never felt so empty during the closing credits.
4 – Jupiter Jazz: Parts 1 & 2
The first time I watched “Jupiter Jazz”, I thought it was a good – albeit a little overrated – two-parter. On my rewatch, I immediately fell in love.
The first episode is a fantastic opener to the story of Gren and the happenings on Jupiter, and if the second part was stronger this could have been an A+ outing. Gren’s death, with “Space Lion” blaring in the background, never fails to choke me up.
3 – Pierrot le Fou
In terms of single, focussed episodes that have nothing to do with the overarching plot and that stand on their own two feet, “Pierrot le Fou” reigns supreme.
The titular madman is one of the most frightening villains I’ve ever seen, and all of his fights with Spike are jaw-dropping. The last, extended battle in the carnival is a true high point of the series.
2 – Ballad of Fallen Angels
“When angels are forced out of heaven, they become devils. You agree, don’t you Spike?“
Cowboy Bebop was doing a great job of meandering from episode to episode, never quite lingering on a plot point long enough to get truly intriguing, but once Vicious and the overarching plots within “Ballad of Fallen Angels” were introduced things started to get serious.
The first half of the episode is full of political intrigue, and then it all comes to a head in the church shoot-out. It’s no exaggeration to say that fight scene is my favourite in all of anime, and Spike falling out of the window to “Green Bird” – and all of the artsy backstory that came with it – told me that this was a series for the ages.
1 – The Real Folk Blues: Parts 1 & 2
I didn’t think “Ballad of Fallen Angels” would ever be topped, but then the two-part finale blew my socks off and then some.
Julia instantly makes an impression, Spike’s past catches up to him, and the character interactions are tragic and acted to heart-breaking perfection.
In the end, when the dust settled from Spike and Vicious’s epic Syndicate showdown, I knew that I had just witnessed greatness.
Season Rating: A
There were a few odd episodes here and there, and it would have maybe been nice to have a more consistent series arc, but Cowboy Bebop is the closest thing we have to anime perfection.
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