Cowboy Bebop is already an underrated anime. But the fact that these episodes often get forgotten is just too much!
It's no secret that Cowboy Bebop is one of the most beloved and critically acclaimed anime series of all time. The hybrid noir space cowboy adventure resonated with many and has been a significant influence on many works that came after it. From "Ballad of Fallen Angels" to "Jupiter Jazz," the series is chock full of many iconic and unforgettable episodes. However, there are still some hidden gems in the series that don't seem to get the attention that they deserve whenever the topic of best episodes in the series comes around. So here today, we're going to talk about the lesser appreciated classics that Cowboy Bebop has to offer. So without further delay, we present the Top 10 Underrated Episodes of Cowboy Bebop!
10. Ganymede Elegy
As a hybrid of the noir, science fiction, and western genres, different episodes of Cowboy Bebop lean into these genres to varying degrees. In regards to the Jet focused "Ganymede Elegy," few episodes compare to the combination of classic noir and western influences infused into the episode. The episode gives depth to the character of Jet as he comes face to face with a woman from his past who has since become entangled with a bounty being tracked by the Bebop's crew.
9. Toys In The Attic
Cowboy Bebop is a series that greatly benefits from its episodic nature, and this couldn't be more exemplified by the episode, "Toys in the Attic," which tells a story that can function outside of the continuity of the rest of the series. "Toys in the Attic," follows the crew as a strange and mysterious creature has appeared aboard the ship, slowly picking off the member of the crew. Taking place entirely within the confines of the Bebop itself, the episode is a change of pace from the rest of the series, structured more like a short horror film rather than the usual western or noir one would expect. A wonderful blend of horror and comedy, the episode serves as a testament to the range that Cowboy Bebop is capable.
8. Wild Horses
There are many important variables at play in Cowboy Bebop from its characters to its setting. However, "Wild Horses" has the distinction of being the only episode to focus on an often overlooked aspect of the series: Spike Spiegel's ship, the Swordfish. As an episode with focus on the Swordfish, the episode features great flight sequences, includes the phenomenal track "Too Good Too Bad," and also marks the only appearance of spike's mechanic.
7. Sympathy For The Devil
Similarly to "Toys in the Attic," "Sympathy for the Devil" serves a great change of pace for the series. While Cowboy Bebop operates in a science fiction setting, "Sympathy for the Devil" utilizes a more supernatural element that would normally feel out of place, the inclusion of an immortal child who does not age. While this could hypothetically come off as a jarring inclusion, it is organically woven in to the series by intrinsically tying it to an extremely relevant and important element of the show's world building: the Astral Gate Accident.
6. Honky Tonk Woman
There's so much to appreciate about "Honky Tonk Woman." The first episode to feature series mainstay, Faye Valentine, the episode's setting aboard an interstellar casino gives it the atmosphere of a sci-fi adaptation of Ocean's Eleven. The episode does an excellent job of building up the character of Faye and setting her up as one of the integral main players in the series while simultaneously developing the partnership of Spike and Jet.
5. Speak Like A Child
"Speak Like a Child" is a very strong episode for two separate and distinct reasons: its world building, and the last five minutes. The episode opens with the crew receiving a mysterious VHS tape, but having the proper equipment needed to play it due to its outdated form. This results in Spike and Jet as they travel to Earth, and traverse subterranean ruins in order to obtain a VHS player. This journey to Earth is excellent for the series world building as it showcases first hand the extent of the current state of the planet. However, the episode reaches its highest point when the contents of the tape are revealed. While we won't spoil what's on the tape for those who haven't seen the episode, it adds a significant amount of characterization to the character of Faye, expanding her character more than almost any other episode.
4. Cowboy Funk
Looking back, "Cowboy Funk" seems almost like a prototype for the later to come work of series director Shinichiro Watanabe, Space Dandy. The episode puts Spike face to face with another bounty hunter who is a much more direct and literal depiction of a space cowboy, who serves as almost a comedic caricature of the series itself. This is by far one of the most comedically driven episodes of the series, possessing a great deal of similarities to the comedic style of the aforementioned Space Dandy.
3. Astroid Blues
As the series first episode, "Astroid Blues" may not be the most underrated episode of Cowboy Bebop, but it has made its way on to this list by being one of the most underrated first episodes of any anime series. While many series will opt to build to greatness as the show progresses, Cowboy Bebop exploded out of the gate with this episode. "Astroid Blues" has it all. It incorporates great elements of noir, science fiction, and westerns, as well as phenomenal sequences and dialogue. Wrap it all together with an incredible score and a fittingly tragic ending, and we've got one of the most underrated first episodes of any anime on our hands.
2. Brain Scratch
Structurally one of the most interesting episodes of Cowboy Bebop, "Brain Scratch" employs the use of fictional television series within the series' world. This works very well on two levels. Firstly the advertisements and clips we see greatly help to position the viewer into the world, fleshing it out yet even further than we'd already seen. Secondly, it ties into the plot of the episode itself thematically, as the episode is focused on a cult whose ideologies directly relate to television.
1. Black Dog Serenade
Sharing similarities to the first entry on our list, "Ganymede Elegy," "Black Dog Serenade" is a Jet focused episode that utilizes elements of the noir genre to great effect. However, this episode answers very important questions we've had about Jet up until this point in the series including "why did he turn away from being a cop," and more importantly, "how did he lose his arm?" Additionally Black Dog Serenade is one of the most effective marriages of sci-fi and noir that the series has to offer, including great action scenes, music, and the types of flashbacks found in classic noir films.