Created in 1998, Cowboy Bebop became an instant hit in Japan and America, becoming a gateway series into anime with its vision into the future of humanity in space. A blend of film noir, action, and comedy, it stands as one of the best anime series ever created.
For the uninitiated, the series follows Spike Spiegel, a former hitman for the Red Dragon Syndicate, and his partner Jet Black, a former cop, as they track down bounties aboard their ship, the Bebop. The crew is later joined by hacker Edward Wong, con artist Faye Valentine, and Ein, a genetically engineered corgi who turns out to be a genius.
Here is our list of the best Cowboy Bebop episodes in descending order, from good to excellent.
26. Session 4: "Gateway Shuffle"
Battling a group of eco-terrorists named the Space Warriors armed with a virus turning men into apes, Spike, Faye, and Jet team up to save Ganymede from the man-made danger.
This episode echoes many Bebop stories in that the heroes, even after saving untold numbers and doing the right thing, are still left with nothing.
As Faye says, "You know what they say, cowboy, easy come, easy go."
25. Session 21: "Boogie Woogie Feng Shui"
Spurred by a mysterious email, Jet sets off to find an old friend named Pao, only to run into his daughter, Meifa. Thinking that Pao might still be alive, the two team up.
While there are no bad Cowboy Bebop episodes, this one doesn't add much to the backstory of the team or help to move any of the main plotlines further.
24. Session 14: "Bohemian Rhapsody"
Jet, Faye, and Spike each work on hunting Chessmaster Hex, the rumored mastermind behind a series of robberies at hyperspace gate tollbooths. But in this episode it's Radical Edward who really shines.
Additionally, we learn more about the Chessmaster's role in the Astral Gate disaster, shedding light on the villain as an early whistleblower on the project.
23. Session 3: "Honky Tonk Women"
When Jet and Spike first meet Faye Valentine, she's already in hot water, having scammed a mob boss to erase her massive debt.
Sexy and self-assured, Faye is a great foil for Spike but also an integral part of the team. Laden with vices including gambling, drinking, and smoking, she's the wild card of the group, never trusting her team too much and relying on her skills as a con artist to get her through tough situations.
22. Session 16: "Black Dog Serenade"
Another episode that sheds some light on Jet's past, "Black Dog" follows the bounty hunter and his former partner Fad as they try to take back an ISSP prison ship from the inmates.
Although it isn't as compelling as the main Bebop storyline, Jet's story manages to tug on viewers' heartstrings as we realize that Jet is a stand-up guy who's just had a lot of bad luck in the past. We also learn of the reach the Red Dragon Syndicate has had in many of the Bebop's crew's lives.
Filled with flashbacks and a gritty film noir style, "Black Dog" is a solid entry in the series.
21. Session 7: "Heavy Metal Queen"
In this episode, Spike and the team chase after a bounty named Decker, who is said to be running explosives. Victoria Terpsichore, aka V.T., a cargo hauler who expresses her disdain for bounty hunters, eventually lends the team a hand chasing down their bounty.
It's revealed in this episode that V.T.'s late husband is actually Ural Terpsichore, a legendary bounty hunter, which explains her disdain for the craft. This episode stands out because it takes a hard look at the life of the bounty hunter through V.T. and Spike's conversations and interactions. The Bebop team also begins to finally coalesce as Spike, Faye, and Jet lean into the role of a dysfunctional yet loving family.
20. Session 11: "Toys in the Attic"
The crew of the Bebop are hunted one by one as a mysterious creature slinks around the ship leaving strange purple marks on its victims.
A self-contained episode, "Toys in the Attic" is a great mix of mystery, horror, and comedy as Spike prepares to save the ship from the faceless monster armed with a flamethrower and motion tracker.
Inspired by the movie Alien, it's a great break in the series, simply focusing on fun.
19. Session 23: "Brain Scratch"
When Faye goes undercover to infiltrate the cult known as SCRATCH and collect a $38 million wulong reward for its leader, Spike, Jet, and Ed scramble to play catch-up.
Although it's not a firm plot episode, "Brain Scratch" firms up the Bebop team, with each member playing to their strengths toward a common goal.
18. Session 22: "Cowboy Funk"
A terrorist known as the "Teddy Bomber" is targeting high-rise buildings in protest of humanity's excesses. When the Bebop crew try to intervene, Spike is thwarted by fellow bounty hunter Cowboy Andy.
A fun play on westerns as well as a character study of Spike himself, the hero is forced to understand his motivation for bounty hunting.
Maybe the funniest episode of Cowboy Bebop, Cowboy Funk also gives the rest of the Bebop crew a look into Spike's obsessive nature as he focuses on his rival, neglecting the actual villain of the episode.
17. Session 10: "Ganymede Elegy"
In the first episode to focus on Jet's backstory, the Bebop crew return to Ganymede, Jet's home when he was a cop, to turn in a bounty head. Meanwhile, Jet returns to speak with his ex-significant-other Alisa, who is currently involved with the crew's newest bounty.
We get to see what kind of man Jet is in this episode as he returns to his old police persona of the Black Dog, who "once bites, never lets go." We're also given a glimpse into his former life with Alisa as she confesses that the reason she left him was that he always made the decisions for the both of them. After Jet makes the collar, he's finally able to put the past behind him.
16. Session 2: "Stray Dog Strut"
Introducing everyone's favorite data dog, Ein, this episode follows Spike and Jet as they go after Abdul Hakim and the loveable corgi.
"Stray Dog Strut" is an incredible follow-up to the debut episode of Cowboy Bebop because it's loaded with jokes and features a nod to the Bruce Lee film Game of Death, in which he fights Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
15. Session 18: "Speak Like a Child"
When the crew of the Bebop receives a mysterious package, Jet and Spike discover it's an old videotape. With no way to watch it onboard, they search for antique technology to view its contents.
After several complications, the crew, including Faye, view the tape, which shows a young Faye recording a time capsule message for her older self.
While there isn't much action in this episode, we're given another look at Faye's lost history.
"And now a big cheer from my heart. Let's... go... me, all right! Do your best! Do your best! Don't lose, me!" she says. It's a heartbreaking moment because, despite the nature of the message, Faye can't remember anything about it.
14. Session 8: "Waltz for Venus"
After finally collecting a big reward on a bounty, Spike is befriended by wannabe gangster Rocco Bonnaro. Unbeknownst to Spike, Bonnaro has stolen a rare and valuable plant from his gang with hopes of selling it to pay for his sister Stella's eye surgery to fix her Venus Sickness.
Waltz tackles the difference of right and wrong, highlighting the dilemma both Spike and Bonnaro face in doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. At the end of the episode, suspecting her brother may have been mixed up with bad people, Stella asks Spike what Rocco was really like. Spike simply replies, "You know better than anyone that he was a terrific guy."
13. Session 17: "Mushroom Samba"
Down on their luck with little food or fuel, the crew of the Bebop take another hit when their ship is damaged in a hit-and-run. Teaming up with Ein, Radical Edward is sent out to find food for the crew after they crash-land on Io.
When the pair run into a bounty and psychedelic mushroom dealer named Domino Walker, they managed to procure some of his wares. Unsure whether the mushrooms are edible, Ed decides to test them out on the crew of the Bebop.
This episode shines as Faye, Spike, and Jet each fall into a deep hallucination aboard the Bebop.
12. Session 15: "My Funny Valentine"
Delving into Faye's history, "Valentine" manages to be funny, sad, and informative all at once. We first see Faye being put into cryogenic sleep (making the seemingly 20-year-old more than seven decades old). In a flashback, we learn Faye has lost all memory of who she is. Conned by lawyer Whitney Masumoto, Faye is saddled with his sizable debts after he faked his own death. In the present, Jet manages to track down the unscrupulous lawyer, bringing him in for a small bounty.
In this story we get to see the woman Faye used to be, contrasting with who she's become. In her old life, Faye used to be a trusting, hopeful girl. We're also treated to another dose of the family theme permeating Bebop as Jet assumes the role of father figure and Spike plays the role of the skeptical brother.
11. Session 6: "Sympathy for the Devil"
As Spike and Jet hunt down a bounty named Giraffe, they uncover a puzzling mystery surrounding a seemingly old man named Zebra. Before Spike can catch up with Giraffe, the man is killed and the bounty hunter is tasked with helping Zebra.
We finally get some backstory about the Astral Gate accident that annihilated Earth's atmosphere, explaining that after the destruction of the gate in 2021, rock showers devastate the planet's surface, killing 4.7 billion people.
10. Session 9: "Jamming with Edward"
When the Bebop crew get an assignment to track down a vandal who has been marking Earth's surface with hijacked satellite lasers, they find the culprit is actually a rogue computer.
Without any leads, the crew luckily runs into a universally renowned hacker named Radical Edward on Earth as they search for clues. After contact with Ed, the rogue satellite — a throwback to 2001: A Space Odyssey's HAL 9000 — admits it created the land carvings to recreate the Nazca lines on Earth.
This episode stands out because we're introduced to the incredible hacker Ed, who rounds out the Bebop team, providing the crew with some much-needed computer skills. Jet provides a fun moment in the episode, too, when he digs into Edward's profile only to find "he's a seven-foot ex-basketball pro, Hindu guru, drag queen alien!”
9. / 8. Session 12 & 13: "Jupiter Jazz (Part 1 & 2)"
While Faye turns her back on the crew of the Bebop, cleaning out their savings, Spike is drawn to Jupiter's moon Castillo after discovering a mysterious deal with the code name "Julia." Suspecting Vicious, he departs the Bebop and tracks down the Red Dragon Syndicate.
Paths converge later as Jet finally tracks down a depressed Faye and the mysterious Gren, who, like Spike, is searching for retribution against Vicious.
The closest thing to the Cowboy Bebop movie, Jupiter Jazz is a fantastic tale that expands on the depth of the Bebop universe in addition to giving us a closer look at its crew.
In one of the many flashbacks, we finally learn more about Julia and Spike's history as the hero recalls a conversation with Julia in which he explains that "his eyes are different colors because his left eye saw into the past."
7. Session 20: "Pierrot le Fou"
Maybe the scariest of all Bebop episodes centers around the deranged killer Mad Pierrot. After witnessing a murder by the villain, Spike is targeted and hunted.
Spike is beaten, stabbed, and blown up before he manages to make an escape. Invited for a final showdown in the theme park Space World, Spike and Pierrot (real name Tongpu) battle it out, with the latter only being defeated through a stroke of luck.
Created in an assassination skills enhancement experiment, Tongpu serves as one of the best villains in the series. This episode is action-packed and incredibly creepy.
6. Session 19: "Wild Horses"
Jet and Faye team up in this episode to take down space pirates while Spike heads back to his old friend Doohan's for repairs on the Swordfish.
This episode scored high on our list because we get to see how Spike interacts with one of his oldest friends and what kind of effort he puts forth to rescue his new ones.
The crowning moment comes when Doohan reveals his pet project, a remodel of NASA's Columbia spaceship, which he then uses to rescue a seemingly doomed Spike.
5. Session 24: "Hard Luck Woman"
When the Bebop ends up on Earth after an unplanned stop, Ed and Faye go looking into their respective pasts, turning up clues and laying the groundwork for the final Bebop storyline.
In this episode, we're given much more information about Ed's history as the crew encounter her/his father Appledelhi. It's significant that, in the end, Ed and Ein go off on their own, leaving Faye, Spike, and Jet to face their final challenge as a trio.
4. Session 1: "Asteroid Blues"
In the series debut, Spike and Jet are hot on the heels of Asimov Solensan and his "pregnant" girlfriend, who have stolen a stash of Bloody Eye from a dangerous crime syndicate. When Spike returns to his old haunt of "Tijuana," he has to use his detective skills, charm, and Jeet Kun Do to take down Asimov.
The episode ranks high on our list not only because it's the first time we're meeting Jet and Spike but also because of the effortless storytelling that brings the viewer into the futuristic, funky world of Cowboy Bebop. The tone of the episode is also top-notch, as the viewer comes away truly feeling sorry for Asimov's girlfriend Katerina, who is simply searching for a better life among the stars.
3. / 2. Session 25 & 26: "The Real Folk Blues (Part 1 & 2)"
Starting with a failed coup by Vicious to overtake the Red Dragon Syndicate, these episodes focus on Jet and Spike as they face down the future as targets of the syndicate. Meanwhile, Faye and Julia finally meet and briefly team up. The stage is set as the syndicate targets the Bebop. Spike and Julia are also reunited.
Their reunion is short-lived, though, as Julia is killed in a shootout and Spike is left with nothing but revenge. In a final showdown, Spike confronts Vicious, who has by now taken control of the syndicate. At the syndicate's headquarters, he mounts a one-man attack.
As Cowboy Bebop’s main plotline centers around Julia and Spike’s love for her, this final story arc is simple perfection, wrapping up all of the loose ends hinted at in previous episodes.
Spike’s quote, about Julia marking the first time he was truly alive, sums it all up. “At least that's what I thought,” he says. “She was the part of me I'd lost somewhere along the way, the part that was missing that I'd been longing for.”
1. Session 5: "Ballad of Fallen Angels"
In this episode, we finally get a glimpse into Spike's history with several flashbacks, including a look at his mentor Mao Yenrai, the Red Dragon syndicate, Vicious, and Spike's relationship with the aforementioned. We also get another look at the stellar cathedral scene in this episode, with revelations about Spike's past and present weaving together.
This episode landed on the top of our list because of its introduction to the base plot behind Cowboy Bebop, its incredible action scenes, and because it leaves the viewer simply wanting more. While we're given hints of Spike, Vicious, and Julia's past, we're left with the insatiable hunger to find out what really happened to the trio so many years ago.