Developed by André Nemec, ‘Cowboy Bebop’ is a live-action neo-noir space western series based on the TV anime of the same name and the 2001 anime film ‘Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.’ Set in 2171, the story follows the bounty hunting crew of the spaceship Bebop as they track down and capture some of the worst criminals of the solar system.
Spike Spiegel is a handsome and suave Cowboy or bounty hunter and Bebop crew member, whose dark past catches up to him when the criminal organization known as the Syndicate finds out that he is still alive and devotes all its resources to rectify that. If you watched ‘Cowboy Bebop’ and loved it, here is a list of recommendations for you. You can watch most of these shows similar to ‘Cowboy Bebop’ on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Crunchyroll, or Funimation.
7. Dark Angel (2000-2002)
Created by James Cameron and Charles H. Eglee, ‘Dark Angel’ is a prominent example of a selected group of the late 1990s and early 2000s action-adventure shows with a strong female protagonist. The plot centers around Max Guevara or X5-452, a genetically enhanced super-soldier who runs away from the government facility that made her the way she is and later begins searching for young men and women who were with her in the program. Both ‘Cowboy Bebop’ and ‘Dark Angel’ are quintessential science fiction. But they have enough elements of other genres, including romance, thriller, and crime, to create a complex and wholesome narrative.
6. Miami Vice (1984-1990)
Michael Mann and Anthony Yerkovich’s ‘Miami Vice’ is arguably the neo-noir genre at its highest aspiration. The plot follows MDPD undercover detectives James “Sonny” Crockett and Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs as they take on the criminal elements in and around Miami.
‘Miami Vice’ revolutionized police-drama shows when it came out, focusing on the 1980s New Wave culture rather than being a traditional police procedural. Beyond the neo-noir elements that the two shows share, both ‘Cowboy Bebop’ and ‘Miami Vice’ make heavy use of fashion and music in their respective narratives. Moreover, both shows indulge in the decadence of violence and sexuality.
5. Mob City (2013)
The short-lived ‘Mob City’ revolves around LAPD Detective Joe Teague, who is caught in the brutal real-life conflict between the Los Angeles Police Department led by Captain William Parker and elements of organized crime under the leadership of Bugsy Siegel.
The story is set in 1947’s Los Angeles and enunciates the dark underbelly of contemporary Hollywood. While ‘Cowboy Bebop’ looks to the future to find neo-noir elements, ‘Mob City’ looks to the past, to the noir period itself. Both shows explore themes such as organized crime, violence, and corruption through music, fashion, and a protagonist standing on the border between chaos and order.
4. True Detective (2014-2019)
‘True Detective’ is an anthology neo-noir series with distinctive style, themes, and characterization. The show tells a different story with different characters each season, but crime and violence always serve as central themes. In the first season of ‘True Detective,’ the complex relationship between partners Rustin “Rust” Cohle and Martin “Marty” Hart provides the core of the plot, just like the initial camaraderie between Spike and Jet fuels the narrative in ‘Cowboy bebop.’
3. Carnival Row (2019-)
If ‘Cowboy Bebop’ is a neo-noir that takes place in a science fiction setting, ‘Carnival Row’ is a neo-noir with a historical fantasy setting. A forbidden romance empowers the heart of the story in both shows. In ‘Cowboy Bebop,’ it’s between Spike and Julia, the girlfriend of Spike’s best friend. And in ‘carnival Row,’ it’s between human Rycroft Philostrate and fae Vignette Stonemoss. Furthermore, both shows skip time to put some distance between the timeline of the romance and the current events, which depict the two pairs of lovers as bitter, broken, and disillusioned.
2. The Expanse (2015-2022)
Based on a series of books by James S. A. Corey (the collaborative pen name of authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), ‘The Expanse’ is a gorgeous space western series. Like in ‘Cowboy Bebop,’ humanity has expanded beyond Earth to colonize the entire solar system in ‘The Expanse.’ A seemingly ordinary crew of a space-freighter discovers an inter-planetary conspiracy that threatens to destroy the fragile peace in the system.
Meanwhile, United Nations executive Chrisjen Avasarala and Ceres police detective Joe Miller chance upon pieces of the larger puzzle and must solve them before an all-out war breaks out. Both ‘Cowboy Bebop’ and ‘The Expanse’ serve as vehicles to offer commentary on issues such as war, crime, and corruption.
1. Cowboy Bebop (1998-2000)
Since this is a list of TV shows like ‘Cowboy Bebop,’ it is only appropriate to include the TV anime that inspired it. Since its airing, ‘Cowboy Bebop’ has secured its place as one of the greatest anime shows of all time. The Netflix live-action series is a largely faithful adaptation of the original anime, but it’s not entirely without creative liberties. After all, the newer rendition wants to expand the ‘Cowboy Bebop’ universe in their efforts to introduce the evergreen story of Spike, Jet, Faye, Ein, Ed, Vicious, and Julia to a new demography of audience that may have never seen the original anime.
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