‘Cowboy Bebop’, ‘Blade Runner’, and the Ouroboros of Influence

A good deal of modern sci-fi owes a debt to 'Blade Runner' ... some more than others.
Cowboy Bebop Blade Runner

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that explores the connections between Cowboy Bebop and the Blade Runner films.

The cultural impact of Ridley Scott‘s 1982 film Blade Runner cannot be overstated. It is the gritty, cyberpunk daydream that launched a hundred tech-noirs. An amalgam of pop-culture influences itself, Blade Runner‘s fingerprints are all over sci-fi cinema: BrazilStrange Days, Dark City, Ghost in the Shell, the list goes on and on. And yet, one jazzy offering stands out among the small-screen offerings.

Released at the dawn of the new millennium, Cowboy Bebop merged the far-flung swashbuckling energy of Space Westerns with a distinctly existential neo-noir tinge. Set in the now within reach future of 2071, the show sees humanity cast out across the Solar System, reliant on bounty hunters (known as “Cowboys”) to track down criminals and keep some semblance of peace. Series director Shinichiro Watanabe has always worn his admiration for Blade Runner on his sleeve as a major influence. As a point of fact, this all came full circle when Watanabe directed a 15-minute animated short film Blade Runner Black Out 2022 in 2017, part of a series of shorts linking Scott’s original to Denis Villeneuve‘s impending sequel, Blade Runner 2049.

As the video essay below elegantly suggests, both Cowboy Bebop and Villeneuve’s film have a great deal in common, from superficial similarities and synchronicities to deeper musculature that verges on poetic likeness: “not homage, but a shared soul.” Indeed, both the film and the anime series have an especially crunchy relationship with their forebearer; more than just a footnote, they are both explicitly concerned in existential matters such as legacy, purpose, and the fuzzy intersections in between.

(Also, Cowboy Bebop fans, as if you needed more of a reason to check out the video below, Steve Blum himself — the English voice of Spike Spiegel — makes an appearance reciting Roy Batty’s “Tears in the Rain” monologue. Dreams do come true!)

Watch “Cowboy Bebop x Blade Runner – Cycle of Influence (feat. Spike)”:

Who made this?

This video essay on the connections between the anime Cowboy Bebop and the Blade Runner films is by kaptainkristian, a YouTube-based video essay channel that peddles in visual love letters to filmmakers, musicians, and syndicated cartoons. The account is run by Kristian T. Williams, whom you can follow on Twitter here. You can subscribe to kaptainkristian, and check out their back catalog on YouTube here.

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    Meg Shields: Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.