A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although this anime series is among the best in the genre -- with well-developed characters and an accessible plot -- it's definitely mature and not meant for younger viewers. It deals with adult themes, there's lots of violence (with plenty of blood and gun use), and characters swear ("son of a bitch," etc.), drink, and smoke.
What's the story?
One of the easier anime series to follow for neophyte viewers, COWBOY BEBOP -- which was the first anime series to air during Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block in 2001 -- is a good introduction to the genre. Set in 2071, the show centers on a group of bounty hunters (known as "cowboys") and their travels through space in a former fishing trawler called Bebop. This set-up allows for many different plot lines over the course of the series, with stand-alone bounty stories interwoven with flashbacks that develop each cowboy's personal history.
Is it any good?
As with most anime series, there's extensive back story, but encyclopedic knowledge of this fictional world isn't required for viewing enjoyment. That said, due to its mature nature, it's not a good fit for younger viewers. But older teens and adults are likely to appreciate its creative sensibility.
Heavily influenced by American jazz and rockabilly from the 1940s and '50s, with an opening credits sequence that reminiscent of '60s spy shows and cartoons like Jonny Quest -- plus individual episodes named for popular songs like "My Funny Valentine" and "Bohemian Rhapsody -- Cowboy Bebop's atmospheric animation is a notch above the static images of many anime. Ship design, space station layout, and many other sci-fi elements are well thought out (one main character's transport ship looks like a cross between a '59 Bel Air and an X-Wing).
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the series' mature content -- violence, alcohol, etc. Do these elements enhance or distract from the main plot and messages? Also, what characterizes an "anime" series? If you're familiar with anime, what themes do you see repeated in different series? In general, how is animation different in kids' shows and more adult-oriented shows like this one? Why use animation to tell grown-up stories in the first place? How does animation affect the story being told?