While Cowboy Bebop was a story about a future few could imagine when it debuted, it’s shown itself to be very prophetic of the world we live in today.
The future world depicted in the cult classic anime Cowboy Bebop might have been unrecognizable to anyone at the time of the series debut in 1998, but it is undoubtedly clear to fans today, almost 50 years before it is supposed to take place.
Cowboy Bebop follows the adventures of the spaceship Bebop’s crew – the experienced bounty hunters, Spike, Jet, Faye, and Bebop’s master computer hacker Radical Ed. The world depicted in Cowboy Bebop, is nothing like the real world that existed when it debuted. Indeed, set in 2070, many of the common realities of that time such as interstellar travel, warp gates, terraforming, cryogenic technology, hover cars and highly functioning android technology, were pure fantasy and conjecture at the turn of the century.
While it remains to be seen whether the world will ever be able to enjoy Cowboy Bebop‘s more advanced technology, the anime series has proven unbelievably prescient in its prediction of more basic technology as well as several social and cultural issues that it believed would be important in the world of the future. Moreover, while Cowboy Bebop foretold these issues to be relevant nearly a century after its debut, the reality is they’ve become dominant issues of the day in less than 25 years. Indeed, if one ever wonders what the future holds for them and the world, there are worse sources to consider than Cowboy Bebop.
Cowboy Bebop Was About Cool Tech and Hot Button Issues
One of the most obvious examples of Cowboy Bebop‘s prescience is its identification of digital payments and crypto-currency. But for the occasional street vendor, digital payment was the rule and not the exception in Cowboy Bebop. While digital transactions might have seemed fantastical in 1998, it has become nearly ubiquitous in 2022 with things like Apple Pay. Two other unthinkable technologies in 1998 that were common in Cowboy Bebop and in real life today, are video communications and virtual reality. In terms of social and cultural prediction, while terrorism has been in existence since the beginning of civilization, the connections between international terrorism and transnational crime that Cowboy Bebop introduces were relatively rare when the anime premiered. Of course, nowadays, much of public life has been shaped by acts of terrorism. But suddenly Cowboy Bebop‘s most significant prediction is how it depicts the destruction of man-made climate change. In Bebop’s case, it’s the climate change caused by the destruction of the moon and the subsequent meteorite and moon rock showers that resulted. It’s a tacit prediction of a man-made global environmental disaster that has been shown today to be absolutely possible
What is interesting about Cowboy Bebop‘s accurate view of the future is that it developed quite randomly. Indeed, Cowboy Bebop was not the result of some master script pinned over for decades by its creators. Rather, it was a pure ad hoc production given to the future Cowboy Bebop creator Shinichiro Watanabe by the Toy Division of the Japanese conglomerate Bandai. Bandai had the cynical reason of just wanting a show to showcase their company’s line of toy spaceships. They gave Watanabe significant freedom to develop the script as he wished. Watanabe took the chance and created a world suffering from climate decline, mass and chaotic immigration – to the stars, and interplanetary terrorists. While Watanabe might have been having fun with his opportunity, his choices were spot-on correct from a social and cultural perspective, even if his technology predictions in Cowboy Bebop have yet to come to fruition.
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Cowboy Bebop is now streaming on Hulu.