Was 'Firefly' really a massive rip-off of 'Cowboy Bebop?'

After hearing for years that Joss Whedon ripped off “Cowboy Bebop” in its every particular when he made “Firefly” I finally saw the “Cowboy Bebop” movie. While I could see some slight similarities (though I’ve heard there are more in the series) it looked more like Whedon and *** both mined the same rich vein of American popular culture and *** could be said to have ripped off “Speed Racer” far more than Whedon did him. As I described to my kids, Spike is Speed, Jet is Pops Racer, Faye is a mix of Trixie and Racer X, and Edward and the dog are Sprytle and Chim-Chim. It was so obvious!

I wonder if bounty hunters were called anything but “cowboys” the annoying anime fanboys would’ve even made the connection.

Ooops! Submitted too soon! “***” was a placeholder until I looked up Watanabe’s name.

I’d suggest watching more Cowboy Bebop as it is a truely great series. As such there would be no shame in taking ideas from that series to make Firefly. Cowboy Bebop takes many ideas from American wild west , in a way that seems quite remarkable for a Japanese produced series.
So what if Joss took ideas from it, it is a worthy model for a live action series, and Joss is pretty good at making good tv.

Actually, I saw Cowboy Bebop more as a rip off of Lupin III instead of Speed Racer.

More seriously, I think you have it right. Bebop and Firefly just pull from some of the same sources. Anyone who thinks that Firefly is a rip-off of Bebop hasn’t seen the wide variety of things that Bebop drew inspiration from. I see that a lot with obsessive fans of things; whatever they’re obsessed with is the “original” and the thing that goes to the same sources to build on is the “rip-off”. Just a symptom of some narrow tunnel vision.

What exactly is the supposed similarity between the two shows? I’m a huge Firefly fan, and I’ve seen most of Bebop, and the only similarities I see are the most superficial of setting. They both are about a motley group of quasi-heroes who fly around in a spaceship… and that’s about it. Despite the title, there isn’t really much of an attempt to mimic the Old West in CB, there isn’t much that’s super hi-tech in Firefly, the characters don’t seem to map onto each other, none of the plots seem very similar… what’s the connection I’m missing, here?

I can see some similarities (mixture of high and low tech, cowboy motif, a group eeking out a marginal existence with a spaceship of questionable maintenence status), for sure, but IMHO claims that Firefly was a “massive ripoff” are overblown.

Still, Bebop has been influential. The sequence in “The Real Folk Blues part 2” where Spike shoots up a hi-rise lobby is very, very similar to the sequence in The Matrix where The Keanu does the same thing.

dropzone, I believe that the conventional wisdom is that the Bebop crew are loosely based on the characters in Lupin III, a very long-running Japanese cartoon that may have even influenced Speed Racer.

Personally, I prefer Bebop over Firefly, if for no other reason than Bebop has Yako Kanno doing the music. If you’ve only seen the movie, you’ve got to see the series for the music. The movie didn’t use “Tank!” for the opening or “The Real Folk Blues” for the closing, which was a fucking travesty. Kanno is a musical genius who was also supposedly the inspiration for the character of Ed. Yes, people really do act like that. Kanno is currently doing the music for Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, which is just now coming into its own after two seasons.

I expect I will. Wife want to see all eps of the series AND the manga.

The music was astonishing. I plan to look up more of her work and appreciate your suggestions.

I adore both shows, and I agree there are some similiarities, but I don’t think Whedon ripped Bebop off. No more than he ripped off Batman for Angel or…um…well, he “ripped off” a great number of things for Buffy, so you know, just insert your favorite “rip off” here.

Faye does bear certain similarities to Fujiko, certainly. :slight_smile:

Well, I did miss “Tank!” and “The Real Folk Blues”, but I absolutely adore “Ask DNA” and “Gotta Knock a Little Harder”, so it was a win-win for me, overall. :slight_smile:

Oddly, I’ve never heard about the Firefly/Cowboy Bebop ripoff idea. What I remember is that when Firefly first came out, people were claiming that it was a ripoff of Outlaw Star.

That, too, but they don’t have “Outlaw Star” at my video store for me to compare!

Yeah, the movie’s music was good enough, but I went in all pumped up to hear “Tank!” busting out over the big theater sound system! IMHO, it’s going to go down with “The Peter Gunn Theme” as one of the greatest TV themes evah. I thought it was a private pleasure of mine until I went to a minor league baseball game a couple of years ago and they played it over the sound system between innings.

I got the Cowboy Bebop Original CD-Box Sound Track soundtrack boxed set for Christmas based on hearing “Tank!” and “Cosmic Dare” on Fistful of Soundtracks and the strong recommendation of my anime-fan friends. The boxed set is verrrrryyy cool, with a lot of range, from bouncy and funny to sophisticated, from jazzy to poppy to sci-fi-soundtracky. But it doesn’t have “Cosmic Dare,” which bums me out.

Strangely, I’ve never really watched the show. I’ve caught a few episodes on Cartoon Network at wee hours of the morning due to bouts of insomnia, and it looked interesting, but too complicated to jump in at the middle.

I really ought to harass my anime friends to see if anyone has the subbed version for me to borrow.

I’ve always heard that it was stealing from Trigun, actually. At a certain point, when a show is being accused of stealing from so many sources, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that it’s actually pretty original.

Obviously, many of the Cowboy Bebop episodes were themselves homages to various American movies, with the plot twisted and humorous, but the characters and story played straight. Toys in the Attic being Alien, of course.

(thoughtful) “Peter Gunn”'s awful good as a andividual theme, as is “Perry Mason,” but the music throughout the CB movie was brilliant.

What is the nature of the suppsed theft? Just the ‘cowboys in space’ thing?

What I like about Firefly is that it’s exactly the kind of story and characters that Robert Heinlein would have made. I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts that Whedon and Tim Minear are huge Heinlein fans. The women are Heinlein archetypes - sexy, strong, with the ability to be violent. The spaceship itself is the kind of thing you could have expected the Rolling Stones to be flying. The political themes are straight out of Heinlein. But more importantly, the ‘horses in space’ theme was used by Heinlein over and over again. The idea being that if you colonize a planet, you do so with primitive technology because it’s really expensive to replace stuff that breaks. Hell, in Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky, the book ends with a literal wagon train heading into a space-time gate onto a new planet, complete with cowboys riding horses and wearing six-guns and Bowie knives.

In fact, Tim Minear is currently writing the screenplay for Heinlein’s “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”.

While I cannot stand Heinlein from about 1965 on, I admit I just picked up a few old faves to reread and look forward to Tim’s “Moon” because that one has BEGGED to be a movie.

It’s also where I picked up the basics of building a conspiracy. :smiley:

Whedon was at a comic book convention in San Francisco recently, and someone asked him about the “allegations” that “Buffy” was a rip-off of “Sailor Moon.” His response was (paraphrased): “I want to say that I love ‘Sailor Moon,’ I really do. I think it’s a wonderful show. I have to say, though, that I’ve never seen it before. And for the record, I’ve never seen ‘Cowboy Bebop.’”

I’ve said before that “Firefly” was a total rip-off of “Bebop,” but I don’t seriously think it was. It’s just that “Bebop” was the first thing I thought of when I saw “Firefly,” because of the western-in-space angle.

But my take on “Cowboy Bebop”, which I’ve said on here a couple of times before and I’ll keep saying until someone acknowledges my insight and genius, dammit, is this: Its theme isn’t “space western,” and it’s not just a version of “Lupin III.” Its theme is jazz. Not just in the music, but in everything. It combines a ton of stuff that would be familiar to people who grew up on Japanese anime and pop culture, throws it all together, switches everything around, and creates something else out of it.

To someone who grew up where the Lupin III character is so familiar, he’s going to see Spike Spiegel and say, “Ah, yeah, I get it.” None of the characters are more than archetypes. Spike isn’t just Lupin, he’s an expert martial artist with a tortured past. Jet Black is a cyborg who’s also a gruff ex-policeman. Faye Valentine is the sexy fanservice character and the lovable rogue. Ed is both the genius hacker and the annoying little androgynous child character that plagues every anime series. Westerns aren’t new, and even space westerns aren’t – in addition to “Trigun” and “Outlaw Star,” there’s the “Wild Arms” video games and probably plenty more I’m not even aware of. And it’s not just westerns – they have gangster/mafia settings, casino stories, crazed assassins, blacksploitation settings, truckers, amusement parks, Native American mystics, religious cults, and straight-up jazz/blues musicians (although the musician happens to be a psychotic adult man who doesn’t age past boyhood in appearance).

Hell, they even made the video disc covers look like old Jazz albums, down to the type-written liner notes on the back.

When you’ve got something that has that many influences going on, you’re inevitably going to get people saying that it’s a “rip-off” of something else, and vice versa.

Shady characters in a rickety spaceship, barely able to make ends meet, flying to recently-settled planets with an Old West/pioneer theme and taking less-than-legal jobs. More populated/established planets have a more modern culture that combines Asian languages with European ones. The protagonist is a good fighter who has his own moral code. There’s a sexy woman with a questionable past who’s independent from the rest of the crew and has a lot of sexual tension with the protagonist. There’s a young girl on board who’s a genius with machinery. And you could say that Jet Black combines characteristics of the Shepherd and Zoe, but at that point, you’re really stretching it.

I’d always heard the opposite, and I thought “Bebop” predated “Trigun.” Regardless, it’s all just a sign of how insufferably smug anime fans can get. Japanese culture is the pinnacle of civilization, and everything made by westerners, Americans in particular, is hopelessly derivative, unimaginative and juvenile. That’s why The Lion King is obviously a rip-off of Kimba, Atlantis ripped off some obscure anime about Atlantis and some jewel whose title I forget, etc. etc.

There’s no pompous worse than a pompous geek.

And the funny thing is that, ahem, **is far more likely than the sanitary Star Trek future!

And that smugness, coupled with their rabid attacks on anything beside their favored series, is why i have avoided anime (and manga, which the wife and kids eat for breakfast) for so long. Insufferable fans can turn off potential fans.

Amen. And I started out as a pompous geek, long before we had any outlets over here, so I know fromwhere I speak.

Hey! Nadia and the Secret of Blue Water isn’t obscure! Everyone knows it, right? I mean its an influential show and part of the foundation of Gainax as an animation studio so it can’t be obscure. :wink: