Cowboy Bebop and Trigun aren’t the only good Anime Space Westerns

Cowboy Bebop and Trigun aren’t the only good Anime Space Westerns

The popularity of space westerns has waxed and waned over the years, not just in fictional media in general (firefly/Peace of mind, The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, Guardians of the Galaxy, Borderlands), but also in anime specifically. However, anime viewers, especially those a little newer to the medium, may be surprised at how many entries to the subgenre are here aside from iconic and much-loved classics like 1998’s Cowboy Bebop and Trigun.

When anime fans think of space westerns, these series are likely to appear at the top of people’s lists, and for good reason. Cowboy Bebop is known as a masterpiece in both anime and storytelling in general, achieving critical acclaim worldwide. Meanwhile, Trigun is also often considered to be one of the best anime of all time by American fans, thanks in large part to its American frontier setting. However, the deserved success of these two shows does not mean that the space western subgenre is devoid of other interesting anime.

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Outlaw Star was produced by the same studio as Bebop – and came out before that

Animation studio Sunrise has long been a giant in the industry, although anime fans may be surprised to learn that it didn’t just create Cowboy Bebop but also Outlaw Star – and that the latter actually began to be broadcast first. Originally serialized as a seinen manga from 1996-1999, the anime has long been overshadowed by Bebop despite Shinichiro Watanabe’s most famous work not hitting screens for another three months.

The story follows the protagonist Gene Starwind, who has long dreamed of piloting his own ship freely through space despite his current odd job on a small planet. However, his life is turned upside down when he and his partner accept a job from Rachel Sweet, who turns out to be a treasure-hunting outlaw. Now tasked with defending a mysterious young woman named Melfina, Gene and his crew find themselves encountering the likes of bounty hunters, space pirates and everything in between as they navigate the stars aboard their ship, the titular Outlaw Star.

Despite being constantly compared to Cowboy Bebop — often not positively — it would be a mistake not to Outlaw Star because of this, or even to assume it Outlaw Star do all the same things as Bebop do. The anime is very much its own creation, and while both shows may be space westerns, that doesn’t stop it Outlaw Star from being not only unique, but also genuinely good. From the famous starship designs and world-building details to the fine balance between serious space opera and straight-up comedy, Outlaw Star hits a lot of high notes throughout its runtime – overall, a fun action/adventure space battle set against an exciting neo-Wild West backdrop.

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The Coyote Ragtime Show pairs the Space Western with the classic girl-with-a-gun concept

Ufotable is best known for producing the anime adaptations of Fate/Zero, Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works and of course the shonen megahit Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba. However, it is one of the studio’s previous titles, 2006’s Coyote Ragtime Show, which remains one of the best productions to date. As Cowboy Bebopthis is an anime original that combines space adventure with an Old West-style setting — and despite the later tie-in manga having the dubious honor of being labeled “one of the worst manga” out there in 2007 Manga: The Complete Guideanime promises to be a fantastic good time for anyone interested in classic shootouts and bank heists.

The series introduces viewers to Mister – a space outlaw (known as a “coyote”) who, after breaking out of prison after being locked up for a year due to a traffic offense, seeks out a girl named Franca. Left in Mister’s care after her father’s death, the precocious Franca is the daughter of the legendary pirate king Bruce, who was killed by the head of a criminal syndicate. Hot on her and Mister’s heels are a pair of federal investigators, as well as the Syndicate and their android killers, all racing to find the whereabouts of Franca’s heirloom treasure.

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What Coyote Ragtime Show lacks refinement and finesse, it more than makes up for in sheer enthusiasm. The ADV version of the trailer sums up the proceedings completely unironically: “Bullets. Blades. Bombs. Beauty. And babes. If it’s capable of destruction or distraction, it’s fair game.” At once self-aware and over-the-top, the series is fast-paced and action-packed, and while the story and characters are neither complex nor even multi-layered, there is a certain charm to Coyote Ragtime Show which comes from its unabashed sense of humor. Viewers shouldn’t expect much in the way of depth, but they can certainly expect a lot of silly but exciting entertainment.

Both Outlaw Star and Coyote Ragtime Show is available for streaming on Funimation. But for those who may have already seen them, or are looking for more space westerns to round out their exposure to this admittedly still underserved subgenre of anime, you can also try the likes of Gun X Sword, Wild Arms: Twilight VenomShinichiro Watanabe Space Dandy or of course Leiji Matsumoto’s Space Pirate Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express 999.

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