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I spent 8 years in Japan, one of the things that always amazed me was that of those people who watched anime, 99% of them had never heard of Cowboy Bebop. In all my time there, there was only 1 person who knew of it and they didn't watch it.

Perhaps I'm biased, but I find it incredible that this great anime has been largely overlooked in Japan.

Why was Cowboy Bebop relatively unpopular in Japan compared to abroad (to the point of almost being unheard of)?

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    Likely because it came out in 1998, and only aired for a few years. Ask a kid in America if he know about "Goof Troop". Make no mistake, it was plenty popular there. – Gorchestopher H Jan 12 '13 at 16:14
  • It still begs the question, why was it so much more popular overseas? Did it get more advertising? More reruns? Are the English voice actors of higher quality? Maybe it's just the people in my circles, but most people living abroad who watch anime have heard of cowboy bebop. This is opposed to virtually no one in Japan (I'm only talking about people in Japan who watch anime and are willing to admit they do). – TryHarder Jan 12 '13 at 23:30
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    Cowboy Bebop is/was not more popular here. Perhaps among anime fans specifically as it was one of the small fraction of titles making it to Cartoon Network. – Gorchestopher H Jan 13 '13 at 5:49
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According to Cowboy Bebop's wikipedia page:

Bebop received universal critical acclaim and won the renowned Seiun Award in 2000, a Japanese science fiction award for the best science fiction work published during the preceding year, as determined by the Japan Science Fiction Convention. It was named Best Media of the Year by the Science Fiction Convention.
...
In 2006, the Japanese MiniTokyo review claimed, "To say nothing more, it is a masterpiece, a genre defining series that has a right to be held in such high confidence. Not many series can do even one of the elements as well as Cowboy Bebop does, and even fewer can actually get every single solitary aspect of themselves to such a high degree of excellence. Everything in this anime falls into place with such perfection that makes it all organic and real and following to the extent that they do. From the full gamut of emotions to the roughs and roughnecks of the Bebop, to the masterful soundtrack that gives life to many of the episodes themselves, to the art that so perfectly conveys the mood and atmosphere of the entire work. Cowboy Bebop is not an anime to be missed, and not to be forgotten."

So it was well received, but unlike other franchises that continue to have new TV series, manga, novels, merchandise, or even doujin, Bebop is a one shot 26 episode series with a movie shortly after the airing and that's about it. It aired during a time when you didn't have massive blocks of anime on every channel, so most people probably didn't think that much about it. There's still a prevalent conception that anime is most stuff for kids eventhough that's not the case anymore, and being labeled an otaku of any kind is a social stigma.

Most people probably wouldn't know of a show that aired over 10 years ago, that only aired half of the show, and didn't have many more re-airings (except maybe on Friday Road Show, I'm not sure where to find this information). Most people probably would never had heard of "Macross" or "Gundam" if it wasn't for the franchise churning out products, and thus, having advertisements placed all over the place. Most people probably never heard of shows like "Legend of the Galactic Heroes" for similar reasons.

  • It doesn't explain why it's still popular abroad. Also I was talking about people who were willing to discuss anime and admit to watching it. Nevertheless, you made me aware of a few things that I hadn't know of- I'll give you the answer. – TryHarder Jan 12 '13 at 23:34
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    @moomoochoo It's hard to quantify popularity, especially concerning something that is a niche interest. As far as "abroad" in the U.S., Bebop was aired almost continuously on Adult Swim for 4 straight years (starting from 2001), with occasional long repeated reruns all the way up to 2011. Having no other readily available broadcast for "anime" back then, people in the states who are already into anime would surely have seen Bebop. – Jon Lin Jan 12 '13 at 23:54
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Cowboy Bebop aired 1998-1999. It came out the same time as Trigun and Outlaw star. All of them were wildly popular.

In fact, Cowboy Bebop is still very popular, even in Japan.

Keep in mind that a cartoon that aired for 2 years, the last year of which was in 1999, is bound to not be too popular among people who were younger than 12 years old at the time, or younger than 26 today.

See this Wikipedia quote:

In 2006, the Japanese MiniTokyo review claimed, "To say nothing more, it is a masterpiece, a genre defining series that has a right to be held in such high confidence. Not many series can do even one of the elements as well as Cowboy Bebop does, and even fewer can actually get every single solitary aspect of themselves to such a high degree of excellence. Everything in this anime falls into place with such perfection that makes it all organic and real and following to the extent that they do. From the full gamut of emotions to the roughs and roughnecks of the Bebop, to the masterful soundtrack that gives life to many of the episodes themselves, to the art that so perfectly conveys the mood and atmosphere of the entire work. Cowboy Bebop is not an anime to be missed, and not to be forgotten." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cowboy_Bebop

The last movie aired in 2001, which was still 12 years ago.

You're dealing with time. Ask a kid today if he knows what "Goof Troop" is. I don't think any of them would be able to tell you who "Bullwinkle" is.

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