In the online world saying something like “Cowboy Bebop makes Firefly look like Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” could get you slapped in the face. But it’s the truth.

For those out of the know Cowboy Bebop is about a small group of bounty hunters who bungle most of their efforts. They’re poor, they have pasts that take precedence over getting money for food, and they seem to permanently be in a rut. Firefly and Cowboy Bebop are alike in a few ways. They both have crews that perform “shady” jobs to make a living, they both are a marriage of revolvers, cowboys and space travel, and both establish a rich history for their characters we want to explore. There aren’t a lot of TV series that make character history such a prominent feature. Typically characters define themselves through actions and we follow.

Both Cowboy Bebop and Firefly are playful about their misfortune. In Firefly the doctor lists of a series of things that are wrong with the ship and it’s crew. Captain Malcolm Reynolds replies, “Yea, but we’re still flying.” In Cowboy Bebop when we see Spike Spiegel flying towards a mission in his plane his stomach grumbles. He looks down towards it mournfully. His plane says “Low of fuel.” Spike gentley pats the panel and says “You too, huh?”

There’s a campy quality to Firefly. A kind of B-production feel. Director Shinichir? Watanabe’s vision for Cowboy Bebop is more profound. There’s a pizzazz to the movement of the characters, their fighting, their flying. Take a peek.

It helps that Cowboy Bebop‘s score was composed by Yoko Kanno (the John Williams of Anime – if John Williams was better). People might listen to the Firefly intro from time to time, but Cowboy Bebop‘s Green Bird? Forever.

What impacts me the most about Cowboy Bebop is what is unspoken. We never really learn why Spike and Jet started being bounty hunters together. Even less why Faye, Ein, and Edward join them or stay with them. When their pasts get involved each character is wholly engrossed in it. We see that it defines them. When they go to Jaynestown in Firefly we all have fun, but that place doesn’t define Jayne.

They’re both great shows. I’m drawing the comparison for effect. Trust. If you could conceive of something better than Firefly, but similar, Cowboy Bebop would be it.