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I like sci-fi, and I had already watched Firefly & Farscape years before I tried Cowboy Bebop, so I'm familiar with the Used Future tropes. Still, CB does an excellent job of creating a solar system of mish-mashed cultures and criminality from a ruined Earth diaspora that you can believe in (to some extent - the idea that we would have expanded to the entire solar system by the late 21st century is absurd, and Venus in particular is not a place that we could ever survive what with the corrosive atmosphere).
The characters are great, and interact with each other in fun ways. I was surprised at the order in which the main cast shows up, and how long it took for them to all get together, but once they are all on one ship, the plot magic happens. The best story beats have to do with Faye's mysterious history, Spike's past with the Martian mob, and anything that Ein and Ed do together. Near the end, the finale comes on like a train wreck, and if you can't handle tragedy, you should bow out early. It's well-done tragedy with sides of hubris and depression, but it's still tragedy. You can choose exactly how tragic it is - the creators leave a little room for interpretation - but most people come down in one particular camp.
One last note: the music is terrific. The opening and closing themes are worth your time, even if you don't watch the show. More anime should try a little blues.
1-6: If I started watching, I stopped once it clearly fell below 7. I would never watch or recommend. [Further clarification: 1-3 is pure excrement, and I would rather be getting un-anesthetized surgery for the entire running time. 4-6 is the kind of thing where I would sincerely rather be doing chores, but could survive sitting through it if a friend begged me to.]
7: I watched at least part of it, and may have stopped due to not liking the plot twists, character derailment, etc. I may have watched the whole show, but recognize deal-breaker tropes in it, and I'm unlikely to rewatch; thus, huge caveats to any recommendation.
8: Not my thing, but usually I at least respect it. Generally, I didn't like it enough to rewatch it, but also didn't see huge problems in the plot, characterizations, etc. and thought it was worth finishing. I'd consider it mostly harmless to view, with the occasional caveat; it's possible that over time I would upgrade it to a 9 if I liked it more on reflection. I would recommend it to the right audience.
9: I enjoyed very much. It may have had one or two issues, but not enough to diminish enjoyment. It's possible that over time I would downgrade it to an 8 (changing tastes) or upgrade to a 10 (realize it's never left my mind). I'm likely to rewatch, and might decide to buy the DVDs. I'd recommend it to most audiences.
10: Virtually flawless. I'd definitely rewatch, and am likely to buy DVDs. I would shill to anyone.
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