Shinichiro Watanabe, director of the ultraviolent and off-the-wall Japanese anime series "Cowboy Bebop," is one of the coolest names in international animation. Having begun his career at Japan's Sunrise studio as a storyboard artist, Watanabe was impressive enough to earn the title of co-director on the company's second installment in their giant robot anime franchise, "Macross Plus." Watanabe's effort, released in 1994, mesmerized audiences with its deft blend of traditional animation and early computer-generated imagery. The director was later granted creative control over a project of his choosing, and the result was "Cowboy Bebop," a genre-bending cartoon cocktail that drew influence from both film noir and spaghetti Westerns. The music and fast-paced editing style of the show also referenced American jazz. The series, and its feature-length follow up, received a roaring reception. Watanabe's name became synonymous with cutting-edge adult animation, and his next venture was "The Animatrix," a compilation of animated shorts inspired by the immensely influential '90s sci-fi film "The Matrix." Directing two of the nine parts, Watanabe continued to build an immensely impressive portfolio of animated work. He went on to direct another ever-unpredictable anime series: "Samurai Champloo," a hip-hop-infused historical farce set in feudal Japan.