Cowboy Bebop is a fun show by the creators of Cowboy Bebop, but it’s many flaws and head-scratching moments can be frustrating. There are some seriously great things about this anime that deserve recognition, though–for its impressive production value and deep exploration of existentialism in outer space.
“What is cowboy bebop about” is a question that I get asked often. The answer to this question is not easy. Cowboy Bebop has many different elements in it, and they are all conflicting. It’s an entertaining yet conflicted jam.
Unsurprisingly, anime adaptations are tough to carry off. We’ve seen live-action adaptations of Dragon Ball, Death Note, and Attack On Titan in the past, only to have them fail due to a misunderstanding of the original material or just being unable to locate the secret ingredient that made their predecessors so adored. Cowboy Bebop is widely regarded as one of the finest anime series of all time, and although the Netflix version never quite reaches those heights, it manages to carve out a niche for itself and justify its existence despite certain shortcomings.
In confronting this 10-episode remake, we should focus on the positive aspects of this film, which stars John Cho, Mustafa Shakir, and Daniella Pineda as the Bebop’s key trio of Spike, Jet, and Faye. The show’s biggest strength is its ensemble’s relationship with one another, with each actor portraying the group as a family that you enjoy watching chat with as they prepare for their next big score. Each of the performers is clearly enamored with their roles, which is evident to the audience, with the back-and-forth generating an engaging environment and a feeling of joy.
For better or worse, the characters in Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop seem ripped right from the source material, and the new method tries to tie episodes together under the umbrella of an overarching plot, rather than the anthology approach used in the original anime series. Some choices, like as the instance of Pierre Le Fou, the insane clown, were taken in an effort to create a feeling of coherence that worked, while others stumbled along the way. Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, and Faye Valentine are thoroughly embodied by John Cho, Mustafa Shakir, and Daniella Pineda, but the same cannot be said for the other characters who make up the world of this famous series.
Before we get into the negatives, we have to applaud one of Netflix’s most important and worthwhile decisions in producing this live-action adaptation: bringing back Yoko Kanno, the original series’ composer, who hasn’t lost a step and can weave compositions that harken back to the spirit of the anime while offering fans plenty of new tunes to sink their teeth into. The music, which works wonderfully at keeping the atmosphere light and joyful along the way, would have made this new version so much less enjoyable to watch.
The extension of the universe with characters like Vicious and Julia, as well as their role in the Syndicate, is where Cowboy Bebop really falters. These people were almost like blueprints for the life Spike had left behind in the original series, with little to no characterisation outside of their tropes. The live-action series takes a different tack, attempting to give us more information about Vicious and Julia, but it fails miserably. When Vicious and Julia (who are now a couple) emerge, the program comes to a screeching stop, suddenly abandoning the Grindhouse charm and giving us people who aren’t lovable in any sense of the term. Many people thought of Vicious as a heartless “edgelord” in the original series, and although the live-action program tries to flesh out the character, it does so in a manner that defangs the villain and removes the boogeyman’s innate danger. When the smoke clears, Julia is handed such a significant exit that it will leave many people scratching their heads.
The series, on the other hand, seems like Cowboy Bebop in the sense that the characters look as they should and the environments feel as well-lived-in as the original, but there are just too many stumbling blocks when it comes to replicating the original’s soul and spirit. The new Netflix program has its flaws, but it’s still a delightful ride with much to love for fans of both the original and newcomers to the world. This program was never going to be able to achieve the same heights as the original, but if you can get beyond that, the new series provides an enjoyable, though fragmented experience for fans.
3 out of 5 stars
Cowboy Bebop will be available to view on Netflix on November 19th.
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