Cowboy Bebop overview: Netflix’s adaptation is a enjoyable and thrilling romp

Cowboy Bebop review: Netflix's adaptation is a fun and thrilling romp

John Cho successfully captures the pure cool and swagger of Spike Spiegel.


There’s nothing fairly like Cowboy Bebop

As a stylized, over-the-top galaxy-spanning sci-fi journey, it combines the pacing of an old-school Hong Kong motion movie with the melodrama of traditional westerns — all to the tune of a bumping jazz soundtrack. The landmark 1998 anime collection specializing in house cowboys and misplaced souls was, merely put, a vibe, and a richly eclectic one at that.

It is no secret Cowboy Bebop is amongst one of many extra sacred and influential anime exhibits of the final 20 years, and it is a collection that I’ve fond admiration for. That is what made the prospect of a live-action adaptation one thing to really feel a little bit apprehension about.

Fortunately, Netflix’s debut season of the live-action Cowboy Bebop is just not solely a enjoyable and thrilling romp that will get the colourful, soulful gestalt of the unique collection, it additionally leaves its personal mark in ways in which generally improves upon the anime from creator Shinichirō Watanabe.

Like the unique, the live-action Cowboy Bebop sees a dysfunctional crew of bounty hunters driving a skinny line between poverty and cozy squalor within the distant future. All through the 10-episode season, the trio of bounty hunters — Spike Spiegel (John Cho), Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda), and Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir) — tackle totally different jobs throughout the galaxy. These gigs entangle them with oddball criminals and unnerving villains, and tug at varied threads related to the tragic pasts of every character.

The spine of the brand new collection is the chemistry between the trio of bounty hunters. Once they’re not arguing over meals and minor inconveniences, they get caught up in missions throughout totally different planets caught in a culturally stagnated society gripped by late-stage capitalism. Cho’s portrayal of the aloof however all the time crafty Spike is a improbable flip for the actor. Cho manages to nail Spike’s pure cool and swagger, alongside along with his iconic fluffy hair. When Spike’s murky previous involves gentle, Cho successfully exhibits his character’s darker facet.

Jet Black is the rock of the crew, serving because the unofficial captain of the Bebop — the ship they use to journey throughout the galaxy. Shakir’s tackle the character is a lifeless ringer for his animated counterpart. He completely captures the deadpan nature of Jet whereas additionally exhibiting his tenderness when bonding along with his crew and family members.

However the clear standout is Pineda as femme fatale Faye Valentine. Pineda’s take is just not solely true to the seductive and ruthless nature of Faye, however provides a much more playful and endearing spin. She’s an absolute blast to look at on display screen and elevates an already nice solid, giving the trio of bounty hunters an enthralling sense of comradery.

Spike, Jet and Faye (plus Ein, the

Spike, Jet and Faye (plus Ein, the “Knowledge Canine”) make for a enjoyable group of characters to hold with.


Usually, characters mirror their anime counterparts, however a notable deviation considerations Vicious (Alex Hassell) and Julia (Elena Satine), Spike’s major antagonist and long-lost love, respectively. They’ve better dimension within the Netflix collection, and are given extra to do inside the plot — which is an attention-grabbing if serviceable dive into the murkier facet of the prison underworld within the far future. The 2 characters have precise pathos and weight within the story. Hassell specifically appears to be like like he relishes each scene he is in as Vicious, whereas Satine casts some ambiguity in Julia’s presence, significantly in the course of the later episodes.

Whereas I usually appreciated what the live-action present does for Vicious and Julia, part of me felt that their collective climax was underdeveloped, although I appreciated the route it units for future seasons. With an ensemble solid, the present spends numerous time juggling totally different storylines, and sadly, Vicious and Julia’s arc suffers in consequence.

The live-action present additionally updates among the extra unsavory points of the unique collection that is higher left prior to now. The anime featured a number of antiquated views of sexuality. The live-action present addresses this by revamping characters, corresponding to Gren (Mason Alexander Park), who’s now a recurring, nonbinary character with extra relevance to the story. Some episodes from the anime collection featured dated stereotypes of homosexual and transgender characters, so it is nice to see the brand new present giving these characters a extra enlightened and significant presence.

Whereas the brand new collection makes use of many acquainted characters, storylines and iconic scenes as constructing blocks, its extra serialized plot deviates from the anime in nice ways in which I will not spoil right here. As an alternative of the largely episodic nature of the unique, with many episodes remoted from the bigger plot, the live-action present carries a extra related story thread all through the season. This consistency helps lay out the framework of 2071’s galactic civilization and the various unsavory and endearing characters inside.

Daniella Pineda shines as Faye Valentine

Daniella Pineda shines as Faye Valentine.


It additionally dives deeper into the unique collection’ lesser-seen and unknown points, which I discovered tremendous attractive. Early episodes maintain issues easy, however the floodgates regularly open, explaining civilization “post-Earth” and the way life has develop into difficult following humanity’s compelled enlargement to the celebrities. The live-action present does effectively to illustrate the scope of Cowboy Bebop’s universe, and regardless of holding issues low-key, the ambition and craft remains to be there.

There’s loads of motion to see unfold all through the season, which seamlessly blends collectively fierce martial-arts brawls and John Woo-style gun battles. Whereas the present is stylized in its method to motion and set items, the actors cannot contort and bend in the identical unimaginable methods as their animated counterparts. This leaves among the extra heightened motion scenes feeling subdued and scaled again, which may come at odds with the pacing of the story. Nonetheless, there are thrilling moments that change between thrilling and cool-looking fights and actually grotesque moments.

I did get pleasure from seeing this rearrangement of tales put collectively to inform a extra related plot, and it was good seeing moments and characters foreshadowed. Nevertheless, the Netflix collection does generally wrestle to maintain its momentum going, particularly after a robust set of opening episodes. That is particularly felt within the again finish of the season, with some characters and plot threads feeling undercooked. Nonetheless, the stay motion collection managed to win me again over with its endearing sense of favor and lovable characters, which closed the season out with a pleasant twist and a tease for what’s to come back.

The anime collection was very a lot a present of its period, and the live-action present retains that late-’90s aesthetic, that includes retro know-how like CRT screens and analog computer systems. This provides the sense of the present’s universe feeling uncomfortable and lived-in, with characters clinging to worn down and damaged relics of the previous — each technological and philosophically. It is a visually pleasing and grounded take a look at life in house.

Scene from Cowboy Bebop

A number of of the anime’s iconic moments are re-created, with some twists, within the Netflix collection.


Similar to the anime, there’s an lively factor of social commentary in Netflix’s present, casting a light-weight on capitalism in house and the way life has been devalued sooner or later. Whereas it is largely within the periphery, there is a compelling anti-capitalist undercurrent all through, with characters decrying the rise of companies and the way the police serve the ruling class. This in turns helps to raise the unique collection’ setting and premise, making it really feel all of the extra poignant as a present in 2021.

The brand new collection principally succeeds at re-creating and increasing upon the unique’s signature model and soulful tone. One of many causes for that’s unique composer Yoko Kanno’s work on the live-action collection. Basic songs like Rush, Inexperienced Hen and The Actual People Blues return too. However as a result of Kanno and her band The Seatbelts produced a wholly new soundtrack for the present, the music feels equally nostalgic and recent. For those who instructed me these songs had been from a misplaced album from the unique present, I would consider it.

Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop stays near the spirit of the unique collection, but it surely actually is at its greatest when it does its personal factor. It does not all the time stick the touchdown, and a few points of the present could be higher left for animation, but these stumbles do not take away from the truth that I nonetheless had a blast binging via the season. It is one of many uncommon profitable live-action variations, and Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop is a enjoyable and stable first outing that works as a pleasant companion to the unique collection. It might not hit each proper be aware, but it surely’s obtained a spark that’ll maintain the music going.

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