Spike from 'Cowboy Bebop'
Fans' anticipation of Netflix's "Cowboy Bebop" live-action series is unfortunately tinged with the knowledge of Netflix's poor track record with anime adaptations. (Illustration by Mack Niemietz, Southern New Hampshire University)

Our Favorite Space Cowboy Will Return in Netflix’s ‘Cowboy Bebop’

Often regarded as a behemoth within the world of anime, the neo-noir anime will soon receive a live-action series — for better or for worse.

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Spike from 'Cowboy Bebop'

Often regarded as a behemoth within the world of anime, the neo-noir anime will soon receive a live-action series — for better or for worse.

Although “whatever happens, happens” is what Spike Spiegel would say, fans might not agree with this statement this time around. With the live-action “Cowboy Bebop” series set to premiere this month, longtime fans continue to anticipate it with many mixed emotions.

If you didn’t grow up with “Cowboy Bebop,” it’s an anime about a bounty hunter named Spike who goes on astonishing adventures across the galaxy with his crewmates, which includes an adorable little corgi. It was created and animated by the Japanese animation studio Sunrise in 1998 and was the first anime to be broadcast on Adult Swim in the United States. It has achieved noteworthy commercial success in Japan as well as the U.S. and has even been recognized as one of the best anime series of all time. “Cowboy Bebop,” along with other animes like “Sailor Moon” and “Pokémon,” were many viewers’ gateways into the genre. 

While the concept of “Cowboy Bebop” isn’t too complicated or unique, the way it’s presented gives it a special flair. There’s nothing unfamiliar about bounty hunters, but imagining them as cowboys in space really creates that science fiction neo-noir anime we’ve all been dreaming of. Not to mention the perfect soundtrack of jazz music that you wouldn’t expect to be so hype, but every time that theme song starts to play you immediately start dancing like you’re at a packed party. I mean, who wouldn’t want a Han Solo cowboy spin-off?

It wasn’t a surprise that fans were intrigued when Netflix dropped the trailer for the live-action reboot. They announced that the 10-episode series will be released on Nov. 19. The new live-action series will feature stars such as John Cho, Daniella Pineda, Mustafa Shakir and Ein (yes, that’s the corgi — he’s a very important cast member). It will be co-directed by Alex Garcia Lopez and Michael Katleman. With the original “Cowboy Bebop” only airing 26 episodes, fans have planned to sell their souls for more content since the last episode aired in 1999. Now, whether or not fans are looking forward to the way this new content will be represented is an entirely different story.

Many viewers are concerned that their beloved childhood dreams will be ruined once again because Netflix wanted to make a quick buck off nostalgia. It’s not unrealistic for fans to be worried. For instance, if we look at past Netflix live-action adaptations of popular animes, not many have turned out that great — or even good. I remember being so ecstatic when I heard about the live-action “Death Note” and, while I love Nat Wolff and really love Willem Dafoe, the movie was trash. They whitewashed the cast and the story strayed far from its original premise. Unwilling to acknowledge just how big of a flop it was, another live-action anime movie was announced just a few months later: “Fullmetal Alchemist.” Unsurprisingly, the end result didn’t seem to change.

It’s quite odd that Netflix can’t seem to get it right, especially with all the success they have gained with other shows. Maybe they shouldn’t continue to try and cram a season’s worth of a beloved show into a couple of hours. With such a short time frame, crucial plot points and memorable details will be missed, practically guaranteeing an unsatisfied audience. Fans have continued to convince themselves of all possible outcomes, just to be disappointed once again. While they want to be hopeful for another chance of living within one of their favorite universes, they know the reality of what to expect.

On the other hand, the trailer left many fans confused — but in a good way. At the end of the trailer, many of us responded with dropped jaws and the response of, “Wait, this actually looks good?” I watched it about three more times before I decided that it was a promising trailer. With that decided, I of course dove into researching anything about the upcoming series that could dilute the buzz within me. I needed to know what could possibly ruin this viewing experience. From previous instances, I knew that deep down this might turn out to be yet another tainted project but the information I obtained left me cautiously optimistic.

On top of the trailer being incredible and brimming with a talented cast, the project is a 10-episode season, which in turn means that they wouldn’t be cramming an entire show into a single movie. This would mean that there would be more time to include essential scenes. Although I learned all this to feel some relief, the true comfort came from information in another article about the new “Cowboy Bebop.”

An IGN article discussed an interview that Entertainment Weekly held with the executive producer, André Nemec. Nemec established that the new series would be an “expansion of the canon” as opposed to strictly creating a carbon copy of the original. He states that he never wanted to make a replication of the story, but instead step into its world to add to its lore. This alone provided me with some semblance of security in knowing the show would be treated with care. Being able to see the creator’s intentions produced a different set of expectations. Now fans can’t go into the show complaining it’s not exactly like the original because well, that’s not what it was supposed to be.

I understand the hesitation of fans, but I also can’t help but hope for the best because I need it to fill the nostalgic hole in my heart. Either way, I’m just stoked that “Cowboy Bebop” is something that is being talked about again. Even if the live-action sucks, I believe it will inspire people to go back and watch the original. Maybe for the first time. Maybe for the 100th time. Regardless of the outcome, everyone deserves a chance to travel the stars with Spike and Ein. I will continue to manifest the best for all of us on Nov. 19, but until then, see you space cowboy.

Writer Profile

Tori Barney

Columbia College Chicago
Creative Writing

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