Why Netflix's Live-Action "Cowboy Bebop" Looks Like a Success: A Longtime Fan's Perspective!
Few things in life come along as perfect as "Cowboy Bebop" and Maryland Fried Chicken, but since I am on a much-needed diet [stares wearily at his mixed green salad], we’ll go ahead and focus on "Cowboy Bebop" for the moment.
I can understand that it might sound silly to use the word “masterpiece” in order to reference a 26-episode anime from 1998 about a group of bounty hunters (they’re called cowboys in the future) flying around the universe in a futile attempt to capture their bounties while greater meaning dances around them. I understand that, so I won’t use that word. I will merely state for the record that "Cowboy Bebop" is the greatest creation to come out of the 20th Century. Yes, it’s better than Maryland Fried Chicken. I know, I was shocked too.
Since its debut some 23 years ago, "Cowboy Bebop" has enjoyed a more than stellar reputation with many folks declaring it to be one of the greatest anime's of all time. Its soundtrack alone (the beating heart of the series courtesy of Yoko Kano and her band The Seatbelts) merits its inclusion with the best of the best. Whether you’re in the market for action (finest kind), comedy (it genuinely makes me laugh out loud), or you just want your heart casually torn out while you cry a million tears, then "Cowboy Bebop" has something for you. And now there’s going to be a live-action version of all that stuff I just wrote about! Isn’t that great?!
Okay, so when they announced Netflix would be making a live-action adaptation of the famed anime, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. I too was somewhat skeptical, but fast forward a couple of years later and I’m still skeptical but not necessarily about the show anymore, as we are finally getting our first glimpses of what Netflix has in store for us weeks before it is set to air. First up, we were given a look at the opening credits sequence, which utilizes the legendary opening theme ("Tank") from the original anime and features a live-action version of the famed anime’s, opening which is appropriate since it is a live-action series. Take a look at a side-by-side comparison below.
It is a well-known scientific fact that including Yoko Kano’s legendary theme “Tank” is guaranteed to increase the quality of any show by at least 35%, so it’s got that going for itself, and yet some folks that remain unconvinced about whether or not this adaptation will be worthy of the Mantle of Bebop seem to be concerned with [checks notes] exaggerated movements and the fact that this adaptation even exists. All I can say is, I wholeheartedly agree that a live-action adaptation of a cartoon about space bounty hunters that fight space criminals and deal with space existential crises should never come off as [checks notes again] exaggerated. And as far as the fact that this adaptation is even a thing at all… well… whatever happens, happens.
Let’s move on, shall we? A few weeks after that, we got a short film called "Cowboy Bebop: The Lost Sessions", which allowed for us to see, for the first time, our lead characters truly interacting with one another. Surely this placated everyone. Peep the clip below.
The meta irreverence of the regional "Cowboy Bebop" (the end of every session had the characters speaking about next week’s session, and it was always done in a tongue-and-cheek manner) is front and center with this little clip that was shot specifically to advertise the series and give audiences a sense of the tone of "Bebop". I personally enjoyed this little peek, and for my money, the makers of New Bebop are on the path to fortune and glory. If anything, it was just nice to finally see some interplay between our three leads, and it looks like they all understood the assignment.
But what is the show going to look like? That was the question preoccupying myself and legions of fans, and we remained saddled with that curiosity right up until around 7pm Pacific Standard Time on Tuesday, October 26, when the first official trailer dropped.
So why is there so much love for "Cowboy Bebop"? The mashing of different genres (film noir, western, science-fiction) coupled with beautiful animation, a keen sense of timing, and, strangely enough, it’s use of silence (sometimes it’s the notes/words that you don’t hear that resonate the strongest) present to audiences a very appealing package that contains a little something for everyone. Now add Yoko Kano’s masterful music and you have something incredibly unique.
Aside from all of that, however, it’s kind of hard to put into words. The show offers no easy answers and yet is not shy or coy about what it has to say. "Cowboy Bebop" is a show about lost people, but nobody in the show is actively looking for meaning (at least initially). They have abandoned their old lives (or those lives have abandoned them), and now they are just drifting. And as they encounter fellow travelers whose stories may or may not reflect their own, the show never tries to force morals or platitudes onto the audience. There’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, no envelope telling you who the Oscar goes to, and no Vin Diesel staring at you for 2 hours telling you family is important over and over again until cars explode. There’s just existing. Trying to get by one day at a time.
And are there lessons to be learned from the various chapters in the lives of the worst bounty hunters in 2071? Of course there are, but again they are for us to glean. We are along for the ride, and the show happily welcomes our presence, but on its own terms. That’s "Cowboy Bebop".
The original anime made it’s Netflix debut on October 21, so you now have the option of watching all 26 sessions before you dive into the new stuff on November 19!