Cowboy Bebop, a cult-classic space western regarded on the nerd internet as the perfect gateway anime, is being made into a live action movie, Deadline reports, and all we can say is please, Hollywood, please don't fuck this up.
The two-season-and-a-movie series arc follows space cowboy Spike Spiegel and his misfit family of bounty hunters as they race to strike it rich and outrun their pasts in the process. Directed by Shinichirō Watanabe, the original show revealed a chaotic, relentless, and complex galaxy that looked foreign but feels familiar. No matter how much the future changes, Bebop showed us, people stay the same.
IMDB ranks Cowboy Bebop as the greatest anime series of all time, and it consistently earns a spot in the top 20 of lists around the web. The show has earned a similar reverence to Mamoru Oshii's 1995 anime Ghost in the Shell, a live action adaptation of which was widely panned by audiences and critics alike—despite innovative CGI—earlier this year.
The recent Ghost film sparked controversy early on in its production when Scarlett Johansson was cast in the the lead role, and the main character's name was changed from Major Motoko Kusanagi to just "The Major." Fans of the original anime immediately called out director Rupert Sanders and company for whitewashing the landmark Japanese sci-fi. The problem is systemic, and studios have received similar backlash for the majority-white casts of Speed Racer, Dragonball Evolution, Doctor Strange, and Avatar: The Last Airbender, and while it would be absurd for a big budget venture to ignore the conversation, it's something anime and comic book fans alike have come to expect from Hollywood.
Marty Adelstein, the producer behind Prison Break, Hanna, and Made of Honor, is developing the Cowboy Bebop adaptation through Tomorrow Studios. They've partnered with Midnight Radio, led by Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Alias, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles producer Josh Appelbaum, and Sunrise, the studio behind the original studio Cowboy Bebop series, who will executive produce.
Once casting starts, the character of the production taking place will be more defined. If Adelstein and company avoid a similar whitewashing controversy, there's still a minefield of technical challenges that come from adapting anime to live action, and a series into a single film. Beyond the challenges inherent to adapting cult-classics for the mainstream, the look, feel, and rhythm of animation is fundamentally different from live action.
Adelstein and the yet-to-be-announced director might be best served by looking to Joss Whedon's Firefly, which is often compared to Cowboy Bebop for its space western, used-future aesthetic, its lovable antiheroes, and its wit. We're looking at Hollywood like it just shot our spaceship down all over again.