Cowboy Bebop is one of the coolest, most prescient, best-soundtracked anime of all time—certainly the cream of the 90s anime crop—and, in my experience, it's the best show for getting newbies into Japanese cartoons. Netflix announced late Tuesday that it's getting in on Bebop's jazzy, cyberpunk street cred with its own live-action adaptation, and we really hope it won't suck.
The original show follows a gang of misfit bounty hunters trying to make it in an interstellar society of corrupt cops, violent gangs, hyper-intelligent dogs, and wild martial arts. Everyone on the team—Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Faye Valentine, and Ed—has a dark and mysterious past that they reconcile one way or another throughout its all-too-brief 22 episode run. Created by Shinichirō Watanabe, the show debuted in Japan in 1998 and became the first anime broadcast on Adult Swim when it came to the US in 2001.
The idea of a live-action Bebop is exciting, but Netflix's record with anime adaptations doesn't exactly bode well for this trailblazer. Live-action anime tends to cram too many plot points or too much fan service into visually stunning but bloated behemoths. Or it can whitewash and transform the original so much that it loses what made the thing great to begin with, like Ghost in the Shell or M. Night Shyamalan's Avatar: The Last Airbender. Netflix's movie adaptations of Fullmetal Alchemist and Death Note were pretty awful, despite the the former being produced by Japanese filmmakers and the latter landing performances by Willem Dafoe and Lakeith Stanfield.
Previous anime failures aside, the version Netflix picked up was put in motion and then dropped by Amazon, which isn't a good sign. On top of that, Cowboy Bebop is notoriously hard to adapt. Another version starring Keanu Reeves has been stuck in development hell at Twentieth Century Fox for a decade.
However, there are reasons to believe Netflix is learning how to not fuck up anime adaptations—just in time to make the Cowboy Bebop reboot as sick as it deserves to be. It's streaming director Shinsuke Sato's very solid live-action Bleach adaptation, from which it could learn a thing or two about streamlining plot. Plus, the company brought on the original creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender to help with its upcoming Shyamalan-less live-action version, which left traumatized fans hopeful that the thing might actually be good.
It could be a sign of growth that Netflix brought on Watanabe to consult for Cowboy Bebop, and hired producers from the studio behind the original series. Bebop's sweeping narratives also won't be crammed into a single film, but rather a full ten-episode order. A writing credit for Christopher Yost, who wrote on Thor: Ragnarok, could also bode well for capturing the show's dynamic pacing and wry humor.
It's hard to say for sure how the series will turn out, especially before seeing at least a trailer. Until then:
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