COWBOY BEBOP Review: The Netflix Adaption Delivers A Stylish Remix Of The Beloved Anime With Some Rough Edges
Netflix has been bringing many different types of media to life for quite some time now. The earliest we can remember watching was Death Note which left fans divided, to say the least. Fast forward a few years and Netflix’s library has grown into a haven of adaptations of graphic novels and anime alike. This brings us to the most recent live-action adaptation of the iconic anime Cowboy Bebop. I will say this about the adaptation. It brings the style and heart of the anime into every aspect from beginning to end. Next, you should be warned that this is definitely not a frame for frame adaptation and if that is what you were hoping for then I am sorry to disappoint. That being said, Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop adaptation is hands down the first live-action adaptation I have seen that manages to stay true to the magic of the anime and stays true to some iconic moments while at the same time giving us a remix of the original anime that can feel new to even the most hardcore Bebop fans.
The real magic and success of the series lie mainly in the cast. John Cho delivers a picture-perfect portrayal of Spike Spiegel that feels like Spike was ripped straight out from the anime and put right into the live-action adaptation. The same can be said from most of the cast as Mustafa Shakir, and Daniella Pineda gives spectacular performances, but Cho’s goes one further and leaves any question of who should play Spike, EVER… answered. The original anime shined with its blends of genres that subsequently created its own genre with the mesh of space opera, kung-fu, and noir. The same can be said for the live-action adaptation as they also approach the adaptation with the same free spirit and as they honor the source material, they also throw in their own unique elements while bringing it all to life on set.
Now, as we see our bounty hunter Spike and his ex-cop partner Jet chasing Woo throughout space as they seemingly struggle to barely make ends meet all while Spike and Jet deal with their own personal issues and closed off pasts that slowly begin to unearth and spill out into their partnership. Not long after we meet Ein which is the adorable Welsh Corgi they adopt after a bounty has gone wrong. We then get to meet the lovable, enigmatic, and energetic Faye Valentine who is portrayed by Pineda. The chemistry among the three is unquestionably flawless and the friendship that brews between Spike and Faye is full of heart and captures the beginning of one of the best friendships in anime to the T. The ongoing banter among the three carries a tone of humor that will have you laughing as the crew goes on their madcap adventures. Something to be appreciated from the series is that as much screen time as these characters share, nothing seems wasted. Not one scene or line feels like it’s out in the wind and any exchange whether it be a one-liner from Spike, scolding from Jet, or rant from Faye all seem to either move our story forward or peel back a layer into the mystery of their characters and their past.
Something that won’t come as a surprise is how well Netflix was able to bring the entire Bebop universe to life. From the innards of the Bebop ship or the planets they travel to, it all has the cyberpunk and western elements that give you the authentic mix of genres in a Space Western that I have not seen done this well since The Mandalorian which is a high bar to meet. The team behind the adaptation also stayed true to their word that they did not intend on bringing us a frame for frame adaptation and instead aimed to dig deeper and expand on the source material and they also deliver an entire arc dedicated to Vicious and Julia.
Series showrunner André Nemec cleverly adapts the episodes to feature a bounty each episode to keep the episode on its legs as the series narrative continues to move forward with the intertwining backstories for our characters and the unearthing of Spike’s past with Vicious who is portrayed by Alex Hassell and Julia who is portrayed by Elena Satine. His former partner in the criminal organization known as the Syndicate and the love triangle among the three that led to the Syndicate trying to have Spike killed leads to a cat-and-mouse game with both swearing to finally put an end to the other and all the while we see a version of Julia that I quite honestly did not expect to see coming. Throughout the series, you will see some layers of Julia begin to be unearthed, and by the end of the series, your jaw will be on the floor after the final showdown between Spike and Vicious leads to a stunning revelation.
By far the one note that did not miss was the score for the live-action adaptation from original series composer Yoko Kanno as she captures the moments, whether bliss or melancholy, and jazzes it up blowing the top off of any scene you find yourself captured in. It’s a beautiful balance that has us begging Netflix and Kanno for a vinyl release. The hold up against the classics from the original series while bringing its new energy to the adaptation.
I feel like audiences may be split on their feelings of the Cowboy Bebop adaptation, but I personally loved it. It’s good, really good, and gives us an interpretation of Cowboy Bebop that can be enjoyed by longtime fans of the anime series and have a new generation of fans come in and enjoy. Kanno and Cho easily steal the spotlight for me with the absolutely brilliant score and Cho’s performance that brings you the wittiness, and wistful persona of Spike. This is more a remix than an adaptation and it makes it that much more impressive as the series captures all the magic of the anime series and delivers a new creative reimagining for everyone to enjoy. Nemec is the hero behind the scenes as the re-creation shows the time and care put into every frame of the adaptation to stay true to what we adore and admire from the anime series. It is not picture-perfect, but it is pretty damn close. The stellar trio performances from the main cast and the care put into preserving the spirit of the original guarantees that although it may differ from what we grew up watching, it’s still very much worth your while.
The series stars John Cho (Spike Spiegel), Mustafa Shakir (Jet Black), Daniella Pineda (Faye Valentine), Alex Hassell (Vicious), Elena Satine (Julia), and Cowboy Bebop is available to stream on Netflix from November 19.
Source: Cowboy Bebop/Netflix