🔖 5 min read

Live-action anime adaptations have seemingly always been criticized in their efforts to replicate their source material. Most would argue that anime is simply just better suited for animation. From the goofy exaggerated way, anime characters talk to each other and relay their thoughts, to the way they look overall as they dress in bizarre and colorful costumes. Moreover, due to the limited budgets available for live-action adaptations, attempts to re-enact vibrant fantasy combat sequences from their anime source materials are extremely tough to convey in real life. Even with CGI… In their valiant attempts to be mega-hit blockbusters that cater to western audiences, Netflix anime adaptions end up looking more like wacky B-movies rather than full-fledged movies to be taken seriously.

Readd on to see what we have to say about the Cowboy Bebop live action remake.

The curse of making an anime remake

Look no further than their 2017 live-action anime adaptation of beloved Death Note and you’ll see exactly what we mean. Although there are a few adaptations such as Gintama and Rurouni Kenshin that are actually great well-received movies, most end up failing miserably at emulating the narrative, or even completely missing the mark. One common denominator for these successful adaptations is that they are produced and directed by Japanese companies which nail the atmosphere of the movies they create. The live-action animation of Death Note produced by Netflix, unfortunately, turned into the laughing stock of the anime community at the time of its release, as the majority of those that watched it noticed how unfaithful it was to the source material. Aside from a great performance by renowned actor Willem Defoe, the rest of the movie’s characters were changed, whether it be the way they looked or the motivations for their actions. Removing key plot points and motivations which led to the gripping tale of Light Yagami, the main character of the show, is what led to its demise.

Unfortunately, Cowboy Bebop falls into a similar situation akin to Death Note. Changes made from the anime to the live-action adaptation were seen as questionable decisions that severely hampered how it turned out.

Before discussing the changes to the live-action adaptation, first, we’ll take a look at what was truthful to the original source material. There will be spoilers ahead, so if you plan to watch the anime or live-action adaptation, be warned.

Image credit: Screen Rant

The cinematography, setting, and music are on point.

One thing western adaptations get right more often than not is the overall vibe of the show. Set in a post-apocalyptic world in the year 2071, Cowboy Bebop’s story features a group of bounty hunters who travel across different planets in search of wanted criminals. Calling themselves “Cowboys”, Spike, Jet, and Faye traverse these moons aboard the spaceship named “Bebop”. From the first couple of episodes of the show, they set the tone by showing various set pieces from different locations across the galaxy, ranging from a casino spaceship in the middle of nowhere, a desert biome that screams classic Western, and cyberpunk streets abound with neon lights. The world-building is downright fantastic, as it was truly visual eye-candy that helped balance and hide some of the issues the show has at its core. The work they did with the computer graphics of the different environments, and the action sequences were exciting and invigorating.

Returning too is the legendary Yoko Kanno, who created the original composition of the anime. This was a welcome sight, or should we say the sound, to the anime adaptation, as fans of the original know just how important the jazz-laden music is to their show. This genre is almost synonymous or even crucial to setting the tone of the show, as the tunes act as a fitting accompaniment to the adventurous Spike and his crew go through.

Spike Spiegel- All Fights and Skills from Cowboy Bebop

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The character design is true to the original

As much as we mentioned how more often than not, anime characters are so cartoonish they’d take away the viewers’ focus, the main cast was actually dressed up great. With their distinctive looks, the three main protagonists stayed true to how they actually looked in the anime, with the fashion designers doing a great job making the actors look like they were the original characters.

Unfortunately, this is where the similarities end, with most of the glaring issues in the Cowboy Bebop live action version being thrust to the forefront through most aspects outside the world and character design, as well as music. Questionable changes were made to the core parts of the show, which drew the ire from fans, viewers, and critics.

Faye Valentine Introduction

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The writing is horrible

We mentioned earlier how anime characters have a way with words which seems hard to imagine real-life people replicate. Not only is it a major issue in the live-action Cowboy Bebop, but in some way or form, the script-writers seemingly made the characters sound even more cartoony. 

The main trio, all the different villains, side characters, and even goons had moments that made the show seem like a cheap production. It removes immersion from the show, making it feel like a parody of Cowboy Bebop as opposed to a quality, truthful remake of the show. For example, not only were there various one-line reactions from the cast that would make you raise an eyebrow but then on top of this, there were some very tasteless and poor choices of dialogue. 

In a way, perhaps the thought process behind this way of speaking was to make the conversations bounce smoothly between all the characters in a fun and playful way. What it actually did was remove the seriousness of many of the scenes, reducing them to empty shells of the original. One can argue that the biggest change the show had was to turn it into a forced comedy when the original came to be more naturally charming and funny. As they say, the dialogue at times was “downright cringe”.

Cowboy Bebop Awful Dialogue

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The characters we loved only look like them and nothing else

The biggest culprit of this show was the changes made to all the characters relevant to the main plot of the story. Aside from Mustafa Ali’s portrayal of Jet, different elements were added to the characters that changed them at their core. To add to this, they were turned into one-dimensional versions of themselves. Spike came off as a vanilla protagonist when there was more despair and nuance to the actions he made in the original. On top of this, the writers made the curious decision to assign the name “Fearless” to him in an attempt to rival one of the main villains “Vicious” in the name. 

Faye Valentine turns from an actual walk-the-talk badass character into a dollar-store equivalent who shows her toughness through excessive nudity and cursing. Then we have the aforementioned Vicious, who turns from a calmly terrifying and menacing counterpart to Spike, to a whiny manchild who throws temper tantrums when he doesn’t get what he wants. 

Worst of all was ultimately changing the main villain to Julia, which in turn made it seem like an overly melodramatic way to shine a light on all the clues that the group uncovered throughout their adventures about themselves and what was happening. Don’t even get us started about Ed.

Spike finally met Ed | Netflix Cowboy Bebop Ending

From the very beginning, producing a Cowboy Bebop live action adaptation felt like it was going to be a tall order. Although Netflix did it right by giving it the same feel as the original with its catchy music and eye-catching sceneries, it was let down by poor character writing and development. 

If you’re a fan of the original, you might not appreciate some of the changes done to the main cast of characters, but if you’re new to the series, the anime adaptation might be a great way to introduce yourself to the wacky world of Cowboy Bebop.