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Critics Review
Cowboy Bebop review: Netflix live-adaptation series doesn't stand a chance against original anime

There seems no sound reason to take the show and turn it into a clunky live-action experience, one that departs majorly from its source material.

Devki Nehra
Nov 23, 2021
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A still from Cowboy Bebop | Netflix

It’s great that Netflix is trying to expand its audience base by steadily expanding its library for a plethora of tastes, deeper rooting itself in the top spot. This strategy also seems to routinely regurgitate older content in a supposedly “novel” way. Cowboy Bebop is the latest victim of this scheme.

The original 1998 anime, set in a future not so far away, followed three bounty hunters Spike Spiegel, Jet Black and Faye Valentine, as they traversed the solar system to catch dangerous criminals in a spaceship called Bebop. 

The production team led by director Shinichirō Watanabe, screenwriter Keiko Nobumoto, character designer Toshihiro Kawamoto, and mechanical designer Kimitoshi Yamane created a world that combined familiar motifs of Westerns and sci-fi films with slick anime aesthetics. Then of course, there’s the arresting jazzy music composed by Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts that elevated the show and formed a big part of its identity.

Usually the motivation behind creating a remake or an adaptation is to bring a relatively lesser known story to a different demographic of audience. This though does not apply to Cowboy Bebop. It’s counted among the gateway anime for beginners, an important piece of pop culture that is best not to be replicated or messed with. There seems no sound reason to take the show and turn it into a clunky live-action experience, one that departs majorly from its source material. And that, is no less than sacrilegious.

The makers had said they wanted to capture the essence of the original show, and with this adaptation had the chance to explore and dig deep into each and every character. Sure, that seems like an interesting direction, but it has to be interesting enough to grab the audience's attention, especially the ones who are acquainted with the original.

Even for those who have no clue about the 90s anime, this Netflix rendition is no different from any generic sci-fi series. The episodes move at a sluggish pace, the backdrop looks like a slightly finessed version of Sesame Street props, and the music, still amazing, does not seem to match the changed tonality of the story.

Cho carries most of the show on his shoulders, and milks the most out of his character. The rest follow suit but give performances that aren’t so memorable. There are more women in Cowboy Bebop, and the makers had actively worked towards this inclusion, which is a laudable effort.

The conclusion? We recommend that you catch all 26 episodes of the anime, now available on Netflix.

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