3, 2, 1, Let's Jam: Cowboy Bebop finally arrives on Netflix!

Cowboy Bebop is famous among anime fans for being the top standard in the medium, with both the Japanese and English dub considered outstanding to most, it’s no wonder why Netflix acquired the rights to make a live action series.

Compared to the original series, the new imagining of the show consists of ten hour long episodes that mix and match plot points and themes from the original 26-episode series. All aspects of the show remain the same, even to the subtle item in the background of the Bebop.

The cast are definitely the best part of the adaptation, with John Cho as Spike Spiegel being the defining star for me.

To me, he perfectly portrayed the cowboy with ease, from his suave mannerisms to his cocky smirk; it all felt right. I love that even though these characters perhaps look different and sound different, their key traits are still there.

Daniella Pineda does a respectable job at portraying the ever untrustworthy, Faye Valentine, with her character ultimately being bi during the middle of the show a nice addition to canon. Though I did have some faults with her character the most out of the main group.

Often Faye came across as a try-hard, she’d excessively swear and at points just didn’t seem like her anime counterpart. Overall, she captured the character’s vibes quite well, but there were moments that just didn’t work for me.

Finally, from the main group we have Jet Black, wonderfully portrayed by Mustafa Shakir. Now in the original, Jet never really left that much of an impact on me compared to his teammates, he was always the straight man.

In this show, he’s still seen that way, making the final decisions at the end of the day, looking after his team, and mostly doing the right thing. With this version of Jet, he’s seen to have an ex-wife and child, who is constantly brought up in the show, the writers go so far to emphasise his family that the whole third episode is based around them.

The costumes, like Suicide Squad 2021, are another thing I really liked about this show; they’re practically identical to the anime. You can tell the producers and costume designers are fans of the show, Spike’s outfit is simple enough and I’d be surprised if they had messed it up. Jet’s has a lot of straps and whatnot but still fits the part and Ein is just dressed to perfection.

Again, I have another problem with Faye’s outfit as it just doesn’t look like her.

Now I know why they changed it, I mean, anyone looking at her counterparts' outfit would understand why, but at least incorporate a little more of the original into her new design. I like the idea of her sporting a few brighter colours, it would help make her stand out from the background, especially on the ship.

A good idea would’ve been to have her shorts a darkish yellow to match her vest(?) and white boots, she can still look like a total badass but also be a little more accurate to her original design.

The side characters and villains are ripped right out of the show, from the way they look to their lines. Some episodes combine different story elements and characters to cover all 26 episodes in ten hours and that’s a downside.

The show doesn’t benefit from such limited episodes, the original had a thirty-minute time slot yet still had 26 episodes to get its story done. So far this renewal has ten episodes, each an hour long, and yet it still feels like it’s been rushed.

I also found it bizarre that they had Faye appear in the first episode unlike the anime in which she appeared in the third or fourth episode. This meant that her character made a brief appearance then disappeared for another two episodes to then be reunited with the Bebop crew, it just felt a little clunky and odd.

The thing the show suffers from the most is the writing. Just because Netflix gave it a 15 rating doesn’t mean you have to go ham with the swears.

The original show balanced the excessive violence and extreme language well, only using it for rising action or drama, but the live-action seems to throw an f-bomb after every other line. I don’t usually have a problem with this stuff, but it doesn’t add anything.

Saying the word “Bitch” isn’t going to change the plot in any way, it doesn’t add to the atmosphere of the scene, it’s just there for shock factor.

Another problem I had with the Netflix show was the big bad guy, Vicious. From the actor playing him to his lines, I just couldn’t get to grips with this character.

I felt the actor, though doing an amazing job with what he had, looked a little too old to be portraying what often looks like a man in his 20s/30s. His presence in scenes didn’t fill me with fear and question his next moves, unlike the show I didn’t gasp in shock by any of his actions.

He felt too predictable and not at all like the mastermind you see in the anime.

His wife, Julia, was another disappointment. Even though her character to the overall story is big, she doesn’t actually appear in the show a lot; and that goes for both versions.

Julia is Spike’s love interest from the days before the Bebop, while in the anime they were separated for different reasons, in the Netflix version Julia is now married to Vicious.

Her role seemed clumsy and like the writers wanted to involve her more in the plot but didn’t know how, she just seems shoe-horned into scenes just to be relevant.

It’s great they wanted to do more with her character, but is she really worth it?

The only reason she’s there in the first place was a symbol of Spike’s past and then later his motivation to take down the Syndicate once and for all. I guess having her marry the main antagonist is good enough motivation to have Spike fight, but it doesn’t hold the same weight of knowing, spoilers, that Julia was originally meant to kill Spike before he was assumed ‘dead’.

Moving onto the music, the original score written by Yoko Kanno, is what really sets Cowboy Bebop apart from other animes; and thankfully, she came back to do the live action.

The music is, as always, phenomenal. With tracks from the original being used as references to the older series, it still hits the same notes and works well with the new scenes.

Additionally, the new tracks are punchy, light and fun and definitely fit the show’s more quirky tone.

You can’t talk about Cowboy Bebop and not mention the main theme, Tank.

It’s the only show I'll watch where I never skip the intro, it’s a sin for this song and this song only. I shouldn’t have to tell you how good it is, the upbeat jazz, the loud trumpets and brass going in the background; it’s just magical.

The whole show uses these jazz tones, often mixed with African drums and a good blow on the harmonica.

The show is littered with references to the previous incarnation, and I love it. The opening scene to the beginning episode is just a reimagining of the opening to the 2001 movie, Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.

There are nods to characters like Edward, who I despise with passion, and other things that happened in the animation.

I love it when media makers acknowledge the legacy some of these older shows had and actively include bits of its history and lore into the newer version to still make it feel familiar enough to an audience.

Overall, Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop is a nice surprise from the usual failure of anime adaptations. The tone and plots are similar enough to the show, while still also adding their own new spin on things.

Characters are either spot on or close enough to their animated counterparts but lack compelling Villains.

The action is amazing, I feel as though I didn’t really touch on it but from karate to gun fights, the shows got it all.

Additionally, I love all the different shots and camera angles the show has, it tries to mimic the way the original had this almost cinematic feel to it with the way it used camera angles.

For new and old fans, this show is a good watch. If you’re a first-time viewer, it’s easy to digest and provides some fun action entertainment but I’d definitely recommend watching the anime first.

With that advantage, you’ll be able to spot references that otherwise might have gone over your head. And with a second season rumoured to happen, you’ve got some time to kill after you’ve finished that final 10th episode.

All I have to say now is: See you space cowboy.

Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop gets 3 out of 5 woolong from me.

The original series by Sunrise gets 5 out of 5 woolong.

Cowboy Bebop series and anime is available to watch on Netflix.

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