Review: Cowboy Bebop, Season 1

Live-action adaptations of anime, particularly in the sphere of Netflix and other streaming services have often had a rocky history. Though the medium has had many influential stories, few have been able to make the transition to real flesh and blood actors. Now, another adaptation has started streaming that marks a decent, albeit not spectacular effort for both Netflix and other live-action anime in development: “Cowboy Bebop.”

Since its initial release in 1998, the original anime (which is also streaming on Netflix) has shown considerable influence in pop culture the world over. This adaptation initially began life as a film that would have starred Keanu Reeves as Spike and been directed by the Wachowskis. 

Now, the adaptation has finally seen release as a 10-episode first season that certainly isn’t the groundbreaking masterpiece the original anime is, but also isn’t a complete disaster like other adaptations such as the 2017 version of “Ghost in the Shell” and Netflix’s own “Death Note” film.

The creative team behind the series have described it as a sort of “remix” of the original anime, keeping the overall look and feel in a new medium while also expanding on the source material. In many ways, it succeeds. The main cast does a great job of capturing the mannerisms of their anime counterparts, adding new elements to their respective character arcs while also understanding what made them work in the first place. 

Visually, the production design does a great job of translating the distinctive art of the anime to the new medium, with a “used future” aesthetic giving the show plenty of personality. One element that really helps bolster the show is the return of Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts, whose free-form jazz soundtrack remains one of the best parts of the original anime, and is easily the best part of this new one.

As a live-action adaptation, the Netflix version of “Cowboy Bebop” thankfully isn’t a total disaster, but it’s also not quite “the real folk blues” either. Existing fans should find plenty to enjoy here, though newcomers should probably watch the original anime first.

Starring John Cho, Mustafa Shakir, and Daniela Pineda

Developed by Christopher Yost and Jeff Pinkner (Based on the animated series by Shinichiro Watanabe)

Available on Netflix


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