Ever since the live action Cowboy Bebop on Netflix aired November 19th, 2021, the Internet has been alight with criticism. Wired wrote an article about how the show flops, and other popular news outlets claim the 46% Rotten Tomatoes score as an indicator of the show’s worth.
But, even though the new Cowboy Bebop show on Netflix might anger and frustrated hardcore fans of the classic 1998 anime of the same name, there’s a lot to love in this new show.
The original Cowboy Bebop aired in 1998 as a singular season with 26 episodes. It quickly gained a cult following, and its jazz-fueled space noir style brought something new and fun to the cyberpunk genre.
In a world of 900-episode long anime series, Cowboy Bebop was blissfully short, but it packed far more of a punch than most of its counterparts. The anime won countless awards, including the 1st place at the 1999 Anime Grand Prix.
In 2017, there was talk of bringing the anime to life in a live-action series, and a year later, Netflix announced the show would come to their streaming platform. In 2021, we finally got to see years’ worth of work come to fruition, but fans were relatively unimpressed.
The live-action show hasn’t stayed entirely faithful to the source material, instead opting for a rendition instead of a truthful adaption.
And for many people, this ruffled feathers. Such an acclaimed and loved anime, seemingly defiled in another live-action remake.
However, there’s a lot to love about Cowboy Bebop on Netflix, and when we look at it as an alternative version of the anime instead of a poor adaption, it stands up on its own fairly well.
What’s to Love About Cowboy Bebop on Netflix?
As someone who watched the anime, the live action show took some getting used to. At first, I was a bit confused about the timeline and the story that the show was running with, but after a few episodes I was able to overlook the inconsistencies and view the show as a honoring of the source material.
The characters in the Netflix show are deep, motivated, and fun, more fun, I might say, then the original characters.
Faye Valentine, one of the female leads, has much more depth than in the anime. Her whole story revolves around not knowing her past, having been awoken from a cryogenic sleep with amnesia. Her motivations are realistic and her attitude mirrors the frustration she feels at living half a life.
In the anime, she’s very sexualized, which was a trope of anime of it’s time (frankly, it still is a trope), but the Netflix show re-imagines Faye as a badass bounty hunter with a me-against-the-world attitude.
And the banter that made me fall in love with the anime hits really hard in the Netflix show. I found myself laughing at the grumpy nature of Jet, Spike’s smart ass remarks, and Faye’s pithy one-liners.
For Spike, his transition to the big screen was the most intriguing. In the anime, there’s this duality about him. He’s funny and grim, full of heart and a scoundrel at the same time.
In the Netflix version, he oozes emotion, and is much less of an ass than in the anime. He builds relationships with Jet and Faye, and even though he keeps secrets, he’s much more loyal to his friends than in the anime. And this change made the Netflix show stand out.
They turned surly characters into deep, troubled heroes, but in a way that still follows the main themes of the source material.
What’s Stayed the Same?
One of the most endearing elements of the anime was the bounty-of-the-week style. Yes, there are plot-heavy episodes, but largely the story follows the Bebop’s crew as they hunt down wacky, villainous bounties.
And the Netflix show incorporates that while also running with a larger, underlying conflict.
We see those weird villains, like Mad Pierrot, and we see the more serious villains like Asimov and Vicious.
Vicious’ character in particular is deplorable. In the anime, he appears off and on as a returning antagonist, but in the Netflix show, he’s so full of emotion and violence, coming to life as more than a vague villain.
He has motivations and heartbreak, more than the anime allowed him to have. Despite being much more mad in the Netflix show, Vicious settles into his role of the big baddie very nicely.
Cowboy Bebop on Netflix is a Must-Watch
At the end of the day, if you are a big fan of the anime, watch Cowboy Bebop on Netflix as a loving rendition instead of an attempt to change the canon.
As a science fiction and fantasy enthusiast, it can suck to see a story you love adapted for screen. Take The Wheel of Time, for example. The first few episodes have changed a lot about the books, and while I’m irked by certain choices, I still enjoy seeing a series I love reach a wider audience.
Same goes with Cowboy Bebop. I guarantee that people who’ve never seen the anime will go back and watch it after binging the Netflix show, and will find something to love in both shows.
I hope we get to see more of Cowboy Bebop on Netflix. While the show hasn’t stayed true to its source material, it reinvents the anime, enriching the characters and making the cyberpunk noir setting really pop out.
Plus, I’m always down for some cowboy banter and Ein, the adorable Corgi sidekick.