** Warning: Spoilers. **
To start, I didn’t plan to write this. But after completing Netflix’s live action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop, I feel like needs a rant. Not a review, per se, just a rant. I don’t want to dwell on this longer than it deserves.
Can I just say, holy balls, what did I watch? Technically, it was a sci-fi series that featured characters with recognizable names, but that might just be about all it shares in common.
The opening episode was a decent callback to the anime’s opening episode, but the train derails pretty much right away from there. You could argue that it did so even before that, introducing Faye in episode one and changing its conclusion due to her involvement, but meh. I could have lived with that, and tolerate the other changes.
This series basically took the premise of the anime and took off with it in some arbitrary direction. Some characters were omitted pretty much completely, such as Edward (minus the cringey cameo at the end). Other characters weren’t even in the same ballpark, like Vicious or Julia.
Speaking of those two, let’s dive into it more. I think a lot of my grievances stem from the way they approached these two. Initially, I liked a bit more attention to these characters, since the anime doesn’t develop them as much as the others. By the end of the live action, however, they dominated the story, almost to the point where it felt contrived.
Vicious was far from what his name implies. I’d hardly call him “vicious”. “Psychotic” is probably more apt. With a complex. Like every other villain. And twisting Julia into a more cruel, conniving character completely defeats her intended role as a character. She’s a more symbolic character, having subtle importance for Spike, not some power-hungry maniac.
I will say, the series wasn’t all bad. Jet fucking stole the show here. Having completed this series, Jet deserves a spin-off series of his own for how well he played the role, and how likable and down-to-earth his character was. You could throw Faye in there for good measure too. I generally liked her character as comedic relief. Just maybe, you know, a few less dick jokes. Spike was fine, but he felt a bit bland compared to the other two. Maybe we didn’t get enough time to really develop him, or his thunder was stolen by the abomination that was the Vicious/Julia amalgamation. Who knows?
There were some good bits of comedy too. I loved the scene with Jet at his daughter’s recital, while Spike is, umm, keeping busy? Just the way they produced that scene was perfect. And I know I spoke about the cast already, but they really worked well collectively. It felt really good to see them together on screen. The way they took the plot direction just didn’t hold up, unfortunately.
Overall, the series could pass itself off as a sci-fi western inspired by an anime called Cowboy Bebop, but that’s all. I can understand wanting to take a series in a different direction, so it’s not a carbon copy of the anime, but it’s a huge (and all too common) mistake to just change the premise of the series. Keep the world and characters, but make a unique story, rather than butchering the original tale.
The anime is a spiritual journey, investigating the workings of a person’s heart and soul. It’s moving, almost chilling at times by the end of it. I won’t lie, I got emotional at the conclusion. This adaptation, however, omits this entirely. It really does feel like a hollow shell of what it could have been.
If you, or someone you know, has only seen the live action, please, PLEASE tell them to go watch the anime (I’d even recommend it dubbed! One of the few, and hopefully works in your favor convincing them). Don’t let this damage the original series’ reputation. Okay, rant over. See you in the next one, cowboy.