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The Live-Action Cowboy Bebop is Bad, But Not Nearly As Bad As The Internet Would Have You Think

"Set in the year 2071, the series focuses on the adventures of a ragtag group of bounty hunters chasing down criminals across the Solar System on the Bebop spaceship."

ICYMI, Netflix made a live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop, one of the most best anime ever made. I'll split this blog up for people who were fans of the anime and for people who aren't and just want to know if it is worth watching. 

For the non-fans that just wants to know if this is worth watching:

This show is a very stylized space western that follows a crew of bounty hunters going on serialized missions while advancing a larger personal story. Think Mandalorian, but without the pre-established universe and with more of a pulp/cyberpunk feel. It stars John Cho(Harold from Harold & Kumar) and was developed by Chris Yost who wrote the Mandalorian, Thor Ragnarok, and more. 

Outside of its quality relative to the original series, there are definitely some strengths to this series. Some of the cast do a great job, specifically Mustafa Shakir as Jet Black. Some of the smaller roles packed a punch too which is what I was really hoping for. The CGI used in space was fantastic, and the bigger scale moments were fantastic! Great fight choreography, solid action, and plenty of funny lines. The big problems for me come with the balance of the larger story compared to the serial stories, and with some of the rest of the cast. 

John Cho, who is a great actor, was just not that strong as Spike Spiegel. That role is basically for Han Solo type of dude. Someone who oozes cool mystery. Cho isn't that guy, to no fault of his own. It doesn't detract from the show, but he doesn't elevate the show like that role should. My bigger problem is with Elena Satine as Julia and Alex Hassell as Vicious. I think they were both wildly miscast in roles that were extremely important to the success of the series. As far as the balance goes, the serialized bounty hunting is really fun. They allow that aspect to get farrrr too muddied with the bigger story, especially in the second half of the season. It turns it from something fun and new into something that felt more like the first season of Altered Carbon. 

If you are just someone looking for something to watch, I think you could definitely enjoy a lot from this series. It's funny, it looks good and has cool fights. But it is not something revolutionary like how the original series was for anime. 

For fans of the Cowboy Bebop Anime:

I think it is easier to break this down into what worked and what didn't. 

What worked:

- Mustafa Shakir was one of the best adaptations of a character I've seen in ages. Not only did he sound like and capture the character of Jet PERFECTLY, but he managed to make it his own. Bravo!

- They captured a lot of the atmosphere of the actual Bebop very well, The generally grimy state of affairs, Jet cookin up peppers and beef while Spike licks his wounds while smooth jazz plays in the background. They caught that vibe really well. 

- The way they stylized it worked in some places, and didn't in others. I'm not a dutch angle guy, so that was not for me. But think they did the hand-to-hand fights well, the gunfights were cool and the space scenes were cool as hell. 

- Some of the atmosphere stuff like Big Shot I assumed wouldn't make the final cut. I feel like they made an honest effort to include as much of the world and the little things as they could which was a nice touch. 

- Ein rocked. Tough to fuck up a dog, but they used him perfectly. 

What didn't work:

- If you read the section above, then you know I just didn't care for Cho's adaptation of Spike. Spike is the epitome of cool, and gives off those Han Solo rogue vibes. Cho just isn't that dude. He is too charismatic, too talkative, and too nice. NOT cool. The edge of the character wasn't there. 

- This series, in my opinion, butchered Julia and Vicious. Both roles were wildly miscast. Vicious is supposed to be the other side of the coin for Spike, right? Mysterious, dark, sexy, smooth. This guy was just a mad dog 1D villain that was way too overexposed right from the jump. Either the actor or the writers just completely misunderstood that role. Julia had a similar problem. She is supposed to be mysterious, elegant, and almost unreachable. This actress looked like she was pulled right out of an IG ad and told to ham it up. 

- Their rendition of Faye was...interesting. I think Daniella Pineda played a badass, funny character that I liked. It just wasn't Faye. I feel like she is supposed to be young, but smart and conniving. This rendition was a lot more weathered and more physically badass vs fighting with her brain. 

- I was under the impression that Ed was not going to be part of the series, and that was for the best. She was a veeeerrry Anime-ish character that would be hard to adapt to live action without regular people saying what the fuck. That little end bit introduction was verrrrry though. 

- The anime has a great balance of the serialized bounty hunting with the Spike-Julia-Vicious story building in the background until the climax at the ending. Since this only had 10 episodes to work with, they didn't have the luxury of time. I understand having to condense everything, but I just don't think they did a good job of it. If the solution was splitting up the series into 2 seasons, then they should have done that. 

Giphy Images.

Overall, I don't think this was a strong adaptation. Like I said early on, I don't know if there is an easy way to adapt any anime to live action, let alone one as revered as this one. But they fundamentally misunderstood a lot of what made the series great.