The live-action Cowboy Bebop did not sync with the rythm of its anime counterpart



The poster for the live-action version of Cowboy Bebop, unfortunately without the appearance of Ed.

I didn’t expect to become obsessed with a single-season animated Japanese show that was released eight years before I was born, but before knew it, Cowboy Bebop became one of my all-time favorite anime. 

From the aesthetically pleasing vibes of the graphics to the loveable personalities of the characters and the tear-jerking ending, the original Cowboy Bebop permanently dwells in the back of my mind. I truly can’t say enough good things about the series, and it definitely ended too soon. 

Regardless of its release date, Cowboy Bebop is still relevant in popular culture and the anime and manga community. In order to bring it back to the forefront, the popular streaming service Netflix had a course of action to make bank on a new show while restoring excitement surrounding another series on their platform: make a live-action remake of Cowboy Bebop.

While this has been a tried and true method for companies such as Disney in recent years as technology and the TV industry evolve, live-action versions of anime haven’t exactly taken off in the same way and have remained grounded for the time being. Apart from extremely topical franchises such as Pokémon, I have heard of and seen very few live-action anime. Unfortunately, Cowboy Bebop was no different.

Perhaps my love of the original tainted my opinion of the remake; however, I think it swayed my thoughts both ways.

On the one hand, I wanted to like the live-action Cowboy Bebop vehemently. I tried. In a way, I was able to achieve this. It was absolutely phenomenal to see my favorite characters, which I thought I had lost to time, come to life again. Watching each personality take on a more realistic and tangible form was also incredible, making each and every one of them more relatable. Breathtaking as well was to see 90s anime buildings become solid structures and have so much more depth.

Watching each personality take on a more realistic and tangible form was also incredible, making each and every one of them more relatable.

As a whole, the actors were well-cast and fit the characters. John Cho, apart from being twenty years older than his character Spike Spiegel, pulled off the sarcastic yet nonchalant attitude without a hitch. I could not have picked a better actor myself for Spike’s partner, Jet Black. Mustafa Shakir took the role of Black, whose no-nonsense yet soft persona was captured flawlessly. Finally, Daniella Pineda was the ideal Faye Valentine with her smart mouth and her knack for finding trouble. 

A comparison of the live-action Spiegel and his anime counterpart. (Screen Rant)

On the other hand, Radical Edward, or simply Ed, was portrayed as an absolute disaster. The attempts to make her accurate to her animated counterpart completely backfired; her entire appearance resembles a low-budget cosplay that could be easily found at an anime convention. It wasn’t the fault of Eden Perkins, who plays Ed, but rather whoever was in charge of the costume. I understand entirely that Ed isn’t supposed to be an attractive character; as a thirteen-year-old who lived alone for the majority of her life before coming along for the ride with a group of bounty hunters, I expected her to look rough. Ed is also a very intelligent yet eccentric and odd child, but that doesn’t excuse her tacky and fake-looking attire. It simply doesn’t resemble the more realistic outfits of Black, Valentine, and Spiegel. 

This brings up the other aspects of the show that began to ruin it for me: the changes to the backstories of the characters, the minor yet confusing switches in the timeline, and the excessive violence.

Black in the anime has a somewhat normal backstory with tinges of sadness in between. He was formerly a police officer, became an investigator, and then turned to the life of a bounty hunter after his former love left. However, in the live-action, Black has a daughter of his own and is frequently trying to provide for her with each bounty he hunts. I personally don’t like this change; if they were trying to add depth to Black’s average lifestyle, they should have allowed the shroud of mystery to remain. 

A second instance in which the dynamic between characters is changed or their backstory is different is the situation between Vicious (Alex Hassel) and Julia (Elena Satine). Rather than being in a tight spot in the Red Dragon syndicate where Vicious is commanding Julia after Spiegel against her will, the two are lovers. This sucks out the aspect of originality the anime has and replaces it with a typical villain lovers trope with tinges of betrayal. Although Julia is under the control of Vicious in the anime as well, she is much more independent and isn’t constantly wound up in confusion between her current and former lovers.

Radical Ed’s two versions, including her less-than-realistic live-action costume. (Nerdist)

This also alters the timeline and plot of the episodes; much of the episodes share similar content to each episode of the anime, but since the live-action episodes are 20 minutes longer than the anime ones, most of the content seems cut and pasted in a Frankenstein fashion. I find the cohesiveness of the episodes to be absolutely terrible; scenes end abruptly and jump into the next without a pause. Because of the non-fluidity, the show overall seems low-budget.

Another reason the live-action version of Cowboy Bebop feels cheaply made is because of its excessive violence. The main characters are bounty hunters and Spiegel is frequently called a space cowboy, so it is no surprise that there is frequent gunfire, spaceship shootings, and even knives flying through the air. However, the live-action version had much more of this in a more graphic view. Even though this added action and tension, it felt like a cheap attempt at filler and adding suspense without creativity. Personally, I’m not too affected by the sheer amount of violence, but for someone who has only been exposed to the animated version, it could come across as overwhelming.

If I am being honest, the show was of fairly poor quality. It seemed like it was low-effort, and despite the fact that it was produced through a popular company, it was essentially a flop. There were respectable aspects, like the reduction of the sexualization of Valentine, but there were typical dynamics that took the place of the usually obscure and mysterious elements of the show, diminishing my enjoyment. The only reason I stuck with it was that I was delighted to see more adventures with my favorite characters in a different style, but if I had come across it without having experienced the anime, I doubt I would have stuck with it past the first episode.