Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop Hits More Than a Few False Notes: Review

The beloved anime gets a live-action adaptation that's too slavish to its source material

cowboy bebop review

3,2,1, Let’s Jam: In a far-flung future where the solar system has been colonized and Earth has become uninhabitable, civilization has spread out into a new Wild West filled with grifters, terrorists, con men, and criminal syndicates. Among the rabble, there are a few intrepid souls who set out to collect the most dangerous bounties in the system… or at least scrounge up enough cash to keep their ship running. You might call them bounty hunters; they prefer cowboys.

Two such cowboys are the crew of the run-down starship BeBop: Spike Spiegel (John Cho), a former Syndicate enforcer starting his life over, and Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir), a divorced ex-cop trying to make ends meet and be a good dad to his daughter. But the more they try to run from their shadowy pasts, the more those pasts sprint to catch up — including Spike’s former partner turned nemesis Vicious (Alex Hassell), who’s making a play to take over the Syndicate itself.

Still, that’s not about to stop them from trying to bag the biggest country heads around, from drug-smuggling couples to eco-terrorists and beyond. And they’ll pick up a fellow cowboy named Faye Valentine (Daniela Pineda) looking to uncover her past, and a super-smart Corgi along the way.

Lost in Translation: It’s hard not to feel bad for Netflix’s live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop; Shinichiro Watanabe’s 1998 series is one of the most popular, influential anime series of all time, particularly in the States, where its jazzy, eclectic mix of Eastern and Western influences make it innately accessible for Western audiences who don’t typically watch anime.

Developer André Nemec and head writer Christopher Yost (who worked on The Mandalorian; space bounty hunters seem to be his jam) had an uphill battle ahead of them: adapt the anime too slavishly, and it’ll be accused of being an uncreative shot-for-shot remake; deviate too far, and anime die-hards would turn on you. Unfortunately, in trying to thread the needle between both approaches, the new Cowboy Bebop tries to serve two masters and ends up satisfying neither.

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