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7 Things To Expect From Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop

Style, action, a real Corgi, cussing, and more await fans of the anime program that has been adapted to a live-action series starring John Cho, Daniella Pineda, and Mustafa Shakir.

by | October 27, 2021 | Comments

Netflix’s adaptation of Cowboy Bebop has been on the horizon for so long that we can scarcely believe a trailer for the program launched just yesterday or that the series will finally debut on November 19. The show, based on the animated program directed by Shinichiro Watanabe from scripts by Keiko Nobumoto, plunges viewers into the futuristic Solar System of three interplanetary bounty hunters who join sides, earn some cash, and — well, we might be getting ahead of ourselves.

The point of an adaptation like this is to bring new fans to the transworld hijinks of Spike Spiegel played in the live-action series by John Cho, Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda), and Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir), so we shouldn’t mention too much of the plot up front. Nevertheless, there are some expectations fans new and old may have, and we’ve rounded up some of the key things to expect when Cowboy Bebop jams again.

So, let’s jam.


1. A Stylish Noir Sci-Fi Western Story With Laughs

John Cho in Cowboy Bebop season 1

(Photo by Geoffrey Short/Netflix © 2021)

The catch in describing Cowboy Bebop is that it’s a lot of things. On the surface, it’s a science fiction noir story with Western elements centering on Spike Spiegel, a former mob enforcer turned bounty hunter who is running from – but cannot escape – his past. As glimpsed in the trailer, he left behind someone special and must someday confront Vicious (Alex Hassell), one of the people responsible for his exile.

But that story only encompasses a handful of the original anime’s episodes and just some of the team’s travels around the Solar System. Spike may contain the tragic hero archetype within his stylish jacket, but he is also a goofball – particularly when teamed up with Jet and Faye. They also have their own pasts to deal with and deeply-held reasons for becoming bounty hunters, but one of the great marvels of the original animated series was its ability to shift tones, subject matter, and genre while keeping its sense of style and action on point. Speaking of…


2. Some Spectacular Action

Alex Hassell and John Cho in Cowboy Bebop season 1

(Photo by Geoffrey Short/Netflix © 2021)

As you can see in the trailer, action is one of the key ingredients in the live-action adaptation, from the one-shot fight accompanied by the words “Whatever happens … happens” to Spike and Faye’s fight in the casino, Cowboy Bebop revels not just in fighting, but in the dance of it all.

When asked about the hardest part involved in becoming Spike, Cho told viewers of the trailer debut livestream that it was “trying to get as proficient as I could in martial arts.” Spike’s prowess is legendary and by watching just the first few episodes of the animated series (now available on Netflix), you’ll see there’s something extra to the way he fights. Approximating it in live-action will be no easy thing, but we imagine Cho and a talented stunt time gave it their all to bring the stylish fighting to the screen.

Also, those glimpses of Jet’s spaceship, the Bebop, and the personal vehicles Spike and Faye use gives us hope some of the anime’s great ship chases will also get some moments to shine in the live-action series.



3. A Curious, Cosplay-Like Take on Adaptation

That feeling of watching moments being recreated in the trailer gives the scenes we’ve seen so far an almost cosplay quality. The costumes, for example, stay true to the color schemes of the anime and offer Cho, Shakir, and Pineda the sort of fidelity in design you might see in the best fan costumes wandering the lobby of San Diego Comic-Con — even if Pineda’s costume is understandably different from her anime counterpart’s more revealing ensemble. Trying to get animated Faye’s costume to work in real life (beyond photo shoots at a convention) would be a true feat of engineering and special effects.

The sense of cosplay also extends to the production design of Jet’s cockpit, the faithful look of Spike’s ship, and even parts of the world. One moment, in which Spike retrieves his ship from a hanger as the sun shines behind him, even blurs the line between live action and the anime itself. Call it the lineage of Sin City or Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, but the willingness to be that playful (and faithful) to the animated series sets Cowboy Bebop apart. And having confidence in a sensibility which reminds us of cosplay definitely makes us eager to see how well it works across an episode and, indeed, the series as a whole.

One thing we do expect to be different is the performances. The style of acting involved in dubbing anime and dramatizing a scene in live action are inherently different and emphasize varying acting muscles. That said, Cho’s voice in the trailer does retain some of the qualities of his anime counterpart, voiced in the English dub by Steve Blum and in Japanese by Koichi Yamadera.


4. The Unmatched Sound of Bebop

John Cho in Cowboy Bebop season 1

(Photo by Kirsty Griffin/Netflix © 2021)

The music of the original Cowboy Bebop was one of the major reasons it found so much crossover appeal with people in the States, who otherwise had little interaction with anime until it was broadcast on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim in 2001. From that title theme to some of the great cues used in chases, dramatic moments, and punchlines, composer Yoko Kanno and her band, Seatbelts, created a unique soundscape for the series.

And she’s back with Seatbelts, composing new material for the live action version. “We got Yoko to score and having the jazz [was so important],” Pineda said during the livestream. “If we didn’t have that, we wouldn’t have the essence of the show.”

If you’ve never heard the Bebop score before, we highly suggest spending some time with Seatbelts’ 1998 Original Soundtrack Album. It is a strong recommendation even if one never watches the show.


5. Ein!

COWBOY BEPOP

(Photo by Netflix)

In the annals of science fiction and anime, there’s never been a dog quite like Ein. Before the social media sites made corgis cool, Ein floated alone in zero-g, establishing the space his breed would ultimately take in pop culture. And since he is a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, the character is played by a real, live doggo. During the livestream, Pineda said “being on the Bebop for the first time and seeing Ein with her trainer” was the moment, after a long development process, that the show felt real.

“Everyone is a better mood when there’s a cute, fluffy dog on set,” Cho added.

“Holding the dog for so many scenes is working out,” Pineda continued. “The dog made me a fitter human being.”

And if you are wondering how a dog could matter this much to a series, it is just part of the magic of Cowboy Bebop — and something the live-action series appears to replicate successfully. If that isn’t enough of a tease, consider this: Ein might be more than an average, adorable corgi.


6. The Full Expletive

John Cho, Mustafa Shakir, Daniella Pineda in Cowboy Bebop season 1

(Photo by Geoffrey Short/Netflix © 2021)

As heard in the trailer, the bounty hunters of Cowboy Bebop can avail themselves of strong language. “They said the f-word in the trailer!” Pineda exclaimed after the preview aired during the livestream, proceeding to cuss herself. The use of language is slightly heightened from the English dub of the anime — or at least the version aired on Cartoon Network — but it indicates Netflix’s intention for the show to skew toward older audiences.


7. Radical Edward … Eventually

Radical Edward in S1, ep9 (Jamming with Edward) of "Cowboy Bebop" anime series

(Photo by Netflix)

Despite the striking images and awesome music, some longtime fans came away from the trailer asking one question: “Where’s Ed?” The character, also known as “Radical Edward,” is the fifth member of the Bebop team and an essential part of the mix, but was seemingly never cast. When asked about Ed, showrunner André Nemec told Polygon last month that “people will be … very delighted when they watch the season,” but other reports indicate she will join the team next season.

Despite her importance, Ed presents as a 14-year-old girl and the production difficulties in getting season 1 off the ground — which included Cho getting seriously hurt early in filming, a months-long delay as a consequence, and the COVID-19 epidemic — meant any actor playing her would age at a far faster rate than the series can get through its story (a problem Netflix’s Locke & Key also faces). If she is held back for a second season, we think the wait will be worth it, though, particularly as the circumstance surrounding her arrival on the Bebop are quite memorable and the team would not be the same without her. Or, as Nemec suggested, we’ll be delighted with their solution to Ed.

Cowboy Bebop joins the Netflix ranks on November 19.



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