- Director: Alex Garcia Lopez and Michael Katleman
- Stars: Daniella Pineda, Elena Satine and John Cho
- Plot: A ragtag crew of bounty hunters chases down the galaxy’s most dangerous criminals. They’ll save the world – for the right price.
For years studios have been attempting to recreate Japanese anime with live-action counterparts that unfortunately end up poorly received by anime enthusiasts across the globe. Some might say this is a source of unoriginality or trying to attract the same target audience years later for the sake of nostalgia. Others might say it’s the company trying to glue new eyes to the series. Whatever the case may be. A live-action anime adaption has a negative connotation and leaves fans of the original story disappointed, disheartened, and sometimes outraged. Fortunate for us, the live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop is a step in the right direction.
Since April 1998, Cowboy Bebop was an instant classic. The anime was something we had never seen before. A group of bounty hunters traveling the cosmos while tracking down the vilest criminals they could put their hands on. Seems simple right? For a show that only ran for 26 episodes, it was a marvel of television craft. But as far as the live-action series is concerned, it’s more inadequate the farther you dive into the story. The aesthetics of the new series is a wonder to look at. The costume design and the set pieces make you feel like you are in the world of the original series. From the guns to the gadgets, the show does a phenomenal job of transporting you into that world.
John, Cho, Daniella Pineda, and Mustafa Shakir, who play Spike Spiegel, Faye Valentine, and Jet Black, respectively, have astounding chemistry with each other. Much like the animated series, they are always at each other’s throats and feel like a rag-tag family that will always have each other’s back, no matter the cost. But as much as I admired the chemistry of the main cast, I felt a sense of overacting when it came to specific scenes which disrupted my viewing experience. In some ways, these characters were acting too much like their animated counterparts. And as much as I enjoy them paying homage to the original characters, It felt too cartoonish for a live-action adaptation. Certain mannerisms and actions don’t work in this new series.
Another issue that stood out to me was Alex Hassell and Elenas Satine’s characters. They play Vicious and Julia, the antagonist (Alex Hassell) aka Vicious) and Spikes love interest (Elenas Satine, aka Julia). Their performance was subpar to me. As I mentioned before, there is a ton of overacting in the series and Ales Hassell is the main culprit. I could not take him seriously as Vicious and Elena Satine’s character Julia was uninteresting, and at times, it felt like she and Viciouses the storyline with the syndicate with not needed and was riddled with messy pacing. It took me a while to get through this series. The A storyline with Spike, Jet, and Faye was more engaging, but it becomes problematic by the time their storyline gets wrapped up with Vicious’s and Julia’s. And for those wondering, the music of Cowboy Bebop is back and better than ever. If there’s one thing this series does right is that it stays true to the Jazzed scores we all know and love.
When it comes to live-action anime adaptation, Cowboy Bebop is a step in the right direction. You can tell that Netflix tried to stay true to the original source material and I am grateful for the attempt. However, I believe they tried too hard and the series evolved into something that the studio wasn’t expecting. So if you are looking for an authentic experience, it might be best to stream the original series instead. See you, space cowboy…
Christian is a film critic and founder of the Film Optix Podcast. He is a member of the Music City Film Critics’ Association. You can find him on Twitter @Musiccitynerd