Cowboy Bebop... Anime V/S Live-action. And why most of them fail in the latter

Cowboy Bebop has become one of the latest victims of the great anime turned into a live-action monstrosity of a remake

Cowboy Bebop... Anime V/S Live-action. And why most of them fail in the latter
Pic: Cowboy Bebop (1998) vs Cowboy Bebop (2021). Why the latter gets so much hate from the audiences is nothing new as far as anime adaptations are concerned, but does it have any merit?

Cowboy Bebop has become one of the latest victims of the great anime turned into a live-action monstrosity of a remake; anything which has the fans riled up about how it is presented to the viewers is nothing new. In fact, almost all live-action adaptations of such properties have replaced the other curse i.e. video game adaptations. The Witcher was already established as a series of novels before it became an acclaimed trilogy of games; plus Castlevania and Arcane exist; On Netflix... which also houses some of the most baffling lineups of live-action remakes of beloved animes such as Death Note, One Piece, and Avatar: The Last Airbender to name a few (Okay, the last one isn't technically an anime but it almost looks like one). It's funny that whenever Netflix has some sparks of greatness like its animated properties, their live-action works do not translate well at all. Unfortunately, the new Cowboy Bebop, which has been recently canceled less than one month after release, has been a subject of vitriol not just from fans but even critics. I myself being a fan of the original want to emphasize if the live-action remake is any good. Sadly, no... But I'll give marks for trying and try they did so hard.

Pic: John Cho as Spike Spiegel in Netflix's Cowboy Bebop (2021)

The thing about the remake here is, that it comes across as too faithful and at times wanting to be its own thing. This clash of identity becomes a major problem, it feels like a fatal flaw. Like recreating the scenes straight out of the anime; the opening scene of the show is from the movie, Asteroid Blues is the first episode here as well, Spike's flashback (albeit with a baffling sex scene added to the mix) and also the world around it. These could make any fan feel like they're watching the real deal but why does it feel unearned and empty? Sure, for one the casting isn't bad but even the takes for their characters feel like they don't understand what the source material really is about. The main ones, in particular, are John Cho's Spike Spiegel and Daniella Pineda, who get their histrionics right but it seems like they're lost in translation as far as the point of the character the original was portrayed. This video at the 7:18 mark of the video below proves to me that they either missed the point of the show or they just misunderstood it completely.

Because Spike who basically lives his life with an attitude of "Whatever happens, happens" displays a crucial point in the anime where he decides to confront The Syndicate which he used to work with. Feeling like he's going against his ideology and also concerned that it may be a suicide mission, Faye confronts him about why he's doing it, thereby revealing he has a fake eye, giving us one of the most important lines in the whole show, "One eye sees the past, and other, present". The responses we've got from the above video, and comments from the showrunner refusing to call it a dystopian show, and even the actor who plays Gren here proclaiming his take "fixes" the anime version of the character, confirms that they just want to make a cool show with no character depth and the melancholy the original had is missing completely here. These takes would surely infuriate many fans of the anime which is considered to be nothing short of perfect. That's not to say that's the worst thing about this show; that actually happens to be the addition of the Syndicate head honcho Vicious and Julia. The actors don't do a bad job here, but to make Vicious a raging incompetent incel from a mysterious, at times chilling villain and Julia as a last-minute power-hungry woman from a doomed romantic fling of Spike betrays whatever the show has going for. Giving Spike a fleshed-out backstory doesn't help either as these characters are at the forefront which plays out like a soap opera which ironically negates the coolness the show was going for.

But there are some bright spots here in the live-action remake, it's criminal to ignore. Mustafa Shakir's portrayal of Jet Black, while subjected to some awful lines, still comes off as the best thing in the whole show. His voice is eerily similar to Beau Billingslea from the original English dub of the anime. Yoko Kanno's soundtrack, while reusing tunes from the original, still kicks major ass. Some of the recreations as mentioned before, are painstakingly done exactly as the anime did. They're not better in any way, but still, at the very least there's some merit for the show to be had. Otherwise, I'd recommend everyone to watch the original Cowboy Bebop anime which is also available on Netflix.