Cowboy Bebop Review: Netflix Live Action Remake is Good Pulp Fiction, a Medium Drama

Cowboy Bebop – released on Netflix on Friday – is the best when it channels the same energy from which the original anime on which it is based was inspired: pulp fiction. It’s hard to do well because if you cross the board, it’s on your nose and you don’t care anymore. But Cowboy Bebop really gives his all. The most important thing in making a pulpy show is to bring the audience to your side early. The Netflix series – developed by Christopher Yost (Thor: Ragnarok) and with André Nemec (Zoo, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) as showrunner – does just that. Therefore, you want to travel with his characters. It’s a lot of fun sometimes and can be funny. And because he’s trying to be stupid, a bit like anime, certain things are forgivable. You ask for less logic from the events that take place on the screen.

Add to that the small touches brought to action by Cowboy Bebop’s two directors, Alex Garcia Lopez (Utopia, The Witcher, Daredevil season 3) and Michael Katleman (Zoo, The Last Ship). They cut a drop of water that falls to the ground before a fight begins. A character compliments his opponent for a move in the middle of a fight. Join a top samurai fight shakuhachi and juxtaposed with a massive stained glass window. A character runs to rescue someone while holding on to an ugly doll she bought for their baby for a lot of money. An entire action scene happens to be unfocused in the background, while their partner attends a recital at school. It’s weird – and it’s a boon.

Animation has always been an expensive medium, and Cowboy Bebop has been all the more so for a Japanese studio since the late 1990s. As a result, the anime had a low frame rate – sometimes it looked more like a flip book, and the action took place in bursts. Netflix is ​​not short of money, but switching to live-action means everything is always smooth. So when it comes to mimicking anime action blasts, Cowboy Bebop uses jump cuts because this is the only way to emulate the low frame rate.

Although it retains the essence of the anime, Cowboy Bebop is not afraid to rearrange the furniture. Amnesia Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda, from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) is presented from the very beginning. But another beloved anime character is introduced only at the end of the season, in a clear configuration for a potential second season. Netflix hasn’t announced anything yet.

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That being said, the Netflix series also borrows directly from the anime. Each of its episodes is called sessions (the anime loved jazz music), it keeps the subtitles that the anime had at the end of the episodes (“see you space cowboy”) and the Big Shot bounty hunting infotainment program and the famous credits of opening. were recreated and expanded – with the original theme “Tank!” by Yoko Kanno. (Yes, Kanno returns as the original composer with anime director Shinichirō Watanabe as a consultant.) Jazz music and sleek design mean you’ll want to stick with Cowboy Bebop’s opening titles – and don’t press introduction ”of Netflix.

With a mix of neo-noir, western and hardboiled cop fiction, Cowboy Bebop is changing the genre fluidly. For those who have never seen the original anime, it will take you seriously fire fly vibrations sometimes. The Netflix series is full of style; Its colorful production design – yellow is pretty much everywhere – in combination with its jazz roots sets it apart from the monotonous look we are regularly treated to in streaming. Cowboy Bebop installs itself in sitcom rhythms that really lead you from episode to episode. (There are 10 episodes in season 1 – we’ve seen all 10 of them.) Start caring about these characters and then you want to learn more about them.

But he is less successful with his dramatic rhythms. Cowboy Bebop has a rich story for the lead role that he teases nicely throughout the season before throwing himself into a prequel at eleven o’clock. But the characters trapped in the dramatic portions of the Netflix series are less convincing and / or drawn. Here Cowboy Bebop crosses the board – and tilts the balance on its own.

The first season of Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop is split into two halves. One follows the bounty hunting crew at BeBop, a rusty spaceship where things don’t always work out because the team doesn’t earn enough from their rewards. There is Spike Spiegel (John Cho, from Star Trek), who smokes in a chain, with a high collar and in a blue suit, who has a troubled romantic and criminal history. Spike, who is doing his job, runs away from his past – with his terrible secret eating away at him.

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John Cho as Spike Spiegel, Mustafa Shakir as Jet Black, Daniella Pineda as Faye Valentine and Ein the Corgi in Cowboy Bebop
Photo credit: Geoffrey Short / Netflix

His partner is former Jet Black cop (Mustafa Shakir, from Luke Cage) with a cyber arm. His wife left him for an ex-boyfriend of his cop, but Jet loves their daughter Kimmie (Molly Moriarty) and will do anything for her. Jet is usually the voice of reason in the room. This leaves Faye with amnesia because she was suddenly awakened from cryo-sleep and is now on the hunt to find out who she really is. Pineda is funny and sometimes a riot on Cowboy Bebop. Although she was introduced at first, Faye is then forgotten for a few episodes.

There is also a fourth non-human member of the Bebop crew in Ein, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi that has been tested in a research unit. Ein is both helpful and not – he sometimes comes to the rescue of the crew, but he also puts them in trouble. The dog plays a small role in Cowboy Bebop and, like Faye, is accidentally forgotten / intentionally left behind here and there.

Spike and Jet have one rule: never get involved in the union. That brings us to the other (more dramatic) side of Cowboy Bebop, the power-hungry villain Vicious (Alex Hassell of Suburbicon) who joins the mob. His whole thing is the insecurity in his masculinity, in which I must admit that I was not very invested. I had too many emotionally immature white men and legs. Vicious’s wife is the fatal woman Julia (Elena Satine, from Revenge) whom he doesn’t love as much as he likes to have her around as a trophy. And oh, he has a past with Spike, too. Everything with Vicious is on your nose (just look at the name) and it feels upside down.

Although he is driven from reward to reward from the start, Cowboy Bebop is increasingly invested in the Syndicate and Vicious story as the season progresses. (Anime fans will know why.) This means that the Netflix series is more enjoyable at first and becomes more annoying as it draws to a close. Make some frustrating and predictable choices at the end of the game. The main characters survive due to the armor of the plot. The Bebop team does not communicate correctly with each other just so that the TV show can create a heroic twist of events. A minor character overturns his loyalty only because he shares sex with the victim. And because a character’s turn to the dark side isn’t properly seeded, he feels little gained when it finally happens.

Cowboy Bebop Anime is now available on Netflix India

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Elena Satine as Julia in Cowboy Bebop
Photo credit: Kerry Brown / Netflix

Cowboy Bebop is much better in the emotional department when a more cerebral, albeit captivating, approach is needed. In one episode, an AI stares at a character’s brain in an attempt to recreate his consciousness. The character finds himself stuck in a time loop, forced to relive the same situation in which AI tries to “destroy” them. The episode really becomes this psychological exploration and a journey through their minds. It’s a bit like Beginning where Leonardo DiCaprio saw Marion Cotillard when he remembered her – you’ll know what I mean when you see her.

I would have preferred Cowboy Bebop to be less serialized as a story throughout the season and more episodic – simply because their individual adventures are more fun than the overall story. Although yes, I will be the first to admit that any show that tries to run for several seasons also needs character arcs throughout the season. The first season of Cowboy Bebop concludes with the midpoint of the original running of the anime – I say original because Netflix recently re-licensed the anime in India, but the order of the episodes is messy – which would give the Netflix series the a little more a season. . Although it could easily go even further, given the late turn of the game that (even anime fans won’t see it coming) sends Cowboy Bebop to a completely different branch of anime.

It’s pretty intriguing – primarily because it’s more personal now – but if / when Cowboy Bebop returns to Netflix for Season 2, I know I’ll be tuning in for more bounty hunting adventures. That put a smile on my face. See you (soon) space cowboy!

Cowboy Bebop premieres Friday, November 19 at 13:30 IST / 12:00 PT on Netflix worldwide.


Updated: March 13, 2022 — 8:58 pm

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