With the cancellation of season 2 and beyond, I figured it was time to finish watching this and write something about it. This comes with a few disclaimers and early general counterpoints to common arguments, so let’s just start with those.
Weird it got cancelled too, given it was “SUPPOSED” to be bad.
First off, for some reason in the western community of psuedo-anime fans (Bebop loving types) there is a belief that “anime can’t be done right in live action”. This just isn’t true at all, there are a shit ton of not only good live action adaptations but even ones that surpass or are equal to their anime counterparts. That’s also ignoring the mass amount of shows in live action that adapt manga in cases where there was never an anime made.
Some very high tier stuff includes things like GTO (in fact, the actor playing Onizuka was who the character was based on in the first place – also I do not mean the horrible remake), HanaKimi, My Boss My Hero, Team Medical Dragon, Tokyo Dogs, Nodame Cantabile, and a shit ton more. While adaptations by Americans, other parts of Asia, and Europe tend to be complete shit, it’s still often the case with Japan that they are garbage – but to say it’s “impossible” is bullshit, there are plenty of fucking fantastic live action Japanese shows adapting anime or manga and that do it right, even when it’s much crazier stuff that is a lot harder to make with real people.
With this idea comes this argument I’ve heard a lot in defense of Cowboy Bebop; “these characters just can’t be done with real life actors, that’s why they aren’t as good” and I can’t say there’s anything agreeable with that statement. Cowboy Bebop’s characters are some of the most down to Earth normal human beings, which is part of what makes them so boring (and, in some ways, endearing). They have nothing unique or special to them in the anime at all, they just are generic noir-style characters that do nothing different with it. Spike is a typical noir detective archetype with a dark past, Jet is the typical burnt out older ex-cop archetype, and Faye is the very typical femme fatale with the only difference in the anime from the archetype being that she sucks at it and constantly fails to do anything useful (don’t worry, in the live action she captured one of the most notorious criminals in the galaxy on her own of course). NONE of the Cowboy Bebop characters are remotely hard to adapt into reality at all; you could maybe argue Ed but that’s about it and “quirky so random hyperactive child” is not truly that hard beyond her impossible feats like fitting herself into a vase.
As a side note, no, Ed is not and was never “non-binary” or whatever you want to call her. She outright even proves it herself, stop forcing your gay bullshit onto things and shut your fucking mouths.
Secondly, I don’t like the anime that much, so by no means was I terribly upset about the Netflix show not keeping 1:1 to it. Cowboy Bebop was, is, and always will be a mediocre series (with mostly stolen music, Kanno is a talentless hack, look into it, morons) that is only so beloved due to being one of the very first anime widely spread in the western world. It was one of the very first times people outside of Japan and nearby-Asia experienced anime art, character design, and storytelling – let alone from something that wasn’t Sailor Moon, Dragonball Z, or Gundam. Having already been into anime well before CB came out, let alone aired on Toonami, it just didn’t really strike me as all that good even at the time, and it never has. It’s sole reason for the love it gets is entirely nostalgia and “it was my first anime”.
I am absolutely not saying it’s SHIT, it just has nothing really worth going out of your way to see it for, it’s totally fine and enjoyable but it does nothing to deserve all the praise and overrated obsession it has maintained for decades. There are plenty of shows from the same era that do the exact same show but a thousand times better (Gunxsword, Trigun, etc…in fact, Trigun was out years before Bebop, the manga at least, and the show aired the same year – so Bebop was just copying an already popular manga series and didn’t even popularize the genre). So, while I will bring up comparisons, do not mistake it for me being a fanboy of a show I feel is only a 7/10 when it is at it’s very best.
Now, let’s get on to the show and begin right away with what I just said; some comparisons – but not so much in the way of “why isn’t this 1:1” and more of “boy, they sure misunderstood x thing about Bebop”. I will jump around from thing to thing like I always do, deal with it.
You’d expect it from me, but Jet being black is actually not a complaint I have – in fact, the character AND the actor are both the only things worthy of genuine praise from the show. He’s not great but you can tell out of the entire cast the black guy is the only one who gives a shit about the role and is trying his best, and it works pretty well, he feels like Jet even without being a grumpy older Japanese guy. Hell, he even gets the voice down really well and I have basically no complaints about the actor, the character, or any of the changes they made to him – not even the randomly pushed in separated father angle.
I’d actually say that Jet is the perfect example of what people complain about this show for NOT being. Jet takes the original character and ‘remixes’ him a bit without him losing who he is for it and yet being a new take on the character. He’s black, he’s a dad but barely gets to see his daughter who is in his ex-wife’s custody, he rides a fucking motorcycle (well, a tricycle) instead of having his own ship (the Hammerhead, obviously he still has the Bebop), he’s a different person both literally and figuratively – a new spin on the series, and yet he’s still really enjoyable, well done, and carries the same ‘mood’ of the original character. Essentially NOTHING else in this ENTIRE series hits that mark or even tries to. Even the fact his ex-wife is a coal-burning used up rag of a woman doesn’t bother me as much as it should – maybe because she’s ugly, old, and has sanpaku eyes like the insane liberal fucking retard whoever this no-name actress is. All they had to do was make everything else similarly ‘remixed’ like Jet while retaining the flavor of the original, but instead he’s kind of it.
Jet and Spike’s chemistry in this show is also pretty good overall. The scenes featuring ONLY those two characters having a back and forth are pretty enjoyable and fun, this is an element that some time was spent on and it paid off. However, the VERY MOMENT anyone else joins in the scene it becomes complete trash. In episode 3, for example, Jet and Spike are having an alright back-and-forth that felt genuine and not over the top and very “bro”-ish up until they introduce a new character, “Woodcock”, who proceeds to immediately shove in the audience’s face that coal-burning and an obsession with black men is more important than anything else with a non-stop attack of sexual jokes (every time she is in the show) about Jet being black and how much she loves tiny pavement dicks with some of the worst writing in history.
I don’t care that this is made up and not from the anime, I don’t care that this character is made up and not from the anime, I care that the dialogue is childish propaganda bullshit with absolutely zero value to the characters, story, or even comedy of the moment. It is just random “I FUCKING LOVE BLACK COCKS” for no reason from some haggard old cunt who probably “wants children some day” when she’s already got an empty rotting basket of cracked eggs at the ripe age of 65.
The show also added in some mystical black woman because of course it did; and what is my issue with her? That she’s black? Once again, wrong. Her entire role in the series is dedicated to explaining the basic plot line to the viewer who is treated as too fucking stupid to follow it, requiring an exposition dump of everything you’ve just seen prior to any scene she shows up in for you to keep up with the childish level of storytelling going on. Also, yes, because she’s black but it’s not the racism that is the issue it’s that she dresses, talks, and behaves like she’s in fucking Dolemite. Why a blacksploitation character is randomly here to explain “you see, Spike hates bad guys, and Vicious is bad guys”, I don’t fucking know.
Another thing they added in was a lot of anti-police sentiment, not to mention essentially every cop is White. The anime wasn’t pro or anti cop aside from Jet’s personal experience on the force having some negative emotions to it because of personal stuff that wasn’t related really that deeply to the force. This introduces the space cops as what may as well be ruthless terrorists as they continually kill minorities for no reason every other episode. Not to mention the new made up character Chalmers is banging his wife because he’s a White man and so cucks his ex-cop coworker. This brings me to another pointless and awkward change; they continually – both the police and everyone else in the show – refer to bounty hunters as “cowboys”. This was never a thing outside of the stupid bounty hunter tv show in-universe (which is fairly well copied here, actually) and feels stupid and childish.
Oh, speaking of stupid and childish – I just remembered. “Fearless”. They gave Spike a dumb fucking code name for literally no reason beyond the fact they wanted some more connection to their new and retarded joke version of Vicious and it comes up a million times too. This is another change that is not a problem to me due to “not being like the anime” but because it just feels, sounds, and IS fucking lame and retarded – again like a change that isn’t done to make it a ‘new version’ but to make it ‘more like marvel because that’s popular’.
An issue with the show that is completely inexcusable and has NO relation to the anime is the cinematography and lighting. At times, Bebop feels like they hired staff straight from Battlefield Earth with half the shots (or more) per episode being dutch angles for no reason. The lighting is mostly reminiscent of Youtube stuff – really similar to old parody style youtube garbage like Rocket Jump – rather than something done by professionals.
Even just looking at other Netflix stuff this felt lit terribly, and that might seem like nitpicking but lighting and camera angles are a HUGE factor in an overall production and how good the experience is for the viewer. The point is you’re not supposed to even fucking notice unless you ARE nitpicking or praising it even on it’s subtle decisions, yet in something like this it’s impossible not to notice everyone is slanted 70% of the time and how loud every single sound is compared to any of the speaking.
This show feels like The Quiet Man – and I mean that literally, not only as a joke. While watching this I continually was taken back to watching full playthroughs of that shitheap because almost all the camera work, lighting, and even the dialogue (for when you hear it in that, at least) is identical.
One of the biggest problems with this show does come down to a sort of comparison, I suppose; and that is that the show completely misses what made Bebop so beloved beyond the things I mentioned at the very start (i.e. “it was my first anime”). Cowboy Bebop always had a fairly good feeling to it, it was upbeat while dealing with the downtrodden darker sides of society – a kind of more positive/neutral Noir instead of being grimdark and edgy which personally is how I view most of that genre of storytelling.
Netflix decided it needed to be mostly very dark, focus on the rather terrible storyline about the Syndicate which even the anime ignored after realizing it was fucking stupid, and in place of any real dialogue it all had to be doomer bullshit and Marvel quips at every turn. They missed the mark so badly that they even made a positive “trans character” out of Gren…whose entire point in the show was how fucked up they made him and how much of a monstrosity he felt like after being forced onto “experimental drugs” which turned out to just be what we’d call HRT these days. He was not some pro-freak agenda icon, and them turning him into one is almost a joke, not only missing the point but turning it into something that actually is offensive towards anyone who they changed him to appeal to. He’s also now one of the most main characters aside Spike and Jet thanks to the focus on the Syndicate being the entire story of the majority of episodes and him being included in that for no real reason.
With the recently mentioned obsession with the Syndicate, Julia and Vicious are way more important and around a LOT, in fact both are in nearly every episode (especially Vicious). They also added in the syndicate leaders cosplaying as trade federation aliens from the Star Wars prequels which really emasculates Vicious, making him not remotely intimidating with how much of a coward he is towards them. Vicious is now a wife-beating soyboy who is married to Julia and violently attacks her at random because the western audience could NEVER understand a bad guy without something like having him harm a woman and she could never be a STRONG EMPOWERED WOMAN if the story didn’t revolve around what a useless bitch she is and how often she gets beat down for it.
They decided Vicious and Spike also needed a lot more interactions and jokey back and forth quips. We not only get these thrown in a few times, but we also see the past of these two…and they went the route of “Vicious used to talk about how he shaves his ball hair” direction…
Faye is a big negative point of the show this time around, maybe the largest for me. Ugly, annoying, terrible acting, and a complete lack of everything Faye was (again, the ‘femme fatale”) because it was “sexualizing women” and that is evil. Yet, while openly talking about not doing that with the character in interviews and such…she has multiple “comedy” moments where she does things like masturbates a tree to orgasm ‘by mistake’ and has cum all over her hands. She also ends up having lesbian sex with a random mechanic because they really meant it about not sexualizing her…even though she’s way less sexualized in the anime somehow. Her backstory – arguably one of the very best episodes of the original series – is now also retarded.
Another thing the Netflix show does not just “bad in comparison” to the anime, but also bad as storytelling and a television show, is that it has no build up or emotion to anything. The earliest and easiest example would be the episode focused on Red Eye which, surprisingly, is very close to the anime episode aside added in quips and comedy even during heavy serious scenes. You don’t know who this guy and girl are, you don’t really get what’s going on, you just get a bunch of action sequences, Faye killing Asimov out of nowhere (instead of the powerful moment of his wife doing it) and disappearing for episodes after, and then a void of any feeling when the reveal of the fake pregnancy shows up. It has no impact at all while in the anime there was plenty of emotion even for a one-off story.
However the biggest crime of Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop is that it feels like nothing. It feels like things are happening on the screen but that’s all. You look at it, stuff is going on, but there is absolutely nothing beyond that. It’s just stuff on the tv. No emotion, no meaning, no fun, no attachment, nothing – not style, not substance – just movements and sound that have no value whatsoever and should never have come together as something people were meant to give a fuck about. With the sole exception of Jet-Spike moments that are enjoyable there is just an abyss of anything. Most of it isn’t even terrible, it’s just, again, nothing.
I suppose this means it succeeded at one thing: being like jazz.
Video version is up now:
Read the whole review with a lot of interest! I agree that live actions are undervalued! There are various that I found extremely entertaining like Ore Monogatari or I am Hero.
Another part I totally agree with is how they ruined the character of Faye: starting from the reversion of his costume I also think they ruined the character only to aim to not sexualize women. Don’t get me wrong: I agree on this kind of un-sexualization, but only when it’s done in the right way. Faye is not a sexy character only for the fanservice part of it. She knows her weaknesses and how to exploit others and she is using sexy attire as her uniform to capitalize on those things and cover for her own weaknesses… using how man can be distracted by it as her weapon. You could have covered her a bit more in the live action, but completely removing this part ended up in denaturing almost completely the character.
Generally they tried to make the show more appealing to the general public while failing to hit what should have been their real target: the fans of the series. This ended up having the general public finding the live action cute while the fans considered it thrash, failing in getting any type of support. It was basically said that it will end up not being renovated for a second series.
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Thanks for reading! I think if they really chose to go entirely into aiming at the general public it could have gone better, but they tried to make it appeal to both fans of the show and new people who aren’t into anime at all, which made it stupid and not work well. I really do feel that if they made everything more like they did with Jet (similar to the anime but ‘new’ and general public friendly) it would have been more successful because it would have all been it’s own new story instead of a weird mix. It tries too hard to say “look I am the anime” while then showing you things that suck at being the anime and then just doing new things that prove it’s nothing like the anime too. Normal people don’t care about directing/writing/cinematography so I feel like that was the biggest hurdle for this to continue at least, though if it would make it ‘better’ I can’t really say.
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