Cowboy Bebop is a much-beloved anime series for how it bent and twisted our understanding of the genre to fit its neo-noir episodic format. So, when Netflix announced it’ll attempt on bringing it into live-action, there was quite some concern early on. Not only was Netflix’s track record not the best with the controversial release of Death Note, but it also seems like one of those series that just won’t translate well into the media format.
In 2021 we finally got the release of the live-action series starring John Cho, Mustafa Shakir, and Daniella Pineda in the roles of Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, and Faye Valentine. It did not catch the attention of viewers as much as Netflix may have hoped and stands at a 47% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes, though it did get a more positive reception from viewers. Still, it seems not enough to watch it for it was swiftly canceled after teasing a second season.
Interestingly enough, the series creator Shinichiro Watanabe was brought on as a creative consultant had many think that it may stay true to the spirit of the original. Yet, it seems that Watanabe may have had a consulting role but only received some footage to review and barely made it through the opening of the series which was an adaptation of the famous casino scene from the movie.
For the new Netflix live-action adaptation, they sent me a video to review and check. It started with a scene in a casino, which made it very tough for me to continue. I stopped there and so only saw that opening scene. It was clearly not Cowboy Bebop and I realized at that point that if I wasn’t involved, it would not be Cowboy Bebop. I felt that maybe I should have done this. Although the value of the original anime is somehow far higher now.Shinichiro Watanabe
This is quite surprising, as it raises the question of just how far his consulting job went as he states that he “wasn’t involved.” This is quite a curious reveal and stands in quite a contrast to how One Piece is currently being handled. While it’s unclear if this may have been a learning from that project, Eiichiro Oda is also very protective of how his beloved manga series is brought to life.
Multiple times it has been pointed too that Oda has a very heavy involvement with the live-action adaptation with even some hints that they may actively be having him ensure that the spirit of his work remains alive. So, it’s a shame that a similar level of care hasn’t been done with Cowboy Bebop. Though it’s a shame that its talented cast couldn’t continue their work as there was still some potential to utilize this unique world and cast of characters in a new take.