The first reviews have hit for Cowboy Bebop. Netflix’s latest attempt at a live-action adaptation has arrived and might just be the beginning of their future venture. There’s a noticeable trend among many that the series doesn’t quite live up to the original, which it doesn’t, and in many ways never could. Yet, there’s something rather interesting surrounding the discussion of it. The inspiration of that very discussion is a simple question on the live-action adaptations reasoning to exist, such as how Brian Lloyd of entertainment.ie put it in his review: “Why bother with this when the original anime is on Netflix?”
It’s a fair question, especially with many adaptations, especially of anime, seemingly not living up to the highs of the original. Netflix kind of pushed this very question when it announced that the original 1999 anime was going to release ahead of their live-action adaptation. If they’re going to provide the classic, why invest all that money into a separate adaptation that will very likely never live up to the original due to the relevance it holds to this day. Hell, they’re going even further with a live-action adaptation planned for other beloved classic anime like One Piece, Pokémon, and even Mobile Suit Gundam.
The series is far from where we were with projects like Death Note or the best-forgotten Dragonball Evolution. In a way, there’s a long path ahead of any of these adaptations due to fan expectations. It took years before Marvel Studios got to the point that they create believable adaptations of their comics that don’t fall into the valley of ridiculous. I mean, could you imagine ten years ago that we’ll have a film featuring a wizard traveling through the multiverse potentially facing a Lovecraftian tentacle monster as a May-opening blockbuster? We’re at a point where no one proclaims anymore: “Why not just read the comics?” but rather: “How and when will they adapt this story?” The curiosity has spread to those that don’t even read comics and created a new generation of potential readers.
Cowboy Bebop took risks while also trying to play it safe. It’s kind of almost every adaptation does, but there’s a spark there of people that loved the original. It doesn’t always translate so easily but it does inspire. Even if this series isn’t perfect, it’s something that’ll introduce people that otherwise would have no interest in it. Yes, the original anime is available but not everyone is willing to watch everything that is out there. Countless people still downplay the relevance of storytelling through animation outside of the classic Pixar or Disney films. Anime has become more mainstream, but there’s a strong focus on specific franchises rather than the genre as a whole. Just like people didn’t take comics seriously due to it just being for “kids” for quite some time.
To give an example, One Piece is a deep series of characters going through extreme hardships at times, but its cartoony exterior may keep many from wanting to check it out. The same might go for those that may be a little anxious about the more methodical pace of the original Cowboy Bebop. It’s a bounty-of-the-week series that is more philosophical and far beyond classic understandings of genre. While streamlining this story may feel far removed from the original and make you question its existence, its easier-to-digest nature is a gateway for those unwilling to check out something they may have trivialized as a “cartoon from Japan.” A flawed adaptation that comes from the right place and made by fans of the original will play an integral part as the first stepping stone where quality meets intention.