These aren’t the cowboys, or the villain, that defined the classic anime, our veteran Bebop fan says.
After many years of rumors, false starts, and delays, there’s finally a live-action version of Cowboy Bebop. Netflix managed to do what so many others couldn’t, and delivered its adaptation of the esteemed anime series to its streaming platform on November 19.
Our resident otaku reporter, Seiji Nakazawa, cleared out his schedule for the weekend in order that he could watch all 10 episodes, but before we dive into his impressions, slightly background on the guy. While Seiji has seen loads of anime in his life, Cowboy Bebop is one among his all-time favorites. As a highschool student, he watched the whole anime during its original 1998 broadcast on Japanese TV, then went out and spent just about all of his allowance on the house video release. No, not the DVDs. Seiji’s family didn’t have a DVD player, so he bought the VHS tapes – that’s how far back his Bebop fandom goes.
▼ Netflix’s live-action Cowboy Bebop
But despite his love for the unique series, Seiji was determined to keep an open mind for the Netflix live-action version. “As soon as you make the transition from animation to live-action, all forms of real-world aspects come into play, so I made a decision ahead of time to not nitpick the visuals,” he says. “That kind of goes for the story, too. The anime is 26 30-minute episodes, and the live-action is 10 50-minute ones. It’s unattainable to precisely replicate the anime’s story, so I’ve got no issues with the concept of putting together recent episodes which have a déjà vu-like relation to the originals.”
With that attitude, the viewing experience got off to a fairly good start. “The motion sequences aren’t quite as sharp as they’re within the anime, but that’s something that may’t be helped in live-action. Overall, though, the standard feels pretty high. Jet looks like he stepped right out of the anime, and even when the live-action Spike doesn’t seem like the anime Spike, he has a cool atmosphere to him. The CG once they undergo the warp gates jogged my memory of Star Wars, and you may feel the love for the unique series in parts just like the inclusion of the three old guys or the scene where Spike and Jet need to eat stir-fry with no meat in it.”
But even before the top of the primary episode, something had began to trouble Seiji. “You possibly can tell that everybody involved really tried their best, nevertheless it appears like they’ve a shallow understanding of the characters.”
How so? Let’s start with Jet. “The Netflix Jet spends a ton of time talking about his kid. Sure, there’s an episode within the anime that deals with one among Jet’s former lovers, and also you do get these whiffs of his personal life,” Seiji recalls. “However the hardships in anime Jet’s past are related to his concepts of honor and loyalty, not only family troubles. If anime Jet is a person who’s attempting to stoically adhere to a code, live-action Jet appears like only a dad doing his best.”
Most important character Spike doesn’t feel just like the Spike from the anime either, Seiji says. “It’s weird how Netflix Spike is so quick to shoot and kill people. Yeah, even within the anime he was willing to make use of deadly force if he needed to, but he wasn’t so ready to only thoughtlessly gun people down. Apart from when he’s fighting members of the Red Dragon syndicate, you get the sense that anime Spike will only shoot someone if it’s absolutely mandatory. As an alternative, we often see him using his kung fu skills to beat people up. That may partially have been an aesthetic alternative for the anime, however the difference still stuck out to me when watching the Netflix Bebop.”
So how about Faye? “Together with Vicious [who we’ll get to in a moment], I feel Faye felt especially different by which points of the character the live-action version selected to concentrate on. When the Bebop anime was on TV back within the ‘90s, some otaku didn’t like Faye because she wasn’t a ‘cute’ character. I at all times thought she had a very abrasive personality, hot-tempered and able to tear into someone verbally, but she was also a lady with a really sharp, calculating mind. I loved her intelligence, and to me anime Faye’s looks at all times took a backseat to her mind by way of what made her a beautiful character. Nevertheless it appears like Netflix just made her someone who’s really athletic and has a dry, dry personality. That appears to be the template for Hollywood motion heroines lately, but anime Faye’s appeal was something else entirely.”
And last we come to Vicious, with a number of minor spoilers included.
“I imagine there are loads of individuals who saw what the live-action series does with Vicious and said ‘No that’s not how the character is.’ I mean, within the Netflix Bebop he’s married to Julia and talking about how he loves her! Then there’s a scene where the leaders of the Red Dragon order Vicious to shoot her, and he hesitates? Nope, that’s not Vicious.”
“Sure, the anime does suggest that Spike and Vicious competed for Julia’s affection prior to now, and even that Vicious and Julia became lovers for a period. But greater than the rest, once we’re seeing Vicious within the anime’s present, his defining characteristic is how wounded he’s by what he sees as Spike’s betrayal, and the way that’s become raw, seething hatred. Vicious clearly doesn’t have any real romantic feelings for Julia, and the 2 of them are only using one another. So if Vicious was ordered to shoot Julia as a test of his loyalty, he’d do it with out a thought. That’s who Vicious is. He threw away all traces of human emotion once Spike left the syndicate.”
“Vicious’ status as a deeply wounded individual is what sets up the anime’s climax, and regardless that anime Julia has little or no screen time, you may tell she has some profound, complex connection to Vicious’ pain. I wish the Netflix Bebop hadn’t modified that to something so simplistic as just ‘love.’ The anime Julia is a cunning, self-serving, but in addition strong woman, and I feel like that aspect of her character is lost within the Netflix version.”
“If I needed to sum up how I feel in regards to the characters’ Netflix versions in a single sentence, it’d be ‘All of them keep saying things those characters wouldn’t say.’”
So, Seiji hated the live-action Bebop? Not exactly. “Nevertheless it made me really appreciate how complex the anime’s characters were. The live-action version is a high-quality production, but watching it, I kept pondering ’Something feels off.’ After I was watching the anime for the primary time in highschool, with its hardboiled characters and dialogue and influences from foreign cinema, all of it just felt so cool. So it’s ironic when Bebop finally does get a Hollywood version, it’s lost loads of that atmosphere.”
That said, Seiji isn’t warning people off watching Netflix’s Bebop. “It definitely has more effort put into it than loads of adaptations, and I feel fans can appreciate the ways by which it does approach the sensation of the unique version, and possibly someday we’ll look back on this as a step towards more successful anime-to-live-action projects? So for now, to Netflix’s Bebop, I’d say ‘You gave it a superb shot.’”