Cowboy Bebop review: Netflix’s live-action adaptation a fun, thrilling romp


John Cho successfully captures the pure cool and swagger of Spike Spiegel.


Netflix

There’s nothing fairly like Cowboy Bebop. The stylized, over-the-top galaxy-spanning sci-fi journey combines the pacing of an old-school Hong Kong motion movie with the melodrama of traditional westerns — all to the tune of a bumping jazz soundtrack. The landmark 1998 anime sequence specializing in house cowboys and misplaced souls was, merely put, a vibe, and a richly eclectic one at that.

It is no secret Cowboy Bebop is amongst one of many extra sacred and influential anime exhibits of the final 20 years, and it is a sequence I’ve fond admiration for. That is what made the prospect of a live-action adaptation one thing to really feel a little apprehension about.

Fortunately, Netflix’s debut season of the live-action Cowboy Bebop just isn’t solely a enjoyable, thrilling romp that will get the colourful, soulful gestalt of the unique sequence. It additionally leaves its personal mark in ways in which typically improves upon the anime from creator Shinichirō Watanabe. It starts streaming Friday

Like the unique, the live-action Cowboy Bebop sees a dysfunctional crew of bounty hunters using a skinny line between poverty and comfy squalor within the distant future. All through the 10-episode season, the trio of bounty hunters — Spike Spiegel (John Cho), Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda), and Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir) — tackle totally different jobs throughout the galaxy. These gigs entangle them with oddball criminals and unnerving villains, and tug at varied threads linked to the tragic pasts of every character.

The spine of the brand new sequence is the chemistry between the trio of bounty hunters. Once they’re not arguing over meals and minor inconveniences, they get caught up in missions throughout totally different planets caught in a culturally stagnated society gripped by late-stage capitalism. Cho’s portrayal of the aloof however at all times crafty Spike is a implausible flip for the actor. Cho manages to nail Spike’s pure cool and swagger, alongside together with his iconic fluffy hair. When Spike’s murky previous involves gentle, Cho successfully exhibits his character’s darker aspect.

Jet Black is the rock of the crew, serving because the unofficial captain of the Bebop — the ship they use to journey throughout the galaxy. Shakir’s tackle the character is a useless ringer for his animated counterpart. He completely captures the deadpan nature of Jet whereas additionally exhibiting his tenderness when bonding together with his crew and family members.

However the clear standout is Pineda as femme fatale Faye Valentine. Pineda’s take just isn’t solely true to the seductive and ruthless nature of Faye, however provides a much more playful and endearing spin. She’s an absolute blast to observe on display and elevates an already nice solid, giving the trio of bounty hunters a charming sense of camaraderie.

Spike, Jet and Faye (plus Ein, the

Spike, Jet and Faye (plus Ein, the “Knowledge Canine”) make for a enjoyable group of characters to hold with.


Netflix

Usually, characters mirror their anime counterparts, however a notable deviation issues Vicious (Alex Hassell) and Julia (Elena Satine), Spike’s major antagonist and long-lost love, respectively. They’ve larger dimension within the Netflix sequence, and are given extra to do throughout the plot — which is an attention-grabbing if serviceable dive into the murkier aspect of the felony underworld within the far future. The 2 characters have precise pathos and weight within the story. Hassell particularly seems to be like he relishes each scene he is in as Vicious, whereas Satine casts some ambiguity in Julia’s presence, significantly through the later episodes.

Whereas I usually favored what the live-action present does for Vicious and Julia, a a part of me felt that their collective climax was underdeveloped, though I favored the route it units for future seasons. With an ensemble solid, the present spends a lot of time juggling totally different storylines, and sadly, Vicious and Julia’s arc suffers as a end result.

The live-action present additionally updates among the extra unsavory features of the unique sequence that is higher left prior to now. The anime featured a number of antiquated views of sexuality. The live-action present addresses this by revamping characters, corresponding to Gren (Mason Alexander Park), who’s now a recurring, nonbinary character with extra relevance to the story. Some episodes from the anime sequence featured dated stereotypes of homosexual and transgender characters, so it is nice to see the brand new present giving these characters a extra enlightened and significant presence.

Whereas the brand new sequence makes use of many acquainted characters, storylines and iconic scenes as constructing blocks, its extra serialized plot deviates from the anime in nice ways in which I will not spoil right here. As a substitute of the largely episodic nature of the unique, with many episodes remoted from the bigger plot, the live-action present carries a extra linked story thread all through the season. This consistency helps lay out the framework of 2071’s galactic civilization and the numerous unsavory and endearing characters inside.

Daniella Pineda shines as Faye Valentine

Daniella Pineda shines as Faye Valentine.


Netlix

It additionally dives deeper into the unique sequence’ lesser-seen and unknown features, which I discovered tremendous engaging. Early episodes hold issues easy, however the floodgates regularly open, explaining civilization “post-Earth” and the way life has turn out to be difficult following humanity’s pressured enlargement to the celebrities. The live-action present does properly to illustrate the scope of Cowboy Bebop’s universe, and regardless of maintaining issues low-key, the ambition and craft remains to be there.

There’s loads of motion to see unfold all through the season, which seamlessly blends collectively fierce martial-arts brawls and John Woo-style gun battles. Whereas the present is stylized in its strategy to motion and set items, the actors cannot contort and bend in the identical unimaginable methods as their animated counterparts. This leaves among the extra heightened motion scenes feeling subdued and scaled again, which may come at odds with the pacing of the story. Nonetheless, there are thrilling moments that swap between thrilling and cool-looking fights and actually ugly moments.

I did get pleasure from seeing this rearrangement of tales put collectively to inform a extra linked plot, and it was good seeing moments and characters foreshadowed. Nevertheless, the Netflix sequence does typically wrestle to maintain its momentum going, particularly after a sturdy set of opening episodes. That is particularly felt within the again finish of the season, with some characters and plot threads feeling undercooked. Nonetheless, the stay motion sequence managed to win me again over with its endearing sense of fashion and lovable characters, which closed the season out with a good twist and a tease for what’s to come back.

The anime sequence was very a lot a present of its period, and the live-action present retains that late-’90s aesthetic, that includes retro expertise like CRT screens and analog computer systems. This provides the sense of the present’s universe feeling uncomfortable and lived-in, with characters clinging to worn down and damaged relics of the previous — each technological and philosophically. It is a visually pleasing and grounded have a look at life in house.

Scene from Cowboy Bebop

A number of of the anime’s iconic moments are re-created, with some twists, within the Netflix sequence.


Netflix

Identical to the anime, there’s an lively aspect of social commentary in Netflix’s present, casting a gentle on capitalism in house and the way life has been devalued sooner or later. Whereas it is largely within the periphery, there is a compelling anti-capitalist undercurrent all through, with characters decrying the rise of firms and the way the police serve the ruling class. This in turns helps to raise the unique sequence’ setting and premise, making it really feel all of the extra poignant as a present in 2021.

The brand new sequence largely succeeds at re-creating and increasing upon the unique’s signature model and soulful tone. One of many causes for that’s unique composer Yoko Kanno’s work on the live-action sequence. Basic songs like Rush, Inexperienced Hen and The Actual Folks Blues return too. However as a result of Kanno and her band The Seatbelts produced a completely new soundtrack for the present, the music feels equally nostalgic and recent. In case you advised me these songs had been from a misplaced album from the unique present, I might consider it.

Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop stays near the spirit of the unique sequence, nevertheless it actually is at its finest when it does its personal factor. It does not at all times stick the touchdown, and a few features of the present could be higher left for animation, but these stumbles do not take away from the truth that I nonetheless had a blast binging via the season. It is one of many uncommon profitable live-action variations, and Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop is a enjoyable and stable first outing that works as a good companion to the unique sequence. It could not hit each proper word, nevertheless it’s obtained a spark that’ll hold the music going.



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