Cowboy Bebop (2021) Review: Netflix's live-action remake of the classic anime has moments worth watching but serves as a reminder of how good the previous version was.
There's an extraordinary feel to Cowboy Bebop's 1998 original animated series, directed by Shinichirō Watanabe. The elegance of the visuals, the fluidity of the animation, the seamless blend of sci-fi, westerns and noir – all enhanced by Yoko Kanno's vibrant blues and jazz soundtrack.
Netflix's live-action version is, in some ways, an admirable effort, though on the whole it's nothing more than a bland imitation.
Set in the year 2071, in a future where humanity has invaded the solar system, Cowboy Bebop follows the adventures of bountiful bounty hunter Spike Spiegel (John Cho) and his partner Jet, a grumbling ex-cop with a metal arm, played by Mustafa Shakir, wowhay.com shares with you.
The remake retains the basic structure of the original. Each episode is set up around a different issue or bounty – a bomber dressed as a teddy bear; a murderous clown who seems to be ingenious – while telling the larger, overarching story of Spike's past (as a member of a criminal organization) comes back to haunt him.
Developed by showrunner André Neme (co-writer of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) and written by Christopher Yost of Thor: Ragnarok, this is an uneventful adaptation. The tight and crisp 20-minute stories of the original have been stretched to almost an hour, making the episodes feel a lot slower.
While the story itself shines when it comes to recalling the original material's odd moments, they never accept them in a way that you find imaginative or interesting. If anything, it just ends up reminding you of how good the anime is.
Unfortunately, some of Cowboy Bebop's worst moments also stem from its original ideas, such as a tedious episode in which Spike is trapped in a virtual VR timeline, or versions Adapted from a story like Jet in search of a strange man.
Throughout the first season, Spike and Jet added several new crew members, including an amnesiac bounty hunter named Faye Valentine, played by Daniela Pineda (“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”) and an adorable Welsh corgi named Ein. Each episode sees the group on the hunt for a new criminal with a quirky, often deadly plan. Each episode brings them closer together and each episode threatens to tear them apart if all their secrets are revealed, wowhay.com shares with you.
There's plenty of action to watch taking place throughout season 1, which is a fluid mix of fierce martial arts brawls and John Woo-style gunfights. While it may not be possible to have action scenes like the original anime, there are thrilling moments that switch between exciting and engaging battles and truly terrifying moments.
The anime shows a lot about its era, and the live-action show Cowboy Bebop retains a late '90s aesthetic, featuring retro tech like CRT monitors and analog computers. This gives the sense that the show's universe feels uncomfortable and alive, with the characters clinging to stale and damaged relics of the past - both technologically and philosophically. It's a visually pleasing and well-founded look at life in space.
The new Cowboy Bebop series largely succeeds in recreating and expanding upon the original's signature style and soulful tone. One of the reasons for that is composer Yoko Kanno's original work in the live-action series. Classic songs like Rush, Green Bird and The Real Folk Blues also make a return. But because Kanno and her band The Seatbelts produced a brand new soundtrack for the show, the music feels equally nostalgic and fresh.
Netflix's Cowboy Bebop still sticks to the spirit of the original series, but it's really at its best when it comes to doing its own thing.