Cowboy Bebop is the latest cartoon classic to get a live-action makeover. Based on the beloved late 1990s Japanese anime series about futuristic bounty hunters, the new, 10-episode Netflix series, which debuted Friday, is campy, colorful and fun.
Developed by Andre Nemec (Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, Alias) and penned by Christopher Yost (Thor: Ragnorak, The Mandalorian,) it features an excellent cast, including John Cho as the charming ex-gangster Spike Spiegel; Mustafa Shakir a the no-nonsense, one-armed Bebop spaceship captain Jet Black; and Daniella Pineda as the badass con artist Faye Valentine.
The series kicks off in 2071 when only the strong and clever can survive an ultra-violent society. Spike wants to start a new life bringing in villains for a price while mourning a lost love and initially keeping his past ties to the Red Dragon Syndicate crime organization a secret from Jet — a former cop who wants to make money to support his young daughter. Cho and Shakir have great chemistry and it’s a joy to watch their characters comfortably banter back and forth, three years into their partnership.
Each episode finds the team working on a new case. Spike and Jet first cross paths with Faye, who was recently released from suspended animation 54 years after an accident, when Spike tries to pick up a criminal to collect a bounty and Faye attempts to bring the guy’s girlfriend home to her wealthy father. She later joins the Beebop crew, much to Spike’s annoyance.
Full disclosure: I never saw the original Cowboy Bebop and am, therefore, not comparing the two shows, but simply judging the new version on its face. I have no idea if the adaptation will be accepted or rejected by anime fans, but I think viewers with open minds will appreciate this as escapist entertainment that never takes itself too seriously.
Cho has said it was “scary as hell” re-imagining such iconic intellectual property from Sunrise Inc., but he insisted everyone involved wanted to honor the fans of the original show while offering new surprises and some in-depth back stories for the characters.
As someone who loved both Firefly and The Mandalorian, I believe the live-action Cowboy Bebop shares similar DNA with those recent sci-fi westerns — outlaw protagonists trying to eke out a living as they planet-hop through a universe ruled by the powerful and corrupt.
But Cowboy Bebop also borrows from various buddy cop comedies, blood-soaked action dramas and hard-boiled detective stories, while adding its own unique visual style, martial arts fight sequences and a soundtrack that incorporates jazz noir, big band, 1970s pop and Old Western music, to distinguish it from other like-minded shows and films.
It’s definitely worth a look.
Final Grade: B+
Here’s the trailer of the film.