Live-action Cowboy Bebop: Why Are Fans Upset?

If you follow any news related to Netflix, anime, or new series, there is no way you could have missed the absolute blowback which the new, live-action remake of beloved, classic anime series Cowboy Bebop. In the works for years, the live action remake of Bebop was produced by Netflix and has garnered a huge amount of criticism.

Some have likened the live action Bebop scenes to Spy Kids, Inspector Gadget spoofs, and Shark Boy and Lava Girl. Anyone who has actually seen the Bebop series would be surprised to learn that the directors of the live action remake actually have seen the anime.

Instead of the anime’s darkness, dynamism, and narrative complexity, the live-action remake looks like a bunch of cosplayers running around the backroom of a Comicon. Anime fans have long poked fun at live-action remakes that never succeed in delivering the same impact – emotionally or aesthetically – as anime.

Animation has inherent aesthetic appeal and adds to the narrative; anime does not need to be remade in live-action form to have value or gain respect as a narrative, art form, or genre. So, why was this remake made?

To Live-action Remake or Not to Live-action Remake

There has been a lot of repetition recently with the big name, big-budget film and television productions which are being produced. You have likely noticed that a new superhero movie from the DC or Marvel universe is produced nearly every few months. Disney has also started creating live action remakes of their favourite cartoons – you have likely seen that Dumbo, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty have all been remade.

It is disappointing to see film and television companies relying on remakes, sequels, prequels, and live-action-ification however, there does not appear to be any sign of a change anytime soon. Remakes and series all bring in guaranteed profits, whereas brand new films and franchises are something of a risk – it is not clear if a following will develop or not.

Considering that a film like the Graduate, Blow Up, and The Birds was created by large film studios and had large releases, it is difficult to find modern equivalents. Many of the films which large studios produce now are guaranteed to return investment because they are part of a tried-and-true franchise or already have an existing fan base.

When deciding to opt for a live-action version of Bebop, the producers at Netflix were likely drawing on what they had learned from focus groups and accountants – that they would be able to make a profit. While much of cultural production is profit-generated, and it is not necessarily innately bad for a piece of culture to be made because it will make money, it is troubling when profit generation becomes a key focus for culture makers.

If the focus on profit margins continues, we will likely only be seeing live action Disney princesses, rehashed Marvel plotlines, and live-action rip-offs of anime for the foreseeable future.

The Most Iconic Cowboy Bebop Episodes

Several Bebop episodes are very iconic and are often referred to in other anime and online. One of the most popular episodes in the series is the third episode, Honky Tonk Women, which introduces Faye to the series. In the episode, Faye is working under duress as a dealer at an intergalactic casino when Spike sits down at her table and plays a few rounds of blackjack.

Although things go terribly pear-shaped during the episode, they have remained a classic partly because of Faye’s engaging character, energy, and dynamism. Essentially, you cannot help but like Faye, no matter what she gets up to. There are a number of key episodes in the series which take part in casinos, and the three adults of the Bebop are avid gamblers.

The futuristic gambling depicted in the series is not dissimilar to online gambling and the new generation of casinos that exist purely online, which have recently become so popular. Online casinos have existed for over twenty-five years, but now there are hundreds of different online casinos available for gamblers to choose from, all of which are working to attract the attention of gamblers through seasonal promotions, registration bonuses, and extensive libraries of games. The live games available via online casinos are particularly futuristic as they feature live streamed dealers interacting with guests and doling out cards.

Alternative Anime to Watch

Suppose the live action remake of Cowboy Bebop has made you want to turn away from Bebop for a while and look for something which has not yet been Netflixed. In that case, you are in luck because there are many other anime series and films which are similar to Cowboy Bebop but have not yet been remade. The creator of Bebop, Shinichiro Watanabe has enjoyed a long and successful career, and many of his other series are incredibly popular.

Samurai Champloo is the obvious go-to for fans looking for a similar type of episodic, adventurous, somewhat violent trio of buddies comedy. Samurai Champloo is critically acclaimed, it has memorable characters (you will also recognise a few of the voice actors if you listen to the dubbed version). Most notably, it has an amazing soundtrack by the late Nujabes.

Another series that you might enjoy if you are a Bebop fan is Planetes. Planetes is an excellent series that follows a ragtag team of astronauts whose job is to clear up the space debris left by thoughtless capitalist space explorers. Themes of racism, global inequality, the struggles of the Global South, and environmental degradation are all crucial and make the series incredibly dynamic.

However, be warned: you may find the ending just as heart- breaking as the end of Bebop, but for different reasons. The unfortunately regressive ending leaves the series on a low note – thankfully, the manga did not follow in the footsteps of the series.

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