Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop stays pretty true to the original 90’s anime in terms of its world structure. What year is the live adaptation put in?
Warning: Spoilers ahead for Netflix Cowboy Bebop.
What year is Netflix Cowboy Bebop inserted and how does its timeline play out? A dynamic live-action adaptation of the eponymous, beloved 90s anime series, Cowboy Bebop is a reinterpretive look into the lives of Spike Spiegel (John Cho), Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir) and Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda), who embark on various adventures as they navigate their own troubled past. Following a 10-episode structure for season 1, Cowboy Bebop premiered on Netflix on November 19, 2021.
The original Cowboy Bebop was a smorgasbord of exciting genres, from sci-fi western to action noir, set far into the future. That Cowboy Bebop anime took place in the year 2071, about fifty years after a catastrophic accident with a hyperspace gateway that made the Earth almost habitable. As humanity colonized most of the planets and moons in the solar system, space travel and interplanetary laws are part of humanity’s everyday life, in the midst of an increasing amount of crime.
Dog Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop does not stick to the time frame of the original anime. IN Cowboy Bebop season 1, episode 2, “Venus Pop”, Jet is seen reviewing footage of the bombings orchestrated by Teddy Bombers, a reference to the terrorist Ted Bowen in the anime film. In several of the tapes of security camera footage, the year of the events of the new Cowboy Bebop the show is shown as 2171, which takes place about a hundred years after the events of the anime. It is unclear why this leap forward has been made, or how it is relevant to the main characters’ paths. It may be that since it’s only 50 years from now, 2071 does not seem like a year far enough into the future to support the series’ futuristic narrative. While time has moved a century forward, much of the live-action show’s plot and world structure closely follows the original.
In terms of its world-building details and aesthetics, Netflix’s adaptation conjures up a world that looks relatively compelling and genuine, from the filthy streets of New Tijuana to the dingy, city-breaking Tharsis. The design of vessels from outer space is pretty close to the original, including the Bebop’s embodied, beat-up look and the use of holographic communication during multiple sequences. Despite the 100-year time leap, the world is off Cowboy Bebop is still filled with retro hardware, cyberpunk-inspired streets and the nostalgia for a lost past that is not easily reclaimed.
But the live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop introduces certain new technologies, such as the facelift that allows Abdul Hakim to temporarily change his appearance, and the augmented reality device that allows Jet to project himself during his daughter Kimmie’s concert. In terms of socio-political aspects, the distribution of Cowboy Bebop‘s drug, Red Eye, is widespread among criminal circles, and eco-fascism is still on the rise, as can be seen in season 1, episode 4, “Callisto Soul.” Since the events of the second episode are set in February 2171, it also makes logical sense for the rest of Cowboy Bebop to have unfolded during that very year.
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