What’s wrong with Netflix’s live-action Cowboy Bebop? The characters, says our old-school fan

It’s not the cowboys or the villain who defined the classic anime, says our veteran Bebop fan.

After decades of rumors, false starts and delays, there is finally one direct version of Cowboy Bebop. Netflix managed to do what so many others could not, and delivered its adaptation of the prized anime series to its streaming platform on November 19th.

Our resident otaku reporter, Seiji Nakazawa, cleared his schedule for the weekend so he could watch all 10 episodes, but before we dive into his impressions, a little background on the guy. While Seiji has seen a lot of anime in his life, Cowboy Bebop is one of his all-time favorites. As a high school student, he watched the entire anime during the original 1998 broadcast on Japanese television, after which he went out and spent pretty much all of his performance on the home video release. No, not the DVDs. Seiji’s family did not have a DVD player, so he bought the VHS tapes – so far back Bebop fandom goes.

▼ Netflix’s live-action Cowboy Bebop

But despite his love for the original series, Seiji was determined to keep an open mind to the Netflix live-action version. “As soon as you make the transition from animation to live-action, all sorts of real-world factors come into play. so I decided in advance not to fool the visual,” he says. “This more or less also applies to the story. Anime is 26 30-minute episodes, and live action is 10 50-minute episodes. It’s impossible to accurately replicate the anime story, so I have no problem with the concept of putting together new episodes that have a déjà vu-like relationship to the originals. “

With the attitude the viewing experience got off to a pretty good start. “The action sequences are not quite as sharp as they are in anime, but it’s something that can not be avoided in live action. Overall, however, the quality feels quite high. Jet looks like he stepped straight out of anime , and although the live-action Spike does not look like the anime Spike, he has a cool atmosphere to it.The CG as they go through the warp ports reminded me Star wars, and you can feel the love of the original series in parts like the inclusion of the three old guys or the scene where Spike and Jet have to eat touch-free with no meat in. “

But even before the end of the first episode, something had started to bother Seiji. “One can see that everyone involved really tried their best, but it feels like they have a superficial understanding of the characters.”

How? Let’s start with Jet. “Netflix Jet spends a lot of time talking about his child. Of course, there’s an episode in the anime that deals with one of the Jets’ former lovers, and you get those touches of his personal life,” Seiji recalls. anime Jets past is related to his notions of honor and loyalty, not just family issues. If anime Jet is a man trying to stay stoic with a code, live-action Jet feels like just a dad doing his best. “

The main character Spike also does not feel like Spike from anime, says Seiji. “It’s weird how Netflix Spike is so quick to shoot and kill people. Yes, even in anime he was willing to use deadly force if he had to, but he was not so ready to just thoughtlessly shoot people down. Except when fighting members of the Red Dragon Syndicate, you get the feeling that anime Spike will only shoot someone if absolutely necessary. Instead, we see him usually use his kung fu skills to hit people in the air. It might have been an aesthetic choice for anime in part, but the difference still stood out to me when I watched Netflix Bebop. “

So what about Faye? “Together with Vicious [who we’ll get to in a moment], I think Faye felt particularly different in what aspects of the character the live-action version chose to focus on. When Bebop anime was on tv back in the 90s, some otaku did not like Faye because she was not a ‘cute’ character. I always thought she had a really abrasive personality, tenacious and ready to rip into someone verbally, but she was also a woman with a very sharp, calculating mind. I loved her intelligence, and for me, the look of anime Faye was always a back seat in her mind as to what made her an attractive character. But it feels like Netflix has just made her into someone who is truly athletic and has a dry, dry personality. It seems to be the template for Hollywood action heroines these days, but anime Faye’s appeal was something completely different. “

And last we come to Ondt, with a few smaller ones spoilers included.

“I imagine there are a lot of people who saw what the live-action series does with Vicious and said ‘No, that’s not the character’. I mean, in Netflix Bebop he is married to Julia and talks about how he loves her! Then there’s a scene where the leaders of the Red Dragon order Vicious to shoot her and he hesitant? No, it’s not vicious. “

“Of course, the anime suggests that Spike and Vicious competed for Julia’s love in the past, and even that Vicious and Julia became lovers for a period of time. But more than anything else, when we see Vicious in the anime’s present, his hallmarks are how hurt he is over what he sees as Spike’s betrayal, and how it has turned into raw, sizzling hatred. Vicious obviously has no real romantic feelings for Julia, and the two just use each other. So if Vicious was ordered to shoot Julia as a test of his loyalty, he would do so without a thought. It is who Vicious is. He threw away all traces of human emotion as Spike left the syndicate. “

“Vicious ‘status as a deeply hurt individual is what sets the anime’s climax up, and although anime Julia has very little screen time, you can see that she has a deep, complex connection to Vicious’ pain. I want Netflix Bebop had not changed it to something as simplistic as just ‘love’. The anime film Julia is a cunning, self-serving but also strong woman, and I feel that aspect of her character is lost in the Netflix version. “

“If I had to summarize how I feel about the characters’ Netflix versions in one sentence, it would be “They all keep saying things the characters would not say.”

So Seiji hated the live action Bebop? Not exactly. “But it really made me appreciate how complex the anime characters were. The live-action version is a high-quality production, but when I saw it, I kept thinking ‘Something feels bad’. When I saw the anime for the first time in high school, with its hard-boiled characters and dialogue and influences from foreign cinema, it all felt just so cool. So it’s ironic when Bebop finally gets a Hollywood version, it’s lost a lot of that atmosphere. “

That said, Seiji does not warn people to watch Netflix Bebop. “It certainly has more effort than many adaptations, and I think fans can appreciate the ways in which it approaches the feel of the original version, and maybe one day we will look back on this as a step. towards more successful anime-to-live-action projects? So for now, to Netflix Bebop, I would say ‘You gave it a good shot’. “

Top image: Press release
Insert pictures: YouTube / Netflix
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