Headlined by John Cho (Star Trek, The Grudge), the adaptation appears to be taking a creative but consistent approach to the story and the characters from the popular Japanese anime.
What is Cowboy Bebop?
Cowboy Bebop was a Japanese sci-fi anime with elements of space westerns (i.e. cowboys), cyberpunk, and a bit of hi-tech noir elements. It was later adapted into a manga series (an uncommon reversal, as it is usually the manga that comes first before the anime). The anime was produced by Masahiko Minami and Kazuhiko Ikeguchi, while the director was Shinichirō Watanabe.
The series follows the exploits of a ragtag group of bounty hunters on board the interstellar space ship named Bebop. The Inter Solar System Police (ISSP) regulates and registers bounty hunters, who are also commonly called cowboys (hence the rationale for the title). The crew of the Bebop include Spike Spiegel (a former hitman of the notorious Red Dragon Crime syndicate), Faye Valentine an amnesiac femme fatale), Jet Black (a former ISSP with a cybernetic arm), Edward (a young hacker), and Ein (a Pembroke Welsh Corgi whose intelligence was greatly enhanced, though was still only capable of barking to communicate).
The Cowboy Bebop anime is considered to be a modern classic. It was able to seamlessly meld disparate genres without creating confusion. The characters are also well developed, while still being consistent with the usual archetypes and tropes. The animation and action are also often mentioned as being influential to post-2000s anime that came after its run in 1998. And yet it was surprisingly short, with only 26 episodes.
But perhaps its greatest claim to fame is introducing a new generation of Western audiences to anime. Many fans from the U.S. attribute Cowboy Bebop as being their gateway anime during its run on Adult Swim for the Toonami segment of Cartoon Network. The more mature themes and storytelling of Cowboy Bebop made it popular among teens of the early 2000s.
Netflix live-action series
In 2017, an announcement was made by Tomorrow Studios that they would be developing a live-action television series based on Cowboy Bebop. This production was in partnership with the original developers, Sunrise Inc. By 2018, Christopher Yost (Avengers: Earth Mightiest Heroes) was confirmed to be writing the series. It was also confirmed that the production and eventual release would be heading to Netflix as a streaming series.
Later in 2019, the cast for Cowboy Bebop was announced, with John Cho, Mustafa Shakir, Alex Hassell, and Daniela Pineda confirmed. Elena Satine, Geoff Stults, Tamara Tunie, Mason Alexander Park, Rachel House, Ann Truong, and Hoa Xuande were added later between 2019 and 2020.
The show was filmed in New Zealand and was aiming for a 2020 release. However, lead star John Cho suffered a knee injury in late 2019. COVID lockdowns in 2020 further hampered the schedule.
Little news sprang up about the Cowboy Bebop series in between the first casting and final days of filming. However, some marketing material was released in June 2021, namely the soundtrack which confirmed Yoko Kanno from the anime would be returning for the new show.
Spike Spiegel: Just a humble bounty hunter.
Meet Spike Spiegel (John Cho), Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir), and Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda) in Cowboy Bebop, premiering November 19, only on Netflix. pic.twitter.com/sYGfdCcsL7
— Cowboy Bebop (@bebopnetflix) August 23, 2021
Finally, on August 22, 2021, new official stills were released by Netflix, with the release date of the first episode also being announced. It was confirmed that the first season would be running with 10 episodes too.
The production stills released showed the looks and costume design for Spike Spiegel (John Cho), Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir), and Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda). The locations also mirror the scenes from the anime, such as the interiors of the Bebop ship and the cathedral. The costumes appear to be loyal to the original anime. However, there are fans who found these costumes to be too bland, particularly Faye Valentine’s.
Although the photos gave a glimpse as to the look of the series, it did not reveal much about the plot. It is assumed that it will follow a consistent adaptation of the original 1998 anime. We will have to wait for an upcoming trailer to see if the live-action Cowboy Bebop is a worthy effort to the classic anime or if it will have a similar mixed response as another recent Netflix series, the recent Masters of the Universe.
The official synopsis of the Netflix Cowboy Bebop adaptation reads:
COWBOY BEBOP is an action-packed space Western about three bounty hunters, aka "cowboys," all trying to outrun the past. As different as they are deadly, Spike Spiegel (John Cho), Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir), and Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda) form a scrappy, snarky crew ready to hunt down the solar system’s most dangerous criminals — for the right price. But they can only kick and quip their way out of so many scuffles before their pasts finally catch up with them.
Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop stars John Cho, Alex Hassell, Mustafa Shakir, Daniella Pineda, Elena Satine, Rachel House, Tamara Tunie, Geoff Stults, Mason Alexander Park, Ann Truong, and Hoa Xuande.
The action sci-fi series launches on Netflix on November 19, 2021.