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Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop Is the Latest Anime-to-Live Action Attempt That We Hope They Don’t Screw Up

The journey to making a successful live-action adaptation of an anime series outside of Japan has been a struggle. From Dragonball Evolution to Death Note to Ghost in the Shell, the results have been mixed and have accumulated controversy due to casting issues and a lot of fans feeling as if these adaptations don’t hold true to the original series.

Well, Netflix has decided to take a crack at it again, with what is without a doubt one of the most celebrated anime series on Earth: 1998’s Cowboy Bebop.

Cowboy Bebop tells the story of a group of moody bounty hunters led by Spike Spiegel, aboard the spaceship Bebop, owned by Ganymede-born former cop Jet Black. Also on the ship’s crew are the intelligent Corgi Ein, gun-toting hustler Faye Valentine, and the eccentric tech genius Edward.

Since its release, Bebop has been a popular series because of its compelling characters and the story of them all coming to terms with their own troubled pasts. It’s the kind of anime series that’s praised for its storytelling and animation even by people who don’t like anime.

In that sense, it is no surprise that Netflix would attempt to do this—and if it goes well, maybe we can get Samurai Champloo, too—but of course, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Bebop is a complex character drama that draws from westerns and noir, with a heavy thematic focus on what it means to be alone and how to escape one’s past.

Adapting anime is complicated because, at times, there’s not a lot of trust that the same elements that made an anime successful in Japan will translate to a Western audience, so things wind up getting changed, often with bad results. Then, of course, the issue of race comes up. Since a lot of the characters are not from Earth—Spike Spiegel is a Martian—bringing it to an American audience means that it will probably be given a “diverse” cast.

Without getting into the ins and outs of who should be who, I will say that whoever plays Spike Spiegel should be of Asian descent, as his design is based on the Japanese actor Tantei Monogatari. There’s a reason that Keanu Reeves has been in the fan cast running for so long, as he himself is of Chinese-Hawaiian heritage.

Same goes for Faye Valentine, who is implied to be from Singapore. It would also be nice to get a non-binary actor to play Ed. The priority should be to make sure that the characters aren’t whitewashed with the excuse that it is “easier.” This is a Japanese product, and putting Japanese and Asian actors at the forefront should be a priority.

But overall, it just feels like Netflix brought us Evangelion to soften the blow of the company potentially Death Note-ing this iconic anime. I wish I had more faith, but frankly, they need to earn that first.

According to Variety, “Shinichiro Watanabe, director of the original anime, will serve as a consultant on the project. Andre Nemec, Josh Appelbaum, Jeff Pinkner, and Scott Rosenberg of Midnight Radio will serve as executive producers. Yasuo Miyakawa, Masayuki Ozaki, and Shin Sasaki of Sunrise Inc.— the studio behind the original series—will also executive produce along with Marty Adelstein and Becky Clements of Tomorrow Studios, Tetsu Fujimura, and Matthew Weinberg. The series is a co-production between Netflix and Tomorrow Studios, with Netflix handling physical production.”

(via Variety, image: TV Tokyo, Adult Swim)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.