Netflix Making Live-Action Remake of Anime Series Cowboy Bebop
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Netflix Making Live-Action Remake of Anime Series Cowboy Bebop

By Elizabeth Gibson for The J-Pop Exchange

In a tweet posted November 27, @NXOnNetflix (Netflix’s Twitter for all things sci-fi and fantastical on the streaming service) posted, “Guess it’s time to announce that Cowboy Bebop, the live-action series, is heading to @Netflix.”

The announcement -- along with a non-descriptive, 14-second clip featuring the “3, 2, 1, let’s jam” countdown -- was enough to throw the anime-loving corners of the internet into a tizzy. Netflix describes Cowboy Bebop as “the jazz-inspired, genre-bending story of Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Faye Valentine and Radical Ed: a rag-tag crew of bounty hunters on the run from their pasts as they hunt down the solar system’s most dangerous criminals.”

Reactions have mostly been a mixed bag of nervous and excited. One Twitter user replied to the original tweet with, “Nobody wants this.” Another tweeted, “Hope they don’t mess this up like Death Note.” Others, however, are approaching the adaptation with cautious optimism or, at the very least, apathy. Another Twitter user responded to the original tweet with a gif of main character Spike Spiegel smoking a cigarette saying, “Oh well. Whatever happens, happens.”

Live-action remakes of classic animes have historically been more misses than hits. Given Netflix’s definite miss with the remake of Death Note (not to mention the horrible non-Netflix remakes of Dragon Ball: Evolution, Ghost in the Shell, and M. Night Shyamalan's Avatar: The Last Airbender), it’s no wonder many fans aren’t even willing to give the Cowboy Bebop adaptation a chance. In some ways, remaking Cowboy Bebop -- which is often considered a gateway into anime and therefore somewhat sacred, even -- almost feels sacrilegious. However, this year’s adaptation of Bleach, Japanese film produced by Warner Brothers which garnered outstanding reviews, has many fans holding onto hope. Either way, remaking Cowboy Bebop into a live-action series is risky.

Perhaps in an effort to apologize for the Death Note fiasco or maybe in an attempt to ease fans’ minds, in a separate tweet, the company announced the original Cowboy Bebop creator, Shinichiro Watanabe, will be brought on in a consulting role. This could mean anything from a hands-on role to a more honorary title. They also announced that the first episode has been written by Thor: Ragnarok’s Christopher L. Yost.

One crucial make-or-break detail for the live-action adaptation is the music. The theme song in the original anime, “Tank!” written by Yoko Kanno and performed by her band Seatbelts, is often regarded as the best anime theme song of all time. In fact, the whole soundtrack (all composed by Yoko Kanno) brings the anime from great to phenomenal. In many ways, the music is arguably just as important as the characters. There has been no mention of whether Yoko Kanno is attached to the upcoming series.

Rumors of an idea for a live-action remake spread wildly in the mid-2000s on fan forums and into news outlets, when Keanu Reeves was a favorite to portray Spike Spiegel in a Western adaptation. However, that was almost 20 years ago, and it’s highly unlikely the Keanu Reeves dream will come to fruition. The rumors spurred once again about two years ago when Tomorrow Studios quietly announced they were working on a live-action remake, but many thought it was going to flop before it was completed just as many live-action adaptations have fallen. However, Netflix tends to follow through with its promises of new series. That being said, though, there hasn’t been an exact release date for the adaptation thus far.

There isn’t a whole lot that’s known about the upcoming live-action series, including whether anyone has even been cast in any roles yet. But it’s sure to be interesting watching the details unfold. Here’s hoping the adaptation can capture the spirit of the original series.

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