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Is Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop adaptation doomed from the start?

There is something about a live action anime adaptation that people can’t quite seem to get right. The track record over the last few years is less spotty and more a complete wash – with stinkers such as Dragon Ball, Ghost in the Shell, The Last Airbender and more recently Netflix’s much derided Death Note leaving the sourest of tastes in the mouths of both hardcore fans and first time viewers. One could be forgiven, then, for feeling just a tad trepidatious on hearing that not only would there be a Western reimagining of beloved 90s anime Cowboy Bebop, but that Netflix themselves would again be at the helm. This past week the streaming service’s YouTube channel uploaded the opening credits for the show, which will be releasing in November of this year, and if the consensus online is anything to go by, any concerns there may have been for the show are decidedly still present.

The opening credits reveal dribs and drabs of what we have to look forward to/brace ourselves for this November, and whilst what we see does retain some of the show’s stylisation and – of course – the theme music, it does at times play like an internet parody, which perhaps would have been impressive by itself if it weren’t being produced by the world’s most popular streaming service. Obviously we cannot make any categorical statements just yet, but based on the snippets of footage in the credits we can see cheap costumes, cookie cutter set design and lazy CGI – essentially everything you have come to expect from a Western anime adaptation at this point. Going just by the look of the cast, it appears the showrunners are clearly not aiming for explicit accuracy to the look of the show, and this would be fine if the adaptation was more of a reinterpretation than, as I expect it will be, a bland, beat-for-beat recreation.

Obviously, this is a lot of speculation, and perhaps a reflection of negative experiences with other adaptations in the past, and it makes you wonder if this whole process is even worth it. The point of an adaptation, supposedly, is to bring these stories to a wider audience by making them more accessible, but more often than not the themes and messaging become lost in translation. You will be hard-pressed to find a remake and adaptation of any show or movie throughout cinematic history that is able to recapture or reimagine the original’s themes in bold and unique ways without sacrificing the integrity of those involved. The concept of the US remake has become almost a joke at this point, the inevitable scourge of a new inventive forgeign language show or film is that the US remake will come along at some point, completely miss what made the show or movie interesting, and then shove Scarlett Johansson in there, because why not?

If you want people to experience a great story like Cowboy Bebop or Death Note, point them to the original source material, because nobody deserves to be introduced to these shows via such offensive misfires cooked up in executive boardrooms by people who have more than likely never even seen the show. We will have to wait until November to see if Cowboy Bebop continues in this long standing tradition, and perhaps we will be surprised, but more importantly we should ask why we even need this adaptation when the original is still just as fresh and inspiring upon each and every viewing.

Image credit: Charlie Nguyen via Wikimedia Commons