Review: ‘Cowboy Bebop’ Bucks the Original Too Much

By Brandon Labecki, Current Staff

Netflix’s “Cowboy Bebop” takes many liberties in the live-action adaptation of the original anime series of the same name.

Many of these creative decisions end up lessening any engagement to the show: it takes away some of the most vital characteristics of the original, and rather than expanding upon characters and scenarios in a more interesting and entertaining way, they detract from the experience. Core character traits are either removed entirely or they are changed in uncanny ways that resemble none of the compelling qualities that the animated versions included.

Special effects vary widely, either colorful and engaging, or bland and poor in quality. This eventually pulls the audience out of the experience and makes the show feel lifeless, especially when considering the unconvincing sets and details in character designs.

Comedy is constantly being pressed against the audience, making it hard for the few jokes that work to have an effect.

Any interesting plot lines from the original are left behind, and the ones that were left are molded together with each other to fill an episode. Thankfully, the main cast, including the actors of Spike Spiegel (John Cho) and Jet (Mustafa Shakir), were enjoyable when scenes only included the two having interpersonal banter.

John Cho as Spike Spiegel, Mustafa Shakir as Jet Black, Danielle Pineda as Faye Valentine and Ein in “Cowboy Bebop.” Photo by Geoffrey Short.

Almost all of these problems that came from the adaptation are shown in one key character, the antagonist, “Vicious.”

Although the name is just as ridiculous in the animated series, the original made up for the decision with a cruel character whose most interesting and compelling qualities came from his emotionless demeanor and intelligent unpredictability.

The live-action adaptation depicts a very emotional and reactionary character, who, instead of wanting to gain power due to the weakness of others, uses his villainy as an act of protection, control and love. The live-action Vicious passingly gives informal greetings over phone discussions, acts out in business meetings, hesitates in power balances, is constantly undermined by subordinates and seems barely intelligent enough to hold his own for so long.

These are all aspects to his character that contradict his original screen presence, which would not be an issue if it was handled in a way that felt respectful to the original and expanded the character in a beneficial way. Vicious being portrayed as a character who is undermined, uninteresting and inconsistent reflects the show’s own quality in a very disappointing way.

Besides Vicious, the culmination of a disappointing and uncaring portion of the show was the climax and what it left for fans and new and interested watchers.

The Netflix adaptation had the perfect groundwork of a show that had room for improvement to develop in their live-action version while also paying respects to the original. Sadly, the differences became too much with little benefits to the audience who would be interested to see it.

(Images are official promotional material.)

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