Cowboy Bebop, the insanely popular anime series from the 90s, left an almost impossible task for anyone trying to resurrect it. That hasn’t stopped Netflix from trying and now we can finally see the results.
Cowboy Bebop follows a trio of ‘cowboys’ as they cruise the solar system kicking arse, taking bounties and eating noodles. The original series managed to effortlessly blend genres, music and cultures to create what is still considered one of the best anime series of all time.
Netflix’s adaptation follows the same premise although it comes across as more of a remix rather than a strict shot-by-shot adaptation. This has caused some concern amongst Cowboy Bebop’s fanbase which is so protective and passionate about the anime that even the smallest of changes is enough to cause an outcry.
But the change from anime to live-action is inevitable, so the question now becomes – how much change is acceptable?
Kotaku Australia sat down with cast members John Cho, Mustafa Shakir and Daniella Pineda during Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop junket to find out how the live-action series compares to its namesake.
“I’ve been describing it as a big old piece of fan fiction,” Cho who plays Spike Spiegel in the Netflix adaptation, said. “It is based on the original anime and then it imagines more. It goes further with the backstory, in particular, with the characters and their histories.”
The core characters are an iconic group, each with their own unique personalities and pasts that they’re attempting to outrun. Expanding their backstories for the Netflix series gave the actors a lot more to work with.
Jet Black was the father figure of the group in the anime and Shakir confirmed that he is still very much “Daddy Black” this time around.
“We see why he’s paternal because he’s got his own family issues that are playing into much of the plotline,” Shakir told Kotaku Australia.
The pressure was on for Pineda, whose character Faye Valentine went through the most obvious changes out of the trio. The actress said she wanted to bring out Faye’s lighter side as well as her impatience and humour, without straying too far from the source material.
“It was important to me to honour the blueprint of the character,” Pineda said. “I think any time you are making something in the shadow of something else there are pieces of it that you have to make your own. And I did.”
For Cho, bringing Spike Spiegel (and his hair) to life was very much informed by the character’s original animation style.
“That’s where it began physically for me,” he said. “Observing how he held himself and how he walked. It was really informative and I’m glad that’s where it started. It was a lot of studying the anime and trying to interpret that physicality into an actual flesh and bones body.”
The original Cowboy Bebop anime is made up of 26 episodes full of sprawling locations, intriguing characters and wild plotlines. A lot of them were self-contained adventures and nearly all of them became iconic.
When it comes to specific things from the anime that the cast was excited to tackle in live-action, Shakir pointed to Le Fou as his favourite villain. Pineda said there were many villains she was looking forward to meeting but that they didn’t get to in the first season.
For Cho, it was an artificial intelligence storyline that stood out as his favourite.
“I was particularly interested in an artificial storyline, if you get my meaning, that borrowed from the original,” Cho told Kotaku Australia. “It was just a difficult story to tell in real life with real actors. How we were going to bring that to the screen was going to be a puzzle and it was really exciting to see that.”
Read into that what you will.
The crew of the Bebop also includes one very important fourth member. No, I’m not talking about Ed, and it still remains a mystery whether the radical hacker will show up in season one.
However, the team’s loveable corgi and data dog, Ein, will be a prominent face in the show.
“You can’t be out of shape and dancing around with a corgi, I’ll say that,” Pineda explained. “The dog was primarily motivated by treats, not so much affection. Some dogs are man’s best friend and some dogs are only your best friend if you have treats in your hand.”
“You think you’re the star of the show, and then the dog comes on set,” Cho said.
So can Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop live up to the incredibly high bar the original has set? We don’t have to wait to find out.
This article was originally published on November 18 and has been retimed to include our video interview with the Cowboy Bebop cast.