The original Cowboy Bebop is pretty much perfect. There’s a reason it has amassed legions of fans since it debuted back in 1997 — well, several reasons: it’s got instantly likable, compelling characters; it’s action-packed, but also incredibly accessible sci-fi; it absolutely oozes coolness, thanks to the greatest score in anime history, courtesy of Yoko Kanno. John Cho, star of the live-action Bebop TV series, knows the problem with perfection: you can’t duplicate it, and you shouldn’t, either.
Cho refused to sign onto the series until he learned that the live-action Cowboy Bebop show wasn’t going to be a shot-for-shot remake of the anime. In an interview with Vulture, Cho explained the issue: “I was like, ‘we’re not gonna just remake each episode, are we?’ I didn’t want to re-stage everything exactly frame by frame. I didn’t want to do that artistically, and I also thought that that was a recipe for encouraging unflattering comparisons. How could you do it better? You can’t. You have to do something a little different.”
He’s absolutely right; duplication invites comparison, and if the new show was just going to try to copy Bebop exclusively, it would just be a poor version of the original. It needs to honour what made the animated series great — the characters, the premise, the tone — while still having its own unique identity. Some changed storylines, or even new storylines, are fine. Some new, less absurd, more practical, and yet still quite sexy outfit changes are even less consequential, despite what some misogynist anime fans might think.
One big change is that Cho is 49, while his character Spike Spiegel is 27 in the anime. That’s a large age difference, and a meaningful change for the series — but one that Cho thinks helps him play Spike more accurately: “First of all, I couldn’t have done [the role] when I was 27. I mean, maybe I would’ve been better suited athletically, but in terms of my discipline, I am strangely better suited at this age. I don’t think I would’ve done justice to the emotional depth we tried to give Spike. There’s always a trade-off. What young men are typically best at as actors is rage. And that might’ve been a more pronounced element in the character. What I’m better at, being older, is showing weakness and vulnerability and love. Those things are more accessible to me.”
Honestly, it’s a great interview and you can read it in full here. As for the live-action Cowboy Bebop series, it stars Cho, Mustafa Shakir as Jet Black, Daniella Pineda as Faye Valentine, and an adorable corgi named Ein.
It premieres November 19 on Netflix.