Cowboy Bebop Premiere Episode Review: High Bar For Anime Adaptation
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Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop Premiere Episode Sets The Tone For A Very Faithful Anime Adaptation

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BY November 14, 2021

The Cowboy Bebop anime has wildly varying tones, set in a hybrid of multiple genres all lassoed together with a Western vibe throughout. It’s noir, it’s science fiction, it’s a crime drama, all rolled into an awesome extravaganza of pulpy, high-energy storytelling. And the new Netflix live-action adaptation is no different, in a wonderful twist of anime meets real life. And I’m glad to say in this Cowboy Bebop premiere episode review, that the live-action absolutely lives up to the anime, in wonderfully surprising ways.

Read on for my completely non-spoiler review of the Cowboy Bebop premiere episode. 

Why The Cowboy Bebop Anime Is So Beloved

Cowboy Bebop premiere episode review anime. The anime crew. | Image via Netflix.

Unlike most anime, Cowboy Bebop was a very short-lived series that didn’t go on for multiple seasons. Despite that, the series had enough of an impact to become one of the greatest anime of all time. All-time, you guys! And having finally seen the anime, it’s plain and clear as day to see why. The anime’s opening credits convey a sense of pulpy 1970’s action dramas like The Mod Squad. The blaring music, the bright colours, the split screens, hard cuts and moving silhouettes are absolutely pulp 70’s. But as the first episode opens, it becomes a much more subtle, 50’s noir story. The contemplative hero, the tragic shoot-out, a single black and white rose— it’s genius! The series continues with Jazz and orchestral music throughout, further cementing the vibe of a noir film. 

But the actual setting of the show is in the future, in space, on a ship. The juxtaposition of these wildly contradicting elements somehow works. Seeing one of the main characters, Jet, in a trench coat and Fedora, while sporting an entirely metal arm, in a sci-fi world, is not as jarring as you would think. It’s mostly because the atmospheric nature of the story fits with the characters and the world we’re in. It’s a future with no Earth, so cultures, periods and the cyclical nature of society are all in flux and all over the place. So the tonal shifts actually work towards telling a story that is, similarly, all over the place in terms its homage to genres.

The World Of Cowboy Bebop Premiere Episode Is Diverse And Without Limitations

Cowboy Bebop premiere episode review trailer. The un-holy trinity? | Image via Netflix.

While this blend might feel anachronistic at first blush, it makes sense within the world of Cowboy Bebop. New Tijuana is a planet that is very much like its Earth-y namesake, where it feels like time has stopped and we’re transported to the world of movies like Once Upon A Time In Mexico. Whereas other elements feel like the grimy Space Westerns of Firefly, which could easily have been heavily inspired by Cowboy Bebop. 

The Cowboy Bebop anime was also very diverse for its time. The lack of borders or even planetary restrictions saw characters from all walks of life, not as token versions of themselves, but actual supporting characters. I can’t say I wasn’t surprised to see a turban-wearing Sikh character named Singh appear in an anime series from 1998. But what’s also cool about all this, is that it all just is. There’s no exposition about the world and its status, it’s just the world we see and learn about organically through the characters and their adventures. Something that I also loved as I’ll discuss further in this review of the Cowboy Bebop premiere episode.

Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop Tries To Stay Very Faithful To The Anime

Cowboy Bebop premiere episode review fire Run Spike, Run! | Image via Netflix.

Visually, Netlix’s live-action Cowboy Bebop does an amazing job in adapting the anime. But they do this by also realizing what works in live-action and what doesn’t. Live-action adaptations of anime aren’t an uncommon thing. But most of the time, the adaptations don’t really work. And it’s not because of storytelling reasons, but a lack of understanding that sometimes, what works in anime, doesn’t in real-life settings. The medium of anime automatically lends to a greater suspension of disbelief with powers, magic, fantasy, creatures and so much more. Trying to do those same elements in a real-world environment, more often than not, doesn’t fit and isn’t conducive to that story. A 9-foot sword looks immensely cool in the anime medium, but it becomes harder to ignore the physics of wielding such a weapon when seeing it in live-action; for example.

The premiere episode of Cowboy Bebop knows this, and visually adapts everything that fits into this universe while modifying some elements for the live-action medium. And those changes are much easier to swallow, given how incredibly authentic the show is to the original anime. And boy, does the show do a great job of adapting the visuals. 

Cowboy Bebop Premiere Episode Review Is Totally Spoiler-Free

Cowboy Bebop premiere episode review split. Coworkers at arms. | Image via Netflix.

The premiere episode of Cowboy Bebop opens with the introduction of our lead characters of Spike (John Cho) and Jet (Mustafa Shakir). Established bounty hunters, involved in a space-casino shootout is a very impressive action set piece, and the perfect opening scene. The special effects involved when a hole into the vacuum of space threatens to suck everyone and everything out is very cool. Afterwards, we get to see the inner lives of these two characters; no prospects, no money and whole lotta problems. 

When a promising bounty rears its head, the two set forth on their mission. An everyday thing in their lives it seems like. The first interactions between the two characters do a great job of establishing their comradery, their history and their chemistry. Cho’s Spike is carefree, skilled, fashionable, albeit potentially hiding a dark past. While Jet’s issues are a lot more surface; an ex-wife, her new obnoxious cop-husband, and a daughter he needs money to buy a birthday present for. Life is hard for these two, and things don’t seem to be getting easier. 

Introducing Fay Valentine To The Show’s Live-Action Remake

Cowboy Bebop premiere episode review duo.. BFFs. | Image via Netflix.

On their new mission, while Jet is gathering intel, Spike is using his charm on the bounty’s partner, before a new complication rears her purple head. Another bounty hunter by the name of Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda) is horning in on their job. Faye seems like the foil to Spike as their first meeting doesn’t go that well. Their rivalry might be the source of the show’s comic relief, as well as tension, given that they really don’t get along, at all. The trio of characters have the perfect dynamic with each providing a new element to the group that might be the source for a lot of stories going forward in the series.

One of the other major changes, it seems, is that the Cowboy Bebop premiere episode is accelerating the story of the anime. Which kind of makes sense. With 26 episodes, the anime took its time getting to the larger plot beats for the season. Many episodes are just stand-alone procedurals with a new adventure each episode. So Spike’s backstory, for instance, only comes as a slow drip throughout the season. Whereas the ending of the live-action premiere episode makes it clear that we’ll be moving things along a bit more here. Which makes given the show’s 10-episode season.

Cowboy Bebop Premiere Episode Sets The Bar High!

Crew. A new kind of family. | Image via Netflix.

So far, Cowboy Bebop is pretty fun. The tone, concept, ideas and visuals of the show are stunning. The characters and action sequences are super fun, and the world is unlike anything depicted in a major sci-fi series before. At least, not one that’s having this much fun with its story and stars. The soundtrack compliments the on-screen energy very well while pacing things in a way that’s engaging and exciting. 

All episodes of Cowboy Bebop premiere on Netflix on November 19.

Are you excited for the live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop? Let me know in the comments below.

Featured image via Netflix. 

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Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.

Cowboy BebopDaniella PinedaJohn ChoMustafa ShakirNetflixNetflix Original

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