Remember Cowboy Bebop? Well, it’s back, in a live-action form! The legendary anime which has reached mythical levels of adoration has now been adapted into a Netflix show for better or worse.
Throughout this video we’re gonna be breaking down the show as a whole, talking about the changes and also giving our thoughts on it.
Because of this, there will be heavy spoilers so if you haven’t had a chance to check it out then I highly recommend that you check out now. If you enjoy the video then please hit the thumbs up button and also make sure you subscribe for videos like this every day.
With that out the way, let’s get into Cowboy Bebop.
Ok so the original anime notably ended on a cliffhanger after less than 30 episodes and whether we go beyond that remains to be seen but the series is very much gonna be a jumping-off point to start something new.
The people behind the show have said how they didn’t want to make a shot for shot remake to avoid unflattering comparisons and because of this, the Netflix series is wildly different.
In the lead up to its release, lots of things were brought up on its ‘accuracy’ with many saying that Faye should’ve been costumed to look more like her Anime adaptation. There’s a tonne of changes in the series and they also notably removed Ed until the very very last moment. That kinda teases a season 2 right where the original pretty much ended and as such we might get some of the same liberties used with missing plotlines such as the Titan War and Ed’s entire storyline.
Now the original had three lost souls trying to find themselves amongst a time of capitalist greed in which it was a very dog eat dog universe. The series is very much laced with the idea that modern life is rubbish, boring, and futile. This was explored particularly through the marks that the crew hunted but here they’ve been reduced to nothing more than jokes.
For example in the anime, the Teddy Bomber was an anarchist and the joke was that his manifesto was constantly interrupted until he finally explained it and realised how futile it was.
Here he’s literally a geezer called Ted, who’s nuts. The manifesto is laughed at, he wears a teddy bear costume and he gets bested in like 5 minutes.
There are lots of things like that, that sort of hampers the experience if you love the original and honestly, if you’re here before seeing the show I would probably watch this first before tackling that.
Now as for the show and its ending it has been massively changed up from the original. Before we get into that though we need to talk about the big reveals in Episode 9 which fills us in on the backstory of Spike. Whilst Cowboy Bebop follows the story of Spike, Jet and later Faye, the true story of the show is thread throughout and it’s integral to understanding the ending.
Spikes Chequered Past
We always knew that Spike Aka Fearless worked for the Syndicate, a savage and brutal criminal cartel and we are drip-fed with knowledge throughout the show about his former life. We are introduced to Vicious, a man who quite literally lives up to his name who is the son of the Syndicate leader who’s played by John Noble.
This was an awesome unmasking and throughout the series, we see that Vicious has no problem killing his father and potentially the woman he loves.
After the Asimov in Episode 1, he learns that Spike is still alive and his side hustle of dealing Red Eye is exposed, something that brings him into conflict with the Elders of the Syndicate and he decides to go all out to take over the throne.
Now in episode 9 we learn just exactly what happened between Vicious and Spike after the pair tango’d throughout the show It turns out that they were pretty much, adopted brothers with Fearless being brought in off the streets.
They were very much yin and yang with them having different methods and ideologies for how to carry out their hits and lives.
Vicious is an idiot who doesn’t care for the repercussions of his actions. Due to the way his father treated him he’s clearly insecure and always wants to prove himself.
Fearless on the other hand is possibly the best worker the Syndicate have with him being smart, capable and cool under pressure. He has a fierce loyalty towards Vicious and would regularly clean up after the mess he made.
We see how Vicious kills a guy messily and even wants to shoot a kid and a woman but Fearless says no, showing that while he has grown up in this life, he isn’t a sick, sadistic person and he just wants to exist. This explains why he wants to turn away from ruling the Syndicate which we’ll talk about later on in the video.
Now the pair end up falling in love with a woman called Julia who becomes integral to the ending and after their boss, Capo orders Spike to take Vicious out he has to make a tough decision.
In the anime, it was actually Mao who took the pair under their wing, the person here who is just another Capo like Vicious. This is because Vicious gets in over his head with the Neptune Gang and Fearless has to come in and clean up the mess once more.
Fearless tries to clear a passage for him and Julia to escape and she’s completely terrified of Vicious.
Getting out and desertion means the death penalty but Spike doesn’t care, he’s gone full Simp for Julia. It takes the father of Vicious to tell him what the hell is going on leading him to sort Julia out and then kill Spike who survives.
In the anime, Vicious is dating Julia but she nurses Spike back to health after he was seriously injured. He would later ask her to leave the syndicate except Vicious found out about the affair and ordered her to kill him while Spike waited for her at their graveyard meeting point. She didn’t do this and instead, it led to Spike being ambushed which then led to him meeting Jet.
I think that works way better than what we get and in the show, we see Spike is sent to kill Vicious after his major mess up with the Neptune gang.
The character of Vicious is nothing more than a spoiled crybaby brat throughout the entire show. The anime had the ‘brothers’ on equal pegging and the added screen time did him no favours as in the original he is in 5 out of 26 episodes making him a mysterious villain as we are drip-fed the backstory of Spike. Vicious in the anime left us wanting more, he was a mysterious villain and I guess less is more as here I’m not sure he works.
For me, the best part of the anime was seeing the crazy worlds and eclectic bounties which we do get but the order of these bounties has been changed heavily. The first bounty we see Jet and Spike vie for is similar to the first episode of the anime but that’s where most of the similarities end as in episode 2 we move to the Teddy bomber and are missing Cowboy Andy. It’s clear major subplots are being saved for another season if there is one as Netflix love to cancel shows quicker than Kevin Spoilers when he does a Thanos was right joke.
Each bounty is reduced to simply a device to push our cast to where they need to be for the story to progress. Instead of allowing our main crew to breathe, the true villain and plot progresses and takes time and attention away from what makes the show great. Three people out on the edge of society finding each other upon a backdrop of nihilism.
Jet perfectly exemplifies this as we learn that before Spike met him that he had this ideal life with a wife and a child. In Episode 5, we discover how he was accused of being a dirty copy but would later learn that it was actually his old partner who blamed him. Jet would subsequently shoot him and hilariously, Chalmers, the man banging his ex-wife explained how because of this there’s now no chance to clear his name. This story is certainly the harshest as Jet is a man who never did anything wrong but he cements that in this universe doing the right thing can end your plans of a perfect life.
I liked the change here but the constant checking in on this plot to make sure we still remember was annoying when I just wanted to see the crew go on bounties. Due to the expansion of the Vicious story, there’s almost no room to explore the bounties or really the relationship between our Bebop crew.
The other mystery hanging over the show is the backstory of Faye. Now I’ll be talking about what’s revealed in the anime so skip ahead to the next part of the video if you don’t want that ruined.
Frozen in Time
Ok so in the anime we learn that she was born on Earth and during a trip to space in 2014, an accident occurred that killed her parents and severely injured her.
A video of her was time capsuled which is somewhat brought to the show though it remains more of a dangling thread.
She was then cryogenically frozen until she was able to be healed but in doing this she completely lost everything.
She fell in love with a lawyer who brought her up to speed with everything but it turned out he was just conning her in order to lumber her with lots of debt.
It really highlighted the cold and cruel world of Bebop where they have this amazing technology but everyone still has to deal with issues like money and being screwed over which turns her bitter.
Instead, the show goes with a woman who pretended to be her mother. We don’t get a story of love and betrayal, we get jokes about a cougar being chased by her lover which yeah…feels slightly lacking.
Faye expects to find her identity but simply finds a VHS of her as a young kid. It’s far and away the least developed subplot that is seemingly saved for season 2 but I kinda wish that we’d had some more. She heads off at the end of the show to go to where the video time capsule of the young her was filmed which will no doubt come back should we get another entry.
Eventually, though, each storyline leads up to the end with Vicious talking down the elders and his father.
I loved this scene especially as the digital face masks were great showing just how ruthless Vicious could be. I would be interested to hear the thoughts on Vicious’ plotline from people who had not seen the original as I must admit that kinda loomed over a lot of my viewing experience.
Jet’s daughter Kimmie is captured which then leads him and Spike to track her down and during this Julia is pulled into the mix.
We then see our two lads Jet and Spike captured with Vicious wanting to punish Jet by also killing Kimmie. Spike says how he was supposed to end vicious, a call back to his mercy being his undoing once again but Faye saves the day. Spike is left to head back into the church we get the final showdown which comes with one hell of a twist.
Julia’s is way different to her anime counterpart and she would have rather lived a life on the run as opposed to having to kill Spike.
Hereafter Vicious is defeated, Julia is power-hungry and wants the Syndicate for herself. She begrudges Spike leaving her and has been left bitter and twisted by staying with Vicious. It’s an odd change and it alters Spike’s entire future as he spent his cowboy years longing for her but now his Motivation is gone. He never felt like his nihilistic Anime version self but this could be the final trauma that turns him into the easy, breezy Cowboy.
She shoots him and he falls into a river which of course mirrors his apparent death at the hands of Vicious. It all sort of plays as the chapter ends in a sort of book on his life and him rising from the water very much signals his rebirth.
She leaves him and because no one is able to see Vicious’ face as an Elder she can assume his identity and rule the organisation. Julia plays Russian roulette with him which of course calls back to earlier in the season in which he didn’t know whether he would be shooting her or not.
The Bebop part ways as Jet’s hopes of finally being a family man again are gone.
He promises to kill Spike if he ever sees him again but as we know they’ll probably be back to being best buds at some point.
Spike keeping his original life a secret from Jet was a mistake as the pair part ways and we close out with Ed coming into the story. Ed was teased in the Londes arc in Episode 6 by the man who Jet finds when they are hunting him. He mentions how he created an AI which was Londes and the man was sent there by Radical Ed, aka Ed. Ed was a major mystery in the anime and was a computer hacker who later joined the Bebop crew while the Bebop investigated someone vandalising Earth’s surface.
Here Ed has been tracking down Spike seemingly for a while and wants to be a cowboy and mentions many different bounties such as Volaju who was in the main show. It’s clear that Ed will lead the team to get back together as Jet had a great father figure style relationship with Ed which could now be brought into the show as he’ll probably not see Kimmie for a long time.
No doubt the crew will go back together and I think that if there is another season that we will get the truth about Faye revealed. They could somewhat integrate a love story in which she is betrayed and this would no doubt push her back into the crew. They all kinda will have this feeling of betrayal right now as Julia of course betrayed Spike and Spike lied to Jet.
Spike is the only one who can make things right with him so I think that will be a big help and coupled with Ed they could make somewhat of a dysfunctional family.
The Titan War was name-dropped a few times and while Vicious was in this war in the anime, I would expect this to be fleshed out more as well as what happened to Earth be discussed. The show has deviated majorly and the ending has been changed and in the anime, Julia was killed.
I think that they’ve set this up for season 2 so that we have Spike very much having to take down the love of his life. This season was very much about him taking down the person he once saw as a brother and with her leading the syndicate he’ll now have to take down the person he loved.
It’s a bold take to change the Anime as they did and I admit I am biased having watched it when it was shown in the UK way back when and again recently. However, both series end with Spike collapsing and we’re unsure whether he’s dead or not in the original whereas here Ed kinda changes things up. It was never confirmed whether Spike did die but there were several visual clues such as doves flying overhead which were also present when Julia went.
Either way, there’s a lot we could get next time but whether the show gets a second season or not remains to be seen.
Netflix has been pretty brutal when it comes to cancelling things and I’m not sure how well received this will be. Though it’s not a complete travesty I do think it shows that the west should try and steer clear of adapting animes as it goes wrong more times than it goes right.
Cowboy Bebop I feel is a weird one to review as there are some absolutely brilliant parts but other moments that let it down. It almost feels too much like it’s trying to be an anime at points which for me doesn’t really work that well in live-action.
Now obviously it is an anime but what I mean by that is that you should kinda leave some of the stylistic choices out as it’s weird when people are doing wild anime overreactions and so on when the rest of the cast is holding things back.
Add to it the fact that they leave all the backstory stuff until episode 9 and I feel like most of the season is a bit of a miss. I would have loved to have had these aspects laced throughout the runtime but unfortunately, they did it that way which didn’t work that well for me.
I think the series will be divisive with some loving it and others hating it and whilst I wouldn’t put myself in either camp I think that it could have been a lot more.
Cowboy Bebop has a lot of potential, but what they do with that potential remains to be seen.
I would like a second series but for this first one, it gets a…
Now obviously I’d love to hear your thoughts on it and whether you agree or not.
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If you want something else to watch then make sure you check out our breakdown of the perfect scene in Spider-Man Homecoming. We break down the entire thing so it’s definitely worth checking out if you wanna know more.
With that out the way thank you for sitting through the video, I’ve been Paul and I’ll see you next time. Take care, Peace