cowboy bebop remake

Netflix’s highly anticipated live-action remake of Cowboy Bebop won’t be a “one-to-one” adaptation, writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach says. That’s a guarantee when you’re turning a classic 26-episode half-hour anime into an hour-long live-action series. But Grillo-Marxuach promises, in his latest update of the currently-stalled Netflix series, that the live-action Cowboy Bebop will stay true to the spirit and the effortlessly cool style of the beloved Shinichiro Watanabe anime.

There’s naturally some skepticism with any live-action remake of an anime, with the poor track record that these adaptations have had on the big and small screen. From the recent controversial Ghost in the Shell and Death Note remakes to the memorably disastrous Dragon Ball, anime adaptations just can’t catch a break. So why should Cowboy Bebop be any different? For one, they’ve actually got an actor of Asian descent in the lead, with Korean-American John Cho starring as the show’s ultra-cool bounty hunter Spike Spiegel. The production has worked to build a diverse cast around Cho, but naturally had to make some tweaks when translating the anime into live-action.

“You can’t look at Cowboy Bebop and say, ‘Well, it’s just a take-off point. We’re going to give them different hair and different clothing, and we’re gonna call it something different,” Grillo-Marxuach said in an interview with io9. “And it’s just sort of gonna be a loose thing. If you’re doing Cowboy Bebop, you’re doing Cowboy Bebop. You know? It’s kind of like doing Star Wars.”

Marxuach shows a clear understanding of what made Cowboy Bebop such a success when the anime first aired in 1998, unlike past filmmakers who have attempted to adapt anime to live-action. But like all adaptations to a new medium, Marxuach had to make some concessions to the hour-long live-action format:

“You’ve got an entity that is very much a kind of gathering together of influences that were very important in post-war Japan: jazz, American pop culture, the whole sort-of cowboy thing, reality television. So, you’re looking at a show that’s already a commentary on the influence of American pop culture with Japanese culture in the future, in space. And then we’re taking that and then we’re…trying to translate that not just in English, but also a format that is not the original format of the show.”

Changes include taking the self-contained stories of the half-hour episodes and turning them into larger arcs, with a longer narrative that can play out in hourlong episodes. A few of the “iconic bounties” from the original show will play part in the new series, but will be a piece of a larger whole:

“You’ve got a show where you have 26 episodes that are full of very colorful villains, very colorful stories, very colorful adversaries, bounties, and all of that. We’re not going to go one-to-one on all of those stories because we’re also trying to tell the broader story of Spike Spiegel and the Syndicate, Spike Spiegel and Julia, Spike Spiegel and Vicious, and all that. But we are looking at the show and saying, ‘Who are some of the great villains in this show, and how can we put them into this into this broader narrative?’ So that we are telling both of the big stories that Cowboy Bebop tells.”

A few other changes include the more outrageous costumes like Faye’s tight-fitting outfit (“we need to have a real human being wearing that”) and less glamorous depictions of smoking. But Grillo-Marxuach promised that the series will find the balance between honoring the spirit of the original and introducing the story to a new audience.

Cowboy Bebop is, like all film and TV productions, currently shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, though it already faced delays after Cho was injured on set. The series has been pushed back to at least 2021, but has already been greenlit for a season 2.

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