Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop: How it Failed

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It is official, Netflix has canceled their live-action Cowboy Bebop reboot. Less than a month into its release Netflix’s live-action adaptation of the beloved anime series is over. So what exactly went wrong for them to cancel so quickly? From poor fan response to a lackluster ten episodes, and more, here is how Netflix’s live-action Cowboy Bebop failed.

Fans of Cowboy Bebop are passionate about the anime. After twenty years the fan base is still strong. From the unique premise, the original music score, and iconic characters, Cowboy Bebop had it all. Netflix’s first failure was even attempting to remake such a classic. However, the show had nowhere to go but down once Netflix and the cast began shading the anime and its fans.

There was too much negativity towards the original anime. From cast members of the Netflix live-action Cowboy Bebop shading fans on social media. And a cast member interview saying the Netflix live-action “rights the wrongs of the original,” and Netflix siding with loyalists who supported the reboot. Netflix clearly went out of its way to shade the fans of the anime—even implying the original was problematic.

Instead of embracing fans of Cowboy Bebop, Netflix uses the live-action as a proxy for modern-day politics and tries to appease a new audience—something that could have been done in other ways. Instead, Netflix showed their carelessness towards the anime and a lack of understanding of the art that is Cowboy Bebop.

Cowboy Bebop’s depth is deeper than the Mariana Trench. A depth the Netflix live-action reboot lacked. The anime was about Spike, Jet, and Faye, three individuals aboard the Bebop who grow close as the series progresses, yet still each is an island of their own. They go from day to day drifting on fumes, each haunted by their past. The action, the bounties, the camp is all secondary in nature. The depth is what makes each character and is eventually the soul of the anime.

Either Netflix didn’t understand the source material, or they just didn’t care. The plot, the tone, the characters were all off. Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop reboot lacked all the charm, depth, and soul, but kept the camp and turned it up to eleven. From the wonky fights that belonged in Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy to the tongue-in-cheek dialogue, the entire show acted more like a parody of the original than a reboot. If you can call it a reboot.

There is nothing in the Netflix adaptation to call it a reboot of Cowboy Bebop. It should be called a remake instead. And a shoddy one at that. The writers at Netflix took the plot of the anime, put it in a blender and mixed it up with a modern-day critical eye, trying to “right the wrongs” of the anime. All while missing the point of the original, and messing with an already established and loved plot. One where characters and stories have much deeper motives and meaning than Netflix could ever conceive. Or were too afraid to embrace.

Instead of sticking true to the plot and characters of Cowboy Bebop, Netflix retconned both. They took away the meaning of the crew of the Bebop and instead turned Jet into a stereotype, Spike—ugh, and Faye obviously the strong woman. Instead of the enigma Vicious is in the anime, Netflix made him a sniveling little…, and as for Julia, modern-day forbid she stay the same as in the anime. Which made for a much deeper story.

The original Cowboy Bebop was essentially a tragedy when it came to Spike, Julia, and Vicious. Two brothers betray each other over a girl who loves both and in the end, are all (maybe) killed by each other’s weapon. It is Shakespearean. The Netflix version is a modern-day remake with a socially appropriate twist. Some things are better left untouched. Cowboy Bebop being a great example. However, in today’s reboot industry, it is inevitable.

The Netflix Cowboy Bebop adaptation didn’t have to be a failure. It could have strived. If only Netflix did a few things differently. First off, they should have done new Sessions, instead of remaking already established ones. Create new characters and expand on the lore and the world that is Cowboy Bebop. They could have even expanded on Spike, Jet, and Faye’s past. All while staying true to the characters and the source material.

Netflix should have also considered the fans of the anime. It didn’t have to be fan service, but it should have never shaded the original, and its fans. They didn’t need to get so political either with social commentary. They should have studied the source material better and examined what made Cowboy Bebop a classic. What was the heart of the show should have mattered more, over trying to gain a new generation of fans. Which could have been done anyway.

Thus with all universal wrongs, there is a silver lining. Netflix made the right decision and canceled the tragedy that is the reboot. And from now on Netflix, “you are gonna carry that weight.”

Heather Starling

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