Netflix has been working on their live-action adaptation of one of the most iconic anime’s of all time; Cowboy Bebop. Though no trailer, release date, or set pictures have hit the internet yet we know that production on the ten episode mini-series is well underway with a pretty exciting cast.
What I want to touch on is what I feel are musts for the anticipated(?) series from the original.
1: Aesthetic: Right off the bat we have to talk about the look and feel of the futuristic Solar System. The show which released back in 1998 brought us visuals with that granular style common in old anime’s which I love. The live-action version of course will not be able to recreate the use of light and color in the same sense, but I hope it will immitate the set designs of these off-world cities and technology.
The mini-series will be releasing more than two decades since the original but I feel that so much of it doesn’t need “updating.” The future that Shinichirō Watanabe created is valid in its depiction; something that feels reminiscent of 1982’s Bladerunner. Though I believe there is enough space (no pun intended) for the creators to have some liberties my hope is they stay true to staples of the series (Swordfish ii, Red Tail, and Hammerhead for example).
I believe the show is in good hands with Anneke Botha spearheading set decoration. Her work on Mad Max, Chappie, and Maze Runner are really good credits to show she can capture that clunky futurism that’s so enjoyable.
2: The Music: This is a no-brainer. The work on the anime by Yoko Kanno and Seatbelts is a character on its own. The intro music, the closing music, ‘Goodbye Julia’, and so much more. I hope the entire soundtrack (vinyl releasing this week coincidentally) makes it’s way into the ten episode arc. If the series wants to add some jazz pieces? Sure! the more the merrier. Hopefully nothing gets replaced though.
3: Ed’s Bye Bye: Something that has given me some pause is that no casting has been announced for Ed… This thing is already well into shooting so I’m concerned that the character is going to be omitted entirely!
Some fans of the show have expressed being indifferent to Ed; her coming on board had some quirky comedy with a capsule episode here and there, but overall might not fit with the creator’s vision this time around.
I feel that’s a big mistake.
Though Ed appears as a textbook side-character throughout her stay on the Bebop the punch in her goodbye earned her her seat; in fact, it’s the three minutes of her goodbye scene that sum up the series in its entirety.
Ed is the only member of the Bebop crew who seems to live entirely in the present and its bliss. She is not complicated. When the moment comes for her to take off there is no hesitation. It’s time to move on and she is okay with this.
Jet looks out to call everyone to dinner to find no one is around. When he finally sits with Spike to eat the eggs (of which there are four plates and even some for Ein) the pair eat in silence and quickly. They consume as fast as they can because they don’t know how to “digest” their feelings. They realized too late that the happiness that had snuck up on them was now gone and they never embraced or appreciated it. Meanwhile, elsewhere, Faye lays in the trace of her bed mourning a home she can never go back to.
The series tells a powerful message of the importance of letting go of that which you cannot control. Like Ed’s presence with them time is fleeting and, if we aren’t paying attention, we can be missing out on happiness happening in this very moment.
For this scene alone from Episode 24 of the original I hope Ed does in fact get cast and show up aboard the Bebop to recreate this iconic moment in anime history. F***it throw the Seatbelts song in there too for good measure!
4: Farewell (?) Space Cowboy: The ending. Of course. So rare is it to find something that ends their story well. No offense to any story-teller! Sometimes a story so special has a hard time sticking the landing after flying so high. Cowboy Bebop however faces the challenge and sticks it like Spike in the Swordfish. Bang.
The last scene we as the audience get with Faye, Spike, and Jet together is a simple one. Spike and Jet share a laugh choosing, in their typical way, to not get into the emotions of it all. Faye on the other hand, knowing what Spike is about to go do, can’t contain herself. She has realized that there is no getting the past back; there is only forward and, for what it’s worth, her behavior suggests that she may have found something like happiness with these goons. She wants him to stay and let it go like she now understands. Yet Spike is already gone… Out of the ship he goes leaving her to fire her gun in despair while afar Jet cleans.
They end as they started; Faye continues to search for her place, Jet tends to a lonely Bebop, and Spike is dead… or is he?
As Spike collapses on the steps, and the visual pans out for the credits, we have to acknowledge that there is no confirmation if he indeed died or is alive!
I hope that the live-action miniseries chooses to leave the ending exactly the same. I believe art is best when it doesn’t tell its audience how to think or feel. In my personal experience with the series I have chosen to believe that Spike died that day. I think he knew what he was doing and made his past his definition. With Julia’s death what would he live for then?
I also like the poetic tragedy that Faye, this character who had been so (comedically) fickle through the series, realizes far too late that home was right there under her nose with these goons, a kid, and a dog. If Spike indeed died that day then fate would have it she would continue her endless search for her place.
On the other hand, maybe Spike just passed out and eventually made his way back wrapped in bandages to endure Faye’s teases once again.
It should be left for the audience to decide and I hope the Netflix creators go this route.
If you haven’t seen Cowboy Bebop yet you can stream the entire series right now on Hulu.