Disclaimer, as I write this I am listening to the OP song, Smile Bomb; it just felt correct.
As many anime fans have heard, Netflix has announced their intention to create a live action series based on the anime classic, Yu Yu Hakusho.
Now, personally, this is one of my FAVORITE animes from back in the day. The gritty anime style of the early 90’s, the addicting sound effects, adult jokes, use of color, incredible action sequences, and the show’s dedication to its characters.
For those that have never heard of it, the show (initially) is about a teenage boy, Yusuke Urameshi, a lover of fighting who dies saving a little girl from getting hit by a car. He floats in our world accompanied by Botan (called the Grim Reapear in the english dub), as he seeks to earn his second chance at life. From there he makes a squad(?) of other spirit powered badasses as they undergo new adventures and battles. It’s fantastic.
Now, I can understand why devoted fans of the original have anxiety and some saltiness toward the announcement. Yes, the Death Note movie was garbage. Yes, we know. To be fair however, the biggest error in that was the intention to make it a film instead of a live action series. It really was dead on arrival. I would like to believe the popular streaming service (which has made a claim to fame within the realm of the anime genre) has learned a thing or two since moving forward with other adaptation projects.
The biggest test here will be what they deliver with the live action interpretation of Cowboy Bebop. Off the bat, we know that the show will be ten hour-long episodes instead of the twenty-six episode format like the original. The show also, based off its casting, is taking some liberties with plot pieces and supporting characters. Do I have my hesitations? Yes! We have to remember though that anime to live-action should be considered something like book to film; it can’t and shouldn’t seek to immitate. It requires the space in order to make the adjustments needed to fit the new medium while still honoring the source material.
These live action versions, as long as they truly honor and recognize the stuff that made these properties great in the first place, will be alright. We should also note that regardless of how the live action version performs, it does NOT cheapen or tarnish the legacy of the original. If anything, the silver lining may be that the series performs terrible but isnpires viewers to check out the original! I call that a win.
Lastly, I want to touch on something that Cowboy Bebop HAS done brilliantly; it has given its three lead roles to minority actors. This is an industry where we are seeing the pushes for more representation across the board. We know the pushback that often comes with gender swapping, ethnicity bending, and race swapping characters; it’s a pain in the ass. Yet, these anime adaptations can serve as an excellent platform to propel people of color and give them really unique, nuanced, contradicting, heroic, and villanous roles without falling into tokenism or stereotypes. I’m excited and rooting for the cast of Cowboy Bebop and I am hoping when it comes time For Yu Yu Hakusho casting, they will go the same route.