The First Teaser for Cowboy Bebop Live Action Just Dropped and it Looks… Well, Pretty Bad
I expected nothing, and yet I'm still disappointed. Wait, no - that's not totally genuine. I expected quite a bit. Cowboy Bebop has long been considered one of the best anime of all time, and many of Netflix's recent originals have been outstanding. You would think
I expected nothing, and yet I’m still disappointed.
Wait, no – that’s not totally genuine. I expected quite a bit. Cowboy Bebop has long been considered one of the best anime of all time, and many of Netflix’s recent originals have been outstanding. You would think Netflix would know to give a fan-favorite like Cowboy Bebop the absolute white-glove treatment. Get it right.
What I mean to say is that after so many live-action anime atrocities like Ghost in the Shell (I’m not even going to list the others, you know them well if you’re reading this article) – well, I’ve learned not to get my hopes up. For a moment there though I was excited when I heard they brought in Shinichirō Watanabe, the original director of Cowboy Bebop, as a creative consultant.
But after seeing this teaser, my small flickering flame of hope has finally been snuffed.
Cowboy Bebop: The Lost Session Teaser is All Style, No Mood
First, let’s start on a positive note: the camera work was gorgeous, and really nailed the difficult-to-shoot anime style. The personality of the characters was evident – in particular, Mustafa Shakir’s delivery of Jet Black was astounding. The short sequence was also filled with style…
…but wow, was that style tacky. It seems like they were shooting for a Tarantino stylization, but between the paper-thin CG backdrops, cardboard props, recoilless gunfire, and Marvel-style cheeky (read: soulless) one-liners, the teaser falls totally flat. It honestly felt like I was watching a low-budget indie short.
But perhaps most importantly: any semblance of the moody, melancholic, and serious tone of the original series was lost.
To me, the humor in the original Cowboy Bebop was a convenient way to lighten the mood after dealing with heavy subjects like terrorist attacks, drug addiction, and the death of loved ones. It also injected a wonderful personality into the series – but that humor was never the point. At its core, Cowboy Bebop was always a futuristic drama-noir dealing with themes of existential crises, morality, and loneliness – not a comedy-action comic book ripoff.
For example, in the first episode of the original series, we learn after a woman’s pregnant woman’s stomach gets shot that it is actually just a drug mule satchel – and soon after that, she blows her lover’s brains out just before being torn to pieces herself by a hail of low-orbit gunfire.
That poignant scene is a far cry away from the irreverent “Hey nut buckets, there’s no payout if you shoot him in the face!” we hear from Faye towards the end of this teaser.
Now, you might say, “But it’s just a teaser!” – and you’re totally right. Perhaps I’m reading into it too much. There is definitely still a chance this teaser isn’t a great representation of the rest of the series… but that would be surprising. After all, it’s supposed to tease us, no? When musical artists put out singles to build hype for their album, they usually choose one of the best tracks. Similarly, why tease content that’s not in the actual series? It seems clear to me that the creative direction here is very poor – unsurprising considering the live action’s developer, André Nemec, also helped write the heinous Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2014 flop.
Judging from the approving comments I’ve seen in the comments section of the teaser on Youtube – a load of you are going to disagree with me. And let me be the first to say – I hope I’m wrong too. We’ll just have to wait and see – the trailer drops next week and the live-action Cowboy Bebop series is set to debut November 19th on Netflix.
Why Do They Keep Getting Live-Action Anime Reboots Wrong?
I think what we’re dealing with here is the same core reason why so many other anime adaptations failed. The showrunners fundamentally view the source material like they would a western cartoon – a show for kids and teens. They don’t take the source material seriously – or they don’t understand it – and the end result is always the same: a hollow shell lacking all semblance of the very substance that made that anime so beloved to begin with.
Now, not all live-action anime is bad. The Matrix is a fantastic example of how live-action anime can be done right. Shot-for-shot, The Matrix closely parallels Ghost in the Shell – so close in fact rumor has it they asked Mamoru Oshii for permission to make the movie. Of course, the story is different, so it’s not really a remake, but still – it is possible to make a good live-action anime movie.
Cowboy Bebop – Official Teaser Video “Lost Session”