Nostalgia to the Rescue
Cowboy Bebop is one of life’s happy accidents. A gateway anime series, it first appeared in America on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim in 2001. Bebop’s eclectic crew, occupation hazards, wonderful jazz music, Old-West revenge motifs and Japanese martial philosophy create a potent science fiction adventure series.
Netflix has decided to exploit the popularity of Cowboy Bebop with a live-action release of the popular anime. As a writer of speculative fiction, Cowboy Bebop is one of my favorite stories of the near-future. The series shows humanity moving away from Earth into the solar system, bringing its best and worst features with them.
The series features the down-on-their-luck crew of the Bebop, cyborg, pilot and leader, Jet Black played by Mustafa Shakir, confidence woman, Faye Valentine played by Daniella Pineda and ice-cold, former syndicate killer, Spike Siegel portrayed by John Cho. This is a deceptively complex story which does something rarely seen in media today. It explains nothing, leaving the viewer to interpret every character’s motivation, themselves.
Hey, Where are the Villains?
Created by creator Shinichiro Watanabe, as part of the Sunrise Inc. Cowboy Bebop first appeared on TV Tokyo in 1998. Considered a bit over the top, even in Japan, the series would go on to great acclaim. This saga plays fast and lose with its strange characters, interplanetary crime syndicates, bounty hunting and questionable moral choices. It’s hard to remember this story has no heroes. The main protagonist, Spike Spiegel is an anti-hero living moment to moment, appearing to stumble through life without direction.
Netflix, trying to maintain streaming dominance has adapted this anime classic in a live-action series premiering on November 19, 2021. If they can incorporate the music of composer Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts, the noir-stylings and the pathos of the original series, they may tap into another vein of nostaligium, sure to make fans of the series jump for joy.
If Netflix does the series justice, we will get two seasons and get around to seeing the other members of the Bebop’s crew. Cyber-prodigy Edward, and data dog, Ein, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi stolen from a mission gone wrong, provide Internet tech support. Also missing from the pictures released are the main antagonist, Vicious, played by Alex Hassell and Elena Satine who plays Spike’s obsession and former love interest, Julia.
Vicious is everything Spike isn’t, focused, sociopathic, and ambitious as hell. Yet, the series indicates the two were, at one time, friends as they sought to become the sole leader of the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate. A final note: I’m happy to see Valentine’s wardrobe was modernized. Every anime’s costumes don’t translate in real life.
See you next time, space cowboy.
Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.