The Best One Netflix Has Made

A Review of Cowboy Bebop



A poster showing the show’s main characters

The Cowboy Bebop Netflix adaptation is easily the best adaptation of an animated show the streaming service has ever made. Netflix has made several live-action adaptations of animated shows, I was not surprised to see that they had made one for the classic 90s show Cowboy Bebop. Often when they do this Netflix creates movies, however this time they decided to create a full TV series. When they normally try to fit 40 20 minute long episodes into a two-hour movie it inevitably is forced to cut out most of the show. This results in the movie lacking critical aspects like building characters, world-building, and giving you a reason to care about what’s going on.  

Cowboy Bebop is a show about a team of future bounty hunters (Cowboys) Spike, a carefree ex-criminal on the run from Vicious, a top dog in the syndicate, a criminal empire spanning across the Solar system, and Jet Black, an ex-cop trying to do the best he can to be there for his daughter.  They are traveling around the solar system capturing bounties and dealing with the consequences of their past. The recent live-action Netflix adaptation loosely follows the plot of the original show. The Netflix show largely focuses on Spike and Jet and makes Faye’s story, which was equally important as the other two in the original more of a subplot. This decision at first seemed unnecessary and stupid as I watched the first episode. However, it was executed very well throughout the rest of the series. Many characters that weren’t developed well in the original are done justice here. The development is also done organically as a part of Spike’s ongoing story, as well as flashbacks to his past. The secondary characters are given a justifiable amount of screen time.  The only time we see them is when they are pushing the plot forward or their actions connect with Spike’s, or Jet’s story. 

Pushing Faye’s story off to the side also allowed the show to focus on creating depth in the characters of Julia and Vicious. Julia has no character development in the original. She was simply Spike’s badass girlfriend, who he was forced to abandon while escaping, and she is dating Viscous. However, in this show, they fully explore how Spike and Julia met, why they got together, and why she did not escape with him. While exploring these key plot details they also show her personality, and motivations rather than telling us about them through a third party. Vicious also is given this more in-depth character development. Rather than simply being Spike’s old friend, and mercenary partner, shown only through flashbacks throughout the show. In this version, the Vicious family adopts Spike. Vicious’ father favored Spike who was less impulsive, smarter, and more skilled than Vicious.  This turns into a rivalry between the two.  

Though it isn’t ever stated we see through his actions that Vicious is a sociopathic man who is overconfident in his abilities.  While Spike will kill without a second thought the entire plot is based on the fact that he feels bad about it. This creates a great dynamic between Spike as the protagonist and Vicious as the main antagonist. 

The cinematography was also done very well.  Scenes often take place across a whole building or ship. Large sets are used throughout the show. often when this is done it is easy to lose a sense of scale. while you know that the characters are in a house you can really tell the layout of the rooms in the house. this does not happen in cowboy bebop. the use of continuous and connecting shots allows you to get a sense of how they are moving. Exterior shots of windows allow the viewer to see through the walls and ceilings. This shows where people are in relation to others. They also use the foreground and background of the shots to show different things. Like someone may be fighting in the background while in the foreground a character is having a conversation. Which allows the scene to keep moving forward without a million cuts back and forth between the two.

My main complaint is that some episodes pad their runtime, so they can reach the hour mark.  It does this a few times at the beginning of the show and when it does it gets boring. It makes sense that this happens because the first few episodes are pretty much the same as episodes from the animated show. Episodes that were fast-paced and 20 minutes long become ones that are slow to start and do not get around to the exciting part until the middle or the end of the episode.

Overall, I would give this show a 7.5 out of 10. The plot was different enough from the original that it did become its own show, and it developed its characters better, however, the boring parts at the beginning of the show bring it down because they are unnecessary and superfluous.