The live-action Cowboy Bebop trailer shows that Netflix is keeping a core element from the anime that may be jarring to some, but which is crucial to the show staying loyal to the source material. Developed by André Nemec, Cowboy Bebop stars John Cho as Spike Spiegel, Daniella Pineda as Faye Valentine, Mustafa Shakir as Jet Black, Elena Satine as Julia, and Alex Hassell as Vicious. The live-action series is scheduled to premiere on Netflix on November 19, 2021.
Cowboy Bebop has a very specific tone. The original anime swings constantly between pulpy noir-inspired action, moments of serious drama, and wild, zany comedy. At times, those moods can switch in the blink of an eye, with one scene ending on a dark and somber note, and the next featuring some kind of absurdist humor. Overall, this strange balance is a big part of what gives the original Cowboy Bebop anime its charm, as it’s able to cover a range of moods and show its characters in many different kinds of situations in quick succession.
That kind of rapid-fire tone swapping can be a bit more jarring in live action than it is in the realm of animation, but the Cowboy Bebop trailer shows that Netflix is embracing it nonetheless. The trailer includes quick-cut scenes of Spike’s tragic backstory, complete with somber musical scoring, that then go straight back into the cooky action and comedy the Bebop crew is known for. It works well in the trailer, where editing is naturally fast and furious, but it will be interesting to see if the oscillating tonal atmosphere translates as well to the full show.
While Cowboy Bebop is Netflix’s latest live-action anime adaptation, those that have come before it have generally fallen drastically short of hopes, earning heavy criticism. Nailing the specific tone of anime in live action is hard, and failure to do so is a big reason why so many past adaptations have failed. The fact that the live-action Cowboy Bebop trailer hits the show’s quirky tonal shifts so well is a good sign that a major streaming service could finally be getting an anime adaptation right—final judgment will have to wait until all ten episodes release on November 19.
While the trailers show a good grasp of Cowboy Bebop’s sillier moments, they’ve also failed to reveal one of the zaniest parts of the original series: radical Edward. The final member of the Bebop crew is a 13-year-old computer hacker who creates some of the anime’s silliest and most absurd moments. However, Ed hasn’t appeared in Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop trailers, and some have theorized that the character won’t appear until the hypothetical season 2. Ed’s storylines will be another tonal challenge for the live-action series, but so far, Cowboy Bebop looks like it’s striking the balance between comedy and drama quite nicely.