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Netflix's Cowboy Bebop Wants to 'Live in the Spirit' of the Original Anime

John Cho stars in the live-action adaptation of Shinichirō Watanabe's popular anime.

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Spike (John Cho) faces away from the camera aboard the Bebop in this scene from Netflix's Cowboy Bebop.
John Cho as Spike aboard the Bebop in Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop.
Photo: Netflix

The scariest words any anime fan can hear are “live-action adaptation.” Popular anime series and films work because of the medium—animation allows for things that are impossible to capture in real life. And Japanese animation in particular has a style and vibe that’s wholly unique and damn near impossible to recreate. So for anyone attempting to take a popular anime and turn it into live-action, there’s gonna be a lot of explaining to do.

In a new interview with Polygon, André Nemec, the showrunner of Netflix’s adaptation of Shinichirō Watanabe’s anime series Cowboy Bebop, does just that. “We would look at sets, we would look at props, we would look at costumes, we would look at the edits, we would talk about all of these things, not to ape the anime,” Nemec said, “but to live in the spirit of the anime.”


While the show will tell the familiar story of a team of bounty hunters traveling across the galaxy, it’s not a literal one-to-one adaptation. These are the characters fans know and love, in stories they may or may not recognize but should feel like they’re from the world of the show. Case in point, the music by Yoko Kanno. Her music is right at the top of the list of what most fans love about the original Cowboy Bebop show. And Kanno is back for this version of the show, but she won’t just be redoing music from the anime. “Yoko’s involvement in this show to me was paramount to almost everything else,” Nemec said.

In how Nemec describes Kanno’s approach to the music of this version of Cowboy Bebop, you get a strong sense of the overall adaptation itself. “Anybody who loves the music from Cowboy Bebop is going to love beyond what Yoko has done for us on this show,” the showrunner said. “It is really sensational. I will hear music pieces come in, we will talk about character and theme, and then when I get those pieces there have been more times than I can remember that I hear something and I’m like… a smile comes to my face.”


There’s much, much more in the interview at Polygon, including details on casting, costumes, the design of the Bebop, and more, so we urge you to check out the full thing. Also, Netflix dropped this video which runs through the major roles cast, with one character in particular mentioned but oddly glossed over: the team’s flashy hacker Ed.

“Ed—everybody wants to know about Ed!” Nemec said when asked about the character. “People will be ... very delighted when they watch the season.”

Season one of Cowboy Bebop starring John Cho (Star Trek), Mustafa Shakir (Luke Cage), and Daniella Pineda (Jurassic World: Dominion) drops on Netflix November 19.

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