It’s time to get everybody and the stuff together: the legendary anime Cowboy Bebop is getting a live action television adaptation set to be produced by Tomorrow Studios. Sunset, the studio that produced the original animated series, will executive produce. Before we talk about whether or not this is a good idea, let’s examine what we know. The answer is: not much.
Cowboy Bebop originally began airing on Tokyo TV back in the far-off year of 1997. The 26-episode show follows the story of Spike Spiegel, a bounty hunter (cowboy), and his partner Jet Black on the ship Bebop. A blend of anime sensibility, jazz music, cyberpunk, and old west tropes helped make Cowboy Bebop stand out from the crowd of anime in a way very few series ever have. While many shows have aged poorly, Cowboy Bebop has stood the test of time so far. It’s easy to see why a production company trying to mine Japanese properties would hook onto this show.
The biggest question is, where we’ll be able to watch this adaptation? That’s a big, huge question mark right now. Tomorrow Studios, a partnership between ITV Studios and Marty Adelstein (Teen Wolf, Prison Break) hasn’t announced a destination network for the show. ITV is a British studio, but Adelstein’s credits are entirely American.
The first thought that pops to mind is, of course, Netflix. I’m genuinely shocked that the streaming giant’s name didn’t pop up anywhere in the news of this adaptation. The company is knee-deep in nerd right now with a swath of superhero shows and animated content like Voltron Legendary Defender and full-on anime like BLAME!. They also have adaptations of The Witcher novels and the Castlevania games on the way. An anime adaptation would perfectly into that space.
One thing we often see is that a show will air on a network in one country and then steam in another. Starz’ American Gods is an Amazon exclusive across the pond, and one of Netflix’s very first productions, Lilyhammer, started life as a Norwegian television production. ITV’s involvement suggests we could see something like that.
And then there’s the writer, Christopher Yost. He wrote Thor: Ragnarok and is working on Silver & Black, the Silver Sable/Black Cat Spider-Man spin-off. But he also worked on Thor: The Dark World, easily the lowest-rated of the modern Marvel movies. But he’s experienced with this sort of material, having written for animated productions of just about every character in the Marvel universe in addition to being responsible for the X-Men character X-23 and a boatload of X-Men comic books. His involvement is, as of now, a wildcard.
There is not currently any kind of release time frame for this, so this could come any time between late 2018 and 2071, when Cowboy Bebop will hopefully just be called “reality.”
Yeah, I’m worried too
A resounding, all-caps “NOPE” echoed around the internet at word of this announcement. Anime and manga rarely make the jump to live-action very well, and the jump to a Western production doesn’t go any better. 2014’s Tom Cruise vehicle Edge of Tomorrow/Live Die Repeat is one of the few exceptions, and that held onto barely any of its Japanese heritage in the process.
With that said, now is a great time to try such an adaptation. Television productions have more access to great effects than ever before, with shows like Supergirl and Flash proving that CGI on television can actually look good. If Cowboy Bebop has to come to television, I’m glad they waited until now to try it. I don’t think it’ll be good, but it has a better chance at it now than ever before. The show also has much less of the weird racial, cultural, and technological spaces to navigate when compared to the recent bombing of Ghost in the Shell. It’s a Japanese production, but it’s such an eclectic mix of ideas and sensibilities that it’s much less likely to run into those same pitfalls.
And plus, I can always go back and re-watch the original and forget the adaptation ever existed.