In the ever-darkening winter days, we all need a little brightness in our lives – or at the very least on our screens. Queue the genre you never knew you needed; noir cyberpunk space drama. Oh, and did we forget to mention that it’s a Western? Step aside Westworld, there’s a new sheriff in town.
Adapted from the astronomically popular anime series of the same name, it’s fair to say that the Netflix adaptation has some pretty big boots to fill – we’ll spare you another Western joke. Plus, the transition from anime to live action is rarely a smooth one, so we predict a few bumps in the road to the milky way.
But, the premise is brilliant, made even brilliant-er by its cartoon origins, which permit the imagination to take the reins. In case you aren’t already in the Cowboy cult, the series is set in what The Guardian’s Graeme Virtue calls “a vibrant but messy sci-fi future, precariously built on top of the technological and pop-culture clutter of now”, full of “poppy colours and energetic action” to evoke an “enjoyable feeling of anything goes delirium”. Sound intriguing? We thought so.
The show is, quite literally, out of this world, set on a new planet, but with a status quo which is eerily reminiscent of the old one. There are baddies a-plenty, and it’s our protagonists’ job to chase them down, for a price. They are bounty hunters after all.
What follows is a psychedelic cat and mouse pursuit across the cosmos. It’s the kind of TV that was destined to unblock that stuffy November nose, but critics are unsure if a live action update was necessary in the first place. Roxana Hadidi, writer for The Vulture is one of them, arguing that “while Cowboy Bebop gains visual thrill in this live-action version,” the series has the same “mid-season bloat, liminal dialogue, and sexless sex scenes”, maybe to be expected with a churned-out Netflix series.
Likewise, The New York Times’ Mike Hale thinks that the remake loses “the appeal of the anime”, stating “in its resolute ordinariness, the main value of this new “Bebop” would be to drive you back to watch the old one.” So, whilst the remake is unlikely to go down in history, it sure is nice to be back in the Bebop universe.
First shown November 2021.