Shinichiro Watanabe, Creator of Cowboy Bebop, Shares Thoughts on Live-Action Adaptation

Spike Spiegel sits on a couch in his spaceship, facing away from the camera.

Unsurprisingly, watching Netflix’s ill-fated live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop was a challenging experience for Shinichiro Watanabe, the creator of the original anime. Known for crafting one of the coolest anime series of all time, Cowboy Bebop’s enduring popularity is a testament to its greatness. Unfortunately, the live-action adaptation failed to captivate audiences, and Watanabe was far from enthralled by it.

During an interview discussing his extensive career, Forbes asked Watanabe for his thoughts on the Netflix version featuring John Cho, Daniella Pineda, and Mustafa Shakir. Watanabe’s response was direct: “For the new Netflix live-action adaptation, they sent me a video to review and check. It started with a scene in a casino, which made it very tough for me to continue. I stopped there and so only saw that opening scene. It was clearly not Cowboy Bebop and I realized at that point that if I wasn’t involved, it would not be Cowboy Bebop. I felt that maybe I should have done this. Although the value of the original anime is somehow far higher now.”

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While Watanabe doesn’t necessarily have an issue with casinos (as they appear in the anime), it’s clear that he prefers a different approach for the show’s beginning rather than a generic action sequence. The anime kicks off with a compelling flashback of Spike walking through the rain to meet his lover Julia and rival Vicious, setting a cool and captivating tone.

Ultimately, Watanabe’s deeper dissatisfaction with the live-action adaptation stems from its failure to capture the essence of coolness that defined Cowboy Bebop. Despite faithfully replicating the visual style and stories from the anime, the live-action version fell short in evoking that same coolness. It lacked the inherent coolness that the original anime exuded right from its first animation cel.

Cowboy Bebop remake: please Netflix, keep the anime classic wild and raw |  Television | The Guardian

Given these factors, it’s understandable that Watanabe chose to assess the show, recognize its deviation from his vision of Cowboy Bebop, and spare himself from watching the rest. For those interested, I recommend reading the Forbes interview, as it provides a fascinating and candid account of Watanabe’s anime career, including his experiences working with less-than-stellar individuals in America.

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