Reviews

Cowboy Bebop – spoiler free review

OK, 3 2 1, let’s review!

Bringing a beloved anime to life was never going to be an easy task. Recreating characters, locations, spaceships and storylines that have been adored by millions is a big challenge. On November the 19th this series in it’s entirety will be available to the world and I am hoping that fans of the original are going to appreciate the effort that has gone into it and that it will also find some new fans.

There will be NO SPOILERS in this review, I will be just sharing my thoughts about the actors, the storyline, the effects and everything that this show delivered. There was a lot!

The main characters:

John Cho as Spike Spiegel was superb. Charming, cocky with a hint of anti-hero. Spike is a huge cog in the Bebpop machine and Cho helped bring him to life. His fighting was intense, his line delivery was fantastic and it did’t take long for me to get invested in his storyline. Although Spike has a larger-than-life personality he does have some emotional scenes and Cho does a great job of knowing how to adjust his range as an actor.
I would have liked to see more axe kicks!

Mustafa Shakir as Jet Black was brilliant and I want his laugh and his beard! He gave a commanding performance as Black Dog and made the role his own. We saw many sides to the character, not just his tough bounty hunter mode. There were some changes to his story but they all worked well and to see some more depth to Jet was very enjoyable.

Daniella Pineda as Faye Valentine was explosive and enigmatic. Faye is a hilarious character but also has a lot to give and Pineda really made me want to learn more about her character’s story. For the first few episodes we don’t see a lot of Faye but I am glad that as the series develops we get to see more of her personality as she becomes a part of the team. Her sarcasm and humour shined through the screen.

Alex Hassel as Vicious was chilling. We got to see a lot of sides to this character and I didn’t really like any of them. That’s the sign of a good villain! Great fighting, evil dialogue and devilish stare that you could feel down your spine.

Elana Satine as Julia was just the right amount of elegance and mystique. There were a lot of great scenes with Julia but I preferred the more quiet moments where we really get to find out more about her past.

Ein. Ein has my whole heart. That is all!

As this is a spoiler free review I won’t be naming all the other characters that appeared just yet but they were all amazing. Seeing so many characters and villains come to life was a joy and only a few of them will pop up in my nightmares!

Story:

When I heard that there was only going to be ten episodes in this season ( I am hoping for more!) I wondered how much of the original series/movie would be featured. Each episode was packed with character development, flashbacks, foreshadowing action and emotion. Much like the anime, a lot of material goes into each episode/session.

It was very easy to enjoy all the episodes at once as I wanted to see what would happen next and who might appear to interact with the characters. There were a few cliffhanger moments and some changes from the original series that didn’t take me out of the moment. The anime’s original director, Shinichirō Watanabe, was a consultant on the series and his connection to the source material was clear. There are lots of references, lots of comparisons and lots of the original storylines. Among many other things, I was so happy to see some Big Shot broadcasts!

Cinematography:

Fast cuts, interesting angles, and insane stunts. Recreating fights from the anime was always going to be challenging but the cast and crew did so well. I have watched some of the anime back after watching this series and some scenes have been mirrored perfectly! Yes, some more of the elaborate sets/sequences/locations from the anime have been changed but the series still delivers beautiful sequences filled with action in every episode.

Soundtrack:

The music is a big part of the original series and this recreation had more of the same great sounds. Yokko Kanno composed the music for the anime/movie and I am so glad they got her to come back to work on this series. Jazz, western vibes and some of the original songs were used again. Only about one tenth of the music used in the show is from the original anime so I hope I new soundtrack is released!

Effects:

Space travel, futuristic buildings, apocalyptic wastelands and diabolical villains. Bringing certain elements of a anime to life is going to be tricky but the digital effects team (and there were a lot of them!) did a great job. The CGI was well produced and I loved all the scenes in space. When you combine all that with explosive scenes/stunts you are left with a series that is a workout for the eyes!

Seeing Bepop, Swordfish II and Redtail in HD was a special moment. I loved watching the ships in the anime but seeing them in this series was incredible!

Locations:

The show was filmed in New Zealand but it felt like I was visiting different planets with how the sets were designed. Dive bars, night clubs, casinos and spaceships. Brilliant CGI mixed with actual sets. I loved the locations in the original series and this show really brought that element to life and really helped with the escapism. The set decorator was Anneke Botha and I want my house to look just like Bebop’s interior!

Costumes:

Just like some of the limitations that differ between live-action and anime, changes were made to everyones costumes but they did all look amazing. I really want a blue suit even though I will never be as cool as Spike! Jane Holland was the costume designer for the series and did a heroic job of making sure that everyone looked the part. Some fans may not like some of the changes that took place with the costumes but for me it’s not the outfits that make me think of the show, it’s the storyline and the action that happens in every episode. Even though some of the main characters outfits might have been changed, the villains/criminals all looked incredible and I hope to see them at Comic-Cons in the future.

Overall:

I have been aware of the Cowboy Bebop fandom for quite some time but never found the time to watch it. I am glad that I decided to change that. When I found about this live-action remake I wanted to know more about the story, characters and that universe. I have watched the original sessions and movies and I have fallen in love with everything, just like many other fans from all over the world who continue to relive the adventures.

As I said, I am a new fan to this series and this new edition to the Cowboy Bebop universe was a brave move to say the least. Sometimes we don’t want out favourite comics/games/books to be remade, it doesn’t always work, we have seen this in the past. I personally feel that this adaptation DID work.

This retelling honoured the source material, brought characters to life in a new way and allowed us to see more of the world that Cowboy Bebop in an exciting way. Seeing the spaceships from the show fly across the skies was so exciting but the highlight for me was seeing these band of misfits come together like they did in the anime. I am hopeful for a sequel as there are a lot more adventures (and outlaws!) out there. Whatever happens, happens but for me this was a fantastic tribute to a show that means so much to so many.

Cowboy Bebop is available on Netflix from November the 19th.

Categories: Reviews

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