Cowboy Bebop (2021): Season 1   Books Included 
November 23, 2021 6:29 PM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

Full-season and cross-media discussion for the live-action Cowboy Bebop series from Netflix. "Books Included" standing in for spoilers for the anime series and movie.
posted by curious nu (40 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Only two episodes in - I haven't fully formed an opinion yet but I don't hate it. Vicious isn't pretty enough. I really miss the Real Folk Blues during the end credits.
posted by jordemort at 7:00 PM on November 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Within the first few minutes of the first episode my feeling was ‘meh’. We did finish the episode, but I have no desire to give it another chance to draw me in.
posted by nickthetourist at 8:28 PM on November 23, 2021

I just finished it last night. I think the first couple of episodes are oddly paced, but then it finds its groove and becomes much more enjoyable. I never watched the anime until this year, so from my fresh-eyed perspective, I think it stands alone just fine on its own merits. And John Cho is excellent in this. I hope we get a season two, but with the very mixed reviews, not holding my breath.
posted by WedgedPiano at 8:32 PM on November 23, 2021 [5 favorites]

three scenes and opening credits in it seems fine to me. nice to see opening credits' trueness to form. oh, i think i might even recall this episode! seems to me the anime was a little oddly paced itself from time to time, part of the quirky moody appeal. ... a few scenes farther in, maybe a bit more than the required amount of exposition.
posted by 20 year lurk at 8:43 PM on November 23, 2021

I think if I’d never seen the source material, I’d find this show to be flawed and kinda cringy, but at least interesting. Great music, fresh take on the sci-fi space genre, bold if very cartoonish imagery. It’s certainly different. The showrunners had a weird, colorful vision and were fully committed to it.

But having seen the original, it’s really hard to like what they did with it. The writing is awful. They seemed to not really understand the characters. They turned the melancholy down and the buffoonery way up. The style is so exaggerated it feels like more of a cartoon than the original, which was an actual cartoon.

I initially thought the writers had made a good editorial decision by
[click for spoiler] swerving the plot right past Edward, who was always my least favorite part of the original. But then episode ten happened. Is it possible for your entire body to retract upon itself in a black hole singularity of cringe? That’s how I felt when Ed showed up. Ye gods, she’s ten times worse in live action form. It’s painful to watch.

I will say the character Gren was a great add—they (the actor’s non-binary according to Google) steal every scene they’re in. Ana also seems to fit pretty well in the CB universe. The SFX are generally well done. I was relieved they kept nearly all the original music, including Green Bird—I was worried they’d cut it for being too contrasting a flavor. That’s just about all the good things I can say about the series.

I’m glad Netflix is experimenting and taking risks. Even if they make only one great show for every nine flops, that’s better than making ten bland, forgettable shows that nobody bothers arguing about. I wish they’d skipped this particular experiment, but I guess I didn’t hate it enough to bail before the end, even if I didn’t much enjoy it.
posted by dephlogisticated at 9:06 PM on November 23, 2021 [3 favorites]

I just finished it last night. I think the first couple of episodes are oddly paced, but then it finds its groove and becomes much more enjoyable.

Co sign on this.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:50 PM on November 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

I watched it, and I enjoyed it, but I have some feeeeeelings:
- The editing is odd - the first few episodes really lack pace.
- The first episode is stilted because it's a slavish adaptation. The dialogue is clunky. Once they give themselves the freedom to actually adapt it works much better.
- The actors have worked really hard to sound like the English dub cast of the anime, and they're pretty good at it!
- John Cho is a delight. Also, John Cho with his shirt off is a delight.
- The buddy cop vibe is nice - they've done a better job making them all friends. The ongoing distant alienation of the anime wouldn't have worked in live action, I think. Especially without Ed as the emotional core of the ship.
- Spike's matrix fight scenes are pretty good.
- I'm glad they made a visible effort to diversify the cast, but making a character called Jet Black, black, and then making him an ex-con deadbeat dad is a whole set of uncomfortable choices. But Mustafa Shakir is great in the role.
- Great work adapting Gren for a modern audience. And Ana is a nice new character.
- Not sure how to feel about Vicious being such a whiny fuckboi. He's not scary at all, despite the ultra violence.
- Julia going full darkside means that if a season 2 comes through, they will depart more fully from the anime canon, which is probably a good thing.
- Despite the episodes being an hour long, the plots seem less developed then the half hour anime equivalents?
- The 30 seconds of Ed were appalling. Which bodes poorly for season two.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:18 PM on November 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

...and then making him an ex-con deadbeat dad is a whole set of uncomfortable choices. But Mustafa Shakir is great in the role.

I don't get that the character is being portrayed as a deadbeat dad, so much as a guy who got railroaded into prison, and is now doing his best to do right by his family (especially his daughter), but is being kept at arms length by his ex and her new hubby/boyfriend, who just happens to be the dirty cop that got him railroaded in the first place.

The downside is that his new profession necessarily makes it difficult to making regular appearances in his daughter's life, and he's definitely torn-up about it. But, I definitely don't see him as being a "deadbeat". That implies willfully ignoring his responsibilities, and that's just not there, as far as I can see.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:01 AM on November 24, 2021 [5 favorites]

Huge fan of the original anime since forever, and I liked this adaptation a lot.

This show is at its best when it's being its own irreverent funny thing, and not trying too hard to be a faithful adaptation of the anime.

I think episodes 2-8 are the strongest. The final two episodes were just not for me, and the first one isn't the best introduction to the rest of the show.

My general opinion is that this is a good & fun show and I'm looking forward to more. But the original is a masterpiece.
making a character called Jet Black, black
I think Jet has always been a Black character.
posted by moons in june at 10:36 AM on November 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

I'm a huge fan of the original Anime, and I knew going into this that it would be different. After seeing the whole thing I ... kinda liked it? I appreciate the attempts to flesh out some of the characters and that it wasn't just Spikes March to Destiny with a couple buddies tossed in.

I am very interested in Fay now, I like where they went with her arc and want to see more of her in center stage.

Vicious wasn't the scary bad ass that he was in the original, and I think his character suffers a bit because of it. But I really like how Julie turned at the end, and I want to see how she runs the Syndicate now.

One of the big complaints of the original was that it just ended, with no hope or expectation of more. They've left the door open for more stories, and I want to see where they take things once they get past the the original and explore new territory. I hope it's renewed for at least one more season.
posted by jazon at 10:43 AM on November 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

I loved the original anime and while the first episodes were a bit rough in the end I enjoyed this. Not the same but it's own thing and that's OK. Trying to adapt any anime to live-action is going to be tough and I think they could have done a lot worse. John Cho is great (the only issue I have is he doesn't have that smile of absolute joy when fighting someone). Jet was hard to get used to at first but I grew to appreciate him. Faye was about the same. She felt pretty nondescript at first but got better as time went on. I didn't love the portrayal of Ed at the end so that worries me a bit for season 2 if it happens but I'll give it a shot. All in all I liked what they did with it.
posted by downtohisturtles at 11:19 AM on November 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

Still got a few episodes to go, but I wish they'd done more of their own story. So far it treads too close to the anime, a story, that frankly, loses my interest along the way as it was. Some characters easier to track here, but when so much of it is re-hashed beats, it's just left kind of feeling pointless. Take this setting, characters, style, whatever, and do your own story with it. Bizarre to rewatch a cartoon as stylish live action for it to not really do enough differently.
posted by GoblinHoney at 1:45 PM on November 24, 2021

I think Jet has always been a Black character.

Hmm, I never read him as black in the anime; he was coloured as fairly light skinned. Beau BIllingslea, who voiced Jet in the English dub, said that he never considered Jet's ethnicity one way or another.

Ultimately, it's an exceedingly small niggle, and I think Shakir is great.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:44 PM on November 24, 2021

I haven’t watched the original in 20 years, so my memory of it is a little fuzzy, but I find myself liking this a lot more than I expected. The clips that everyone was sharing to laugh at (myself included) mostly work a lot better in context, though the Ed scene feels like something that works in the anime medium copy-pasted into a live-action medium where it doesn’t work so well.

Not everything works, but I really like the three leads, especially Mustafa Shakir (who seems like he’s making an effort to emulate Beau Billingslea’s vocal inflections from the original dub). Taking it as its own thing, I’m finding it pretty enjoyable and would be interested in watching a season 2.

The only stuff that consistently doesn’t work for me is the Vicious and Julia storyline. The way they execute it doesn’t have a lot of subtlety to it. Like, for one example, I think I would’ve preferred a scenario where the audience was given hints that Vicious was the child of one of the elders rather than the big spelling-it-out-in-block-letters approach that they take. The Syndicate stuff in particular feels like a lot of tell-don’t-show.

But I suppose since Vicious and Julia in the original anime are more ciphers/symbols/plot devices than actual characters, any attempt to make them into more than that is bound to feel a little weird, because fans of the original had the space to project whatever they wanted onto them.

My first thought when this came out was “who is this for and why are they making this when the original is right there and not even that old?” But it’s just different enough for me to mostly like it.
posted by Kosh at 4:07 AM on November 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

I watched the anime for the first time over the last couple of weeks and finally got around to watching the first two episodes of the live-action show today. So far it's been pretty good. I have the feeling that fans who watched the anime 20 years ago as younger people have a rosier view of it than is actually merited (Evangelion is like this too). Don't get me wrong it was a good series and I enjoyed it.

While watching the show I knew that Mustafa Shakir was in Cage but I couldn't figure out who. Then I googled him and saw him without makeup and Bushmaster immediately popped out. I'm only 2 episodes in so I'm not sure what's gained by giving Jet an ex-wife and daughter but maybe that'll come later.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:39 PM on November 25, 2021

I've never seen the anime, but I'm enjoying this. The first episode was too violent and didn't really capture me, but I gave the second one a try and and glad I did.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:28 PM on November 27, 2021

Look this seems like a perfectly fine show to me but I really just want to call out the review over on IMDB that gave this one star because of the “irritating random jazz type noise soundtrack”. Has kept me delighted for days.
posted by arha at 3:23 AM on November 28, 2021 [7 favorites]

I liked it! But Jet has always been a Black character. That casual Japanese form of anti-Black racism was in the original, too. In many ways I think they did a better job of humanizing Jet in this series, along with making Faye a complete person as well. (She was fantastic in this!) But there’s only so much one can do with the original material; this aspect of the show is problematic.

I’m also worried about the characterization of Ed. They were my favourite character in the original series, and maybe it’s that I watched the original subbed not dubbed (it was dubbed back in the days where anything animated was assumed to be a non-serious kid’s show, so the voices are all too cartoony, perhaps Ed in particular), but the tiny bit that we saw of Ed at the end of episode 10 was jarring. Given the not terrible characterization of the updated Gren (though not everyone agrees with that assessment), I was expecting them to do a good job with Ed. Hopefully they will in season 2, when they have more than five minutes of the character on screen. The teaser that was released early was also more cartoonishly slapstick than the actual show has been. It does look like the show will be portraying Ed as neurodivergent, and that overall the show has been putting enough work and detail into the main characters that they may well do a reasonable job with Ed as well in season 2

And in other quibbles, yeah, Vicious was not as scary as he should have been, and his back story didn’t show him earning his nickname or having the fighting skills to rival Spike. Julia’s motives were also not well-developed. But I was worried that they were going to have to end this show after the church fight scene, since that was so final in the original series. So they had to change the plot somehow in order to make this version ongoing. And Julia’s choices did make sense (it’s why she originally got involved with Vicious and Spike that isn’t developed), and I’m glad the show didn’t just fridge her. This ending leaves room for some interesting personal growth for our main characters. Particularly Spike, obviously, who will need to learn to let himself care more deeply about his found family so that Julia isn’t his only emotional tether.

I felt that the live action show captured the feel and mood of the original quite well, overall. That was what I was largely worried about based on the teaser clip. Some of Jet’s exposition clued viewers in (without hitting you over the head with it) to the degree to which the soundtrack choices were deliberate, with the musical metaphors and parallels with the story/plot points having been carefully thought out. That was one of the visionary aspects of the original series, that they also did a great job with in this show. (Admittedly, it helps that I’m a little bit more knowledgeable at this point in my life and able to notice such details better, though I’m sure there’s still a lot that I’m missing, or only noticing on the subconscious emotional response level.)

Side note: Annie is a character in the original series, she just owns a store instead of a bar.
posted by eviemath at 8:11 AM on November 28, 2021

I didn't remember the character names so I didn't even realize who Annie and Gren's counterparts were in the original series until now.
posted by RobotHero at 9:00 PM on November 28, 2021

Is Ed is being played by someone who is actually gender- and/or neurodiverse? Otherwise... I will be as irked as the rest of you seem to be.

+1 to making Faye a complete person! My favourite thing so far.

I find live action violence much more difficult to sit through than the animated version, had to keep reminding myself "this is Noir, what did you expect?".
posted by Coaticass at 12:14 AM on November 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

Is Ed is being played by someone who is actually gender- and/or neurodiverse?

Dw i got you
posted by ominous_paws at 3:50 PM on November 29, 2021 [2 favorites]

Having finished the series now I liked it. I'm hoping that with the whole Vicious and Julia situation being resolved it doesn't need to be continued because I found it to be the weakest part of the series. In the anime it worked as an ending and maybe for the series it can be the point where it stops trying to copy the anime so much and go out and do its own thing.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:59 AM on December 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

I started watching both the live action and the anime show for the first time. I'm a few episodes in now, and I have to say I love this show. The visuals, the jazzy background music, the characters, everything. Especially the jazz music. I much prefer the live-action show to the anime watching both for the first time side-by-side, but I have no nostalgia for the original. I had heard the name Cowboy Bebop before, but I didn't even know it was sci-fi until I saw the Netflix previews for the new show.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:19 AM on December 3, 2021

Is it just me or did the Evil AI Mainframe at the end of Binary Two-Step look *suspiciously* like WOPR from War Games?
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 7:38 AM on December 3, 2021

It had the same password / launchcode as war games apparently!
posted by ominous_paws at 10:27 AM on December 8, 2021

Aaand.... it's cancelled
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:19 PM on December 9, 2021


I’ve been re-watching the original. It had been a few years. I am noticing that (a) contrary to my previous comment, I think Jet isn’t actually supposed to be Black? Because there are characters who are quite clearly Black, and they are almost exaggerated (which, uh, supports basically everything else I said previously about the original show’s take on Black people, unfortunately; it just doesn’t also apply to Jet), and Jet does not look like them. And (b) the misogyny and occasional homophobia are definitely more cringey than I remembered. The live action version was a much-needed update that did in fact keep the main strengths and defining features of the original. Sigh.
posted by eviemath at 7:45 PM on December 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

As I mentioned above, I am watching the original for the first time side by side with the new show. The anime is okay, I guess. Excellent animation certainly. But dated, sexist, and so much cringe.

Not happy at all that Netflix cancelled the new show.

I enjoyed Daniella Pinada’s take on fanboys whining about Faye’s clothes in the live action show.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:14 AM on December 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

I finished the season the night before its cancellation. I'd say the comparison to the Hollywood live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell is apt- but also I was reminded of criticisms of Zach Snyder's Watchmen being an adaptation that simultaneously painstakingly tries to express its love for the source material by bending backwards to replicate each frame by frame, while tonally completely misunderstanding the original work.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:23 AM on December 10, 2021

There's kind of interesting forces at play here. On one side you have the fans who are guaranteed to complain no matter what you do because they watched the original at a formative time and their memories have made it out to be much better than what it actually was. As long as the show isn't total crap, and maybe even if it is, they'll eventually come around and while it may never be as good as what they remembered the original to be they will still loyally watch to the bitter end, even if only to complain about how it isn't good enough. I think its a bit of a trap trying to satisfy the real fans because they'll never really be happy and there really aren't that many of them anyway. Tens of millions of people have watched the Guardians of the Galaxy films and I would be surprised if a million people total have ever read a Guardians of the Galaxy comic book so really who cares what they think?

On the other side you have Netflix who have lots of money to spend but really only seem to be interested in shows that are a sensation from the start and don't seem to want to give shows a season to work out its kinks. They also seem like they don't want to waste anyone's time, which is good because no one is left hanging waiting for them to decide what to do, so when they decide a show doesn't meet whatever metrics they're looking for they immediately let the world know it won't be renewed, which to my mind would mean that new viewers are less likely to watch it because they know there'll never be a season 2 so justifies the cancellation but also prevents the kind of grassroots audience building that could result in the numbers eventually justifying a second season which was part of the initial appeal of these streaming services with that whole "long tail" idea.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:40 PM on December 10, 2021 [3 favorites]

Simple answer to all of this is the show is probably expensive as heck to produce, even if it looks at times like a SyFy production. In fact, there were a few shots that made it look like a Doctor Who episode to me, though that might've just been poor cinematography that made it look cheap than actual production values. And John Cho probably commends a hefty salary.

Tens of millions of people have watched the Guardians of the Galaxy films and I would be surprised if a million people total have ever read a Guardians of the Galaxy comic book so really who cares what they think?

Not the best comparison in that Cowboy Bebop is often regarded as one of the best anime, in a crossover sense- it's usually recommended as "if you're going to watch one anime series, watch this." The anime for people who don't usually watch anime. Now there are others in that category- Miyazaki films, Avatar: the Last Airbender, etc., but Bebop is usually in the top five.
posted by Apocryphon at 2:26 PM on December 10, 2021

> it's usually recommended as "if you're going to watch one anime series, watch this."

Still? I'm new to enjoying anime -- just the past year or two -- and nobody has recommended it to me. It hasn't aged well.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:47 PM on December 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

If you’re going to watch one Watanabe anime series, watch Samurai Champloo.
posted by eviemath at 6:25 PM on December 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

There's kind of interesting forces at play here.

No there aren't. It was just a bad show. It was not possible for this to be anything other than what it turned out to be: mediocre garbage. It had all the problems everyone predicted it would, which is why it shouldn't have been done in the first place.

Live action anime adaptations are like a child repeatedly putting their hand on a hot stove.

It hasn't aged well.

It has, you're hanging out with the wrong anime crowd. Have you actually watched it yourself?
posted by star gentle uterus at 11:55 PM on December 10, 2021

An interesting critique from illustrator and comic artist Jen Bartel in this Twitter thread. "the main issue was... that it recreated a piece of media with defined political statements and removed every. last. one." Which she then unpacks at length.
posted by Coaticass at 12:54 AM on December 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

There are parts of Bebop (original) that are epic and transcendental. There's also extremely problematic sections that absolutely haven't aged at all well.
posted by Jacen at 10:41 AM on December 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

Eh, Bartel makes some good observations about some of the class dynamics in the original Bebop, but I don't think is being entirely fair to the new series.
posted by eviemath at 4:13 PM on December 26, 2021

Well, I freaking loved it.

Loved the characters, loved the sets, loved the music. Since the series was shot in Auckland, spotting the New Zealand actors was fun. Apparently Season 2 was in serious doubt even before it was released due to production problems like John Cho tearing his ACL and covid lockdowns, so I'm not really surprised it got cut like the Dark Crystal.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 1:26 AM on December 28, 2021 [3 favorites]

I just finished it last night and enjoyed it a lot. Shame it hasn't been renewed. The principal characters are great, but so are the bit parts. I never watched the original, so I have nothing to compare it to.
posted by adamrice at 1:49 PM on January 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

I finally had a chance to watch this. I loved the original anime, and I loved this take on the characters and story. Some things didn't work as well: the best moments of the original anime were transcendent in a way that this version never quite managed. (Pierrot le Fou is the clear example; this version was fine, but the original was spine-chilling.) Some things worked better: I never felt I had to cringe my way through the casual racism, sexism, and homophobia in order to keep enjoying it. I loved the way they handled Faye, and especially Faye and Spike's relationship as them falling naturally into a squabbling-siblings dynamic. My wife isn't a particular fan of the anime, and she enjoyed this version. (Topless John Cho definitely helped there, I think.)

I had been deliberately avoiding news about the show, so I'd managed to miss both that this was being written as the first of multiple seasons, and that the second season had already been canceled. Once I realized that it had been written with the intention of telling more story, a lot of the less-well-fleshed-out storylines made a lot more sense. Still, the Vicious/Julia storyline was definitely the weak part of the show. Julia in particular needed either better writing or better acting to work well. I appreciated her increased agency and the nascent ruthlessness in her attempt to recruit Mao to kill Vicious, but the heel turn at the end was too abrupt to be believable.

I'm really disappointed there won't be a second season to finish the story. I feel like a lot of people were determined to hate this before it even came out, so it was kind of doomed to underperform. I kind of hope there will be enough of a long-tail on appreciation for this version that in a couple of years someone other than Netflix will be willing to pick it up, but that's always a long shot.
posted by biogeo at 10:50 AM on April 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

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