It’s official: Netflix has announced that they’re making a live-action version of Cowboy Bebop, one of the most beloved animé series of all time. Folks have been trying to make a live-action Cowboy Bebop for years now — Keanu Reeves was behind one such effort — but given Netflix’s investments in animé, this one seems a bit more likely to actually happen.
And to be perfectly honest, I can’t bring myself to care one way or the other. I really enjoyed Cowboy Bebop, and its blend of sci-fi, action, melodrama, kick-ass music, and quirky-yet-flawed protagonists deserves every bit of acclaim that it’s received since it first aired in 1998. As such, I suppose that I should either be up in arms that Netflix could potentially mistreat the show’s legacy or really excited to see a new spin on a cult classic.
And yet, regardless of whether Netflix’s series (which I’m sure I’ll check out if/when it’s released) is good or bad, I just don’t really care. Maybe I’m tired of the unceasing internet-fueled fan culture that rips people a new one for daring to tamper with a beloved original while simultaneously going crazy for any news or rumors. But I think it’s more likely that, to my mind, Cowboy Bebop is basically unassailable, and has been for 20 years.
If Netflix’s remake is good — and I hope that it will be — there’s no way that it’ll outshine or replace Sunrise’s original work. Similarly, if Netflix’s remake turns out to be bad, Cowboy Bebop’s legacy and reputation — and extreme coolness — are animé canon by now, and will easily remain untarnished even as a lackluster remake fades from memory.
For a similar case, consider Hiroyuki Okiura’s Jin-Roh, which was recently remade as a live-action film titled Illang: The Wolf Brigade. Directed by Kim Ji-woon, Illang is a total snoozefest that, despite boasting some impressive action scenes and production values, fails to deliver on any dramatic or emotional level. What’s more, it tacks on a happy ending of sorts that completely misses the point of Jin-Roh’s original story. But the misguided Illang does nothing to Jin-Roh’s status at all, and I’ll still handily recommend Jin-Roh to those looking for an example of serious, mature animé.
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I've also written for Christ and Pop Culture, ScreenAnarchy, Filmwell, and Christian Research Journal. I pay the bills by creating beautiful user interfaces and websites for Firespring and Red Bicycle.