10 things that should be in the live-action Cowboy Bebop

Contributed by
Jun 8, 2017

Well, it's happening. After years of half fits and starts, there's almost certainly going to actually and for really real be a live-action adaptation of the seminal anime Cowboy Bebop.

And adaptation gonna adapt: There's just no way everything will make the transition from one medium to the next. And that's okay. In some cases that can even be good. Take it from someone who worked in a Suncoast Motion Picture Company and bought the discs as they were released in America for the first time: Not everything from the original needs to stick around.

But, man, there are some things that really, really, I mean REALLY should more or less remain intact. Here are 10 important (and maybe some not-so-important, but I want 'em anyway) things that should stay the change as Cowboy Bebop hyperjumps from animated to, like, real actors and whatnot.

Don't reveal everything

There were only 26 episodes of the original Cowboy Bebop, and most of those were stand-alone stories. That's good, buddy. Don't go changing it. In as much as I love that Spike, Jet, Faye, Ed and even Ein have complicated backstories, one of the best things about the original show is that it didn't tell you EVERYTHING.

You don't need to know every day what leads each of our bounty hunting heroes to the bridge of the Bebop. Unnecessary! We know that Spike has a killer past (literally), but the original writers left a lot of that stuff to the viewer's imagination.

Why did Spike really join the Syndicate? Man, who the @#$! cares?! I don't need the adventures of young Spike Spiegel. I don't need a multi-episode arc all about Jet's life as a Ganymede beat cop. No one does. Don't prequelize, don't go full Lost. Let the characters live and breathe in the now for the most part. That is one of the top tier best things the cartoon got right. Don't mess with greatness, space cowboy.

Sense of humor

Cowboy Bebop is many things, but above all it knows when to cut its own tension with humor. Chasing bounties doesn't always have to be grim. I mean it could, but that would get really boring. Spike getting beat up, Faye constantly losing out on a good bet, Jet getting left int he dust, Ed ... being Ed. This is a wacky crew we've got right here. Let 'em smirk at the camera a little. Let 'em be the butt of a joke. Spike and Vicious got a great, dramatic thing going, but don't dedicate your whole live-action show to it.

Mix genres

Action, noir, psychedelia, western, horror; you name it, Cowboy Bebop has covered it. In fact, you could make a solid argument that the best thing about Cowboy Bebop is that you don't quite know what show you'll get episode to episode. The same folks that made this series took that even further when they made Space Dandy, a show where literally anything could happen.

I want to see full-on spaghetti westerns followed by dense, psychological horror, man! I want a creepy kid playing the harmonica one week and blacksploitation the next. Cowboy Bebop is nothing if it's not adaptable to every genre on the map. And a live-action adaptation ought to keep that in mind.

Blend of Eastern and Western cultures

Did you know that part of what made Cowboy Bebop so popular all over the world was because it seamlessly between western and eastern styles and aesthetics? If you look at other animated shows of the time, nothing looked like it in Japan or in the west. It looked like everything mashed up together and yet was almost completely original at the same time.

You know how you love Firefly because it's cowboys but also China? Cowboy Bebop is probably where Joss Whedon got that idea. And keeping those influences wide open also will yield a more diverse cast. Let me tell you, if Cowboy Bebop was all white or all Japanese, it would not be reflective of the story the original creators were trying to tell.

Original Flavor Bebop featured every walk of life and that made it great. No reason to change that. No good reason, anyway.

Ed's genderqueerness

I know, I know. It had to get "political" or whatever you crazy kids call "acknowledging the full spectrum of human gender and sexuality" these days. One of the things I really loved about Ed was that, even though I'm pretty sure Ed was at least assigned female at birth, Ed never really cops to it. Even Ed's dad says "My daughter, or ... was that my son?" before realizing it doesn't really matter.

You don't get a lot of genderqueer kids on television these days. Or ever, really. So it would be cool if Ed could keep on being Ed.

Ein!

It would be easy to dismiss a super genius dog in a live-action reboot. But, man, come on! Everybody loves dogs! What are ya, a some kind of dog-hating commie?! The dog's gotta stay. I know working with dogs is hard, but whatever. Ed needs a pal, seriously, only monsters don't love dogs.

Spike's hair

This, like the Ein thing, is maybe not super necessary, but there's just something so iconic about Spike's big mess of hair. I like it because it's both cool and silly at the same time. Sometimes his hair makes him look cool and dramatic, but other times it makes you laugh at him. I just don't know if Spike is Spike without that mop.

Ship design

I honestly have no idea how much a live-action show can play with giant space ships, but for however much they CAN show them, the individual ships are essential. Each one visually sums out what each character is all about. Also, they just ... look cool?

No 'Chosen One' narratives

There is a specific episode of the original Cowboy Bebop I love called "Cowboy Funk," and the reason I love it is because it spends the entire time making jokes about shows, movies and narratives that get too lost in their own lore and in establishing their characters as being the most specialest of specials. In "Cowboy Funk" Spike's bounty is a terrorist called The Teddy Bommer (don't look at me, that's how they spell it on the show). TB says everyone is afraid of Spike ... and Andy. Andy is a character we've never heard of before. He's an idiot billionaire who dresses like a cowboy and fights crimes. He's like a western Batman if Batman was a complete nimrod.

But what makes Andy great is that he mirrors a lot of who Spike is, but in a way that reminds us that Spike, for all his bluster and intensity, is just a guy with a silly haircut who keeps getting his friends into unnecessary trouble.

Teddy Bommer, too, is this character who's meant to evoke the complex backstory of a man who goes to extremes to change "the system," but he's cut off every time because no one cares about his self-centered narrative. I'll take that over supervillain speechifying any day. Keep that stuff, live-action Bebop!

The score

I mean ... you knew this was gonna top the list, didn't you? The characters, the stories, the style are all great ... and yet they play second fiddle to Yoko Kanno's breathtaking score. I'm not sure any animated show before or since has been more versatile or more well-constructed. Like the show itself, Kanno's score is infinitely adaptable. While much of it is jazz, it skirts its way around pop and funk and rock and everything in-between. Cowboy Bebop isn't Cowboy Bebop without that music. So get the Seatbelts back in the studio, boss! And get Yoko Kanno back in the saddle. We don't just need the same music -- we need more new Beboppin' good tunes from her! That's maybe the best reason to adapt Cowboy Bebop in the first place.