Acclaimed anime Cowboy Bebop getting a live-action TV series adaptation

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Scarlett Johansson’s Ghost in the Shell may have taken more of a belly flop than a deep dive when it debuted in cinemas earlier this year, but it seems that Hollywood has not been dissuaded from looking at Japanese anime for some inspiration. In this case, things move to the small screen as Variety reports that fan-favourite anime Cowboy Bebop is getting a live-action TV series adaptation.

Directed by Shinichiro Watanabe and written by Keiko Nobumoto for animation studio Sunrise Inc, Cowboy Bebop is a 26-episode sci-fi action-adventure series which debuted in 1998 to much critical acclaim. The show was set in the year 2071, when mankind had colonized most of the rocky planets in the solar system after a hyperspace accident made Earth uninhabitable. The series – as well as a standalone animated movie – followed the exploits of the Bebop, a group of bounty hunters aka “cowboys” as they chase down various criminals throughout the system.

These cowboys consisted of leader Spike Spiegel, a super cool and aloof former hitman; Jet Black, hulking gung-ho pilot and ex-officer in the Inter Solar System Police; Faye Valentine, an femme fatale con-artist; Edward Wong, an eccentric but genius young girl skilled in hacking; and Ein, a genetically-engineered Corgi with human-like intelligence. The show’s incredible cast, mature themes and storylines, amazing designs, jaw-dropping animation (particularly in its fight scenes) and a uniquely jazzy soundtrack provided by composer Yoko Kanno, led to it becoming a critical and commercial smash hit. It’s also credited as one of the biggest influences for the rise in popularity of anime in the West, and was the anime to air in English on Adult Swim in the US.

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This US-based live-action adaptation will be produced by Tomorrow Studios, in partnership with ITV and original animation studio Sunrise Inc. Veteran screenwriter Christopher Yost has been tapped to pen the script for the series, and he’s no slouch for this. He began his career as an intern for Marvel Comics and eventually started writing a number of series. That eventually led to him also doing writing for TV on Wolverine and the X-Men, Iron Man: Armored Adventures, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He’s probably most famous though for scripting the Marvel feature films Thor: The Dark World and Thor: Ragnarok.

This isn’t the first time that Hollywood is taking a look at Cowboy Bebop though. For a long time, 20th Century Fox was developing a live-action feature film adaptation with Keanu Reeves attached to star as Spike Spiegel. The film was originally slated to be released in 2011, but funding problems and script rewrites sent it into development hell. Although officially the film is actually not canceled but still just stuck in pre-production, you would have to think that that would change now that the TV series is going ahead.

The small screen is definitely also a better fit for the adventures of Spike and co as their bounty hunter exploits seems tailor-made for weekly episodic content. With television production levels also at an unprecedented level of quality, this world can certainly be brought to life quite well. The main concern here will be in the casting. Specifically, Ein, because we all know that little doggie is the best character.

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Also, if the TV series doesn’t keep the anime’s jazzy masterpiece of an opening, there may just be a revolt on the internet.

 

Last Updated: June 7, 2017

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions – but very little sleep – I’ve been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

  • Original Heretic

    Let’s not hold our breaths. Anime has always proven particularly difficult to translate into live action, by Westerners and Japanese alike.

    Though, for live action adaptations, I really would love to see that old Miyazaki classic, The Castle of Cagliostro.

    • Screw that. I want a Slayers series. It would be a better fantasy saga than Game of Thrones.

      • Original Heretic

        Same can be said for so many anime series out there. If they do them right, they would be awesome.

  • GooseZA

    On the one hand I’m like YEEEESSSS!!!! But on the other I’m really worried they’ll just mess it up and people who haven’t watched the anime will see a bad version of a fantastic series.

  • Daniel Hallinan

    I’d be interested to see how they do this.

    Of the many, many options they could adapt, Cowboy Bebop is one of the least “foreign” and most recognizable when it comes to themes and narrative, thanks to it’s heavy “classic western” influence.

    While Ghost in the Shell’s various source materials are predictably far too rooted in existentialism for what movie execs see as “american audience comfort”, the only potential issue that I see when translating Cowboy Bebop is retaining how comfortable the series was in portraying flawed, unhappy people and juggling that with humour and fun.

    Oh also they better make music AT LEAST as fantastic as the source material.

    Cowboy Bebop would also benefit from some nicer narrative progress through episodes – while Cowboy Bebop is my *favorite* anime, going back to it now reveals that the majority of its episodes being stand alone does make it feel dated.

    Anyway, if it’s terrible, that’s okay – I’ll still carry that weight.

  • kieker

    Why can’t hollywood leave anime in the intended format? Why make everything live action? They are giving anime a bad name; now people who hear about these stories wil want to watch the absolute cesspool of a movie that is the live adaptation, then form their opinion on anime based on that. I’m all for new anime movies or series, but do it right and push the budget towards people that can actually make it work.

    • The problem is not the translation itself but the fact that going from a visual media to another has always been extremely difficult. Case in point. Any movie based on a game (Mario movie still gives me nightmares). Any movie based on an older movie (aka the crappy remakes aka “We did not ask for another Conan or Total Recall so stop making them!!!”). Any movie based on a cartoon (Thanks Scooby Doo for ruining a classic cartoon series)

  • Hahahaha. When I read this the first thing I thought was “They better keep Tank for the opening!”

    Guess I am not alone. 😛

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