Netflix's live-action adaptation of the classic '90s anime "Cowboy Bebop" has been awaited with much excitement and speculation ever since the streaming network announced it back in 2018. Hollywood's track record with live-action remakes of Japanese anime has historically been disastrous, and expectations were high for this one, which came out on November 19, 2021.
"Cowboy Bebop" is a noir western sci-fi thriller following a trio of bounty hunters, known as cowboys, who travel the solar system aboard their spaceship, the Bebop, in search of wanted criminals. The ship is the property of Jet Black, an ex-cop who was framed and spent five years in prison before becoming a bounty hunter. His partner, Spike Spiegel, has a mysterious past, irresistible charms, and unequaled skills. They're joined by Faye Valentine, a seductive bounty hunter who's also an amnesiac; she meets the two partners on her quest to discover her true identity. Together, they hunt various criminals until Spike's past comes knocking, threatening all of their lives.
Thankfully, Netflix confirmed that the anime's original director, Shinichiro Watanabe, was a consultant on the series, giving fans hope that it would live up to the original. While the adaptation stays mostly true to the original anime (with admittedly mixed results), it does take a few liberties, starting with the characters' racial backgrounds, making for a truly inclusive show. Here, then, are the characters in the live-action "Cowboy Bebop" adaptation, ranked from worst to best; beware of spoilers past this point.
Vicious is a captain of the Syndicate, the dangerous mafia of the "Cowboy Bebop"' universe; he is given much more screen time in this live-action adaptation, as well as a complete backstory.
Vicious' father, Caliban, is one of the Syndicate's Elders, and Vicious is constantly trying to live up to his cruel expectations. He also holds a grudge against Spike, whom he considered a brother until Spike tried to steal his girlfriend, Julia, and escape the Syndicate. This betrayal pushed his latent psychopathic tendencies into a full-on power trip, and made Spike into Vicious' blood enemy. Later on, Viscous becomes unhappy with how the Elders are treating him and arranges a coup against them with Julia's help.
While the costume is impeccably designed, and his backstory makes the live-action Vicious a much more rounded character, the portrayal and casting are just plain off. Alex Hassell is not a bad actor, but his features clash heavily with Vicious' signature white hair. The live-action show also portrays Vicious as less calculating and prone to random outbursts of violence that ultimately make him seem dumber than a mobster of his caliber should be. Unfortunately, he ends up being a cartoonish villain.
Radical Ed is one of the most popular characters on "Cowboy Bebop," and for good reason: Her androgyny, weirdness, and infectious energy anchor the Bebop's crew, while her hacking skills make her an invaluable member of the team. She's also the one who takes care of Ein, the intelligent corgi, and is seemingly the only person who can communicate with him. Unfortunately, she's mostly absent from Netflix's adaptation.
Ed's full name is Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivruski IV. In the anime, she's a child prodigy and an orphan; she fled the orphanage where she lived at a very young age, and became a well-known hacker. In Netflix's version, very little is said about her, and she barely makes an appearance. She's mentioned in episode 6, "Binary Two-Step," in which she gives the Bebop's crew a tip about a bounty. She finally shows up in person in the final episode's closing scene, in a shot identical to the anime, which feels forced.
Ed's absence from the first season of "Cowboy Bebop" is a disappointment to many fans, and given her limited screen time it's hard to decide whether the character was done justice, although young Eden Perkins seems to be right for the role. Here's hoping she'll have a lot more screen time in "Cowboy Bebop" season two!
Ein is not only cute but an integral part of the Bebop crew. In the anime, Ein is described as a "data dog," which means that his intelligence was enhanced. There, he's seen driving a car, hacking a computer with his mind, and answering the phone, among other things. He's also great friends with Radical Ed, the only human who can understand him.
Ein's live-action version is not as intelligent, which is very disappointing, but he still helps Jet, Spike, and Faye in their adventures. He also has a terrifying backstory, which was not in the anime. It turns out that Ein was used in illegal experiments along with villain Pierrot le Fou, with whom he now shares a neural link. This makes Ein more passive and also more dangerous, as Pierrot uses the dog to spy on and communicate with the Bebop crew. Overall, Ein is not a bad character, but hopefully he gets to display more abilities in a second season.
Alisa And Kimmie
While Alisa isn't technically new to Netflix's "Cowboy Bebop," her daughter is, and her story has changed so significantly between the anime and the live-action show that she's essentially a completely different character. In the anime, Alisa was Jet Black's ex. After a long relationship, she left Jet to gain back her independence, and they had no child together.
The Netflix adaptation makes Alisa Jet's ex-wife, who is now dating an old colleague of his, a cop from the Inter-Solar System Police (ISSP) named Chalmers. Alisa left Jet after he was wrongfully accused of being a dirty cop and sentenced to prison; she's protective of their daughter, and doesn't trust Jet.
Said daughter, Kimmie, is a sweet 8-year-old girl who grew up without her dad. She anchors Jet in his fatherly energy, but also calls his loyalty to his crew into question. The young actress who plays Kimmie, Molly Moriarty, is adorable, and it'll be exciting to see what role she plays if the series continues
Chalmers is an original character in Netflix's "Cowboy Bebop," brought in along with other changes to characters linked to Jet Black. He is an ISSP cop and a former colleague of Jet's. He also happens to be dating Jet's ex-wife, Alisa, and acts as step-father to his daughter, Kimmie. Handsome actor Geoff Stults takes on the role with a ridiculously huge moustache, evoking the show's noir and western inspirations.
Jet considers Chalmers an enemy at first because he suspects that the man is the dirty cop who framed him. In episode 5, "Darkside Tango," Jet discovers that his former partner Fad was actually the one responsible for his predicament and kills him. Chalmers lets Jet escape; he'd been on Fad's trail for a few months, trying to clear Jet's name. Later on, Chalmers supports Jet's efforts to be a more present dad and to redeem himself in Alisa's eyes. Overall, he's an interesting and wholesome addition to the show, and helps add depth to Jet's character and backstory.
The character of Mao Yenrai was heavily altered during the move from an anime to Netflix, but to great effect. The anime's Mao was an old Syndicate capo who served as a mentor to Spike and Vicious. He was also Vicious' adoptive father, and tried to broker a truce between two of the Syndicate's factions following Spike's death, although he was ultimately betrayed and killed by Vicious.
In the Netflix show, Mao works for one of Vicious' Syndicate rivals. She's also a woman. Actress Rachel House infuses Mao with a rough and modern edge, and while there's still tension between Mao and Vicious, the reasons are different. In addition, the double-cross she plots with Julia keeps viewers on their toes regarding Vicious' fate. Overall, Mao is more fleshed out in the adaptation, with motivations of her own. It's refreshing to see a female villain bring some nuance to the Syndicate.
Another original character introduced in Netflix's live-action series, Woodcock — nicknamed Woody — is an amazing addition to the cast, with some hilarious lines that bring levity and charm to the cowboys' lives. Played by Carmel McGlone, who's a shining revelation in the role, Woody is an old acquaintance of Jet's. He calls on her for tips on bounties, and she relentlessly flirts with him. Her interactions with Spike are also deliciously funny and let Cho show off his character's charming, debonair attitude.
Woody is not making everyone happy, though. One line from episode 3, "Dog Star Swing," is causing some controversy online (viaIGN). "Sounds to me like blackmail," Jet says, during the episode. "Damn right it is," she replies, "because, Jet, you are Black and you are male." So, yeah, some work needs to be done in the writers' room, but Woodcock still has the potential to become a recurring secondary character and a source of ongoing comedic relief.
Previously known as Anastasia (or just Annie), this "Cowboy Bebop" character was previously the owner of a convenience store. Renamed Ana in the live-action series, she has undergone a definite upgrade for Netflix. Ana is now the owner of a jazz club, and while she's still Spike and Julia's friend, her ties to the Syndicate, and her fate, are very different. In the anime, Annie was friends with Mao and a Syndicate informer. That's how she knew Spike and Julia, and also why she ended up getting killed by the Syndicate after helping Spike and Julia escape their clutches.
In the live-action show, Ana has a strict policy against working with the Syndicate. Members of the mafia group are still allowed inside the club as patrons, but she refuses to get involved in their criminal schemes — until her headlining singer, Julia, starts dating Vicious and becomes entangled in a love affair with Spike, anyway. Ana is given more screen time on Netflix, and serves as a kind of matriarch to the other characters; she is a strong businesswoman who protects her people, and is an overall cool character.
Gren always had an ambiguous gender identity, though the anime handled the character rather clumsily — it was the 90's, after all. The original Gren was a veteran and a saxophone player who'd grown breasts because of an experimental drug and adopted their new features in a very fluid fashion. It was a weird treatment of queerness, but that didn't stop fans from identifying with Gren as an LGBTQ character.
Netflix decided to make the live-action Gren non-binary, and their backstory was changed as a result. As played by non-binary actor Mason Alexander Park, Gren now acts as front of the house for Ana's club, retaining the character's connection to jazz while making them much more involved in the story. Fleshing out the character not only brings much-needed non-binary representation to TV, but also redeems the anime's ham-fisted treatment of gender identity. Gren has some of the best outfits and funniest lines in the show, making them one of the series' best characters.
The most obvious change to Jet Black's character was made through casting: while the anime version is depicted as white, Netflix cast Mustafa Shakir, a Black man, in the role. Considering that the actor who voiced Jet in the English dub, Beau Billingslea, is Black, the choice makes sense; still, Billingslea made sure to mention that he views Jet as a color-neutral character (via the Washington Post). As mentioned above, Jet's backstory and family situation were also altered, as was his past with the ISSP — in the anime, he was never framed and imprisoned.
Jet's signature beard, as well as his metal arm and cybernetically-enhanced eye, are beautifully rendered in this adaptation — the fake beard is a bit over the top, but it matches with Chalmers' equally extravagant facial hair. Shakir brings the imposing yet fatherly "Cowboy Bebop" character to life very well, and has amazing chemistry with the rest of the cast, making Jet Black the same bounty hunter and pilot fans that anime fans have come to know and love.
Is it shocking that the series' main protagonist isn't number one on our ranking? Don't get us wrong, in both the anime and the live-action show, Spike Spiegel remains one of the best characters on "Cowboy Bebop." However, some other kick-ass characters were simply adapted so well that they managed to snag the top spots.
Spike is a mysterious, charming ex-mobster who teams up with Jet Black. He's fleeing a life working for the Syndicate, where he was known as Fearless, after falling in love with Julia and being driven away by Vicious, who believes he's dead. The character's backstory didn't change too much between the anime and the Netflix adaptation, although we get to see much more of his past as Vicious' partner and brother in the live-action series. Still, Spike's personality remains the same: He's nonchalant about nearly everything, has a cutting and dry sense of humor, and is an extremely skilled fighter.
Korean-American actor John Cho shoulders the lead role, and he nails the balance between Spike's nostalgic and funny sides. While fighting, he doesn't have the same elegance as the anime's Spike, but his portrayal is otherwise spotless.
Apart from her appearance and her attachment to both Spike and Vicious, Julia's story was completely revamped for the live-action "Cowboy Bebop" remake. In the anime, she appears in flashbacks, but she's long dead, having been killed by the Syndicate for trying to elope with Spike. Netflix gave Julia more screen time and a complete story arc of her own, in addition to casting Elena Satine as the sultry jazz singer.
Julia started dating Vicious after he saw her perform at Ana's jazz club. She eventually meets Spike, and their chemistry is undeniable; they fall in love and plan to flee soon after. Unfortunately, Vicious is two steps ahead of them and makes her stay with him; she marries him after Spike's presumed death. Over time, Julia grows worried for her safety, and is emboldened by the news that Spike is still alive. While she plays the perfect housewife, she plans her escape by inspiring her husband to overthrow the Elders, then double-crosses him with Mao, which fails.
But that's not the end. In an amazing twist, Julia subdues Vicious after his showdown with Spike and shoots her former lover, taking over the Syndicate and choosing to lead her life on her own terms. It's a truly different take on Julia, a character who was ultimately passive and absent, even if omnipresent, in the anime.
Not only is Daniella Pineda perfectly cast as Faye Valentine, her character consistently has the best dialogue of anyone on the show. Her story is mostly unchanged: A seductive bounty hunter, Faye suffers from amnesia caused by spending too much time in cryosleep. Her file is stolen by a conwoman (another gender-bent character from the anime) who pretends to be her mother. So, Faye is relentlessly searching for her real identity, hoping to learn more about her past and who was before waking up.
Faye is an awesome addition to the Bebop crew, bringing her feminine energy and undeniable skills to their various missions. Her costume was changed significantly from the original, mostly for practical purposes: In the anime, Faye wears a revealing outfit with yellow hotpants and a loose top. While some fans were outraged at the character's desexualization, Pineda explained the changes, which don't alter the essence of the character and make more sense for a live-action production.
Ultimately, "Cowboy Bebop" delivers a Faye Valentine who ticks all of the boxes, making her the series' very best character: feisty, strong, independent, hilarious, and full of surprises.
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The post Every Live-Action Cowboy Bebop Character Ranked Worst to Best appeared first on /Film.