Review by Sean Boelman
Cowboy Bebop is one of the most acclaimed anime series of all time, so the new live-action version of the series is understandably highly anticipated by fans. Although it would be impossible to live up to the quality of the original show, this is pretty great for what it is, a ton of stylish, sci-fi fun.
The series follows a group of space-bound bounty hunters who travel the galaxy hunting down dangerous criminals, as they find themselves up against larger-than-life threats. It’s a fun romp that throws us straight into this world, allowing the audience to immediately get caught up in the misadventures of Spike and the crew.
Part of what makes this show so much fun to watch is that each episode is a relatively stand-alone adventure, although they also each build towards the overall season arc. And although the Netflix release is typically conducive to binge streaming, the format of the show also allows viewers to take it at their own pace.
The main trio of the show is obviously very likable, and it is their dynamic that really drives the show. Those who are fans of the anime will already be familiar with this dysfunctional family of sorts, but the show does a great job of exploring their relationship after the first few episodes. And of course, the gallery of villains they face over the course of the season is definitely memorable.
John Cho is very charming in the lead role, but there’s not a whole lot of nuance to what he is doing. He pulls off the cocky side of the character quite well, but when the role calls for a bit more vulnerability, he doesn’t go far enough. The other highlight in the cast is Alex Hassell, who is amazingly villainous as Vicious.
The action sequences in the series do vary quite widely in quality. There are a few that are simple standoffs, and then there are others which are much more inspired. One episode, which features the heroes fighting a group of eco-terrorists, has one of the most wacky and creative sequences in any show this year.
There is definitely a goofy quality to a lot of the show’s execution, but it is fitting given the fact that the show is trying to faithfully emulate the highly-stylized anime. Some of the CGI isn’t the best, but what the show does to create this unique, futuristic world in which it is set is generally quite effective. And the opening sequence is on-point, which is a small detail, but shows just how much care was put into this.
Cowboy Bebop is exactly as much fun as fans of the original anime were hoping it would be. It may not be groundbreaking or revolutionary in any way, but as an homage to something so iconic, it delivers.
Cowboy Bebop streams on Netflix beginning November 19.