Overflowing with style, cool characters, bombastic colors, unique locales and dialogue so snappy it’s almost worth a thumb and index finger flick Cowboy Bebop should be the next Netflix binge destination. Fortunately viewers won’t need a VIP pass to gain entry into the year’s coolest jam session.
Cowboy Bebop is an adaptation of Shinichirō Watanabe’s 1998 series that’s one of the more highly regarded and popular anime in the genre. As such, fans of the anime might not be as open-minded or blown away by the live action version.
This is likely one of those instances where viewers less familiar with the source material will enjoy it far more than Bebop devotees.
The core of the series is a pair of bounty hunters. Spike Spiegel (John Chu, Star Trek Beyond), a laid back and somewhat lethargic mystery man, partners with gruff yet kind former police detective Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir, Luke Cage) in rounding up some of the most notorious criminals in the galaxy.
Bounty hunting is big business, but Spike and Jet tend to have the worst luck in successfully bringing in their marks. And when everything does line up, business expenses eat into their profits.
That doesn’t lead much by way of making the desperately needed repairs to Jet’s ship. Luke Skywalker’s declaration upon seeing the Millennium Falcon for the first time definitely applies here as well.
Their partnership has gone on for awhile yet Spike still hasn’t revealed some of the most important aspects of his early life with Jet. And Jet hasn’t gone in to full detail about all of his past as a detective.
En route to securing another bounty, the pair encounter Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda), a fast-talking bounty hunter. Over the course of the season, Faye goes from friendly rival to reluctant and invaluable member of the team.
Cho, Shakir and Pineda have outstanding chemistry. Despite some thrilling action sequences and wacky scenarios, in a lot of instances the series just works from having them play off each other. Spike, Jet and Faye’s very distinct personalities result in basic conversations taking unexpectedly hilarious paths.
As anime creators seem allergic to diversity, it’s nice to see Cowboy Bebop embrace a wide array of characters of different ethnicities. There’s not a lot of series in 2021 that feature Asian, black and Mexican leads.
Cho shows how easily he can handle the lead role making Spike a fascinating cocktail of mysterious, aloof and likeable. Shakir has an undeniable presence that’s thankfully given more of a showcase than just the cranky captain.
There’s a great bit with Jet on hand for his daughter’s recital while Spike battles a crew of bad guys. Pineda handles Faye’s rapid fire delivery with no problem and provides so much energy to all of her scenes.
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While there’s overarching subplots, most episodes take on a largely standalone nature as Spike, Jet and Faye tackle the latest bounty. There’s some zany marks from a couple dripping in Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi homages, a bomber with a teddy bear fetish and a family of eco terrorists. The bounties prove to be equally entertaining as the leads whether from their incompetence or their over the top portrayals.
Shifting locations like a saloon set in Tijuana to a neon drenched club and various space flights helps prevent against boredom.
Alex Garcia Lopez and Michael Katleman equally split the season’s 10 episodes and keep the energy and excitement going throughout. This would be an easy binge session, but it would probably be just as rewarding to space it out.
Vicious is trying to rise further up the ranks of the bad guy conglomerate The Syndicate, but he’s already a pretty vicio…dangerous dude so his arc isn’t that compelling. Ditto for Julia as she navigates a series of complicated emotions for Vicious and her former lover Fearless.
Easily the worst episode of the season prominently features Vicious and Julia’s machinations and schemes. Thankfully that’s followed up by one of the episodes that best balances the comedy and action premise of the series.
Original series composer Yoko Kanno returns to steer the vibe of this adaptation and it’s easy to see a new fanbase tracking down the soundtrack. The score is lively and definitely brings that jazz vibe to the series.
Action sequences are handled well for the most part with the directors opting to take a slower approach to the carnage making it easier to see everything unfold. The cinematography is eye catching with vibrant color choices and lighting that pops in most episodes.
Showrunner André Nemec has already made the interview rounds stating he’s already got ideas in store for a second season. That’s encouraging news as this is an act worthy of an encore performance.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Photo Credit: Netflix
Want more Cowboy Bebop? Check out Cowboy Bebop: The Complete Series now on Amazon.
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