Cowboy Bebop's bounty hunters may all be pretty good with a gun, but early reviews for Netflix's live-action reboot suggest that the new series misses the mark.
The remake of the beloved anime series is currently sitting at a 45% rotten rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. The general consensus among critics is that Netflix's reboot is better than a lot of the previous attempts by American studios to adapt anime properties, such as the universally panned Dragon Ball Evolution or Netflix's own Death Note movie, but even in its best moments, the show fails to hit the same highs that its animated predecessor achieved back in 1998. "If there's a cool thing from the anime, this Cowboy Bebop will fight like hell to make it sillier or stupider," wrote The AV Club's Sam Barsanti. "Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop is not a complete and irredeemable disaster, but it’s definitely not going to challenge anyone’s assumptions about live-action anime," Barsanti said. The Hollywood Reporter's Angie Han criticized the series for not building off of the original series, saying "If there was ever any inkling of expanding or reconsidering the source material, not a trace of it remains in the final product." Some critics, such as Rolling Stones' Alan Sepinwall were kinder to Netflix's adaptation, saying "[Cowboy Bebop] has for the most part figured out how to make its influences work with flesh-and-blood actors and practical sets. It’s a lot of fun," though Sepinwall did preface their review by stating that they haven't seen the original anime series.
Most of the criticism for the new series was leveled at the show's writing and direction, with the consensus being that it spends too much time imitating the original series without achieving the anime's level of polish and execution, or adding anything new to give the show an identity of its own. "This was never going to be the "Bebop" that fans hold so near and dear to their hearts, and that's fine. The problem is that it doesn't become anything else, either," wrote IndieWire's David Ehrlich.
While the writing was widely criticized, even within some of the more positive reviews, a lot of praise has been directed towards the series' cast, which features John Cho as the laidback Spike Spiegel, Mustafa Shakir as his more level-headed partner Jet Black, and Daniella Pineda as the talented but opportunistic Faye Valentine. Almost every review also goes out of its way to compliment the show's jazzy soundtrack, which was once again composed by Yoko Kanno. Kanno created the original anime's iconic music, and is well known for her soundtracks to other classic anime series, such as The Vision of Escaflowne, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and multiple entries in the Macross franchise.
The live-action reimagining of Cowboy Bebop will premiere on Netflix on Nov. 19. All 26 episodes of the original 1998 anime series are currently streaming on Netflix and Funimation.
Source: Rotten Tomatoes