Cowboy Bebop Live Action

So I wrote this right after watching the Netflix version and I was pretty incensed because of the differences but over time my views have changed and I feel if some people are enjoying the Live Action as it is then they should. It’s a different flavour. Not my cup of tea at the moment but I don’t feel it’s anyone’s right to dictate it. Will rewrite this soon to make it a more neutral comparison than the rant it is right now.

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Ok. Considering how deep a role music plays in the original anime, to the extent that the music was finalized even before the characters and story were fully conceptualized, I found it poetically just when I hear Steve Aoki’s remix of Tank! for the new live action….thing…which Netflix tried to create. What Aoki does to Tank! is exactly what Netflix did to Cowboy Bebop. I do believe that both had intentions to do justice to the original and try to create something good. But both tried to mash it up with something of their own with what I can’t help but feel was a bit of arrogance/over-confidence, without fully understanding what makes the real thing work. They kept just enough of the original for it to be recognizable and good, but the rest came out as the same run-of-the-mill insipid thing you’ve seen/heard so many times before. In Aoki’s case, it was generic EDM beats we’ve heard hundreds of times just slapped together with clippings of Tank! rather than blending something better where what you add still resonates to the original, and, in Netflix’s case, it was generic over-the-top American filmmaking slobbered thickly over the beautifully cut, not-a-single-shot-extra, subtle, and sublime melody which was the original anime. 

I saw Cowboy Bebop for the first time during my late teens and it was love at first sight. I’ve been deeply in love with it since and most likely will be forever, much like so many others who swear by its perfection. It’s like a perfectly put together dish where contradicting flavors come together to form something addictive. But it’s a limited edition taste, you get a very small portion, and the chef has decided he will simply not cook any more of it ever again. So what you have with you is what needs to last you a lifetime. 

Within this setup, when someone tells you they are going to make more of this dish, you are likely to get hopeful despite your best judgement based on previous revivals they have done *cough* Death Note *cough*. But then they make trailers which actually make you think they have tried to be respectful to the source material…and you allow yourself to hope a bit more. They show you shots built around the music you have cherished for decades, actors who look quite a bit like the ones you saw in animated form, and heck you start to even feel a bit excited. 

And then they release it. You watch the first episode and think…well, Asimov and Katerina are a bit awkward but ok…I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Then Faye Valentine drops in and spars with Spike at a level with him without being a martial arts pro like him, in painfully slow and scripted shots no less, and you are like….er….maybe they want to make her more badass….they just need some time to settle down into it….you watch Katerina die and you decide to give them some more time. 

But as it progresses you are left horrified at the sheer massacre which unfolds…of story, characters, dialogue….everything. It’s not a carefully constructed, painstakingly put together, limited edition, dish. It is a mass-produced canned good. 

I guess, for me, this disaster was foreshadowed when they released the names of the sessions in this version. That’s when I started to feel the familiar dread again…It was again serendipitous because the titles of the sessions in the original foreshadow the content. In this case, none of the titles I heard left me with a sense of foreshadowing or a feeling that…Ooh! I want to know what’s in that one. I still get that feeling every time I hear the title “Ballad of Fallen Angels” even though I have the episode pretty much memorized. Spike’s a fallen angel, an exalted member of the Syndicate now fallen from grace, and this episode it about him returning to that world for the first time that we see on screen and hence this title fits like a glove….and then he literally falls out of a window….of a church….churches and angels kinda form a packaged deal….do you see what I’m saying here? It all just ties in so beautifully and nostalgically that you hear the title and feel all the emotions of the episode. 

In this case though, the titles seemed forced, scripted, trying too hard to emulate the original and, for the most part, making zero sense. The names of the original sessions flow naturally. Many of them are names of very popular songs, others are just tiny bits of poetry and they fit. But these are like they tried to string things together to look cool but failed. Like they created a random name generator programmed to take the name of something to do with space and something to do with music and just smush it together.  “Venus Pop” sounds forced while “Waltz for Venus” makes sense since Venus is the planet of love, waltz is a romantic, elegant dance so yeah…do I really think Venus when I think of Pop? Not really…Pluto maybe. “Sad Clown A-Go-Go” is too descriptive when compared to a simple “Pierro Le Fou”…”Binary Two-Step” seems repetitive and has nothing to do with the content of the episode. 

And this is the other big problem with them. The episode titles do not tie into the content of the episodes at-all. Like with the example of ‘Ballad of Fallen Angels’….which is reduced to ‘Supernova Symphony’ in the Live Action….what on earth does a Supernova or Symphony have anything to do with what happens in it? Is somebody playing a symphony? Are we on a Supernova? Is somebody there about to have a moment of glory before turning into a dead star?..I guess if I really stretch it, I can tie it into their shoddy portrayal of Vicious and how he kind of collapses into a dead star post Lady Gaga “Julia” captures him….but I know they didn’t think that far. I can’t give them that kind of credit. ‘Honky Tonk Women’ sets the context for who Faye Valentine is. Stray Dog Strut foreshadows Ein, Jamming with Edward introduces Edward…Heavy Metal Queen….Ganymede Elegy….I could go on and on about how meaningful most of the titles are….but anyone with half a brain and a knowledge of the anime would get this. 

This version reminds me of the ‘Toys in the Attic’ session….like if someone left the original anime in an unused fridge and forgot about it for many years (which none of us did)….and it grew a lot of fungus and became a monster. This is what that would look like. Yep. 

I gave the whole show a session name…Space Disaster Kiki Challenge. If you will look closely at this, you will see that I got this from the same random name generator as the Netflix folk. The first part is a space thing….the second part is a music/dance thing. Only in my case, it actually foreshadows the content quite beautifully. 

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