Shucks, howdy! Netflix, its finger maniacally pressing the “live-action adaptation” button, has announced it’s working on an adaptation of one of the most popular, influential, and beloved anime series ever: Cowboy Bebop. The jazz-infused space western chronicles the adventures of effortlessly cool bounty hunter Spike Spiegel and his eclectic crew as they leapfrog through the cosmos, chasing outlaws and running into trouble with the villainous Syndicate.
The series first premiered in a shorter, truncated fashion (due to adult themes) on TV Tokyo in 1998, was broadcast in full on Wowow in 1999, and the English dubbed version (the only dub some fan circles consider to be as good, if not better than the original Japanese voice cast) became the first anime to be broadcast on Adult Swim in 2001, kicking off Cartoon Network’s extensive foray into anime intended for adult audiences (but also kid-friendly fare like Pokémon and Dragon Ball Z). The people have been clamoring for a live-action version for decades, and Netflix is hard at work on bringing it to us. Here’s everything we know about it.
Does Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop adaptation have a release date?
Originally announced as dropping in 2020, the series is obviously not happening by then anymore as productions around the world have suffered delays due to the quarantine, and Bebop went though its own eight-ish month pause after star John Cho suffered a knee injury while filming and had to recover. The good news is, in early July the government of New Zealand-one of the few countries to announce itself completely or nearly COVID-free-granted border exemptions to a number of the Cowboy Bebop crew (along with seven other productions, including the Avatar sequels and Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series), meaning that they were allowed to fly in and quarantine themselves for two weeks before restarting production on the show. Deadline reported in late September that the show had officially restarted filming. Optimistically, we’re probably looking at a premiere date sometime in 2021.
Who is in the cast?
In 2019, John Cho (Star Trek, Harold and Kumar) was announced as ultra-cool bounty hunter Spike Spiegel, and all of us who were worried about yet another embarrassingly whitewashed anime adaptation (looking at you, Death Note) breathed a sigh of relief. Not only that, Jet Black, Spike’s ex-cop partner, will be played by Mustafa Shakir (Luke Cage), and Faye Valentine, a late addition to the crew with a ruthless personality, will be played by Daniella Pineda (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom). Alex Hassell (The Boys) will play Vicious, the Syndicate’s top hitman and Spike’s nemesis.
Elena Satine (Strange Angel, Twin Peaks: The Return) has also been cast as Spike’s ex-lover Julia. Weirdo hacker Radical Ed, whom the Bebop picks up a few episodes into the original series, and adorable super-corgi puppy Ein have yet to be cast. Hopefully an announcement about them is coming soon.
In November, a bunch of new cast members were announced: Rachel House (Thor: Ragnarok, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Moana) has been cast as Mao, the crafty capo of the Syndicate’s “White Tiger” family; Ann Truong (Strike Back!) and Hoa Xuande (Top of the Lake) as Shin and Lin, respectively, Vicious’ loyal Syndicate henchmen; Geoff Stults (Little Fires Everywhere) is Chalmers, a classic Western lawman who used to be tight with Jet; and Tamara Tunie (Law & Order: SVU, Black Earth Rising) is Ana, proprietor of Mars’ hottest jazz club and a bit of a mommy figure to Spike.
Perhaps most excitingly, Mason Alexander Park (Hedwig and the Angry Inch national tour) has been cast as Gren, Ana’s right-hand person described as “a Bowie-esque embodiment of 22nd century handsome and seductive beauty.” Park, a nonbinary actor, explained (below) how the show is updating the character for a modern audience and a more inclusive depiction of gender representation onscreen.
Who else is working on it?
To fans’ delight, Shinichiro Watanabe, the director of the original anime, is a creative consultant on the live-action adaptation, and Yoko Kanno, who composed the anime’s iconic slaps-before-slapping-was-even-a-thing score, is returning to the show as well. Seriously, with an opening theme this good, the Skip Intro button is a crime!
It’ll be co-written and executive produced by Javier Grillo-Marxuach (The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance), and its first episode is written by Christopher Yost (Thor: The Dark World, Thor: Ragnarok), who is also one of the showrunners, along with André Nemec (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) and Jeff Pinkner (Venom). Yasuo Miyakawa, Masayuki Ozaki, and Shin Sasaki of Sunrise Inc., the studio behind the anime, will also executive produce, as will Josh Appelbaum, Scott Rosenberg, Marty Adelstein and Becky Clements of Tomorrow Studios, Tetsu Fujimura, and Matthew Weinberg.
How many episodes will there be?
Netflix has ordered 10 episodes for its first season, but could expand beyond that if Netflix orders a second. (While previously described as a miniseries, Bebop isn’t planning on ending after the 10 episodes are up.) The anime is 26 episodes that are each about 22-minutes long, and stuck to a classic “bad guy of the week” format, allowing for tons of colorful characters and antagonists and planets in the mix. Ten hour-long episodes is a different kind of game, as Grillo-Marxuach explained in a recent interview with io9: “We’re not going to go one-to-one on all of those stories because we’re also trying to tell the broader story of Spike Spiegel and the Syndicate, Spike Spiegel and Julia, Spike Spiegel and Vicious, and all that. But we are looking at the show and saying, ‘Who are some of the great villains in this show, and how can we put them into this into this broader narrative?’ So that we are telling both of the big stories that Cowboy Bebop tells.” He did promise “one of the standouts” of one of the bounty episodes would make it in, but wouldn’t say who.
Basically, this means that they’re not trying for a shot-for-shot carbon copy of the original, which is a good thing. “We don’t want the fans of the show to look at it and say that we failed them or we failed the original,” Grillo-Marxuach said. Some things will definitely be different: the copious smoking will be toned down, and say goodbye to Faye’s busty latex getup, because, as Grillo-Marxuach put it, “we need to have a real human being wearing that.” Need help finding something to watch? Sign up here for our weekly Streamail newsletter to get streaming recommendations delivered straight to your inbox.