Finished it just this minute. This post will contain plot spoilers.

Now that I have seen all of it, I guess I could pass a better verdict than what I wrote in my last post and I will try make this short.

I have to say how I felt watching this is from the perspective of someone who had enjoyed the original, but hadn’t revisited it since[1], and wanting to see if the live action adaptation can give the same vibe the original source material gave. As I wrote previously, I managed to only the first episode of the anime in tandem with episode 1 of the live action, but I think to remind me of what the anime was like, just[2], I watched E9 (when Ed was first introduced) and E26 as well, soon after watching the last live-action episode.

I get it – an adaptation of an original IP is not meant to be a frame-by-frame reproduction but we surely know that altering certain things in turn may alter what the original was meant to depict/portray/represent. Perhaps that is why fans are going apeshit on the internet, I guess[3].

I’d like to argue that’s the caveat people need to hold on to when watching an adaptation of an IP like Cowboy Bebop, especially if you are a die-hard fan who cannot bear to see their favourite franchise retold in another format or direction.

The amalgamation of genres – namely film noir and the western – are seen here, although they can be a bit in-your-face at times. You’ll know it when you see atmospheric scenes of characters taking a drag on a ciggie with some jazz music in the background. The comedic element is also there, in sufficient doses, and reminiscent of what you see in the anime – the comedy is in the often near down-and-out nature of the Bebop crew (eg getting the bounty only to have it slashed due to damages).

The NLA[4] version looked good, and sounded good. I like the attention to detail down to the key to start the Swordfish up. I’ve touched on Kanno’s music before and while the familiar tunes from the OG were used, she did mention in interviews that with the NLA’s new direction meant some new elements were added to the music used. And while the first episode was almost a carbon copy (operative word: almost) of E1 of the anime, that’s where I think the live action started floundering in patches throughout the next ten episodes. Which was the frustrating thing about watching this.

Why is there a patchiness in the overall vibe I felt while watching the NLA, you may ask. I felt like the moment when there is something looked good, like a brilliantly executed and choreographed fight scene, you get a tinge of lacklustre acting thereafter. I’m not after method – but I felt like whoa, can we do a bit better than a high school stage play (I thought the “it’s the corporation’s fault” lead baddie in the casino heist at the start of E1 was the only one doing some ham acting) at times, and this includes the main actors. I am not too bothered if race/gender is swapped in the story[5], but not sure why we are seeing this hot/cold feeling when watching the entire season. I have to say the overall pacing felt better by the last three episodes.

One of the added shitstorm online was the introduction of Radical Ed in the last episode. The whole thing ran the gamut from skin colour[6], gender and acting quality of the actor. I admit that I actually watched the last four episodes in the Japanese dub, and hearing Tada Aoi‘s voice coupled with the visuals of Ed bending her body arms a-flailing, I’d say we got Radical Ed right there. What else do you want weh? A boneless/jointless acto… never mind.

I’ll just put it out there, I think this isn’t a bad adaptation, but it does go in different direction as compared the OG. Which means some people will like it, and some people will shit on it. I know I am (now) not a fan of the Star Wars sequel trilogy but that’s not a re-telling but an extension of a franchise. I would also like to argue that I’ve not really seen much fan anger in film adaptations of comic franchises – the liberties taken are not just a few if you have a look. The film adaptations could still serve the story despite major departures from what was already written in the comics, and all of us have enjoyed the vast majority of them.

Did I still like it? It wasn’t perfect but I’m looking forward to season 2, now we’ve got all four members of the Bebop crew (and how they are getting back together after all that happened in the season finale) and a new Syndicate boss.

Like I said earlier, I strongly feel adaptations are not, and never, meant to replicate. There’s always the OG material to go back to for watching – no loss there.

[1]That’s like a long time ago.
[2]I couldn’t speed run the show using manga as my copies of volumes 1-3 are the ones penned by Yutaka Nanten, and not Cowboy Bebop – Shooting Star which was the alternate/loose retelling of the anime. And Ed is a male character in that manga (female in the anime/NLA).
[3]Apart from two YouTube videos, one giving what I felt like a balanced view on it and the other being a delirious YouTube video shitting on the live-action, I hadn’t watched anything else.
[4]I’ll be typing NLA for NETFLIX live action henceforth. Lazy lah.
[5]There were a few eye-rolling decisions made, though. Take the character of Gren who was played by a non-binary actor here, which for me is not an issue, as the OG character was somewhat non-binary too, but in a more anatomic sense. I think Gren in the anime was so much better a character, who at least had development in the story (check out E12 and 13 of the anime – Jupiter Jazz) as compared to the NLA, as Gren is just… there, as Ana’s right hand. No back story, no nothing.
[6]”Ed is not white” was one of the complaints. Looked liked a ginger-haired (can be white) girl with a tan to me.