Yesterday Netflix released the full trailer for Cowboy Bebop, or rather their anti-animation remake of the popular Japanese animated series. Yes, I still maintain the only reason a Western studio is doing a live-action version is because of the media bias against “dem durn cartoonies” having a franchise that popular and are convinced they could do it better in live-action. I’ll get more into that in my next Art Of Storytelling article, but I disagree.
Created by Shinichiro Watanabe, the show follows the adventures of an unlikely team of misfit “cowboys”, the galaxy’s terms for bounty hunters in this future society, who hang out together on the ship, the Bebop. Owned by Jet Black, the “crew” consists of former gangster Spike Spiegel, the show’s main focus character, the femme fatale Fay Valentine, and the crazy teen hacker girl Edward. (And yes, she is a girl and will tell you so.) Along with the dog Ein, the group get into all kinds of crazy adventures and are the most united dysfunctional surrogate family in fiction. Netflix wants to do a live-action version and in so many ways there attempts to show how good they insist it will be has not exactly won me over. So what about this last attempt?
Well, it’s an interesting spinoff of Firefly. All kidding aside there are a number of reasons this trailer lands with a hard thud for me. The trappings are there but it’s all just window dressing. A lot of the humor makes it feel too…and I know this is an odd comment…American. It doesn’t have the same feel as the original show. I found it funny that this version of Spike wants to shoot Faye, or at least act like it, but while John Cho plays the role well enough in these clips he still has nothing on Steve Blum’s vocal performance and I just don’t see Cho’s take drawing in as many people and the animation and Blum has among the anime’s fanbase. Mustafa Shakir is decent enough as Jet but Beau Billingsly just nails the character too hard for any take to really surpass. I’m sure there are people who would say the same about the Japanese cast, who I’ve heard will actually voice the Japanese dub of the live-action version. About the only thing that works without caveat are the ships. The rest just look like good cosplays trying to pretend it’s the show.
Then of course there’s the ever-controversial Faye Valentine portrayal. I think Spencer Bakuli, writing for Bounding Into Comics, put best the issue with Faye in this trailer.
Unsurprisingly, as was surmised in Bounding Into Comics’ previous coverage of the ‘Lost Session’ teaser, Netflix has blinked in the face of keeping Faye accurate to her original character, choosing to move away from the now-considered ‘problematic’ femme fatale she was conceived as in favor of presenting her as a social-media-approved generic ‘strong female’ character.
In the original anime, Faye was shown to be a clumsy con-artist with less-than-the-best of luck, constantly relying on her ‘feminine wiles’ and quick wits to pull off her jobs and escape from danger rather than brute force.
However, the series appears to have elected to ignore her unique personality in order to show her as generically ‘tough’, as the trailer shows Faye wielding a palm knife and taking down Spike in a street fight in Tijuana, indicating that she is a skilled hand-to-hand combatant capable of going one-on-one with even the most skilled of martial artists.
Faye’s good with a gun and also uses her looks as part of her cons (though she only allows that so far because she still doesn’t like creepers), and she’s a decent pilot, but she’s not a martial artist. Making her so takes away from Spike rather than building on Faye as something unique among the trio. Will Jet also be using martial arts? If so that’s wrong for him as well. He’s a former cop who turned bounty hunter after his partner betrayed him to one of the crime syndicates, dampening his faith in the system. Spike’s the fighter, Faye’s the con artist, Jet is the worldly father figure, Ein is the dog, and Edward is the hacker. What we see is an improvement but she still comes off like she has a reason to think so highly of herself instead of an act hiding…well, I won’t spoil the revelations as to her origins. I’d be surprised if the show pulls it off nearly as well. Wendee Lee is still best Faye.
And yes, Ed’s absence is still very much felt, because Radical Edward is awesome. She’s many fans’ favorite, including myself, and seeing her not be acknowledged hurts. I saw one video theorize that they want some kind of surprise for Edward, who doesn’t appear until the ninth episode of the anime (and Netflix doesn’t have very many episodes a “season” from what I hear) but knowing how many people love Edward and are worried they’ll make her a trans boy instead of a tomboy (especially with members of the usual suspects who seem to think that’s the same thing) or do something else to weaken her character, you’d think they’d have learned from the Masters Of The Universe: Revelation backlash when it came to Adam’s death and Teela taking over. Apparently they have not. Then again, nobody’s going to pull off what the animation and Melissa Fahn pulled off so maybe in some ways this is for the best.
However, what really gets me is how…boring this looks compared to the original. Live-action by nature has certain limitations that animation doesn’t, and Cowboy Bebop was created with that in mind. it took advantage of the live-action for some amazing fights, from the normal martial arts that Cho’s body couldn’t possibly pull off to some of the most bizarre fight sequences in television. You need look no further than “Mad Pierrot” Le Fou. It’s pretty obvious they’re trying to do him in live-action, so they do appear to be rehashing old plots no matter how different they plan to approach them. Possible spoilers for the live-action show and definite spoiler for the anime.
Yeah, you ain’t pulling that off in live-action. At all. Any attempt will be such a weakened try they might as well drop him entirely. They might get the personality right, but due to how things need to look to be believable in live-action I just see this coming off like the Earthbending in M. Night’s take Avatar: The Last Airbender. I’m fatter than the guy they have as “Mad Pierrot” in the trailer and all I have is a remaining gut after the hernia surgery. I do need to lose some weight and inches but I’m still bigger than live-action Pierre unless they’re planning to have him inflate or something.
Meanwhile, Filmation put out a trailer of their own for a re-release of the original on DVD and Blu-Ray, possibly to tie in with the Netflix version. Now tell me, which one looks more exciting?
Is Funimation better at trailers or is the Netflix version just not in the same league? Sub or dub, I’d say stick with the anime. Netflix should leave well enough alone seeing as their live-action remakes of anime are not really living up to the originals.