I’m not trashing a show I’ve never seen to join some choir. If anything it’s because everything I see of the Netflix live-action Cowboy Bebop is underwhelming compared to the superior animated original and I’m convinced it only exists because of the anti-animation bias Hollywood has. “Something with a huge fan base is one of those cartoons? Well surely we can do it better in live-action because we use REAL actors!” That seems to be the thought because they can’t wrap their head over what makes animation work as a medium. I’ve noted that both animation and live-action have their strengths and weaknesses as storytelling tools. You use the format that best serves your universe.
I’m also someone who discusses intros quite often because to me the intro is an important part of a TV show and anything using TV shows as part of their visual style. It’s what draws people in checking in out of curiosity and even if you’re watching strictly through on-demand instead of broadcast it still serves a purpose. I’ve even gone over the intro to the anime before as one of my favorite intros. That’s why when I watch the live-action version the only thing that works is that they kept the theme song because they don’t completely hate life. Compare for yourself:
I’m not saying it looks terrible. Credit where it’s due the style is kind of neat and it does at times try to replicate the original while showing off “this ain’t no cartoon”, and that last part may be part of the problem. It feels like a replication you’d see someone doing on YouTube and doesn’t invoke the same feel that the original does while showing off live-action versions of at least someone’s favorite characters in the 10 episodes they replicated for the Netflix version. Why is it such a pale imitation otherwise? Well, I’m not the only intro lover on the internet thankfully, as Geoff Thew of Mother’s Basement has looked at many anime intros on his show and had the same negative reaction to the live-action intro that I did…only then he went out and fully examined why. Note that swearing and promoting his sponsor will happen more than once, and there are HEAVY spoilers for both versions since the live-action version is basically a retelling of the anime.
Catch more of Geoff from his Mother’s Basement on YouTube.
And do look up his list of videos about those animes made by a cult. They’re…something that exists in our universe.
I guess I don’t have Geoff’s ties to the computer display panels, maybe because I’ve seen it done well and poorly in virtually every format by now, the downside of my many years perhaps. Looking at the Japanese lettering I didn’t get a sense that those were supposed to represent computer graphics, and I’m not sure it would have worked with English lettering. I wouldn’t mind someone redoing the credits and proving me wrong but at least the playbill font does add to the jazzy theme, like you’re getting the list of performers for the concert. The live-action intro does use the boxes and I still didn’t get the computer readout idea or the concert pamphlet idea so it missed both ideas.
I would however say that translating the “manifesto” as he calls it to Japanese means we the audience miss the important details of what the darn thing says. The original Japanese wrote in English, which some Japanese people can read to some extent, debates about “Engrish” aside. It’s kind of fitting given how the intro itself misses important details to show off the actors and sets. The live-action show looked at the show but didn’t really get what made the show work. The visuals are there but it doesn’t have the same life seeing the same clips do in animation. (I’ve even seen one reviewer, and admittedly I can’t confirm this myself, thinking they didn’t actually watch it but watched bits of it, like the American version of Ghost In The Shell compared to the original anime, where it looks like they watched the trailers of the two anime movies and made a film around the clips.)
Again, the live-action show’s intro isn’t terrible, but like so much of what I’ve already seen as a non-Netflix subscriber it seem to miss the point of the show, using the aesthetics but not really understanding them. Even if the show is good, track down the original anime. A few different streaming services have it up and it so worth a watch. If you want to see the live-action show first like I did with Ghost In The Shell to get a full understanding of the two versions, you can stop where Netflix did if you want, but like Ghost In The Shell you might find the original is superior to the remake.