How Netflix's Cowboy Bebop Improved On The Anime With Julia's Story

Julia singing in Cowboy Bebop
(Image credit: Netflix)

Warning! The following contains spoilers for Cowboy Bebop’s anime and Season 1 of Netflix’s live-action series. Read at your own risk!

Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop is here, and as many familiar with the original anime know, it’s a lot different. The bones of what made the original series great are there, but the live-action adaptation did not set out to create a replica of the acclaimed anime. Changes are made all throughout the series, though none so significant as those made to Julia. 

Julia is a big part of Spike Spiegel’s arc in the original Cowboy Bebop, but her actual screentime in the series is insanely short. Netflix’s version changes that and makes Julia a major face right out of the gate, and I think it improves on the anime by making her more than fodder for a tragic ending. I don’t dislike the way the anime uses Julia, but after seeing all she did in Season 1 of the live-action adaptation, I feel confident in saying her character arc improves on the anime.

Julia talking to Spike in Cowboy Bebop

(Image credit: Netflix)

Julia’s Perspective Is Invaluable To The Story

The original Cowboy Bebop is told mainly through the perspective of Spike, Faye, and Jet, which can create a pretty limiting viewpoint in some areas. Spike’s main goal is to find and save Julia, so all we really know about her is from his memories and his perspective. It’s fairly limited in scope in terms of telling the story of what feels like a complex dynamic between Vicious, Spike, and Julia. 

Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop changes things up a lot, so I think it’s hard to say if Julia’s perspective enhances the anime source material. With that said, seeing the relationship through Julia’s perspective makes the entire relationship plotline way less one-dimensional in the live-action than it was in the anime. It’s important to see that, mainly because we know in real-life situations, someone cheating on their lover is not always such a cut and dry situation. 

Julia feels more like an active participant in the plot in Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop, and as different as that makes the series, I think it’s important to see. I don’t think a casual audience would tolerate an entire season of Spike pining over a woman, nor should they. As a fan, I appreciated seeing the complex dynamic of how Spike and Vicious were driven apart by Julia and why Julia stayed with Vicious in the end. It may not be true to the anime, but considering the anime gives us so little on the relationship, there’s not a ton to compare it to.

Julia in Cowboy Bebop

(Image credit: Netflix)

Julia’s Season 1 Arc Guarantees More Original Storylines In A Potential Season 2

The true beauty of Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop, in my opinion, is how unafraid it is to deviate from the anime. The root of who these characters are is still there, but different situations allow for more scenarios to play out. Few changes are as significant as what occurs in the Season 1 finale, however, in which we see Vicious’ master plan to gain control of The Syndicate fail because Julia double-crossed him. 

That twist is crazy enough for this anime fan, but then when given a chance to leave and escape with Spike (which was the anime Julia’s wish), she declines! Julia then shoots spike out of the cathedral window and solidifies her fate as the sole Elder of The Syndicate. It’s quite a shock to see, especially when considering the stakes created for a potential Season 2. 

What exactly does a rejected Spike Spiegel do now that the woman he loved nearly killed him? Does he pursue her and try to bring her to justice? Perhaps he just tries to continue on with working as a bounty hunter, hoping to avoid confrontation but inevitably running into her again because of their professions. I mean, a bounty hunter can only go so long before running into someone Syndicate-affiliated, so it would only be a matter of time before they met again. 

Also, let’s not forget that Vicious is still alive and held captive by Julia. Truthfully, I think keeping Vicious alive is about the worst decision Julia made all series, minus the fact that she got involved with him in the first place. But, I have a good feeling he’ll find a way out of his shackles before too long, and we could see a brief collaboration between Vicious and Spike to bring down the woman who broke their hearts. 

Honestly, I can’t even fathom that happening because of Vicious and Spike’s dynamic in the anime, which is what makes it so exciting. None of it happens without Julia’s transformation, so it’s hard for me not to see it as an improvement on the source material.

Julia in Cowboy Bebop

(Image credit: Netflix)

Julia’s Netflix Version Is More In Line With Most Characters In The Anime

One of the things that’s amazing to see about the Cowboy Bebop anime in 2021 is that it doesn’t feel out of place with modern programming. The characters are diverse, the show is progressive, and there’s no shortage of strong women who are total badasses. In fact, most of the women in the anime are kick-ass, with Julia being the exception. 

Julia is a victim in the anime, and in fairness, her arc in Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop starts off very much the same way. The difference is we see Julia evolve throughout her time with Vicious and even come to the realization that she doesn’t need Spike to be the one to save her from a life of abuse and fear. By the end of Season 1, Julia’s not the damsel in distress who anime fans met at the end of the series, and that’s a great thing. 

Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop elevates Julia’s character to the level of the original’s other strong women like Faye, VT, and really, Radical Ed (who we only saw a bit of in the live-action). Watching Season 1 of the live-action made me realize how out of place Julia was in the anime and how much better it is seeing her character realized in this adaptation. Not everyone will be a fan of it, but those looking for new stories and fresh content rather than a carbon copy of the original should be thrilled about what Netflix’s series did to Julia. 

Audiences can stream Season 1 of Cowboy Bebop on Netflix (opens in new tab) right now. As a fan of the original, I can’t express how much I love the new version and what it brings to the table, so I hope that those who still have yet to watch decide to give it a few episodes.

Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.