6 Key Ways Cowboy Bebop Differs From The Original Anime
The live-action adaptation has some big changes from the anime.
Netflix adapted the iconic anime Cowboy Bebop into live-action, and with every adaptation comes change. Storylines are tweaked, characters are re-imagined, and occasionally, major changes are made. Cowboy Bebop is no different in this regard, and does a little bit of everything in its attempt to re-tell and reinvigorate the classic series.
For those who haven’t seen the live-action series all the way through or have yet to watch, there are quite a few changes between it and the anime. The following are some of the big ones that impact the series the most, and either give more to the story or create new and unexpected plotlines not shown in the original. Readers can make their own judgments on whether or not these changes are a good or bad thing, I’m just a messenger!
Jet Has A Daughter And An Ex-Wife
In the anime, Cowboy Bebop doesn’t reveal much about Jet’s life. We learn at one point he’s a cop, and meet one of his former lovers after she winds up with a criminal. Netflix’s live-action adaptation shows that Jet (played by Mustafa Shakir) was not only married, but he has a young daughter that he tries to provide for. His marriage fell apart, but Jet still tries to do right by daughter Kimmie, by being there for her recitals and buying her the gifts she wants.
Unfortunately, Jet’s job keeps him away from his daughter more often than he’d like, as does his former friend from the police force, who is currently with his ex-wife. The family angle adds a lot of depth to Jet’s arc in Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop that wasn’t present in the original anime. Through this story, fans get a little more about Jet’s life prior to becoming a bounty hunter and it makes him even more lovable than he was in the anime.
Faye’s Relationship With Whitney Matsumoto
Yes, Whitney “Haggis” Matsumoto is in the live-action Cowboy Bebop, though the character is a little different this time around. In the anime, Haggis was a man who befriended and fell in love with Faye Valentine sometime after her unfreezing. As a lawyer, he promised to help her out of her debts, but when he unexpectedly died, she inherited his substantially larger debt. Faye later realized Haggis conned her, when she tracked him down for a bounty and realized he was part of a larger scheme connected to the doctor that first unfroze her, Bacchus.
Whitney Matsumoto is an older woman in Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop, and by the time she’s introduced, Faye already knows the woman conned her. In this telling, Whitney posed as Faye’s mother, and because Faye had no memory of the time before her cryogenic freezing and no record of her past, she believed her. At one point, Faye helps Whitney out of a jam in exchange for information on her past, and while it’s not quite what she wanted, there’s a good pay-off OG fans will appreciate.
Ana And Gren Are Connected
Out of all the minor characters used in Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop, few are changed as radically as Annie and Gren. Annie is now Ana, and a far more aggressive barkeep than the original, and Gren works with her as opposed to working in another bar planets away. The change, truth be told, doesn't have a huge impact on the series, but are worth mentioning because of just how drastically the two are changed.
In regards to Gren, changes to his sexual orientation fell in line with more modern acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. Gren’s character in the anime could be considered offensive, so it made sense that Cowboy Bebop tweaked the character to be in line with the series’ progressiveness in so many different areas. Plus, as a fan, I think they’re far more meaningful to the story in the live-action than they ever were in the anime, which I can also appreciate.
Mad Pierrot Is Rescued By Vicious
Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop features one of the series’ most memorable bounties the Bebop pursued, mainly because of how bizarre he was. Mad Pierrot makes a triumphant debut in live-action, and for one of the most off-the-wall characters of the anime, he translated well to the story. With that said, his motivations are altered quite a bit, thanks in part to the fact his escape is not one orchestrated on his own, but by Vicious.
Vicious breaks Mad Pierrot out of his testing facility and does him an additional solid by killing all the scientists involved in his inhumane experimentation. Vicious offers Pierrot freedom and “all the Red Eye he can handle” if he finds and kills Spike Spiegel. From there, the fight plays out largely how it went in the anime, though Pierrot being the aggressor puts Spike and the gang on the run until they can formulate a plan to take him down. The end result is one of the series’ most action-packed episodes to date, which is on point, considering the same was true of the anime.
Vicious And Spike’s Church Showdown Happens Way Later
Vicious and Spike’s church showdown is one of the most iconic fights of the new series, which is somewhat strange, because it predates all the events in the anime. The same is not true in the Netflix series, as the big showdown between Spike and Vicious does play out, but only after both Spike and Vicious pursue each other all season long.
All the major beats of the showdown are there, right down to Spike falling out of the church window. Of course, there’s one major change that occurs in this scene beyond the timing, and for those that know and love the original, it’s the biggest change from the anime by far.
Julia Lives And Takes Control Of The Syndicate
In the Cowboy Bebop anime, Julia is a big part of the plot despite having little to no screen time. After Spike talks about her for the entirety of the series, the two reconnect in the finale, and then she’s shot and killed minutes later. Julia doesn’t just get a lot more screen time in Cowboy Bebop, her entire arc is transformed by the end of Season 1 into something the anime never dreamed of.
Julia plays a key part in Vicious’ plan to overthrow The Syndicate, and in a stunning twist, turns the tables on both Vicious and Spike during the big fight. Julia prevents Vicious from killing Spike, but instead of escaping with him, tells him she realizes she doesn’t need him to gain her own freedom. Julia then shoots Spike out of the big window and takes Vicious captive. With Vicious imprisoned, she’s able to rule The Syndicate.
This one plot creates a ton of storylines that, while not faithful to the anime, guarantee that a prospective Season 2 will deliver a lot of things longtime fans haven’t seen before. To me, that’s exciting, though it’s definitely a polarizing topic amongst those who liked the original.
Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop is available to stream on the platform right now. There’s no word on whether or not Season 2 will happen yet, though the series has spent some time in Netflix’s Top 10. Obviously, the show has some plans for the surprise character reveal in the final moments of Season 1, but we’ll have to wait and see if another season happens with all of the other upcoming Netflix shows planned.
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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.
By Rich Knight