Netflix’s live-action Cowboy Bebop has received mixed reviews from fans and critics alike, but most viewers seem united on one thing: the characters. Whatever your thoughts on the anime adaptation, it undeniably captures the magic of the Bebop crew. It brings the familiar faces from the anime to live-action impressively — well, for the most part anyway. In particular, these five characters shine in the Netflix series (though there is one who definitely needs work).
John Cho breathes new life into ‘Cowboy Bebop’s main character
John Cho’s performance as Spike Spiegel is one of the most impressive aspects of the live-action Cowboy Bebop because it offers a different take on one of the most iconic anime characters. While Cho’s costume (and hair) match the original Spike to a T, his portrayal of the character’s personality isn’t pulled directly from the anime.
In the original Cowboy Bebop, Spike is charming and slippery, but he’s more aloof than in the Netflix show. The adaptation allows his character to connect more with the crew, and it gives him more of a chance to be vulnerable. While such changes don’t always work, this one did.
Hopefully, fans will see more of Cho’s interpretation of Spike in season 2.
Mustafa Shakir makes the perfect Jet Black
Like Spike, Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda) gets a bit of a makeover in the live-action Cowboy Bebop — though hers covers her physical appearance and personality. Faye’s costume was altered for the Netflix series to give her a more practical, comfortable get-up during her bounty-hunting adventures.
And while longtime fans of the anime love the original Faye, there’s no denying Pineda makes the character entirely her own. This Faye feels more down to Earth than her anime counterpart, and that makes her more relatable.
Tamara Tunie nails it as the live-action ‘Cowboy Bebop’s Ana
Dedicated fans of the original Cowboy Bebop will remember Anastasia, one of the gang’s acquaintances who owned a store on Mars. The live-action adaptation alters Ana’s character a bit, making her the owner of a jazz club — and a far more relevant player in Spike, Vicious (Alex Hassell), and Julia’s (Elena Satine) stories.
And after watching Tamara Tunie’s take on the character, fans will be glad the live-action Cowboy Bebop gave the character more to do. She’s a delightful presence every time she’s on-screen. Most will be looking for more of her before the season is through.
Ein remains one of the show’s best (and cutest) characters
Although most of the performances improve upon the characters from the original Cowboy Bebop, there is one person in the adaptation who simply doesn’t live up to his anime counterpart. Although Alex Hassell does a great job with the script he’s given — and he certainly looks the part of Vicious — the show just doesn’t do the villain justice.
To be fair, the live-action Cowboy Bebop tries to improve upon Vicious by giving him more screen time and an in-depth backstory. Those things were missing from the anime, and adding them could have been beneficial. Unfortunately, the series’ attempts to further humanize Vicious make him far less intimidating as an antagonist. While the anime character is calculating and often one step ahead, the live-action version feels like a bumbling mess.
That said, if Cowboy Bebop is renewed for season 2, it could fix this problem. The show leaves Vicious in quite a predicament, but that gives him the chance to grow — and maybe become as smart and ruthless as he’s supposed to be.
Cowboy Bebop is currently streaming on Netflix.
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