Cowboy Bebop always held, and still does hold, a special place in my heart.
Why? Well, for starters, it’s the first Anime that I ever watched (baring Pokemon). I’d grown up on American cartoons, so when Cowboy Bebop came on, I didn’t really know what to make of it. It was a little high concept at the time, a little adult, maybe, for me, but after just a few minutes, I knew that I was along for the ride. It was only after all was said and done with the series that I came to the realisation that there was only one of them, and that Spike and the crew of the Bebop wouldn’t be reprising their roles. Not until three years later, at least, when the Cowboy Bebop movie came out - which, I must say was pretty damn good. So, I thought with this blog, I’d pay homage to the Bebop gang by writing a little post that paid tribute to it.
The Beginnings Of GreatnessCowboy Bebop first aired in 1998 in Japan, animated by Sunrise, a production team which was led at the time by director Shinichiro Watanabe, the guy behind Samurai Champloo, a bunch of Gundam stuff, the new Blade Runner Anime Shorts. Sunrise, you may be interested to know, is actually a subsidiary of Bandai Namco, the notable games producer. They’ve been behind all the Gundam stuff, Space Runaway Ideon, Tiger & Bunny, Gintama, and lots more. They’re a seriously critically acclaimed studio, and continue to pump out awesome original shows even today.
Cowboy Bebop is set in the year 2071, and follows the lives of space-bound bounty hunters Spike Spiegel and Jet Black, travelling on a ship called the Bebop. It’s been praised worldwide, won loads of awards, and has been credited with being not only one of the best anime series of all time, but also with the accolade of introducing anime to western audiences in a major way. This was put down in part to the great animation, voice acting (both native and dubbed), soundtrack, and the themes it explored - including existentialism and loneliness to name two. It still today acts as a gateway to the anime medium as a whole, as it doesn’t revolve around a Japanese setting like many shows do, and brings in a lot of western influences, including the ‘Wild West’ themed bounty hunter backbone which was one of the main reasons it resonated with western audiences. American viewers felt at home watching something that prior to Cowboy Bebop was an inaccessible foreign medium.
Under the Cover
Watanabe credited the show with the phrase ‘A new genre unto itself’, which was attached in a large way - but he later said that it was an exaggeration to say that, but still insisted that the show did well to blend the comedy, film noir, action, and detective genres hewn by previous material both on and off screen. The characters were based on Watanabe each in part, a projection of pieces of his personality, except for Ed and Ein, who were based on real entities (read: one human, one dog) - the first on Yoko Kanno, and the second on a friend’s Corgi. A fun fact is that Watanabe bought one himself and used it as a motion model. Neat.
The Future of Bebop
A critically acclaimed Series. A spin-off Movie. Two subsequent mangas. And Keanu Reeves? You may be equal parts disgusted and enthralled by the idea of a live-action movie based on Cowboy Bebop starring Keanu Reeves as Spike Spiegel. But, despite a rumor emerging in 2008 that there was a live action adaptation in the works by 20th Century Fox, nothing much happened thereon out. Things ticked along, and in 2009, it was confirmed by Variety that Sunrise would be ‘closely involved’ with the development of the movie, and that Watanabe and others from the original Sunrise team would be producing and writing in varying degrees. However, following this spike in enthusiasm for the possible quality of the film, being scripted by Peter Craig (who wrote the Affleck(s) flick ‘The Town’ in 2010, as well as the Mockingjay Hunger Games scripts), things seemed to dwindle. The projected 2011 release date came and went with no sign of filming having even begun. Reeves continued to land roles and Craig continued to write scripts. Sunrise showed no sign of stopping their Anime train, either, so stirrings of an imminent release died off. Rumors of budget problems emerged, there was a whispering that a script was rejected and sent back for a rewrite, which only undermined anticipation even more for fans. In 2013, Watanabe said that things were still ‘underway’ but that further details were being kept secret. In 2014, he was asked about it again, and said that he didn’t know ‘what they [were] thinking in Hollywood’ and that there were a lot of ‘Hollywood problems’ - whatever that means.
No Cowboy Bebop live action with Keanu Reeves - for a while anyway. While he’s still milking the John Wick franchise, which will no doubt result in a series of movies boringly similar to John Wick that will release every year (I’m looking at you Neeson - Taken, Non-Stop, Walk Among The Tombstones, Unknown, Run All Night, etc), there’s likely going to be no space for a Cowboy Bebop revival, and a Spike Spiegel reprisal.