Cool cats looking for a modern dose of nostalgia might consider tuning in to Netflix’s new live rendition of “Cowboy Bebop” that recently landed on the streaming titan’s chart. The legendary Japanese anime series first aired in 1998 and followed the exploits of a trio of charismatic bounty hunters traversing the galaxy in 2071 aboard their Bebop spacecraft.
Over the decades, “Cowboy Bebop” and its swinging, retro soundtrack by composer Yoko Kanno has become an influential touchstone for artists, writers, directors, comic book makers, and video game designers drawn to the feel of pop culture that came to America through Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim Show in 2001.
Led by executive producer and showrunner André Nemec (“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”), the 10-episode remix of Netflix’s “Cowboy Bebop” arrived on November 19 with John Cho (Spike Spiegel) from “Star Trek” and Daniella Pineda (Faye Valentine). ), Mustafa Shakir (Jet Black), Elena Satine (Julia) and Alex Hassell (Vicious). It’s a wild ride that seamlessly blends the jazzy vibe and spirit of the original material along with some superb visuals that never disappoint.
Related: Let’s Jam! Watch Netflix’s new live-action fashion trailer ‘Cowboy Bebop’
(Image credit: Netflix)
Sadly, Netflix has decided not to bring back “Cowboy Bebop” for another season and announced its cancellation on December 9. Despite mixed reviews, the live-action Western space adaptation garnered more than 74 million hours of viewing worldwide since it premiered on November 9. 19.
Space.com spoke to Nemec about the dangers of adapting a beloved anime series, staying true to “Cowboy Bebop” fans, and the careful alchemy of the cast’s chemistry.
Space.com: Why was this the right time for a live adaptation of “Cowboy Bebop”?
I think it was the right time just for the fact that the anime stood the test of time. It had been tried and it hadn’t worked and it had been through iterations and I think the correct iteration was to make it like a TV series instead of a movie. When I got a phone call about “Cowboy Bebop”, I was a little wary of the material at first. It is the sacred ground of anime and on top of what people love and care about.
André Nemec: But I had come to the program through music. So it was the soundtrack and the poetry that the anime was. The deeper I delved into the skin, the more I began to fall in love with the stories I knew we could tell.
Space.com: How difficult was it to stay true to the source material and at the same time give the TV series its own identity without alienating the fans?
Nemec: For me, everyone has their memory of “Cowboy Bebop” and everyone will bring their story and experience with anime to our count. I can’t ask for anything more than to keep an open mind and see our storytelling as an expansion of the series, and perhaps a remix living in the ideas and characters of the world. People have certain expectations in their own mind as to what can or could be. I tilled the land in the fertile land of the anime and this is the fruit that I got. And I like. I keep it and I think we serve a good plate.
Space.com: How did you cultivate the cast chemistry that is so evident on screen?
Nemec: It’s huge to have that correct chemistry. There is always the alchemy of doing it and you can put all the ingredients in the cauldron and stir it at the right temperature and at the right time and you get lead. The actors came together a lot through training and boot camp work in the early days before they really had to dive into the character’s chemistry on set.
But we also spent a lot of time in rehearsals working on the material and making sure the voices the actors brought in were the ones that made sense on the page. Finally, there’s that flickering reaction to the casting process which is, “That’s it!” As if Jet Black had just walked through the door. I can see it because I know what the center of the character is, and it’s a man with a heart full of candy. And that’s exactly what Mustafa is.
John was the same way. I knew him as a very talented actor, but I knew that he had a very ironic wit and sense of humor. I told him that it is something very important to us. “You take on Spike Spiegel and I on” Cowboy Bebop. “Should we hold hands and do it?
And Daniella was the same way. She only has the fire that is Faye Valentine. So putting them in a room, rolling and dropping them was pretty easy. The first time I heard you all read the words out loud, we were in New Zealand in pre-production. In that moment I knew that everything was going to fall into place.
(Image credit: Funimation)
Space.com: Bringing Yoko Kanno back for the show’s soundtrack was a cool nostalgic touch. How important was it to get her to contribute new arrangements for this project?
Nemec: It was very important to me. Once again, I got to “Cowboy Bebop” through the soundtrack. Yoko is part of the soul of the show. So getting him to go back and rework some pieces to find the live-action 2021 version of those iconic songs, and to find new pieces of music that lived on in the characters and theme, was an incredible journey. I think the soundtrack for the season is absolutely worth releasing to the world. People will find that soundtrack. It’s so good.
Space.com: Can you explain the series’ impressive visuals and how that process evolved?
Nemec: The special effects are outstanding on the show. We spent a lot of time looking at the preview and doing a lot of development. We really work the Bebop, we work the swordfish, the astral gates, the planetariums. We looked at a lot of designs and put a lot of 3-D models on turntables.
The interesting thing about the anime is that the Bebop itself is not consistent throughout the series. The size and shape change. So we really looked at it to find our way and then we hired some phenomenal visual effects companies from around the world to take it on. The beauty was that the companies that took care of it all had “Bebop” fans built into the company as artists. Everyone really put in a lot of extra hours and extra care just to love on “Bebop.”
Space.com: What are the plans for the future of “Cowboy Bebop” and will there be a second season?
Nemec: Nothing would be better than to keep telling more stories about the “Bebop” team. Write to your local Netflix representative and tell them you want to see more! There are definitely ideas spinning for the second season. There are some great stories, great characters, and still great things for me from anime that excite me.
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