Review: ‘Cowboy Bebop’ is Enjoyable But Could Be Better

With Cowboy Bebop less than a week away, it seems like fans’ excitement continues to build. Dropping on Netflix this Friday, the ten-episode first season live-action remake of the highly successful anime is bound to excite some viewers, as well as upset some others. While overall I enjoyed the new show, there were some things that worked for me and some that left me scratching my head. This review is spoiler-free, however, if you wish to go into the show with no preconceived notions or opinions, please proceed with caution. 

The series follows Spike Spiegel (John Cho) and Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir). These two cowboys traverse the stars on their ship The Bebop as they attempt to collect bounties on wanted criminals. Throughout the show, they join forces with Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda), another bounty Hunter with enough personality for five people. Together, their goal is to gather enough money to survive, while also avoiding the main villain of the story – Vicious (Alex Hassell).

The cast of Cowboy Bebop is one of the best parts and driving forces of the show. Cho shines as wisecracking Spike, who is also hiding some pretty big secrets. His balance of light-hearted moments with the heavier scenes allowed him to showcase his amazing range. Shakir’s performance really captured me early on. He played the tough exterior cowboy incredibly well, and as the captain of the Bebop, he definitely has to make some tough calls. He also has some heartwarming moments in the first few episodes involving his family. Both actors have some fantastic comedic moments that broke up the monotony of the series.

Pineda’s Faye Valentine took a while to grow on me. It wasn’t until episode six that I felt myself enjoying her screen time, instead of cringing at her over-the-top energy. Even after she no longer bugged me, it still felt like something was off about her character. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Where Spike and Jet felt similar to their anime counterparts, Faye felt marginally different. 

Elaine Satine’s Julia also fell flat as a character for most of the season. As the wife of Vicious, she felt more like a prop than a fully fleshed-out person. I do think Satine did well with what she was given, however, I wish there was more of her and that she felt better fleshed out throughout the entire run. 

The costume designs for the characters were exceptional. Jane Holland created costumes that felt like they were ripped straight from the original anime, without feeling too campy or ridiculous. Seeing these costumes in action felt like a high point for this series. 

The bebop music that plays during most of the episodes felt true to the original series. Many times it blended seamlessly into the background of the show and I didn’t even realize that it was playing. However, the switch from slow jazz to a quicker tempo always reflected what was happening on screen. And when I was directed to listen closely to the music, I found myself enjoying the show a bit more. 

While the show looked and sounded beautiful, there was still something fundamentally off with Cowboy Bebop. However, it wasn’t until much later in the season that I figured out what that was. Many episodes of the season felt like filler episodes. Almost every episode had a “bounty of the week” type feel. Most are driven specifically just for the money. A few times within the first few episodes we get touches of Vicious and his evil schemes, as well as the actions of the police in the universe. However even these two storylines felt disjointed from the adventures of the ship Bebop. 

There is nothing wrong with having filler episodes here and there. But with a season consisting of only ten episodes, it felt like time was being wasted. Perhaps some fans will enjoy the ride with Spike and the crew. I wanted to know more about why we were watching them. Instead of investing my time just because I could, I wanted to invest my time to see the story and these characters grow. 

Did I enjoy watching Cowboy Bebop? Sure. Will I watch any new seasons that come out? Absolutely. Will I watch this season over again? Probably not. While the show was certainly enjoyable, I felt there was so much that should have been done differently. Cowboy Bebop had all the makings of a great show, so it should have been a home run. The parts that were good were done incredibly well. However, the parts that were lackluster felt glaring by the time the credits rolled on the final episode. I wanted very much to like the show, but for me, this wasn’t a television masterpiece.

Cowboy Bebop when it drops this Friday on Netflix! Let us know in the comments or on social media what you think about it when you see it!

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