Cowboy Bebop, the iconic genre-defying anime series, is set to receive a live-action adaptation by Netflix.
The Sunrise Inc. title originally ran as a limited animated series in 1999, and was followed by a full-length theatrical film in 2001. Now, the show will be remade for new audiences with John Cho in the lead role of Spike Spiegel.
Cowboy Bebop has inspired a worldwide cult fanbase enamoured of the show’s offbeat sense of humour, vivid (and often violent) intergalactic adventures, and its jazzy soundtrack by Japanese band Seatbelts. The show premiered with an English dub on Adult Swim in 2001, cementing its reach beyond Japan.
A co-production between Netflix and Tomorrow Studios (Snowpiercer) with a development period dating back to 2017, the upcoming series is slated to release sometime this year. Here’s what we know so far.
- Cowboy Bebop confirmed for a late 2021 release
- Original series composer Yoko Kanno to write new music for the show
- Netflix teases updates on Cowboy Bebop during Geeked Week from June 7 to 11
- Cowboy Bebop wraps production on season 1
What is Cowboy Bebop about?
Cowboy Bebop, which blends elements of science-fiction, Western, film noir, and slapstick comedy, is set in a fictionalised universe where Earth is rendered uninhabitable, pushing humanity to colonise the Solar System.
A former hitman turned bounty hunter, protagonist Spike Spiegel wanders around the galaxy in search of jobs, leading a ragtag group of hunters on a spaceship called the Bebop. However, an inability to skirt danger, Spiegel’s devil-may-care attitude, and a litany of old, vengeful foes regularly land the group in trouble.
Spiegel is joined by Jet Black, a grizzled ex-cop; Faye Valentine, a con artist; Edward, a teenage hacker; and Ein, a corgi with enhanced abilities. The show unveils a colourful cast of characters throughout its run – Spiegel’s arch-nemesis Vicious and old flame Julia being prominent recurring characters.
The show’s main arc concluded in a 26-episode run, with the 2001 feature film – Cowboy Bebop: The Movie – expanding on events from its penultimate episodes.
What is the release date for the live-action Cowboy Bebop series?
While an official release date has yet to be confirmed, Netflix revealed in a clip during its 2021 Geeked Week that the series will arrive sometime later this year.
The tidbit arrived with the news that original series composer Yoko Kanno will also return to provide new music for the live-action adventure. At the end of the clip, which features cast members jamming to the anime’s theme song, the text — in the style of the show’s closing “See You Space Cowboy…” script — reads “See You This Fall…”.
Yoko Kanno, the composer behind the iconic soundtrack of the original COWBOY BEBOP anime will be creating the soundtrack for the new Live Action Series. Also confirmed…Cowboy Bebop is coming this Fall. #GeekedWeek pic.twitter.com/6lHZQcoFR6
— Netflix Geeked (@NetflixGeeked) June 8, 2021
How many episodes will Cowboy Bebop have?
Netflix booked Cowboy Bebop for a 10-episode season in 2018, confirming that original series director Shinichiro Watanabe would consult, and that Thor: Ragnarok screenwriter Christopher Yost would pen the first episode.
Original anime creator Shinichiro Watanabe will he brought on to consult, too. The first episode is written by Thor: Ragnarok’s Chris Yost. https://t.co/G3E9hxajPD
— Netflix Geeked (@NetflixGeeked) November 28, 2018
It was later confirmed that each episode will be an hour-long, as opposed to the original anime’s shorter episode runtime. Co-writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach told io9 that the longer episodes will help give the series room to develop its own narrative and expand the stories of different characters – deviating from the original show’s format, which primarily focused on episodic adventures.
He said, “We’re not going to go one-to-one on all of [the original show’s] stories because we’re also trying to tell the broader story of Spike Spiegel and the Syndicate, Spike Spiegel and Julia, Spike Spiegel and Vicious, and all that.
“But we are looking at the show and saying, ‘Who are some of the great villains in this show, and how can we put them into this into this broader narrative?’ So that we are telling both of the big stories that Cowboy Bebop tells.”
Who is in the live-action cast of Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop?
Cowboy Bebop is set to feature a list of emerging actors alongside John Cho, who’s playing protagonist Spike Spiegel. On the list of the main cast is Mustafa Shakir (Luke Cage) in the role of Jet Black, Daniella Pineda (Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom) as Faye Valentine, Alex Hassell (The Boys) as Vicious, and Elena Satine (Revenge) as Julia.
Rounding out the cast, as reported in November 2020, are Geoff Stults (12 Strong) as Jet Black’s former co-detective Chalmers; Tamara Tunie (Black Earth Rising) as jazz club proprietor Ana; Mason Alexander Park (Hedwig) as Ana’s right-hand person Gren; Rachel House (Thor: Ragnarok) as White Tigers family member Mao; and Ann Truong (Strikeback!) and Hoa Xuande (Ronny Chieng: International Student) as Vicious’ henchmen Shin and Lin respectively.
Notably, the character Edward has not been cast yet.
In 2019, there were rumours that Spiegel’s canine companion Ein would not be a corgi in the Netflix adaptation, but a husky. This was debunked by Yost in May 2019, and later by Netflix itself in a delightful “behind-the-scenes” clip filmed from the point-of-view of the corgi playing Ein.
in the nearly three years i've been working on it, there has not been a single day where ein was anything other than a welsh corgi. #CowboyBebop
— christopher yost (@yost) May 5, 2019
— Netflix Geeked (@NetflixGeeked) October 7, 2019
Has Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop finished filming?
Yes – the adaptation concluded production in March 2021.
The show’s development schedule was a long one, with filming initially beginning in 2019. Cho sustained a serious knee injury while on-set in New Zealand in October 2019, setting filming back until it resumed amid the pandemic in 2020.
A month after news of his injury broke, Cho told fans on Instagram that he was “on the mend”. The actor was notably sporting a thicker hairdo befitting Spiegel’s shaggy look.
In January 2020, Cho revealed while promoting horror film The Grudge that he’d already seen some of the completed Cowboy Bebop footage, and that he was happy with the progress made thus far.
“The big thing that I was focusing on all the time [during production] is that we’ve got to keep it strange,” he said, “and that’s hard to do. But I’ve watched some of the stuff and I’m really happy with it.”
In July 2020, the show was among eight productions – including the upcoming Lord Of The Rings series by Amazon Studios and the Avatar film sequels – that were granted border exemptions by the government of New Zealand to resume filming in the country.
Production then continued, wrapping in March 2021. The show’s Faye Valentine, Daniella Pineada, celebrated its completion in an Instagram post showing off a Cowboy Bebop t-shirt.
Is there a trailer for the live-action Cowboy Bebop?
No, a trailer for the series has not yet been released. However, with production fully wrapped, it’s likely we’ll get one before the show’s arrival later this year.
How can I watch the live-action Cowboy Bebop?
Cowboy Bebop is booked as a Netflix original, so it expected to be available exclusively on the streaming platform.
Will there be a second season of Cowboy Bebop on Netflix?
There very well could be – io9 reported in 2020 that the team behind Cowboy Bebop has already been working on season two, “and more seasons could follow”. Co-writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach told the publication that there are no plans to end the show after a set number of episodes, because “there’s always going to be criminals to catch”.