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 this November. Here’s what we know so far.
- First official trailer for Cowboy Bebop released
- Netflix releases teaser trailer for Cowboy Bebop
- Cowboy Bebop‘s original Japanese anime cast confirmed to dub Netflix series
- Netflix shares Cowboy Bebop‘s full opening credits sequence
- John Cho address age concerns regarding his portrayal of Spike Spiegel
- Daniella Pineda responds to fans’ Faye Valentine criticisms
- Cowboy Bebop first look images of Spike Spiegel, Jet Black and Faye Valentine released
- Cowboy Bebop confirmed for November 19 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?
Netflix has revealed that its Cowboy Bebop adaptation will premiere November 19, 2021.
what you need to know about COWBOY BEBOP
🚀 based on the beloved 1998 anime
🚀 stars John Cho, Mustafa Shakir and Daniella Pineda
🚀 original score composed by icon Yoko Kanno
🚀 consulted on by original director Shinichirō Watanabe
🚀 debuts on Netflix globally on Nov. 19th pic.twitter.com/AY1YgJ3CUH
— Netflix EEK-ed 🎃 (@NetflixGeeked) August 23, 2021
During its 2021 Geeked Week event, Netflix revealed 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 – read “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 EEK-ed 🎃 (@NetflixGeeked) June 8, 2021
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. In an August 30 interview with Vulture, Cho spoke about fans’ concerns that he is too old for the role.
For context, Spike Spiegel is aged 27 in the anime, while Cho is pushing 50. “I knew people were gonna have issues with my age. And I had to get over it. I’m not a person who says age is just a number or whatever. It was gonna be harder — physically,” he said.
He added that ultimately, he wasn’t going to let his age stop him from taking up the opportunity, and that he wouldn’t have been able to play the role when he was younger either: “I don’t think I would’ve done justice to the emotional depth we tried to give Spike”.
Cho also revealed to Vulture that he wasn’t familiar with the Cowboy Bebop material ahead of reading its script. “I didn’t know it. The first thing I read and fell in love with was our episode-one script, which I thought was really brilliant,” he said. Upon further research, Cho was sold on the role and show, which says “was the most unique piece of entertainment I had seen in a long time”.
However, Cho’s newness to the property shouldn’t be cause for concern to fans. The actor said of his dedication to the role: “I don’t think that I’ve ever taken a role more seriously. I don’t feel that I took any shortcuts as I’m prone to do”.
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.
On August 23, Netflix shared first-look photos of Spike, Jet and Faye – and the corgi Ein – in the Bebop and in action. See them below:
Daniella Pineda posted a now-expired Instagram Story shortly after Netflix released its first look at the characters to respond to fans’ criticisms that she doesn’t look like Faye Valentine: “Six foot, double-D sized breasts, two-inch waist. You know, they looked everywhere for that woman and they couldn’t find her. It’s kinda weird, so they went with my short ass.”
She also commented on Valentine’s revamped costume: “Doing stunts in tissue paper, they disappear, they rip. They made a couple of them, but they got slurped up in my various crevices, never to be retrieved again so we needed to really build something that could stand the test of time.”
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 EEK-ed 🎃 (@NetflixGeeked) October 7, 2019
On October 12, Entertainment Weekly confirmed that the original Japanese cast from the Cowboy Bebop anime have been brought on to reprise their roles for the Japanese dubs of the Netflix live-action series.
Koichi Yamadera will voice Spike, with Taiten Kusunoki as Jet, Megumi Hayashibara as Faye, Norio Wakamoto as Vicious and Gara Takashima as Spike’s love interest Julia.
Other notable voice actors from the original anime returning are Tsutomu Taruki (Punch), Miki Nagasawa (Judy) and Romi Park and Hikaru Midorikawa as Vicious’ twin enforcers Shin and Lin respectively.
Is there a trailer for the live-action Cowboy Bebop?
A full trailer for the show was released on October 27. It kicks off with Spike Spiegel (Cho) speaking to an old acquaintance, Ana (Tamara Tunie), about his new career as a bounty hunter.
The rest of the trailer shows Spike and Jet meeting Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda) and Spike and Vicious (Alex Hassell) recreating an iconic action scene from the anime series, among other scenes.
On September 26, Netflix revealed the show’s full opening credits sequence, which is virtually identical to its anime counterpart – save for a few additional scenes and the omission of fan-favourite characters such as Ed.
Watch the opening credits for Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop below.
On October 19, Netflix released a special teaser for the series, titled “Lost Session”. The action-packed teaser is a stylised montage of scenes featuring the series’ main trio: Spike Spiegel (Cho), Jet Black (Shakir), and Faye Valentine (Pineda).
Watch the teaser below.
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 EEK-ed 🎃 (@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.”
What happened during the filming of Cowboy Bebop?
The show’s development schedule was a long one, with filming initially beginning in 2019 and concluding in March 2021. Cho sustained a serious knee injury while on-set in New Zealand in October 2019, halting the filming process 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.
Speaking to Vulture in late August, Cho revealed that his injury in question was a torn ACL, leading to the show’s halted production. He went on to say that he was “doing kind of an athletic move as the sun was coming up. It was probably a lack of sleep. Just a little move and [I was down]”.
Cho also shared that during his rehabilitation process, his guilt over shutting down production and sending everyone home made him double-down on his commitment to the role: “I didn’t feel that I could come back and half-ass this role. I had to take it deadly seriously.”
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”.
How can I watch the live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop?
Cowboy Bebop is booked as a Netflix original series, so it will stream exclusively on the streaming platform from November 19 onwards. Find out more here.