Original ‘Cowboy Bebop’ director slams Netflix remake: “It was clearly not ‘Cowboy Bebop’”

“The value of the original anime is somehow far higher now”

Shinichirō Watanabe, director of the original Cowboy Bebop anime that aired from 1998 to 2000, has spoken out about his disapproval of Netflix’s failed live-action remake.

The original Japanese series – a neo-noir space western – ran over three volumes and a theatrical film (2001’s Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door), and went on to garner a cult following in the late 2000s and 2010s.

The Netflix adaptation was announced in 2017 and premiered four years later, however it had limited involvement from the team that worked on the anime. In a new interview with Forbes, Watanabe explained how that was one of the reasons the show was brutally criticised by viewers.


“[Netflix] sent me a video to review and check,” he said. “It started with a scene in a casino, which made it very tough for me to continue. I stopped there and so only saw that opening scene. It was clearly not Cowboy Bebop and I realised at that point that if I wasn’t involved, it would not be Cowboy Bebop.

“I felt that maybe I should have done this. Although the value of the original anime is somehow far higher now.”

Watanabe is not alone in dissing the Cowboy Bebop remake. It was widely panned by fans of the original anime, as well as critics. In a two two-star review NME called it “another sacrifice to the relentless churn of the streaming machine”.

Netflix ultimately cancelled the series – which starred the likes of John Cho, Mustafa Shakir, Daniella Pineda and Alex Hassell – just three weeks after its first season premiered. A petition to revive it later earned more than 120,000 signatures though, and Cho himself said he was “shocked” by the news of the series’ cancellation.

“I put a lot of my life into it,” he said at the time. “I’d gotten injured shooting that show and so I took a year off because of the surgery and devoted myself to rehab, came back and finished the show. It was this huge mountain for me to climb, healing from that injury. I felt good about myself as a result. We also shot the show in New Zealand, so my family moved there. It was just a huge event in my life and it was suddenly over.”

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