You may have recently noticed the internet – and particularly Twitter – in an uproar over the release of a live-action version of Cowboy Bebop on Netflix. If you have never seen Cowboy Bebop, you may not fully understand why fans of all stripes were upset.
That being said, the wide consensus from both fans of the original anime as well as newcomers to the series is that the live action of Bebop was, to put it bluntly, not very good. The acting strained the bounds of believability, the costumes and sets were overly artificial, and it managed to drain every ounce of fun, excitement, and “cool” from the anime.
To live-action remake or not to live-action remake
There have been many live-action remakes of popular anime series, and nearly every single one has been panned by fans and newcomers alike. So why do big production studios keep making live-action versions of the shows we love? This likely has something to do with how anime is viewed as a lesser form of entertainment specifically because it is animated.
On the hierarchy of entertainment media, anime is below live actions films and perhaps just above children’s programs. It is worth taking a moment to consider why this is. Animated features win Academy Awards and are pitched to a variety of different audiences – including adults – and are made by internationally recognized production studios. Could the bias against anime be rooted in an association with children’s animation, or could it be rooted in a bias against a culture that is exoticized regularly?
For the millions of people around the world who do appreciate and enjoy anime, the good news is that there is an incredible amount of good quality anime out there. There are also many associated anime products and games. For example, there are numerous anime-themed games featured on online casinos such as Magic Maid Café, Fortune Girl, Slot N Roll, and Moon Princess.
If you are a fan of Cowboy Bebop, you will certainly enjoy the following series.
Space Dandy is a chaotic, erotic, and strange series made by the same team that created Cowboy Bebop. The main character Dandy is essentially a combination of Elvis Presley and Spike, and he travels the cosmos with a group of rag-tag friends, going on adventures and discovering new alien species.
Space Dandy is a vibrant, goofy show that can sometimes tip into the absurd. However, at the heart of every episode – beneath the jokes about Hooters-type bars and lascivious aliens – is a deeply humanist core message.
Samurai Champloo is a series by the director of Cowboy Bebop and was released a few years afterward. Rather than in space, we find our heroes travelling across Japan during the Edo period. The group is trying to find a samurai who smells of sunflowers, and they go on a series of adventures in the process.
The music in this series is some of the best you will find as it is all by the late (and great) Nujabes. You could watch this series for the music and stunningly beautiful intros alone, but the rest of the series is pretty engrossing as well. There is a reason why Samurai Champloo always ranks incredibly high on lists of top anime – watch it and find out for yourself.
Carried by the Wind: Tsukikage Ran
Carried by the Wind follows the adventures of travelling ronin Ran and her sometimes sidekick Meow of the Iron Cat Fist, a Chinese martial arts expert. You join them as they travel throughout Japan, drinking excellent sake, fighting crime, and dispelling gender myths.
There are certainly not enough anime series featuring female heroes in the way Carried by the Wind does – as three-dimensional, complex, and highly capable individuals. This series is truly a delight and features excellent storytelling and perhaps the best-ever anime intro song.
Unfortunately, the anime master Satoshi Kon only managed to create one full anime series before he died – Paranoia Agent. The series follows a number of characters along with their struggles and foibles, and it all plays out against a looming catastrophe in Tokyo.
A young man wearing roller skates and a baseball cap has been rolling through the streets of Tokyo, randomly attacking and sometimes killing hapless individuals with his baseball bat. At the same time, a small pink cartoon dog is taking over pop culture and becoming a major cultural icon.
These two things are connected, and the series excellently plays with themes of mass hysteria as well as cultural critique of modern fandom and capitalism. The ways in which individuals seek to control their environment and are in turn controlled by media and culture are explored at length.
The series Black Lagoon is certainly one of the more violent and action-packed series that you will find. It has everything from deep-sea Nazis to gun-running nuns and bullet-splitting swordplay. The series follows a Japanese businessman who is kidnapped by a team of bounty hunters living in Southeast Asia.
Rather than return to his daily grind in Japan, the hero of the series decides to settle in and try his hand at being a bounty hunter as well. There are a number of dark themes to the series including trauma, cycles of violence, and the impacts of bigotry, so it is not one for light viewing. If you love a bit of swashbuckling swordplay and international intrigue, you will certainly enjoy Black Lagoon.
These are just a few of the many different anime series that are similar to Cowboy Bebop. You can celebrate the cancellation of the live-action remake of Cowboy Bebop by settling in and watching one of these series. Perhaps Netflix will learn from their mistakes and fund talented, creative teams creating new anime series rather than attempting a shoddy rehash of a beloved series in live action.