A live-action Cowboy Bebop TV series is in the works, further proving Hollywood’s obsession with anime
In news that will either delight or horrify fans, a group known as Tomorrow Studios is looking to create a live-action Cowboy Bebop TV series for American audiences. According to Variety, the show will be produced by Sunset Inc., the studio responsible for the original anime version. The pilot will be written by Chris Yost, a writer best known for his work on Marvel movies.
Hollywood is always on the lookout for the “next big thing.” That shouldn’t be confused with Hollywood looking for the next amazing property to adapt, but rather the next platform that can provide it with a new source of material that can be built upon again and again and again. The obvious example is the superhero genre and before that YA-novels, and now it is looking more and more like Hollywood might have its Sauron-like gaze on anime.
It has been slow going so far, however, and the failure of the Ghost in the Shell adaptation may have set things back a bit. Still, there are several other live-action anime-related projects for both TV and film in some form of development, including a Robotech movie, an Akira film, an American adaptation of Attack on Titan (separate from the recent Japanese live-action adaptation), and more. Netflix is even banking on a movie version of the anime series Death Note, which it rescued from near disaster at the hands of WB.
To be clear and avoid any online arguments, most of these properties were born as manga, but Hollywood seems to be focusing on the properties with a popular anime following – and in that category, there are few with more influence than Cowboy Bebop.
The Cowboy Bebop anime debuted in Japan in April 1998. It actually appeared a year earlier as the manga Cowboy Bebop: Shooting Star, but it was envisioned from the start as a slick and stylish TV show, featuring some of the most memorable music ever heard in an anime thanks to composer Yono Kanno and her band the Seatbelts. Kanno was involved from the start, and her jazz fusion style helped to define the tone and theme of Cowboy Bebop. No word on whether or not she will be involved in the proposed adaptation, but it would be a shame if she isn’t – and given how vital the music is to the anime, it might upset fans if she is not.
The story followed a band of misfit bounty hunters, known as cowboys, as they traveled the solar system, eking out an existence and surviving one score at a time. There was an overarching storyline involving the main character Spike Spiegel, but for the most part, the anime was a series of adventures from the group as things rarely went to plan.
The series ran for just one year, producing 26 episodes, but it quickly became a massive hit. In 2001, a dubbed version came to America and helped to establish Cartoon Network’s hugely successful Adult Swim. It has since run on multiple channels and is available on several streaming services. A movie set during the show’s run, known in Japan as Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door and in America as simply Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, was released in 2001 and 2003, respectively.
Cowboy Bebop remains one of the most important and influential animes ever made. It helped introduce a new generation of fans to the medium, and remains one of the highest-rated series to date. Several filmmakers, including Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson, have credited it with helping to define their visual styles. Johnson has even been asked about making a live-action Cowboy Bebop movie, to which he replied “I think a live action Bebop would be a really, really tough nut to crack. The tone & vibe are so singular.”
This won’t be the first attempt to adapt it into live-action for western audiences either. Rumors of a possible movie have been floating around for years, and at one point Keanu Reeves was attached to star as the character Spike Spiegel. So far no one has found that right balance yet, but perhaps a TV adaptation will be the way.
This is still in the very early stages of production – no network is attached, a release window hasn’t been mentioned, and casting is still a long way off. Given the popularity of Cowboy Bebop and given that Hollywood – both in films and on the TV side – is always looking for a new source for material, it could end up moving ahead quickly.