Cowboy Bebop Creator Slams Netflix Series

Shinichirō Watanabe, creator of Cowboy Bebop, claims he didn't finish even one scene before being disgusted by Netflix's live-action adaptation.

By TeeJay Small | Published

cowboy bebop trailer john cho

Shinichirō Watanabe shared some strong words about the live action Netflix adaptation of Cowboy Bebop during a recent interview with Forbes. According to a write up in Variety, Watanabe felt that the show lacked focus and direction, and couldn’t find enough enjoyment to finish watching the series, stating “It was clearly not Cowboy Bebop and I realized 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.”

Netflix has a long and storied history of adapting fan favorite material to mixed or downright negative reviews, especially when adapting anime. One of the most egregious examples was 2017’s live action Death Note, which had audiences seething with frustration when the film failed to do the source material justice. When it was first announced that Cowboy Bebop was going to get the Netflix adaptation treatment, fans were cautiously optimistic, but prepared for the worst.

The original hit anime, which aired from 1998 to 1999, followed the semi serialized misadventures of a bounty hunting crew as they set across space in the year 2071. The series begins 50 years after humanity has rendered the earth uninhabitable, causing a colonization effort to spread humanity across a series of rocky moons, as well as a spike in the violent crime rate. Cowboy Bebop was categorized across its original 26 episode run as a hyper stylized romp which attracted many viewers with its use of art, music, and deep character study.

Netflix’s 2017 series of the same name simply failed for many viewers to live up to the Cowboy Bebop we knew and loved. The live action series, which starred Harold and Kumar‘s John Cho, was cancelled after a single season, leaving the story unfinished. Both iterations of the show are available to watch on Netflix if you’d like to satiate your curiosities with a back to back binge.

cowboy bebop
Shinichirō Watanabe’s Cowboy Bebop anime

Fans were dismayed to see that the Netflix installment of the series differed in many ways from the source material, while still failing to carve out its own niche, with some critics referring to the 10 episode series as indicative of Netflix’s failure to properly adapt from source material writ large. Watanabe’s critiques don’t even span far enough to examine these differences however, as the director failed to complete a watch after just one scene.

During his interview, Shinichirō Watanabe explained that he was sent an advanced copy of a scene which took place in a casino. Apparently, the Cowboy Bebop creator was so disheartened by the scene that he couldn’t be bothered to watch the rest of the show, concluding that the stylistic flair he brought to the original property could simply never be replicated. This turned out to ring true for viewers as well, who turned out in droves to watch the series premiere, prompting a sharp decline in viewership in the second week.

Despite the backlash, John Cho remains happy about the work that he and the team behind the Netflix adaptation put in, explaining that he was bummed about the streamers decision to cancel the show. With Netflix having a reputation for prematurely pulling the plug on shows which underperform, perhaps a second season of Cowboy Bebop could have course corrected its mistakes. Of course, the original creator would have to be tapped to bring additional life ito the adaptation, but his comments seem to suggest that he’d be happy to do so.