‘Cowboy Bebop’ Delves Into the Heroes’ Pasts & Expands on the Anime Series

Alex Hassell as Vicious, John Cho as Spike in Cowboy Bebop
Geoffrey Short/Netflix

They may be called “cowboys” by the ruthless outlaws they stalk, but this trio of energetic bounty hunters doesn’t ride horses. In fact, the closest thing to a trusty steed like Trigger you’ll see is their spaceship, Bebop. On this wild future-set adventure series where Earth is uninhabitable, the ragtag group—brokenhearted Spike Spiegel (John Cho, above, with onscreen enemy Alex Hassell), grumpy ex-cop Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir) and hardened warrior Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda)—make ends meet by traveling the solar system.

“They are always in search of that next score that they can get in chasing down criminals and cashing in bounties,” explains Cowboy Bebop showrunner André Nemec, who promises layered backstories for our heroes. “The characters have deep histories, and there is a real component of how the past catches up to you, no matter how fast you try and outrun it.”

Nemec’s live-action take on the late-1990s Japanese anime series of the same name tells a fresh, all-new adventure. “My feeling [about] adaptations is you don’t want to serve the same meal,” he continues. Instead, Nemec mined the original series’ cinematic influences—everything from The Maltese Falcon to the Lethal Weapon franchise—for themes and ideas. “For us, it was about continuing to expand on the stories,” he says.

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself tapping your feet too: Original series composer Yoko Kanno returns to score the show with saxophone interludes, Latin-infused big-band numbers and even hard rock. The soundtrack, says Nemec, is “a huge element.” Bebop is a sensory overload…in a wonderful way.

Cowboy Bebop, Series Premiere, Friday, November 19, Netflix