‘Cowboy Bebop’ Co-Creator Couldn’t Watch Netflix’s Live-Action Version of the 1998 Anime

Cowboy Bebop John Cho Shinichirō Watanabe
Kirsty Griffin/Netflix, Red Carpet News TV

It’s safe to say Shinichirō Watanabe wasn’t sorry when Netflix canceled its live-action Cowboy Bebop series in December 2021 after less than three weeks of streaming. Watanabe, director of the original 1998 anime series, said the updated version was “clearly not Cowboy Bebop.”

“For the new Netflix live-action adaptation, they sent me a video to review and check,” Watanabe told Forbes in a new interview. “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 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.”

Developed by Christopher Yost (The Mandalorian), Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop starred John Cho, Mustafa Shakir, and Daniella Pineda as bounty hunters Spiel Spiegel, Jet Black, and Faye Valentine, respectively. “Long on style and perpetually short on cash, bounty hunters Spike, Jet and Faye trawl the solar system looking for jobs,” Netflix teased in its logline for the series. “But can they outrun Spike’s past?”

The live-action series started streaming on November 19, 2021, but Netflix had canceled it by December 9. As The Hollywood Reporter noted at the time, Cowboy Bebop had gotten tepid reviews from critics and had dropped 59 percent in worldwide viewing hours the week before.

Meanwhile, the original Cowboy Bebop remains popular with fans, nearly 25 years after it debuted on the Japanese television station TV Tokyo.

“The success of Cowboy Bebop is definitely more than I ever expected,” Watanabe told Forbes. “This was because, around that time, anime was not all that popular outside of Japan. Maybe something like Akira was very popular, but that was the exception rather than the rule. So the success of Cowboy Bebop was surprising, and I still want to know the reason why.”