The internet was all a-twitter yesterday when Netflix confirmed that spacey heartthrob John Cho will portray intergalactic bounty hunter Spike Spiegel in its upcoming live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop. Cho was exceptional as Sulu in the rebooted Star Trek film series and has an extensive background in both serious and comedic roles, so he seems well equipped to embody a character as dynamic and demanding as Spike Spiegel.
Cowboy Bebop, for anyone who isn’t into anime or wasn’t alive in 2001, is a show about a rag-tag group of space misfits and their perilous quest for big payouts and personal redemption. To an English-speaking audience that was used to the infinite timelines of Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon, Cowboy Bebop‘s svelte 26 episode run-time was an absolute revelation. It was many people’s first exposure to mature storytelling through anime, and deservedly rests in the pantheon of the medium’s greatest works.
So yeah, let’s celebrate Cowboy Bebop by turning it into a live-action show! Why not? Even if this new thing is bad, it won’t change how great the original was. And if the new thing is also great, well then we’ve got two great tastes that go great together. It’s win-win! In fact, there are probably at least three other anime series that could be adapted into live-action series by Netflix, and if it were up to me,
I woulda figured you out here’s what I’d pick:
The Big O
Often described as “Batman with a giant robot,” The Big O has as much in common with the works of David Lynch as it does DC Comics. Roger Smith, our hero, is a freelance negotiator in Paradigm City — The City of Amnesia. After an unknown cataclysmic event wiped the city’s population of their memories 40 years ago, society limped on to form a classist military police state. Now the rich and powerful live in domes and the poor must fend for themselves under the weight of urban decay.
Roger’s work as a hostage negotiator/detective/playboy invariably requires the intervention of Big O, the gigantic mech for which the show is named. While the series starts out as a formulaic monster-of-the-week type affair, it quickly descends into the absolute throws existential madness. To this day no truly satisfying or credible explanations exist for many of the events that take place during The Big O‘s chaotic and surreal second season.
If Netflix were to reboot The Big O as a live-action series, it could salvage the incredible characters and exceptional decopunk aesthetic, keep the main bullet points of the plot, and expand on all the absolutely wild stuff that never received the resolution is deserved. And if Netflix really knew what it was doing, it would get David Lynch to direct.
As the other space anime shown on Adult Swim in the early 2000s, Outlaw Star usually comes up whenever Cowboy Bebop does. The key difference, of course, is that Cowboy Bebop is usually what people are actually talking about, and Outlaw Star is just what some yahoo is yelling about in Twitter mentions that no one responds to. Yes, I am that yahoo, and I’m proud, dammit.
If you’re familiar with Joss Whedon’s Firefly, you are also familiar with Outlaw Star by proxy. Firefly is basically a less-spiritual Outlaw Star with the numbers filed off. Lovable rogue Gene Starwind and his young-but-brilliant associate Jim Hawking come into possession of a shipping container that contains a naked, sleeping android lady. It turns out she is one half of a two-part system designed to find the existential center of creation. The other half, a prototype faster-than-light vessel called the Outlaw Star, takes Gene and crew on a whirlwind adventure across the cosmos.
It’s worth mentioning that the Outlaw Star has arms, and that most of this show is about spaceships punching each other. Also, Gene has an antique “spell gun” that fires “caster shells” of varying effect. It’s a good show. They could cast, like, I dunno, one of the kids from BTS as Gene Starwind. It doesn’t matter that much. Just give me more spaceship boxing.
Yes, this is another western-inspired sci-fi anime from the early 2000s that was aired on Cartoon Network. But! Unlike Outlaw Star and Cowboy Bebop, which sprinkled spaghetti western influence as seasoning, Trigun used it as the stock for its anime soup.
Vash the Stampede, aka The Sixty-Billion Double-Dollar Man, aka The Humanoid Typhoon, is a legendary gunslinger with an astronomical price on his head. He’s wanted, dead or alive (no steel horse though, sorry), for the complete obliteration of a city named July. Vash, unfortunately, has amnesia, and remembers nothing before coming to in the city’s burning aftermath. Since then, he’s traveled from town to town across the world’s endless desert, trying and failing to keep a low profile as scores of bounty hunters try to take him down.
Despite its weighty premise, Trigun can be extremely goofy at times. Vash rapidly oscillates between comic relief and stoic badass, depending on the situation. His quest for answers also engulfs the lives of Meryl Stryfe and Molly Thompson; two insurance company agents tasked with finding Vash the Stampede and preventing him from causing any more destruction. The relationship between Vash and the agents forms the emotional backbone of the show, as Vash’s journey grows more and more desperate.
In live-action form, Trigun would probably be pretty cheap to produce. It’s primarily a western and all the sci-fi stuff is around the edges. You’d need someone with range (like Cho) to play Vash, and someone with a truly grotesque, sinister presence to play his dramatic foil, who shall remain nameless for the sake of spoilers. David Tennant, perhaps?