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Netflix, Nostalgia, and Cowboy Bebop

Nostalgia is strong when it comes to mixed media: That video game you thought was amazing when you were a kid, that piece of art you made that you swore was Picasso levels of quality, that one movie that you could quote word for word. 


Reminiscing of what was once better, when things were simpler, is bittersweet as much as it is fond. It gives us something to think about during those quiet nights. Something that’ll always give me some sort of entertainment is the age-old debate of the dubbing or the subtitling of anime. Very nerdy, I know.


It’s the most infamous argument in the anime community, an argument which I have participated in for…multiple years. Are subtitles of the original language superior compared to voice actors dubbing the show in their native language? What even makes a good dub? This debate hasn’t stopped once it began, and it never will. 


It brings back memories of late nights pouring over Reddit posts on different shows, watching everything twice to get the full experience. I will admit, the Trigun dub is better than the original. However, recently a new argument has entered the scene. 


Are live action versions of anime worth it? With the recent release of Netflix’s original live action rendition of the beloved series Cowboy Bebop, fans are conflicted. 


Cowboy Bebop is a Japanese animated series, created by Sunrise Studio. It was the first anime title to be shown on American television, being premiered on Adult Swim in 2001 along with other classics such as One Piece and Dragon Ball Z. It was the opening of the door to the world of Japanese cartoons, introducing new concepts and art styles many had never seen before.


Cowboy Bebop was the catalyst of the anime boom, the Citizen Kane of animation, something that stays obscure, the few people knowing about it worshiping it. 


All in all, it’s worth the watch. 


You follow the colorful and chaotic cast of characters as they travel through space, chasing bounties and dealing with hidden trauma. Of course, the best character is Ein, a hyper intelligent dog. He is the best character, and Netflix can fight me on it. 


Filled with jazz, beautiful backgrounds, and impressive animation, Cowboy Bebop is an experience everyone can enjoy. The characters are lovable, the plot is gripping, and the quality in general is very high for the time it was released. It’s intense and emotional, and I will not lie I shed some tears at the end of the series.


This show is beloved by many, so when Netflix announced that they were going to release a live action version, fans were less than pleased. Live action movies and series in the anime world are notorious for being extremely low quality, no matter what studio has produced them.


The Death Note movie is still a sore subject for many, myself included.


Death Note, or Kurojoshi in Japanese, is part of the top few animes that that most people have watched or at least heard of, often being promoted along titles such as Naruto or Bleach (much to the chagrin of older anime fans). It is rated a solid 8.6/10 on MyAnimeList, and is the 66th most popular anime on the site. Even if you haven’t heard of it, it has plenty of memes that still circle the internet to this day.


While the anime does have its flaws when compared to the manga (the original comic version of the story), the movie is…worse. So much worse. 


The premise of the plot in its simplest form basically goes like this: A highschool student, named Light Yagami, finds a notebook, and realizes that if he writes someone’s name in it, and imagines their face, the person dies.


The first change we see when the movie begins is the fact that the producers decided to change the name of the main character. They dubbed him Light Turner for some reason.


I burst out laughing when they revealed it, then felt mildly insulted. They changed the plot to fit the screen time, which is understandable, but they completely changed the ending to set up for another movie. Judging by the low reviews, that movie is most likely never going to come out. Viewing as an audience member, it’s clear that they wanted to stray away from the original material and make it their own, even if the change is unwanted and unnecessary by fans.


Netflix has always had this problem. The recreation of already existing media has been a large trend in recent years, capitalizing off of nostalgia and past success. However, straying from the source material isn’t always bad. Plenty of content can be based on something but be completely different. 


How to Train Your Dragon is a very popular and critically acclaimed movie, but many people don’t know it’s actually based on a book series of the same name. The books are a stark contrast to the movie. Instead of a viking and dragon war, they all live in peace. Dragons are actually trained by vikings like overgrown pets instead of burning down houses.


Toothless isn’t the most dangerous dragon on Berk, but instead a small green dragon that can sit comfortably on Hiccup’s shoulder, and was captured in a woven basket. While the two pieces of content share a name, each is created and presented in its own unique way. They are separated by the creative process. 


In the case of Death Note, when you rip the basic plot and exact idea from a piece of content, and only make very small changes to claim it is your own, originality is hard to consider. New does not always mean good. 


Animation is a form of art that can be morphed into anything a person desires. Attempting to take this fluid definition and shove it into a box of realism to create something in the real world never ends well. Creativity stops when real life is acknowledged. 


Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop is not bad. The actors who were chosen put their hearts into their roles, and you can feel their passion. However, it’s not good either. It falls flat, the whimsical tales told in the original series brushed over for more serious undertones and plot points. Instead of a slow burn and ambiguity, we get things shoved into our faces. Show don’t tell is a major problem with the live action. Trust your audience, we don’t need everything to be spelt out for us. While the anime had its weak spots, the live action had holes. 


The fun atmosphere is gone, leaving boredom to reign supreme. If you have never seen the original, give the live action a chance! It’s not the worst thing in the world. However, to people like me who grew up watching these shows, it’s a bit of a letdown. 


Maybe nostalgia is blinding, making me believe that this show is below average, that the original is this amazing piece of art. Nostalgia is a strong thing, making expectations high and lenience low. 


But in the end, only one thing can be said. 


See you, space cowboy.