By Erin Caine
Few other animated series from Japan have experienced the kind of international success that “Cowboy Bebop” has since its original run in 1998. And it’s about to become even more accessible to a Western audience.
The original anime, directed by industry legend Shinichiro Watanabe and scored by the inimitable Yoko Kanno, is hailed as a masterpiece. It blended gunslinging action and sci-fi venues to create, according to MEL Magazine, a “genre-bursting space western” like no other.
The story follows the adventures of a motley crew of bounty hunters aboard a spaceship called the “Bebop.”
It’s tough to fill the shoes of, in the words of Kyle Mills of DVD Talk, “one of the finest examples of storytelling ever created”—moreover one that “still sparks fan conversation” and “resonat[es] with viewers” decades later—but producer Marty Adelstein and writer Christopher Yost seem up for the challenge.
Back when the adaptation was first announced in 2017, fans of the original met the news with ambivalence at best. After all, the track record for successful (or respectful) anime adaptations is not exactly a comfort.
Many, of course, still remember the whole debacle with the 2017 live-action “Ghost in the Shell,” which cast white actress Scarlett Johansson as the iconic Major Motoko Kusanagi.
Those fears have been somewhat assuaged, however, with an update this year on the cast of the new “Bebop” series.
Prolific actor John Cho (who has starred in “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle” and “Star Trek”) has been cast as the main character, Spike Spiegel. In the anime, Spike won over countless fans with his easy mix of cool, charm, and complexity.
Though Cho has yet to speak in any detail about the role, he reacted to the news on Twitter with a popping-champagne emoji.
Spike’s nemesis, Vicious, will be played by British actor Alex Hassell. The other two members of the Bebop crew, ex-cop Jet Black and femme fatale Faye Valentine, will be played by Mustafa Shakir (from the 2018 Netflix series “Luke Cage”) and Daniella Pineda (Sophie Devereaux on “The Originals”), respectively.
Fans, though they’re still waiting to hear who will be cast as the androgynous tech genius Radical Ed, are praising the seeming care that has been put into the casting. The fact that the adaptation has an Asian lead is surprisingly ground-breaking —though it shouldn’t be.
Hopefully, the showrunners will ride this momentum into an end result worthy of its source material.