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How Live-Action Cowboy Bebop Can Avoid Hollywood’s Anime Curse

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How Live-Action Cowboy Bebop Can Avoid Hollywood’s Anime Curse

After a decade and change spent in development hell, a live-action version of the iconic 1998 Sunrise anime Cowboy Bebop  is moving forward as a television series. The series, which follows a group of disparate bounty hunters trying to eat and make a buck in 2071, will be developed by Tomorrow Studios, a partnership between Britain’s ITV Studios and TV producer Marty Adelstein (Prison Break, Teen Wolf), executive produced by Sunrise and written by famed comics/animation writer Chris Yost (X-Men: Evolution/ Thor: The Dark World), the TV show is the first positive sign of any sort of remake for the legendary anime since a film at Fox starring Keanu Reeves was shuttered due to budget issues.

RELATED: Cowboy Bebop Derailed Due To High Budget

The easiest answer to the question of whether Western creators should tackle an adaptation of what’s widely considered to not just be one of the greatest anime ever made, but possibly one of the greatest television shows of the 20th century is, for most fans, a firm “No.” If the recent, enormous bomb of the Scarlett Johanssen Ghost In The Shell and the still-lingering stench of 2009’s Dragonbal: Evolution don’t remind you, the history of this sort of thing proves that, give or take a Speed Racer, Hollywood just does not seem to get how to translate the style and appeal of anime to live-action.

But these failures offer some lessons and if Yost, Adelstein & co. take the lessons that accompany them to heart, they could produce a show that, even if it can’t surpass the original (because not even any of director Shinichiro Watanabe’s follow-up series or his 2001 Bebop movie Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door have managed that) can at least make sure not to sully Cowboy Bebop‘s legacy.

LESSON #1: KEEP EVERY CHARACTER JAPANESE

This seems to be the hardest thing for people making these sorts of remakes to bear, so let’s spell it out nice and simple:

Every character in an anime, unless explicitly stated as otherwise or obviously non-human, is ethnically, racially and culturally Japanese. 

And before anyone goes there and asks, “Then why do they all look white?” here’s the best way to understand that. Y’know how, in The Simpsons, the yellow skin of most characters is implicitly understood as white? It’s basically the same deal with anime, only instead of “yellow=white,” it’s “white=Japanese.” There’s a ton of complex motivation as to why that is, but this ain’t a cultural anthropology journal and I’m nowhere near qualified enough to lay out the whys and hows of that. Suffice it to say, this is how it is, and always has been.

RELATED: Ghost In The Shambles: What Hollywood Continues To Fail To Learn

Given the abundance of underutilized Asian-American acting talent in Hollywood, this show could be the perfect opportunity to introduce the next Masi Oka or Emily Kuroda to audiences everywhere. That, or the producers could follow the route of Takashi Miike’s 2007 film Sukiyaki Western Django and simply get Japanese actors onscreen speaking English. Maybe even a cameo for the original Spike Spiegel, Koichi Yamadera? The sky’s the limit here, and really, as long as we don’t get another embarrassment like Justin Chatwin’s Goku, the resultant positive publicity will only help the adaptation’s potential success.

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