Medium Matters: Cowboy Bebop II

I was trying to stay away from this one, but Cowboy Bebop has been canceled and the really bad second week numbers made it pretty clear that anyone who wants to see the live action Bebop has seen it. So I can go there.

I’ve already talked about two ways the series changed the story from the anime, that it foregrounded the Spike/Vicious conflict that was subtext for most of the anime and that it zeroed right in on the Spike/Jet/Faye relationship, last week.

But back I pointed out there was a third way they changed the story that I wasn’t going to talk about because it was spoilerific. Okay, I’m now assuming you’ve seen it.


Here’s a cool picture to keep you from seeing anything if you don’t want the ending spoiled

Okay, are we all ready to accept the consequences of continued reading?

They changed the ending.

Not only did they change the ending, but they ended it twice.

Yeah, so that was totally screwed up, right? Well, not entirely.

The fact that they ended it twice seems a little less obscure to me. To me it’s as though the creators looked at what they had wrought and said, “You know, this ain’t half bad. Maybe we can get a second season out of this schnizz.” But to do that, they couldn’t leave the original ending stand unchallenged. So they retconned it in a second ending.

The original change of ending was more or less inevitable, and it was a direct consequence of foregrounding the Spike/Vicious conflict. If season one was going to “read” as a complete story, that conflict had to be resolved.

So, what’s going on there is that Spike, Vicious, and Julia form a classic Eternal Triangle, Spike and Vicious competitors for the “hand” of the lovely Julia.

Now, most Eternal Triangles end with a winner, whose story is “Boy meets Girl, Boy loses Girl, Boy gets Girl,” and a loser, whose story is “Boy meets Girl, Boy gets Girl, Boy loses Girl.” That’s Romantic Comedy plot #1, right? The competition between the boys drives the tension in the story, and when the girl chooses the story ends.

Yes, “Boy and “Girl” can be any gender. In fact, there are stories where “Girl” is actually a pet or something.

Problem: Cowboy Bebop isn’t a Romantic Comedy.

In a way that’s good and in a way that’s bad. The way it’s good is that you don’t have resolve the conflict by having the Girl choose one Boy. You can do whatever you want.

Whatever you want?

Sure. Start counting:

One boy kills the other. Girl can take the survivor or leave him
Girl tells them both to blow it out their ears
One boy kills the other. Girl gets killed in the crossfire
Both Boys croak, leaving Girl heartbroken
Everybody dies
Girl kills them both

Note that “Everybody dies” is the end of the anime. Right? Julia, representing one faction of Spike’s old gang, gets whacked, and Spike and Vicious fight it out. Spike wins the fight, killing Vicious and “fixing” the gang, and then dies himself.

In trying to tell the Bebop story their own way, the producers of the live action series chose “Girl kills them both.” That’s the way it’s bad.

You know, in a lot of ways it worked. The guys had been fighting over and abusing Julia in various ways FOR YEARS. Most of the abuse came from Vicious but Spike wasn’t helping matters any.

So Julia snaps. Ever watched “Snapped” on the Oxygen Network? Where the women who have had it up to here with the men in their lives whack them? Sure. Julia’s had enough of it, she has the drop on them both, and she lets them both have it. In fact, when she shoots Spike, it leads to a remake of that spectacular slow motion scene from the anime, of him falling out the window, the red rose in the puddle … That was great in the original and nicely remade.

And this ending works in the live action series better than it could have in the anime because Julia has gone from being backgrounded to a major character. Sure, why shouldn’t Julia win? It’s not like she’s, I don’t know, Gren or someone. She’s a major character in the remake, and when she rises up it’s like a deadly butterfly emerging from her cocoon.

It’s an ending that resolves the story line in an unexpected way. It’s clever.

Unfortunately, with the good there’s the bad. Here we go: As an ending to Cowboy Bebop it doesn’t work, and it doesn’t work for three reasons:

1) Julia’s not Spike, and Spike is the damned hero, right? So no one gives a shit about Julia winning
2) Julia IS a major character, but she’s not a central character. She’s not Spike, Jet, or Faye, or even Vicious. Of the five of them, she’s the clear #5. That leaves Jet and Faye’s butts flapping in the breeze, just like in the original
3) With Spike and Vicious dead, the series is dead as well. No more conflict or hero

Well, if the series is dead, there’s no season two possible. So they tack on a second ending where Vicious is back alive to be tormented by Julia and Spike is still alive to be bullied by Ed. NOW we can have a season two.

Only you really can’t anyway. The information revealed in the last two episodes creates an irresolvable break between Spike and Jet. Spike’s actions put Jet’s daughter in danger AND Jet has learned that Spike has been lying to him about his past for years. You could write them back together again, but the way they have portrayed Jet as devoted to his daughter would ensure that could never work.

Never. Couldn’t be done.

They just should have left us with Spike and Vicious dead and Julia victorious. At least then we could have had SOMEONE to be glad for. And they aren’t going to get their second season anyway.

It was cool to see Ed, though.

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

9 thoughts on “Medium Matters: Cowboy Bebop II

    1. I thought it was okay if you have low expectations, and I found it interesting because of the technical decisions they made. If you go in hoping it will be just like the anime, that’s not going to happen. 🙂 But at least now you’re prepared.

      That one “Groundhog Day” episode is brutally bad, though, although it’s sandwiched between two that are pretty good.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’ve been thinking about your points in bebop 1&2 live action review. #1 is about changing the characters; and #2 is about changing the plot. Specifically how they changed the plot in an illogical Star Wars franchise sense, so it no longer worked… and I think you are right, that is a huge reason the live action bebop didn’t work… but I think your part #1 analysis zeroed in on really a critical failure.

    I was rewatching the anime, and I think it was perfectly cast. The characters look and move and act so perfectly for their roles that they are Brando in Godfather, Arnold as Terminator, Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. They are perfect and any deviation is a mistake. For example Tom Hanks was an excellent mobster in Road to Perdition, but Tom could never be Don Corleone, even if you moved the location to Boston. Miscasting the live action further damaged the show. Perhaps it was why the live action ATLA was so bad too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To be fair, though, in animation the cast is who you make them. I think John Cho did a really good job, about as good as any human could do, and Mustafa Shakir was great (although admittedly Jet is an easier role). Danielle Pineda was stuck playing a part that a human being couldn’t play and was changed around as well, so she shows poorly through no fault of her own.

      We may be able to reach common ground this way, though: Foregrounding Vicious and Julia basically meant creating those characters from just about nothing, and I don’t think they did a good job of it. Frankly, they are painful to watch. So the producers took a lot of time away from the interesting characters and gave it to bad ones, and that hurts for sure.


  2. Wow. Having Julia forcibly end it by killing both Spike and Vicious? That’s a cheap way out of it and completely derails the whole purpose of the series and the adventures: to synchronize the characters to reconcile with their pasts and confront them in some way or another.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it didn’t work at all inside the context of Cowboy Bebop. If you say, “This isn’t Cowboy Bebop, this is just an abusive love triangle,” THEN it’s a great end. I suspect they were trying to put their mark on the series.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes it was kind of cool to see Ed at the end. I find your version of the ending hilarious; I like it better than the Netflix Live Action ending version haha.

    I did not like the portrayal of Julia and Spike’s relationship at all. I talk more about this in one of my blog posts. But, the one thing I did like is their exploration of Vicious and Fearless past relationship. That was fun to watch.

    Liked by 1 person

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