With the series set to release at the end of the week, the review embargo for Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop has finally lifted, revealing an all-around negative consensus among critics towards the streaming giant’s audacious and widely-unwanted live-action adaptation of the classic anime series.
As of writing, Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop currently holds a 41% ‘rotten’ rating on review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, based on reviews submitted by twenty-seven different critics.
Likewise, on fellow review aggregator Metacritic, sixteen critic reviews have left the show sitting at a 38/100 rating.
However, unlike the odd disparity between the written criticisms and the final scores seen in numerous Marvel’s Eternals reviews, it seems that this score is an accurate reflection of critics’ opinions.
For example, Collider’s Rafael Motamayor opened his review with the declaration, “Cowboy Bebop is a soulless remake of a landmark anime series, one that is constantly drawing attention to the original while changing enough to take away the impact of what it’s trying to emulate.”
“Cowboy Bebop is a show constantly at odds with itself,” he eventually concluded. “This is just like the Cowboy Bebop you remember (or that your friends told you about), except it is absolutely nothing like it.”
“All of the good things about Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop are betrayed by poor writing, uninspired action scenes, and a truly baffling obsession with the most annoying characters in the series,” said Decider’s Meghan O’Keefe.
She further asserted, “Cowboy Bebop is the text book definition of a mixed bag, full of glimmers of extraordinary promise and confounding choices that cheapen what made the anime version a masterpiece. I hated it. I loved it. It made me desperate to just watch the anime again.”
In his review for RogerEbert.com, Rotten Tomatoes Top Critic Brian Tallerico lamented, “It’s a show that works in small bursts but never coheres, and there’s a depressingly manufactured sense to the whole thing, especially in shots directly copied from the original.”
“Cowboy Bebop” had the rhythm of jazz, an art form that’s full of improvisational expression,” he added. “You can’t fake that. You certainly can’t try to just re-create it, but this live-action version loses any sense of inventive creativity in a failed attempt at fidelity to the source.”
“Those divorced from memories of the 1998 series may see something different in lighthearted-yet-excessively-violent interpretation of the material, but as a blip in the timeline of Cowboy Bebop’s legacy, Netflix’s first live-action series is a failure, however noble and interesting,” wrote Polygon’s Toussaint Egan. “The truth might be that, what works in animation often does not, or simply cannot, work in live-action without self-consciously making fun of itself at its own expense. Cowboy Bebop is new proof.”
While one of the most positive reviews for Cowboy Bebop came from Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall, who found Netflix’s adaptation to be “a fast-moving, pulpy hit,” the critic also clarified that his outlook came from someone who had “only seen clips of [the Cowboy Bebop anime].”
“I can’t speak to how faithful or satisfying fans of the original will find its Netflix live-action remake,” he explained. “But the new version very much feels like a project with anime roots, and has for the most part figured out how to make its influences work with flesh-and-blood actors and practical sets. It’s a lot of fun.”
Even speaking as someone who admittedly did not feel “particularly precious about Cowboy Bebop,” Paste Magazine’s Austin Jones found that “Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop often feels like a slap in the face.”
“Many moments in these 10 hourlong episodes go beyond just your average cringey attempt at recapturing the magic of the source material it’s based on—it’s actively grotesque in its bastardization of the original show,” he added, before later recognizing, “The unfortunate truth is Cowboy Bebop’s failings will be blamed on a market unwilling to compromise—it’s already happening with easy scapegoats like John Cho’s age or Daniella Pineda’s costume.”
However, despite all of these negative reviews from critics who have actually seen the show, the show’s egregious, point-missing nature can perhaps be best summed up by a single tweet from freelance critic Steven Nguyen Scaife.
“If you have been on the fence,” revealed Scaife, ‘there’s one point where Faye dramatically says “I’m not gonna carry that weight’.”
Cowboy Bebop releases on Netflix on November 19th, 2021.
What do you make of the critical response to Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop?