It seems that it wasn’t just fans who were unhappy with Netflix’s absolute mishandling of the beloved space western series, as original Cowboy Bebop anime creator Shinichirō Watanabe has admitted that he couldn’t bring himself to suffer through more than one scene of the streaming service’s live-action abomination.
The veteran anime director shared his opinion on the widely-panned, cancelled-three-weeks-after-its-premiere adaptation during a recent career retrospective interview given to Forbes’ Ollie Barder.
Following brief look back at his past portfolio, including such works as Blue Comet SPT Layzner, Gundam 0083, and of course Cowboy Bebop, Watanabe was asked for his thoughts on Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop, to which he revealed that he was, to say the least, not a fan.
“For the new Netflix live-action adaptation, they sent me a video to review and check,” recalled Watanabe. “It started with a scene in a casino, which made it very tough for me to continue.”
“I stopped there and so only saw that opening scene,” he confessed.
“It was clearly not Cowboy Bebop and I realized at that point that if I wasn’t involved, it would not be Cowboy Bebop,” he added. “I felt that maybe I should have done this. Although the value of the original anime is somehow far higher now.”
Not only did Watanabe share his distaste for Netflix’s adaptation, be he also opened up about his general opposition to the Hollywood machine.
“Back on The Animatrix, I first got to work with people in Hollywood,” said the director, reflecting on his short for the animated The Matrix anthology, Kid’s Story. “Working with those kinds of people is always difficult. This is because at the beginning they promised me that I could do whatever I want, but that’s just lip service.”
“Actually, I had a big altercation with a Hollywood producer on The Animatrix,” Watanabe recounted.
“He would always come with these stupid requests, just so he could identify his own contribution,” he continued. “As the requests were stupid and made no sense, I rejected all of them. Unfortunately, I couldn’t win in this situation, so I had to concede on some of these things”
“I learned from this bitter experience though,” the director affirmed. “For subsequent projects, I became smarter at handling people who wanted to interfere. In that, I would send back very small corrections or adjustments just before the deadline. That tended to work.”
“In Japan, you sometimes get producers that are similar to American ones,” Watanabe said. “You also sometimes find good producers in America.”
“The original producer on The Animatrix was a really good guy,” he noted. “He understood my work and didn’t give me stupid requests. However, he had to leave due to family issues, but his successor, called Spencer Lamm, was awful.”
“So many requests,” he frustratingly stated. “Change this, change that. It was very frustrating and if these requests were coming from the Wachowskis, I would at least respect that as they came up with The Matrix. So who was the new producer compared to that? He explained that he was the gatekeeper to the Wachowskis and unless he could be convinced, he wouldn’t bring my work to them.”
In handling this situation, Watanabe said that, “when I went to Los Angeles for the recording sessions, I told the team that if I saw that producer I would just punch him in the face. The producer ended up not coming to the recordings, which is unheard of.”
Of course, Watanabe is far from the first Japanese creator to express massive disappointment at the West’s handling of their creations.
Most notable among such creators is original Dragon Ball mangaka Akira Toriyama, who after witnessing the James Wong disaster that was Dragonball: Evolution felt the need to produce Dragon Ball Super in order to undo the damage the live-action outing did to his legacy.