Warning: this article contains major spoilers for Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop! If you haven’t already, be sure to check out IGN’s full Season 1 review.
Netflix’s live-action Cowboy Bebop may not quite be a 1:1 remake of the anime, but it gets pretty close at times. Many episodes feature key character moments and fight scenes taken directly from the source material.
Just how close does the live-action series get? Let’s break down the scenes that owe a major debt to the anime.
Episode 1 – “Cowboy Gospel”
Nowhere are the similarities between the two Bebops more obvious than in the first episode, which follows the anime episode “Asteroid Blues” pretty closely.
In both cases, our heroes are on the trail of doomed drug smugglers Asimov and Katerina, and we first meet those two characters in a New Tijuana bar called El Rey. Both versions show Asimov dosing himself with the Bloody Eye drug and attacking rival gangsters.
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Asimov and Katerina meet a similarly tragic end in both versions when their ship is shot down by the ISSP. We even see a dead Katerina with vials of Bloody Eye spilling out into space.
The main difference is that Katerina shoots Asimov in the anime, while Faye fatally wounds him in the live-action series. Don’t forget, Faye hadn’t made her debut yet in the anime.
Finally, both versions have a scene where Spike and Jet are eating bell peppers and beef (minus the beef).
This episode also includes a fun nod to Cowboy Bebop: the Movie, adapting the scene where Spike nonchalantly interrupts a convenience store robbery. Though in this case it’s a casino robbery.
Episode 2 – “Venus Pop”
The second chapter of the live-action series reaches deep into the anime, pulling in the off-kilter terrorist known as the Teddy Bomber from the episode “Cowboy Funk.”
Just like in the anime, there’s a scene where the Teddy Bomber becomes very angry when no one seems to be paying him any attention.
We also get our first glimpse of the Red Dragon Syndicate elders in this episode. But where the elders are three identical-looking old men in the anime, here they’re shown to be a more diverse group of mask-wearing gangsters. We even later learn one of them is Vicious’ father, a major diversion from the anime.
Episode 3 – “Dog Star Swing”
Episode 3 shares a lot in common with the anime episode “Stray Dog Strut,” as we see Spike and Jet face off with Abdul Hakim and encounter Ein the Corgi for the first time.
Both versions even show a similar martial arts fight between Spike and Abdul.
The live-action version differs by showing us more of Abdul’s background and motivations. And where the anime has Abdul resort to plastic surgery to change his face, the live-action series instead makes use of a hologram disguise.
Episode 4 – “Callisto Soul”
Episode 4 introduces eco-terrorist Twinkle Maria Murdoch and her masked henchmen. These characters should definitely be familiar to anime fans, as both Maria and her goons are wearing very similar costumes as seen in the anime episode “Gateway Shuffle.”
The climax of this episode also features a familiar shot of Faye’s ship falling apart after destroying one of Murdoch’s missiles, similar to the scene where she and Spike are racing to the hyperspace gate in the anime.
Episode 6 – Binary Two-Step
This episode offers a new spin on the anime episode “Brain Scratch,” which also deals with the bounty on cult leader Dr. Londes. In the anime, Londes turns out to be a hacker stuck in a digital coma. In the Netflix series, he’s revealed to be a rogue A.I.
This episode also serves as an early cameo for Radical Ed, who had already long since made her debut in the anime by this point.
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Episode 7 – “Galileo Hustle”
Episode 7 features one of the most heart-wrenching and important callbacks to the anime as we learn about Faye Valentine’s tragic past. This episode shows Faye watching a video message her younger self recorded, and that message is almost line-for-line identical to the one seen in the anime episode “Speak Like a Child.” Even the haunting piano refrain is the same.
Episode 8 – “Sad Clown A-Go-Go”
Episode 8 is another one that owes a deep debt to the anime, in this case the episode “Pierrot Le Fou.” A number of moments in this episode serve as direct callbacks to the anime, including a shot that shows Pierrot’s shadow receding after Spike is injured in the explosion.
Spike runs into Pierrot again at an amusement park, though this time the park is named Earth Land rather than Space Land. Their fight begins very similarly, with Pierrot crying out “Let’s party!” It also ends in almost the exact same way, with Pierrot getting stabbed in the leg and crying out for his mother.
There are two differences worth noting here. In the anime Pierrot is deathly afraid of cats, while in the live-action series it’s dogs instead. We learn that this phobia ties back to his origin story, where he saw dogs like Ein being experimented upon.
The live-action Pierrot also has an actual reason to target Spike in the Netflix series, as he’s a killer hired by Vicious.
Finally, in the anime, Spike uses western throwing knives, while in the live action version, he brings Japanese kunai.
Episode 10 – “Supernova Symphony”
Season 1 reaches a dramatic conclusion with a finale that borrows liberally from the anime episode “Ballad of Fallen Angels,” even if the conclusion of this episode leaves the characters in very different places.
As Spike and Vicious battle it out and reach a stalemate inside the church, they recreate one of the most iconic shots from the anime in the process.
Their fight also ends the same way, as an injured Spike falls out the stained glass window in slow motion. We even hear the same song – the beautifully sad “Green Bird.”
For more on how the live-action series ends on a very different note, be sure to check out IGN’s Canon Fodder episode:
Are there any key anime-inspired moments we missed from Season 1? Let us know in the comments.
Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.