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"Cowboy Bebop" brings live-action screen life to the thrilling anime story that’s been a fan-favorite for generations. Like the original series, this neo-noir space Western takes place in 2071 and centers on a ragtag team of interplanetary bounty hunters. Together, they must face dangerous — and sometimes hysterical — obstacles in their efforts to track down the most dangerous criminals in the solar system and earn some much-needed cash.
On board the eponymous Bebop spaceship, we have Spike Spiegel, aka Fearless (portrayed by John Cho), a talented fighter with wild hair and a razor-sharp sense of humor. Then there’s Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir), a former police officer with some cybernetic bodily upgrades and fierce love of loyalty and jazz musicians. We’ve also got Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda), a fast-talking opportunist who recently came out of cryo sleep. And, of course, there’s Ein, an adorable corgi with some surprising talents.
Although each of these crewmates have a shady history they’re running away from, the past comes back into play in a big way here. In addition to being forced to face their own personal demons, they must also contend with the ruthless crime syndicate that rules the realm and whose power-hungry and cruel capo, Vicious (Alex Hassell), has some scores to settle with Spike.
"Cowboy Bebop" fans will delight in seeing the wild-style storyline come to life in this spectacular new vision. And if you’re left wanting even more where that came from, in addition to streaming the original animated series on Netflix, here’s a look at some movies that "Cowboy Bebop" fans may also enjoy watching.
Blade Runner: The Final Cut
Japanese anime legend Shinichirō Watanabe was inspired by several pieces of pop culture when he first created the original version of "Cowboy Bebop," not the least of which was Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi classic "Blade Runner." Watanabe has credited the film with partly inspiring the character Spike, and he was such a fan of the film that he even later directed an anime short for its eventual sequel, "Blade Runner 2049," called "Black Out 2022."
Indeed, fans will no doubt find some familiar elements of Spike and the entire space Western world while watching "Blade Runner." The story features a future full of bioengineered humanoids called replicants, which are now being hunted down and terminated by blade runners, such as the film’s lead character, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford). Of course, no mission can be as simple as that. Just as "Cowboy Bebop" invites audiences to question the state of reality and morality in some key moments, Deckard’s task is also more complicated than it seems.
Of the many versions of the film that have been released since its original theatrical run, "Blade Runner: The Final Cut" is largely considered the definitive vision of the film since it’s the one in which Scott finally had complete creative control over the pic, 25 years after its original release.
Lupin the 3rd: The Castle of Cagliostro: Special Edition
An anime series that greatly influenced Watanabe while creating "Cowboy Bebop" was "Lupin the Third," which adapted the manga of the same name. One part of the sprawling "Lupin III" library that "Cowboy Bebop" fans might want to check out is the 1979 film "Lupin the 3rd: The Castle of Cagliostro," which boasts another anime legend at the helm.
The one and only Hayao Miyazaki made his feature film directing debut with "The Castle of Cagliostro." The film centers on a talented thief who robs a casino, only to find out that his haul is counterfeit money. He then sets out for the titular castle, both to find the source of the fake bills and to rescue a runaway princess. Since its release, the film has been a source of inspiration for many filmmakers, with its humorous tones and rip-roaring chase sequences, so "Cowboy Bebop" fans are bound to get a kick out of the movie that helped establish the Studio Ghibli great’s directorial career.
Directed by Robert Rodriguez, "Desperado" is a wild Western action film that’s directly linked to the creation of "Cowboy Bebop." In fact, the first episode of the influential anime series is a creative tribute to the Rodriguez flick, and "Desperado" also gets some love in the new live-action series as well.
The 1995 film, which is the second in Rodriguez’s "Mexico Trilogy," centers on a mysterious man named El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas), who seeks revenge against a powerful crime boss for taking his lover’s life and putting a bullet in our hero as well. Like "Cowboy Bebop," the protagonist in the film is jaded but thirsty for vengeance, and he has a deep, dark connection with his deadly rival. In addition to those connections with Spike, "Cowboy Bebop" fans will also notice some striking similarities between El Mariachi’s look and that of both the anime and live-action versions of the character Asimov (Jan Uddin).
One gnarly space Western that "Cowboy Bebop" fans are bound to enjoy is "Space Sweepers," which is set in 2092 and features a similarly complicated and competitive future for mankind. The story takes place at a time when Earth has become nearly uninhabitable, and the most privileged members of humanity have relocated to an orbiting vessel with an Earth-like ecosystem. For those not lucky enough to become citizens of this elite new home — but who don’t want to live on a polluted planet either — they work as space debris collectors called space sweepers.
The film centers on a misfit crew who work onboard the ship Victory, all of whom have some very dark pasts. (Sound familiar?) They spend their days catching and selling valuable refuse, but the team unexpectedly makes the find of a lifetime when they discover a little girl named Dorothy stowed away in a car and learn that she’s a highly sought-after robot with a weapon of mass destruction inside her. At first, they set out to trade their discovery for a major ransom, but as with so many of those wily "Cowboy Bebop" missions, the circumstances change quite a bit once more information about Dorothy comes to light. Soon, their mission becomes about so much more than money, and they’ll have to fight against some sinister forces for what’s right.
Another movie that gives fresh screen life to a well-adapted manga favorite is "Gantz: O," a 2016 sci-fi film based on the "Gantz" series by Hiroya Oku. The setup of the story is quite different than "Cowboy Bebop," of course. It centers on a group of recently deceased monster hunters who are tasked with slaying the world’s deadliest creatures to both save mankind and earn points that will get them better weapons, the ability to resurrect their fallen teammates, or even freedom from the fight altogether.
However, in the vein of "Cowboy Bebop," the CGI action pic is visually stylish and features characters who have to examine their own purposes and ethics as they fight against unthinkable evils and find something to live for (in this case, even after death). "Cowboy Bebop" fans who enjoy the show’s slick fight scenes and wild weaponry will certainly get a kick out of the action in "Gantz: O."
Berserk: The Golden Age Arcs I – III
Kentaro Miura’s seminal manga series, "Berserk," gets a formidable screen treatment in "The Golden Age Arc" trilogy of anime films. The three installments — "The Egg of the King," "The Battle for Doldrey," and "The Advent" — are written by Ichirō Ōkouchi and directed by Toshiyuki Kubooka, and they take the action way back in time to the medieval era. The story centers a lone mercenary named Guts, who’s recruited into a group called Band of the Hawk by its powerful leader, Griffith, and must fight alongside them in some bloody battles at the behest of the king.
As with the crew of Bebop, there are some difficult dynamics at play between the members of the Hawks, particularly when it comes to Guts and Griffith, and their various power plays and ever-changing relationship inform the entire arc of the series. Like "Cowboy Bebop," "Berserk" has a dedicated fan following and is widely regarded as one of the all-time greats in the world of manga and anime.
If you’re looking for another story with the same level of martial arts battles, gripping gun play, and deception that you can find in "Cowboy Bebop," look no further than "Triple Threat." The pic features a pair of mercenaries who are hired to embark on a humanitarian effort by a dubious client. Naturally, they’re new boss has an ulterior motive for bringing them into the mission. Instead of being sent to free some prisoners from Thailand, these two are actually being framed for the brutal devastation of a small village, which is perpetrated to free a terrorist leader from captivity.
Soon, our heroes find themselves ensnared in a revenge scheme for a crime they didn’t commit. Plus, they have to step up to stop another siege from taking place, making some unexpected allies along the way. In addition to being loaded with action — and starring a who’s who of martial arts stars, like Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White, and former UFC champion Michael Bisping — the film also features some moments of light-hearted humor and fun character energy that you might find aboard the Bebop.
For those "Cowboy Bebop" fans who enjoyed the romantic elements that inspired so much action in the story, you also might want to check out the 2019 sci-fi action film "Shanghai Fortress."
The film, which adapts Jiang Nan’s 2009 novel of the same name, takes place in 2042, when the world is being overrun by aliens. But at the heart of the story is a man named Jiang Yang (Lu Han), who falls in love with a heroic commander named Lin Lan (Shu Qi) and follows her along as the remnants of mankind take a stand in Shanghai, defending their planet from their deadly attackers. They’re the last hope for humanity — and, possibly, each other.
With jaw-dropping special effects, heart-stopping action, and an emotional core anchoring it all, "Shanghai Fortress" has a little something for everyone, including those "Cowboy Bebop" fans who dig the show’s blend of mushy moments and intense action set pieces.