Whether it’s implied or has been asked directly on social media, a question lingering around Netflix’s live-action adaptation of “Cowboy Bebop” has long been “why?”
The answer, as it often is for any major cultural output, is the chance to make big bucks. Anime is likely Japan’s strongest pop-culture export, and in the past decade it has enjoyed even further growth. Even though it experienced a dip last year owing to the pandemic, the forecast moving forward remains bright, especially outside of Japan. The Association of Japanese Animations recently announced that overseas sales surpassed the domestic market for the first time ever.
Netflix has invested heavily in anime during its existence, but the live-action “Cowboy Bebop” aimed to be something more. It’s an attempt by the streaming behemoth to take an existing intellectual property — in this case one of the most loved series to come out of Japan — and transform it into mainstream fare. Seeing as the current state of Western entertainment revolves around reboots and long-gestating sequels (at time of writing, the top movie in the United States is a “Ghostbusters” nostalgia trip), it’s a valid approach.