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Netflix launched its live-action adaptation of sci-fi Japanese anime series Cowboy Bebop on Thursday evening as the cast and creators gathered for the premiere at Hollywood’s Goya Studios, followed by a swanky reception and afterparty.
Fit with a space western theme, drinks and hors d’oeuvres flowed throughout the night, along with a food truck serving ramen — similar to the very dish Bebop lead character Spike Spiegel eats throughout the series — and party favors that ranged from new Master & Dynamic headphones to fluffy plush toys of Bebop resident corgi Ein.
Released in 1998, Cowboy Bebop made waves in the anime world, garnering a dedicated fan base that still holds up today. But following a successful first season, the original Bebop never carried on past its original 26 episodes.
“Nothing was more fun than being able to say, ‘Well, what did happen?’ showrunner André Nemec told The Hollywood Reporter of imagining the future of Bebop beyond that of the original source material. “And I’m like, ‘Well, I’ve got an answer!’ “
“Because it’s beloved, we did not want to screw it up,” said executive producer Becky Clements. “We were terrified because the fan base was so loyal. We always had an eye toward making sure we kept the integrity of the original in the live-action.”
The star of the night was undoubtedly John Cho — who plays the show’s lead Spike Spiegel — as the Bebop team sang the Harold & Kumar actor’s praises.
“He was in our mind from the beginning,” executive producer Marty Adelstein said of casting Cho. “But he really had to do a gut check because this was a hard, physical job. And he really worked hard and he came back and he said, ‘Yeah, I want to do this. This is something I’ve wanted to do my whole life.’ “
As for thoughts of his own journey to becoming the illustrious Spiegel, Cho said it was more of “a slow burn.” “He’s way cooler than me, way deadlier than me,” he laughed.
And when looking at the future of Asian content, Cho simply wants more of it.
“More,” the Bebop star said. “Let’s do it. The outlets are there and the audience is there. Everything we thought we knew about the [mainstream] audience turns out to be wrong, and I just always knew that if we put out quality — wherever it comes from — there’s an audience for it.”
For his part, Steve Aoki — who collaborated with the show’s composer Yoko Kanno for a remix of Bebop’s opening theme song “Tank” — was drawn to the project as a longtime fan of anime.
“I used to be in anime club when I was in college,” Aoki recalled. “Back then, it was more niche. It’s not like in Asia where everyone watches anime from age 5 to age 75. But it’s a part of culture now.”
Aoki is excited for what the recent success of K-pop and South Korean hit Squid Game means for the future of more representation in not only movies and TV, but the music space, as well.
“I think that Hollywood has been, for the most part, limited to stories that come out of the U.S. or Western Europe and that’s a very small fraction of the world, and a really small fraction of the universe,” added Bebop producer Jeff Pinkner. “I think that good stories are good stories, and that human beings are human beings. Hopefully, [it will lead] to telling more stories from around the globe.”
As for the future of Cowboy Bebop, showrunner Nemec is looking forward to it.
“If Ted Sarandos comes by, you tell him I got big plans for season two,” Nemec said. “We definitely know where we want to go, and I’m excited that we get to tell those stories. Fingers crossed that we get more Cowboy Bebop.”
Cowboy Bebop starts streaming on Netflix Nov. 19.
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