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Why John Cho’s Casting In Cowboy Bebop Owns Bones

You’d be forgiven for thinking that anyone repping a live-action reboot of a classic anime series in 2019 is out of their GD mind. There’s only so many bad faith ScarJo stuff-ups we can sit through before we just give up on the idea of our favourites ever being cast right. But then along come Netflix with the announcement that they’re bringing the jazzpunk sensation Cowboy Bebop back to life, and the cast is… well, it’s perfect.

Ok, 3 – 2 – 1 Let’s Jam

The king of cool, bounty hunter Spike Siegel, is being played by none other than Star Trek’s John Cho. Forgive me while I flagrantly indulge my inner (and let’s be honest, outer) nerd — IMHO, this is the best friggin’ news to come out of Netflix since they launched.

Why? Let’s put aside the fact that John Cho is a boss who proved in Searching that he’s well and truly ready for a leading role, and that his sci-fi creds are well established. Cho represents one of the first lead actors in a major studio adaptation to have been appropriately cast, meaning the age of whitewashing leads might finally be on the wane. Especially considering that this is Netflix we’re talking about — the streaming service that the whole world looks to as a role model.

You heard me: get outta here, ya mugs!

Hang On, What’s This Cartoon Thing

For the unfamiliar, here’s the skinny: Cowboy Bebop follows a ragtag group of bounty hunters as they travel the universe seeking out wanted people to arrest, all to make a quick buck and keep themselves fed. The forever unfazed Spike, a former hitman, is joined by former military officer Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir of Luke Cage/Brawl In Cell Block 99 fame) and scheming con-artist Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), plus a few other misfits as time goes by.

The original inspired a bunch of anime, but it also provided the blueprint for western shows like Firefly with its blazer-wearing, chain-smoking, effortless cool. It’s a heady blend of jazz music, comedy, crazy action sequences and bluesy existentialism.

There’s other things that the new producers of Cowboy Bebop are doing right. In particular, they’ve got Shinichiro Watanabe on board as a consultant — that’s the director of the original Cowboy Bebop, the man responsible for its distinctive flow and feel. But by far, the choice to put Cho in Spike’s shoes as been the one that’s gotten my attention and respect.

What this means is that the producers: a) have reverence for the original; b) give a shit what the fans think; and — most importantly — c) they’re ready to put stories without white protagonists first. To anyone bored by seeing reruns of the same basic stories every time they turn the TV on, this should be a welcome change of pace.

With John Cho in the pilot’s seat, my expectations for Cowboy Bebop have lifted significantly. I’m ready for more of this show in my life, and if you’ve never sought out an anime before, you should mainline this pitch-perfect space western as soon as it drops.

Images: Netflix, IMDB, Madman Entertainment, DreamWorks Pictures.

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