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How Spike Spiegel Changed From Anime to Live-Action

When adapting a work to an entirely different medium, its protagonist must follow suit to match. Cowboy Bebop is the latest theme in Netflix’s campaign to deliver a hit live-action animated series, and new creators have been given control of one of the most beloved heroes in a generation. .


Cowboy Bebop released in 1998, one of the biggest hits that brought anime to the West. The series blends sci-fi, westerns, noir and martial arts elements with a signature fun style creating something unprecedented and probably never will again.

RELATED: Cowboy Bebop: Who is Spike Spiegel?

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Spike Spiegel is a bounty hunter side by side his longtime partner Jet Black to catch criminals and earn some cash. He is carefree, fun, ambitious, charismatic carefree and complex. Despite his permanent smile, goofy voice, and superhuman ability to improvise, there was still an emptiness in the man who now passed through Spike. At its core, Spike Spiegel is a man who gave up his life, hope, and future in pursuit of carefree pleasure. Spike’s past is grim and haunting, making him carry that weight as he travels through the galaxy. He is lazy, silly, and impulsive, but sometimes very wise in a way that surprises others. Whether viewers watch just to see the martial arts and fast-paced action or analyze each line for deeper meaning, the series’ hero offers something to hold and enjoy. Because Spike Spiegel has a depth of complexity beyond his adorable looks; that depth live-action repetition simply not.



Cigarette Spike Spiegel Smoking Cigarettes

Spike Spiegel of the live-action version is portrayed by John Cho, who certainly seems to be do the best he can with what he was given. Cho’s Spike looks the part, toying with Jet and Faye, sometimes performing some impressive martial arts, and engaging in gunfights with criminals. Those superficial details come to life in Spike’s portrayal of the live-action, which, though done worse on a large scale, what the character lacks comes from the writing rather than the acting. The new series borrows ideas from the source without understanding its setting and execution, and the result is a stunningly uninteresting depiction of Spike Spiegel. As with so many adaptations, the difference can be shown in a single scene. In this case, the first of the program.


Live-action’s cold opening Cowboy Bebop it’s basically an entertainment of the opening scene in the 2001 animated film. Spike and Jet interrupt an ongoing robbery, originally in a small convenience store, now in a lightly organized casino. In the film, Spike uses his cunning and superb martial arts skills to distract, disarm, and disable a trio of armed men. A fourth gunman came out of the bathroom and quickly took one hostage, an elderly woman, and demanded that both men drop their weapons. Spike responded with typical cavalier intelligence, drawing his weapon and bluntly stating that it was not his responsibility to protect others. The gunman panics and turns the gun on Spike, allowing the bounty hunter to shoot from his hand like the Lone Ranger. Spike deceives the gunman by pretending to be indifferent to the suffering of others, but in reality, deliberately risks himself to help others.


Netflix’s Spike entered the scene in a similar fashion, then brutally murdered almost everyone involved, then had the same exchange for no apparent reason. Live-action Spike just downplays an old woman’s life for fun. There’s no deeper meaning, no clever ambiguity, just a bit of negligence quickly cut off by another joke that doesn’t land. Netflix’s Spike Is Less Complicated, more violent and less likable. Where the anime left Spike’s story a gripping mystery, the new series couldn’t last ten minutes without drawing more attention to the character’s past. This is to its detriment for a multitude of reasons, one of the biggest being that, unlike the anime, Spike hasn’t changed in the least from his grim past.



Cowboy Bebop John Cho

Both iterations of the character ignore the fact that Spike Spiegel is probably not the character’s birth name, but the live-action iteration gives fans his previous moniker; Not fear. His enemies still hunt him under that name, but he insists that he is now Spike and Fearless is dead. He claims to have turned a new leaf, leaving behind a life of crime in favor of a life of freedom and justice for profit. The problem is that the live-action Spike hasn’t changed. He is still a violent, aggressive, careless and self-important killer. He kills more people in a single fight scene than the previous iteration saw him kill in its entire run. Anime Spike Spiegel is a free spirit, unfettered from his own death by an almost religious devotion to his classical mantra; “Whatever happens, happens”. Live-action Spike Spiegel is a taciturn thug with a dark sense of humour.


Spike Spiegel was not well served by this adaptation, but if this is the first time viewers have introduced the character, they may still find something to love in Cho’s performance. There’s more to the Spike Spiegel, offered in thousands of delicate details in anime. It’s a pity that the live-action performance did not see that.

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