Cowboy Bebop is one of the most critically and commercially successful anime series of all time, so why has a season 2 never happened? The original 26 episodes have moved to Netflix ahead of the release of a live-action Cowboy Bebop series coming to the streaming service in November 2021. While a second season of the anime remains unlikely, the live-action series offers a new vehicle for exploring the philosophically dense world of Cowboy Bebop.

Netflix’s live-action Cowboy Bebop is an expansion of the anime series meant to explore “the archetypal nature of the characters and dig out deeper histories,” according to Cowboy Bebop showrunner André Nemec. The original Cowboy Bebop anime series was an aesthetic masterpiece and existential character study set in the year 2071, following the eccentric crew of the Bebop as they hunt criminals across the solar system. The show blended sci-fi, noir, and western genre tropes in the background of a serious exploration into the problems of the near future.

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Given the international popularity and thematic complexity of the Cowboy Bebop anime series, many have wondered why nothing more has come from the series since Cowboy Bebop: The Movie premiered in 2001. Cowboy Bebop ended after just 26 episodes due to Shinichirō Watanabe, the series director, believing that brevity kept in spirit with the show. Watanabe wanted to avoid continuing without resolution in the way series like the original Star Trek had. Ostensibly, there was never a plan to go beyond the original run, despite the fact that the Netflix live-action series already plans to move forward with multiple seasons (depending on its success, of course).

Beginning a show with its end in mind has become popular in prestige television since Cowboy Bebop first debuted in 1998. Often, this method of constructing a show avoids ambiguity in meaning and can deliver more satisfying finales to audiences. Given the series’ proclivity to wrestle with serious themes, it’s possible that Cowboy Bebop might not have retained its place as one of the greatest animes of all time had its resolution not been planned.

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Netflix’s live-action Cowboy Bebop is changing the anime in some significant ways, but its inclusion of Shinichirō Watanabe as a creative consultant will likely help the adaptation avoid some of the pitfalls involved in making live-action adaptations of anime series. The original Cowboy Bebop anime will most likely never receive a second season, but Netflix’s live-action series has the potential to investigate the anime’s themes of loneliness, existential dread, and ennui in a meaningful way. While some viewers might be hesitant to give another live-action anime adaptation a chance, Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop is in a unique position to expand and explore a beautiful world while keeping the spirit of the original series alive.

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