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Why was Cowboy Bebop cancelled? Netflix pulls the plug on live-action adaptation after just one season

Cowboy Bebop (Image via Netflix)
Cowboy Bebop (Image via Netflix)
Abhirup Sengupta

As per The Hollywood Reporter, Netflix has already canceled its latest live-action anime adaptation, Cowboy Bebop, after just one season. The series was released on the platform on November 19.

After news of Cowboy Bebop getting canceled broke, the series' lead, John Cho (Spike Spiegel), took to Twitter to hint at being fine with this update. He tweeted out a GIF, which said:

"I'm okay."

Based on the iconic 1998 anime of the same name, Netflix's adaptation of Cowboy Bebop joins the likes of Death Note as anime shows cancelled by the streaming giant. Like Cowboy Bebop, Netflix adapted 2006's Death Note anime for a live-action film in 2017, though it failed to attract viewers. It now hovers at an abysmal 46% on Rotten Tomatoes, while the original anime sits at 100%.


Why did Netflix cancel Cowboy Bebop?

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Cowboy Bebop reportedly had a budget similar to Netflix's Altered Carbon, which, in 2018, was one of the most expensive productions in TV and web series history.

If true, this means that the John Cho-starrer anime adaptation had a budget of $6 to $7 million per episode. The season has ten episodes, which roughly translates to a total budget of $60-70 million.

It is plausible that the show was canceled owing to the lack of viewership in relation with the high budget of the series. According to Netflix's Top 10 site, Cowboy Bebop raked in a worldwide viewing close to 74 million hours since its release on the platform on November 19.

@JohnTheCho I liked #CowboyBebopNetflix. I think the main complaint was that it was different, not so much the film noir style of the anime, but it was like a raw 90s quirky show that I was coming back to.

However, it dropped by 59% last week. At the same time, the Korean show Hellbound raked in around 129 million hours of watch time.

As per reports, Netflix usually looks at the first 30 days before the streamer decides on a series' cancelation. This insinuates that comparatively low viewership, in addition to negative reception from both critics and audiences, might have caused Cowboy Bebop to fall from Netflix's grace.

As of publishing, the show has received a 46% in Rotten Tomatoes critic score, with the audience's score settling at around 55%. Even in IMDb ratings, Cowboy Bebop received 6.8 out of 10.


What was the problem with Cowboy Bebop?

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The series had a pacing issue, as evident by several reviews; it could not retain viewers after the first two episodes. While the trailer promised an action-packed and wildly edited series, the episodes fell short in that department.

The casting of several characters in the live-action series did not match the vibe of their original counterparts from the anime. In addition to that, several reviews complained about a weak script, as well as cheap sets and costumes.

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Furthermore, Netflix's unwillingness to involve the original creators of the anime implicated bad faith in the source material. In a 2019 interview to Japanese news channel Otaquest, the anime's creator Shinichirō Watanabe revealed:

"I have no choice but to pray and hope that it will turn out good."

He also revealed that the live-action crew from Netflix did not communicate with Watanabe, despite his name being listed as a consultant in the promotional materials.


Edited by Rhythm Bhatia

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