The live-action premiere of “Cowboy Bebop” was received with significant bewilderment due to the absence of popular anime character Radical Ed until the finale, which showrunner Andre Nemec responded to. “Cowboy Bebop” is a film version of the 1998 anime series of the same name. The ten-episode live-action series aired on Netflix on November 19th.
“Cowboy Bebop” follows the crew of the Bebop, a spaceship that the protagonists utilize to hunt down bounty and explore the universe. Spike, Jet, Faye, and Radical Ed, a juvenile prodigy hacker who joins the crew last in the ninth episode of the anime, are the four main protagonists in the original series. The first season of Netflix’s “Cowboy Bebop” has already distinguished itself from the anime by introducing a number of new characters and plots.
Ed’s presence late in the first season was purposeful, according to Nemec, in an interview with Netflix Unlocked (via ComicBook), the after-show for “Cowboy Bebop”. He talks about how Ed’s presence later in the anime served to build conflict between the other established members of the Bebop, and how he wanted the audience to be invested in the relationships of those characters before introducing Ed to change things up. Though Ed’s first appearance in the first season was brief, it’s quite possible that she will play a greater role in the second season, which Netflix has yet to renew. Below is a remark from Nemec about Ed’s debut:
“All we wanted was for Ed to make an appearance on Cowboy Bebop. You know, Ed doesn’t show up until the ninth episode of the anime. So it wasn’t like Ed is a core member of the Bebop crew from gate in the anime, and it was important to spend enough time with these characters in order to really understand them and get traction….[T]here needed to be some stability amongst who these people were before we could introduce this other sort of wild and crazy component into the show. That Radical Ed is always up to something wild and kooky, and getting the gang into trouble.”
Eden Perkins, who makes their screen debut as Ed in the finale, plays the character. In episode 6, “Binary Two-Step,” the characters attempt to track down Ed, who is subsequently shown to be a red herring. After Spike’s fight with Vicious and being shot by his previous love interest, Julia, Ed’s appearance in the finale was designed to provide a sense of levity to the proceedings.
Critics have given the new series mixed to poor reviews, with many criticizing the narrative and pacing as flaws. “Cowboy Bebop” was seen as a watershed moment in anime, particularly in terms of its reception in the West. Though giving Ed a larger part and reinterpreting content and tone may help the program get new fans, the issue remains that with Netflix now streaming the original “Cowboy Bebop” series, why would fans settle for anything less cherished and awkward in tone and presentation? Finally, the new “Cowboy Bebop” might be able to turn things around in a second season, and fans will have to wait and watch.