How the Ending of Netflix's 'Cowboy Bebop' Drastically Deviates From the Original Anime (2023)

How the Ending of Netflix's 'Cowboy Bebop' Drastically Deviates From the Original Anime (1)

"Our show is much like how the Cowboy Bebop anime is: a mash-up of a million different genres," showrunner Andre Nemec tells Thrillist, regarding Netflix's live-action adaptation of the groundbreaking anime series from Shinichiro Watanabe. "We're sort of a mash-up of a retelling of a reimagining of a continuation."

That's a pretty keen explanation of the series, which hit the streamer over the weekend, more than two decades after the original program premiered. This new iteration (which takes influences from genres like film noir, cowboy western, sci-fi space adventure and throws them all in a blender) stars John Cho, Mustafa Shakir, and Daniella Pineda as Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, and Faye Valentine—a trio of bounty hunters (or "space cowboys," if you will) who venture out on various adventures together with Ein, their trusty Corgi friend, aboard their spaceship the Bebop, while equally attempting to reconcile their own personal traumas, along the way.

This narrative foundation sets the live-action series on similar ground as the original series, allowing for easter eggs, familiar characters, and recognizable episodic plot points to come through—albeit in a new framework that allowed this new version to be faithful of the iconic story where it needed to and to pivot into unexpected directions to keep things feeling fresh.

The "mash-up of a retelling or a reimagining" concept came through in a multitude of ways, most notably in the Season 1 finale where a huge story twist revealed completely different fates for sociopathic Syndicate member Vicious (Alex Hassell), and his tragic femme fatale-style girlfriend Julia (Elena Satine) than what befell them in the anime 23 years ago.

Cowboy Bebop gives a lot to the audience in its 10-episode run, that it could be a bit of a head-spinner to keep track of all the pertinent story details hurdling through the galaxy. Let's break the most important details down, shall we?

This article contains major Cowboy Bebop spoilers for both the anime and Netflix's live-action series.

(Video) COWBOY BEBOP Ending Explained | Full Series Breakdown, Review, Changes & What Happens Next | Netflix

How the Ending of Netflix's 'Cowboy Bebop' Drastically Deviates From the Original Anime (2)

The Bebopcrew's uncertain future

Cowboy Bebop wouldn't be Cowboy Bebop without the crew of iconic outcasts barreling through space searching for their next bounty and their next meal. Much like in the original anime, Spike, Jet, and Faye form a lovely, albeit dysfunctional, family unit. Each character's past is mired in some sort of regret or trauma that leaves them either clinging to the memories of what once was, running from them, or trying to dig up what has been lost to hopefully regain a sense of identity.

These are the main driving factors for Jet, Spike, and Faye, respectively, and the live-action series mostly takes the snippets of these characters' lives, as first revealed in the anime, and expands on them. There's Spike's history as a hitman working with a criminal organization known simply as the Syndicate and Faye's amnesia, which was sparked after being taken out of cryosleep against her will. Spiegel running from his past and Faye speeding towards hers offers an interesting dynamic in the conflict that plays out here.

Jet's story offers the first big deviation in the series, as the Netflix adaptation gives him an ex-wife and daughter—two factors that ground him as a character, supplying a soft side to the former cop who Shakir described as "a bruiser" during a separate virtual press conference done for the series.

"Ultimately, for his personal tale, it hasn’t helped him," Shakir continues. "That level of sentimentality can get in the way of seeing things for what they really are."

A balance between empathy and by-the-books brutality drives the law-enforcer that is Jet, even if it means cutting some corners to bring in the next bounty. That family man aesthetic provides a patriarch for the Bebop's found family, but it also provides a blindspot for Jet who, up until the final episode, doesn't see Spike for who he truly is: Fearless, the Syndicate's former murderer-for-hire.

The anime doesn't spend a lot of time on how Spike's history affects his relationship with Jet, other than revealing that the former cop knew all along. The Netflix series pivots majorly here. When Kimmie, Jet's daughter, is kidnapped by Vicious and the Syndicate, the truth ends up coming out. From best friends to worst enemies, Jet allows Spike to keep his life as long as his daughter is rescued and returned to safety unharmed.

(Video) Netflix Live Action Cowboy Bebop is a Crime Against Anime

"Death follows you wherever you go," Jet tells Spike in the episode's final moment. It's a quote that is initially spoken by Vicious to his former partner and brings the haunting nature of the ghost story Spike is living to the forefront.

Spike's secret doesn't deter Faye from helping her fellow cowboy. And it's her words of motivation that keep Jet on that path, as well. However, Valentine has her own issues to tend to. And while the bond between Jet and Spike breaks, Faye says goodbye to her partners so she can find the details she needs to unlock the missing parts of her past and answer who she truly is. A street name in front of her childhood home, as revealed in a VHS tape recovered during her mission to reclaim her identity, has put her on a voyage to Earth.

How the Ending of Netflix's 'Cowboy Bebop' Drastically Deviates From the Original Anime (3)

What's going on with the Syndicate, exactly?

The main driving force behind the Cowboy Bebop story is the sordid history Spike shares with Vicious and Julia. Spike, always with his hands in his pockets, holds this info close to his vest. ​​"Spike is a person who is hiding a bunch of stuff and is putting up a good front for most of the time he’s on-screen," Cho explained during the virtual press conference.

The love triangle in question leads Vicious down a violent path fed by his own jealousy and paranoia that leaves the Syndicate's Elders, his father included, dead. Meanwhile, Spike proceeds on his own mission to reconnect with Julia and save her from Vicious. And Julia? Well, she had a whole other set of plans in mind.

Much like in the anime, Spike's presumed dead in the live-action series—gunned down by the Syndicate. Netflix's rendition hones its focus, though, and as Fearless reinvents himself from hired hitman to space cowboy, the secret romance he shared with his best friend's girl ends up fueling much of the narrative. But once they are finally back in each other's arms, things don't go as Spike (or diehard fans of the anime) expect.

The anime's ending is pretty cut-and-dry. Vicious and Julia are both gunned down, leaving Spike to deal with the aftermath in a rather dramatic ending to the series. The Netflix series goes a different route completely, offering Spike a whole new layer to his heartbreak-fueled rock bottom.

(Video) A Painfully Honest Review of Netflix Cowboy Bebop

After Spike and Vicious face off in the cathedral, harkening back to the iconic battle featured in Episode 5 of the anime, "Battle of Fallen Angels," Julia steps out of the shadows and shoots Vicious herself. It turns out that over the three years that Spike has been gone, Julia's resolve has hardened under the abusive thumb of Vicious. Making her escape is one thing. But taking back the power, and reigning as the true head of the Syndicate, is the ultimate goal that's on her mind.

Of course, Spike isn't into the idea of partnering with her. So she shoots him, too, and leaves him for dead as she moves on with the next stage of her plans. In the end, Julia is still alive and holds Vicious as her prisoner. Since he's now a Syndicate Elder, his role involves the requirement of being hidden away in secrecy, never showing his face. In his place, Julia will rise to power as the real leader of the Syndicate.

"It was great to be able to go from the beginning of the season to the end of the season and watch her end up in this place," Satine revealed to Thrillist. "And to be weaved into that ending in the cathedral, which is such an iconic scene, and to give the fans that new twist on it, was just so satisfying."

Where does this leave us for Season 2? While it's possible Vicious can escape captivity and seek to gain back his power, we have to speculate that Julia's Syndicate will face off with the Bebop crew again. But considering this big script-flip, could Vicious and Spike mend fences and team up against this new common enemy?

How the Ending of Netflix's 'Cowboy Bebop' Drastically Deviates From the Original Anime (4)

Radical Ed, the Butterfly Man, and the potential for Season 2

Netflix's Cowboy Bebop features a whole load of side characters from the anime, getting beefier roles in the story that plays out in the streamer's 10-episode first season. One of the glaring concerns fans had going into the adaptation's release is the way in which the live-action rendition would work in and present those characters to audiences.

For most of the season, the red-haired Ed is missing, mentioned in passing as the source of questionable intel regarding one of the Bebop crew's bounties. Instead of leaving Radical Ed as a fun easter egg that joins many in the series, the iconic character shows up in the final moments of the series—teasing where the show may indeed go if it's renewed for another season. After Spike is left for dead, spiritually and physically, his heavily inebriated body is stirred to consciousness in a back alley. And there's one of the galaxy's most impressive hackers, begging Spike for help in tracking down a new foe known simply as "Butterfly Man."

(Video) Cowboy Bebop | Official Trailer | Netflix

"Wake up, I have a job for you! A bounty!" Ed shouts at Spike in the show's final moments. "Bad man, big reward. We have to find the Butterfly Man. Oooh, danger, danger! We have to find Volaju, Volaju, Volaju before he does spooky, bad things!"

Volaju is referring to Vincent Volaju—another character from the anime, specifically, the main antagonist in the Cowboy Bebop feature film,Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door. According to the original subject matter, Volaju is a veteran of the Titan War who supposedly died during wartime. In reality, he was experimented on and turns to a life of terrorism, convinced his experience on Earth is actually purgatory and that, if he searches hard enough, he will be able to open a gateway to heaven. To do so, though, would involve the release of a catastrophic virus. The "Butterfly Man" moniker refers to the hallucinations of butterflies he's plagued with. This finale tease definitely sets up some interesting directions for Season 2. But will there be one?

"Even if the show weren't to go on, I might just be doing this on my own," Nemec explained. "I would love to tell the stories of these bounty hunters until they end up in the retirement home. There are so many more stories to tell with his Bebop crew that the opportunity to tell them would just be outstanding."

While the first run of episodes found Cowboy Bebop cycling through recognizable characters from the anime while bringing our heroes together to fight crime how they see fit, it seems that, if Netflix does renew the series for another season, the Bebop crew will need to put their differences behind them. After all, if the Butterfly Man has his way, the fate of an entire planet's population hangs in the balance. No pressure, space cowboy.

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Aaron Pruner (@aaronflux) is a contributor to Thrillist.


How did Netflix Cowboy Bebop end? ›

The live-action Cowboy Bebop ends not only with Julia betraying Spike and nearly killing him but with her becoming the end of the Red Dragon Syndicate, the very criminal organization that gunned her down in the anime series.

Did Cowboy Bebop have a proper ending? ›

The final shot of the series is a black-and-white frame of Spike's still face. Instead of signing off with the usual "See you, Space Cowboy," the episode makes the viewer a promise: "You're gonna carry that weight." It sure looks like Spike's dead, but some fans prefer to think he's just unconscious.

Why did Cowboy Bebop end that way? ›

However, a planned Cowboy Bebop season 2 was canceled just three weeks after the first season's premiere. The Cowboy Bebop cancelation was reportedly due to streaming numbers not living up to Netflix's expectations, as well as a mostly negative response from both fans and critics.

Did Netflix change the Cowboy Bebop anime? ›

Netflix adapted the iconic anime Cowboy Bebop into live-action, and with every adaptation comes change. Storylines are tweaked, characters are re-imagined, and occasionally, major changes are made.

Who is the girl at the end of Cowboy Bebop Netflix? ›

When no bullet emerges, she tells him they'll try again tomorrow. The final scene of the final episode of Cowboy Bebop finally introduces fan-favorite character, “Radical Ed” (Eden Perkins) to the proceedings, even though it's only to yell at a passed-out Spike who just stumbled out of a bar.

What does Julia mouth at the end of Cowboy Bebop? ›

As she lay dying in Spike's arms, she whispered her last words to him: "It's all a dream," to which he responded, "Yeah, just a dream."

Did Faye have feelings for Spike? ›

Do Spike and Faye Like Each Other Romantically? Faye absolutely might have had romantic feelings, but Spike was too caught up in his past to see anything but a hindrance in his longing for Julia. In fact, a major reason why he was so harsh to Faye was because she reminded him so much of her.

Was Cowboy Bebop a dream? ›

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie follows the bounty hunters' attempt to stop Vincent Volaju, but one fan theory posits the animated movie is a dream. A live-action remake of Cowboy Bebop hits Netflix on November 19th, but a unique fan theory explains that 2001's Cowboy Bebop: The Movie was actually just a dream of Spike's.

Is Spike Spiegel alive? ›

Although it is commonly believed that Spike succumbed to his wounds, series director Shinichiro Watanabe has never actually confirmed the character's death. In a 2006 interview by The Daily Texan he stated: "I've never officially said that he died.

Why is there no Ed in Cowboy Bebop? ›

The simplest answer for Ed's absence from the live-action Cowboy Bebop is that Ed isn't in the early episodes of the anime either, first cropping up in the 10th episode of the original series after a run of Spike, Jet, Faye and Ein working without them.

Who Cancelled Cowboy Bebop? ›

Based on the 1990s anime series that premiered stateside in 2001, Netflix's live-action adaptation was abruptly canceled by the streamer less than three weeks after premiering in November 2021. Now, lead star Cho, who played charismatic criminal leader Spike Spiegel, revealed his reaction over the announcement.

Does Netflix Cowboy Bebop follow the original? ›

Netflix's Cowboy Bebop takes plenty of things from the '90s anime, but it also changes the story in many ways. Netflix's live-action Cowboy Bebop show is not a one-for-one remake of the anime as it makes a lot of chances to help itself stand out. Whether these changes were good or not will depend on the viewer.

How close is Cowboy Bebop to the original? ›

Netflix's live-action Cowboy Bebop may not quite be a 1:1 remake of the anime, but it gets pretty close at times. Many episodes feature key character moments and fight scenes taken directly from the source material.

Is Ed a boy or girl Bebop? ›

In a 2005 interview with Anime News Network, Cowboy Bebop character designer and animation director Toshihiro Kawamoto explained that Ed was originally conceived as a boy computer hacker, but, over time, director Shinichirō Watanabe switched the character to a girl.

Did Jet know Spike was syndicate in the anime? ›

Jet, having had no clue Spike was ex-Syndicate and having established a rule on the Bebop against lying, is livid.

Who does Spike marry in Cowboy Bebop? ›

Cowboy Bebop (2021)

Spike has to battle for his life, but more importantly, reunited with the long-lost love of his life, Julia (Elena Satine).

Will there be a season 2 to Cowboy Bebop on Netflix? ›

Cho was just as surprised as the fans that Netflix had given them the axe. Because the cast didn't know it would be a one-and-done series, they also didn't have the opportunity to all formally say farewell to one another after the work they had invested into season 1.

Can Cowboy Bebop be saved? ›

Unfortunately, Netflix saving Cowboy Bebop is fairly unlikely, especially after considering the fact the series was the fastest-canceled original series in the history of the streaming platform.

Why does Cowboy Bebop say you're gonna carry that weight? ›

“You're gonna carry that weight.” A reference to a Beatles song of the same name, it contextualizes the entirety of the anime series in its closing. No matter how hard you try to outrun your trauma or your past, you'll have to confront it, and you'll have to carry that weight.

Who is the kid at the end of Cowboy Bebop? ›

As I made clear above, I'm far from an expert on the Cowboy Bebop anime—I haven't watched, but perhaps will in the near future—but I do know that the kid featured in the ending here is Ed—full name Edward "Radical Ed" Wong Hau Pepelu Tivruski IV—a classic character from the Cowboy Bebop anime.

Did Julia and Vicious have a relationship? ›

Julia never cheated on Spike. She had a relationship with Vicious, but then fell in love with Spike.

What race is Faye Valentine? ›

Faye is a young woman of Singaporean descent with chin-length angular dark purple hair and green eyes. Her frame is tall and slender, and her skin is pale.

What ethnicity is Spike Spiegel? ›

In the third volume of the manga, Cowboy Bebop illustrated by Yutaka Nanten and story by Hajime Yatate, Spike is described as "oriental," an outdated term for Asian.

What is the message of Cowboy Bebop? ›

Cowboy Bebop was never about its story. It was about its characters just trying to live their lives in a cruel and uncaring world, and occasionally something plot-related would happen to them.

What did Julia mouth to Spike? ›

It's always been an upsetting scene, but that thud helps illustrate a disconnect in Bebop, one Julia points out in her final words to Spike: “It's all a dream.” As she dies, Spike mournfully agrees with her.

Why did they call it Cowboy Bebop? ›

The show's title is a reference to both the Cowboy lifestyle of the American Wild West, and Bebop, an American jazz movement from the early to mid 20th century.

What are Spike's last words Cowboy Bebop? ›

Cowboy Bebop's credits then roll, leaving a void of significant ambiguity as to Spike's final fate, before a still drawing of Spike appears followed by these words: "You're gonna carry that weight."

Is Spike Spiegel from Earth? ›

Spike was born on Mars, where he lived a life on the streets. He was eventually taken in by Mao Yenrai of the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate, a powerful organization that taught Spike many of the skills he now has.

Was Jet Black Black? ›

He was gray. I mean, Jet is drawn gray, basically, in the show, and I didn't really focus on that. Especially, you know, back when my career started there were very [few] if any persons of color that were in anime, right? The characters I voiced were not Black.

What is Spike's ship called? ›

The Swordfish II was a remodeled MONO Racer built by Doohan. Originally designed for high-speed racing, the craft was given armaments and converted into a space-ready fighter. Spike Spiegel owned and flew the ship.

Is Bebop a girl? ›

The page features videos of Bebop, a girl with stick-straight hair who looks to be about eight or nine years old, mugging for the camera with her mom, a peroxide blond with a fondness for ethereal makeup filters.

Where did Ed go at the end of Cowboy Bebop? ›

Cowboy Bebop season 1 ends with Ed finding Spike in an alleyway, thus setting up their season 2 story together—and a new mission. Beloved in the anime, Cowboy Bebop's Ed is a young hacker who joins the crew in the episode "Jammin' With Edward" and holds a strong bond with Ein.

What is EDS real name Cowboy Bebop? ›

Ed. Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV (エドワード・ウォン・ハウ・ペペル・チブルスキー4世, Edowādo Won Hau Peperu Chiburusukī Yonsei) is an elite hacker prodigy from Earth.

What destroyed Cowboy Bebop? ›

In the year 2021, an Astral Gate exploded above Earth in an event known as the Astral Gate accident. The explosion destroyed most of Earth's moon, causing a near-constant natural disaster of rock showers falling into orbit and hitting the planet's surface.

Will Cowboy Bebop ever come back? ›

There will be no second season for Cowboy Bebop. Netflix has opted not to move forward with a second season of the live-action anime adaptation starring John Cho.

Did they abandon Ein Cowboy Bebop? ›

While Ein is an integral member of the Bebop crew, the ending of the Netflix series' first season makes major changes. One of them is having Ein the Corgi be abandoned by the crew, and in the process be united with Radical Edward.

Who is Jet Black Bebop daughter? ›

Kimmie Black is Jet's daughter and an original character in the Cowboy Bebop (Netflix) adaptation.

What is Faye Valentine's real name? ›

Spike Spiegel (John Cho) and Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda) in “Cowboy Bebop.”

What did Netflix change in Cowboy Bebop? ›

Cowboy Bebop: 10 Things The Netflix Series Changed From The Anime
  1. 1 Julia Became Vicious' Victim & Eventual Reckoning.
  2. 2 Vicious Was Reimagined As A Spoiled Brat. ...
  3. 3 Gren Had Almost Nothing In Common With Their Anime Counterpart. ...
  4. 4 Faye Valentine & Whitney's Dynamic Was Now Paternal, Not Romantic. ...
Dec 25, 2021

Is the Netflix version of Cowboy Bebop good? ›

Thankfully, Netflix's debut season of the live-action Cowboy Bebop is not only a fun, thrilling romp that gets the vibrant, soulful gestalt of the original series. It also leaves its own mark in ways that sometimes improves upon the anime from creator Shinichirō Watanabe.

How faithful is Cowboy Bebop to the anime? ›

Is Netflix's live-action Cowboy Bebop (2021) a faithful adaptation of the 1998 anime? No. Absolutely not. It mostly looks the part but with all the things it gets wrong, the set pieces and the costumes feel more like cosplay rather than parts of an authentic sci-fi world.

Is Cowboy Bebop one of the best anime ever? ›

Cowboy Bebop has been hailed as one of the greatest animated television series of all time.

Does Cowboy Bebop movie fit into series? ›

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie is set between episodes 22 and 23 of the original series. The plot centers on a mysterious terrorist planning to destroy the human population on Mars using an unknown pathogen.

What happens to Faye after Bebop? ›

Frightened by the affection she began to feel for her companions, Faye decided to run away from the Bebop to follow her philosophy of "leave before being abandoned." With some of the money, she fled to Callisto, the Moon of fugitives, and met a man named Gren who proceeded to "rescue" her from a gang.

How did Cowboy Bebop Netflix do? ›

Netflix's 2021 live-action “Cowboy Bebop” remake was canceled after one season and 10 episodes, a big failure for what was supposed to launch a blockbuster new series for the streaming platform.

Will there be a season 2 of Cowboy Bebop on Netflix? ›

Cho was just as surprised as the fans that Netflix had given them the axe. Because the cast didn't know it would be a one-and-done series, they also didn't have the opportunity to all formally say farewell to one another after the work they had invested into season 1.

What were Julia's last words to Spike? ›

As she lay dying in Spike's arms, she whispered her last words to him: "It's all a dream," to which he responded, "Yeah, just a dream."

Why did Ed and Ein leave? ›

They do, and despite a joyous reunion, her father immediately abandons her to pursue his work. Ed and Ein decide to leave the group. Ed places a fake bounty for her own father, in hopes Jet and Spike will lead her to him. They do, and despite a joyous reunion, her father immediately abandons her to pursue his work.

How much did Netflix pay Cowboy Bebop? ›

With an estimated budget of $1.5 million, the promo film is the largest that Netflix has created to date and every cent comes through the screen in all its intense action and colourful creativity.

Why was Faye frozen? ›

Although appearing to be no more than 22-23 years old, Faye is actually around 77 years old, having been put into cryogenic freeze after a space shuttle accident, wherein she spent fifty-four years in suspended animation.

Who does Faye end up with? ›

Teddy and Faye made it to the final on Love Island 2021 after a turbulent time together in the villa and went on to move in together just months after the show ended.

How old is Valentine Cowboy Bebop? ›

She is a wanted criminal who joined the Bebop crew after crossing paths with them twice. Although appearing to be no more than 22-23 years old, Faye is actually around 77 years old, having been put into cryogenic freeze after a space shuttle accident, where in she spent 54 years in suspended animation.


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