That may not sit well with creators from a standpoint of artistic expression, but it is reality.
Cowboy Bebop‘s release as a Netflix live-action reboot is the hottest topic in anime right now. Unfortunately, early reactions to the show have not been all good. Scores of fans are upset with how Faye Valentine is portrayed. They are especially upset that the show’s costume designer dressed Valentine in a way that looks nothing like the original anime series.
Fan displeasure with the live-action Faye Valentine character reveals the hidden trap of anime live-action reboots. What is that trap? Messing with a successful series that fans love in its original form. For right or wrong, fans get upset when creators attempt to fix something they believe isn’t broken.
1. They Have Their Reasons
According to Insider, Cowboy Bebop costume designer Jane Holland redesigned the Valentine costume for two reasons. First, she believed it was important to not overly sexualize the character, as she thought Valentine was in the original. Second, Holland’s costume had to be functional enough to accommodate live action. It had to accommodate real-life physics, which is something that doesn’t matter in an animation setting.
Nonetheless, so drastically changing what Valentine looks like changes the character herself. That may be too much of a change for loyal Cowboy Bebop fans to swallow.
Whenever a reboot is proposed, its creators propose changes. They have their reasons. Some of those reasons are legitimate, others are not. But in the end, the result is the same. Too many changes, or even single changes that are exceptionally drastic, alienate fans.
2. Few Reboots Succeed
The live action Cowboy Bebop may actually succeed in the long term. But if it does not, its failure will not surprise many people. Few reboots succeed in the real world. For example, do you remember the successful 1980s Ghostbusters franchise? The first Ghostbusters film was released in early June 1984. It was the highest selling film on its inaugural weekend, earning more than $13 million. The film was a public and critical success.
The second film in the franchise did equally well. However, a 2016 reboot featuring an all-female ghostbusting team was a box office flop. Where the original and its sequel made hundreds of millions in profits, the reboot lost some $75 million.
We can debate the merits of an all-female team from now until the end of the world. The fact remains that the changes implemented by the reboot were too drastic for fans to accept. The result was predictable for anyone willing to look at the project with an open mind.
3. Anime Is Not an Exception
Whether we like it or not, anime is not an exception to the reboot rule. The hidden trap of transforming anime into live action reboots is messing with the original formula so much that you alienate viewers. The Cowboy Bebop reboot may ultimately suffer from that very thing.
UmaiClothing, a boutique clothing and apparel brand with an exclusive focus on anime, produces everything from T-shirts to hoodies adorned with original anime artwork. One of the company’s founders produces all the artwork.
The company already has a very loyal following. What would happen if they turned away from the original artwork that has captivated fans and transitioned to something else? In all likelihood, they would lose business.
Anime strikes a very personal cord with its fans, probably even more so than other types of media. So if you are going to reboot it, you have to be cognizant of the inherent trap of alienating your fans with unwelcome changes.