Netflix Casts Its Cowboy Bebop Crew, Now With Age Controversy

Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop’s Spike Spiegel has been cast. The extremely charismatic bounty hunter—and Jeet Kune Do practitioner—is being played by John Cho. Spike’s range cycles between charm, humor, and a deeply serious side, which Cho should be able to handle admirably. Cho came to prominence in the Harold & Kumar comedies, and recently had a ten-episode turn on Fox’s The Exorcist, so I’d say signs point to yes that Cho can handle all of Spike’s moods. I’m just worried about the age controversy.

Shinichiro Watanabe— creator of the original Cowboy Bebop anime—designed Spike Spiegel to be the coolest character ever. Part of that mystique is that Spike would be 27 years old, intentionally placing him in line with the “27 Club”—musicians who died at the age of 27. Cho, however, is currently 46. Spike’s actor will be carrying almost twenty more years of life experience than Spike.

I’m not saying this precludes an automatic problem, just noting a difference. It implies Netflix’s Spike isn’t burning the candle at both ends in the same way, and isn’t as self-destructive. Will this Spike have different momentum than the original force of nature from the anime? Or have that particular feeling of quite the same doomed destiny?

Mustafa Shakir (most known from Marvel’s Luke Cage) will play Jet Black. The show’s early marketing declares Jet is an honest cop who’d been betrayed before he got into the bounty hunter life, and a jazz enthusiast. All details point to Jet being the same kind of no-nonsense guy as he was in the original show. I look forward to his gooey heart surfacing when you least expect it.

Daniella Pineda (most known from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) will play Faye Valentine, a brash bounty hunter who suffers amnesia from being cryogenically frozen. Faye’s a survivor in the best sense of the word, and should be the breakout character in this new version. She and Spike are two sides of a coin so we’ll have fun watching them ruffle each other’s feathers.

The Cowboy Bebop Crew enjoys a selfie.
Image courtesy of Sunrise

I’m still holding out hope that Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop episodes can take place between the episodes of the anime rather than rebooting and overwriting the original stories, but the fact that Alex Hassell (The Miniaturist; Suburbicon) is set to play Vicious—Spike’s archenemy, and integral character to Spike’s main story arc—says to me they’re going to be rebooting a known story after all. It makes me sad, in a way, but I’m still willing to give this show the benefit of the doubt.

Radical Ed will be a part of Bebop’s 10-episode season as well, but the role is still being cast. There has been no mention of Ein, the Welsh Corgi data dog.

I’m well on record about Ein needing to be part of the show, and I’m still holding out hope that the original English voice cast gets to play the role of bounties in this new show. I’m also still holding out hope that the show will be good, but I can see potential crack, too. The marketing for this show says “Cowboy Bebop is the jazz-inspired, genre-bending story of a ragtag crew of bounty hunters on the run from their pasts as they hunt down the solar system’s most dangerous criminals. They’ll even save the world — for the right price.”

In the anime, this statement somewhat held true, but I don’t think the crew successfully got paid for a bounty more than 5 times in their first 13 episodes. The ad copy plays up their mercenary nature more than I’d like, but I also get how the hype machine typically works. They’re going to play up ties to “similar” successful properties such as Guardians of the Galaxy, just like how Firefly will always be tied in spirit to the original Cowboy Bebop. I know things this early in the game can’t be helped. But it’s hard for me to see the fundamental differences begin to surface from the animated Cowboy Bebop source material as it becomes three dimensional.

I just have to keep telling myself that Cowboy Bebop has never been primarily about its plot. It’s always been about its characters and the vibe. And that part still seems like it’s okay, as long as Spike Spiegel can maintain his trademark recklessness.

Written by John Bernardy

John Bernardy has been writing for 25YL since before the site went public and he’s loved every minute. The show most important to him is Twin Peaks. He is husband to a damn fine woman, father to two fascinating individuals, and their pet thinks he’s a good dog walker.

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