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Why Netflix's Cowboy Bebop Changed the Anime's Iconic Ending

The cast and Andre Nemec weigh in

Megan Vick

[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the original Cowboy Bebop anime series and the Netflix adaptation! Read at your own risk!]

Netflix's live-action adaptation of the beloved anime Cowboy Bebop has arrived, and while the new iteration introduces new audiences to the iconic characters of Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Faye Valentine, Vicious, and Julia via John Cho, Mustafa Shakir, Daniella Pineda, Alex Hassell, and Elena Satine respectively, there are some stark differences between the Netflix version and the 1998 anime. The overall premise remains the same — bounty hunters in space try to make a living while one of them is hiding a secret past with a violent crime syndicate — but the direction that Netflix takes these characters is very different from the original. 

Anime fans will recognize several iconic moments and set pieces from the original, but they are in different places or met in different circumstances that set the live-action series up for a potential Season 2 while the anime was a closed 13-hour story. The most notable shift is that the legendary fight between Spike (Cho) and Vicious (Hassell) in the cathedral that sets up Spike's backstory in Episode 5 of the anime becomes center stage for their final fight in the Netflix season finale. 

"It felt like in the classic storytelling of Season 1, a hero and a villain, that building towards a final showdown was inevitable," executive producer Andre Nemec explained to TV Guide. "There was no question that I wanted to see Spike and Vicious in a fight at the end of the season, in the ultimate showdown. There was no place to set that fight but in front of the rose window in the cathedral." 

Julia's involvement in the feud between her two exes also changed dramatically. In the anime, Julia reunites with Spike shortly before the fight and is on his side as he goes to take down Vicious. In the Netflix version, Julia arrives in time to see Spike take Vicious down, but when he has a less-than-satisfactory answer for why he never came back for her after faking his death to get away from the Syndicate, she decides to take the Syndicate for herself and becomes the one to send Spike through the rose window, recreating the iconic tableau from the anime with a completely different context. 

"I think there's a lot of resentment that she carries that he didn't come for her," Satine added. "I think her perspective changes from 'If Spike were alive, he'd save me,' to 'Oh Spike is alive, he didn't save me. I am living with this maniac. The only way out is to do this for myself and to manipulate myself into a position of power.' I think it happens gradually over the season, but certainly after finding out that Spike is alive. The disagreement that they have in the cathedral really cements that decision for her." 

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Neither Julia, Spike, nor Vicious makes it out of the anime alive, but all three survive the inaugural Netflix season in very different places than when we meet them. Vicious, for one, has gone from being next in line to the throne of The Syndicate to being a handcuffed prisoner in Julia's basement. 

"He's definitely in a pretty difficult point," Hassell revealed to TV Guide. "He's lost everything and been betrayed as he would see it by everyone. I suppose he has real lessons to learn, whether or not he is capable of learning them is something that will be interesting. I feel like an audience member. I have absolutely no idea where that storyline would go and I would love to find out." 

As for Spike, he ended up face down in an alley with a hyperactive Radical Ed bouncing around him. But series star John Cho says it's not just physical injuries that have Spike in the dumps. The love of his life tried to kill him, his ex-best friend still wants him dead, and his new best friends are no longer fans after the final battle made them Spike's collateral. 

"I'm anxious to know what Season 2 is going to be. To say he hit rock bottom is a little bit of an understatement in the sense," Cho said. "Right now he doesn't have a reason to keep the feet moving forward. He literally collapses. He literally can't walk anymore, keep going forward, so I don't know what the light is going to be that makes him stand up again but I'm excited to find out." 

Netflix has yet to announce a Season 2 for Cowboy Bebop, but check out the video above for more on how that radically different ending sets up new paths for all of the characters central to the Bebop story. 

Cowboy Bebop Season 1 is now streaming Watch on Netflix