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The Making of a Live-Action Anime: 9 Fun Facts from Behind the Scenes of Cowboy Bebop

So much attention to detail!

Anyone who’s a fan of the original Cowboy Bebop anime will tell you it’s unlike anything they have seen before. Unique, inventive, and with no small amount of wit and charm, the OG anime is the perfect blend of style and an artful mish mash of genres — dystopian sci-fi, with a dash of space opera, classic western, and neo-noir influences. 

As such, a gargantuan task laid ahead of the creative team behind the live-action adaptation; how do you strike a balance between staying true to the spirit of the anime and the components that made it a cult classic, while also distinguishing itself with a fresh take on the show? Here are some behind the scenes titbits to give you a taste of the work and care that went into bringing the anime to life: 

1. The show is full of little Easter eggs and nods to the original anime

Image, courtesy of Netflix

The hunt for Easter eggs begins from the get-go — the show’s very first scene is set in Watanabe Casino in a nod to original series director Shinichirō Watanabe. Eagle-eyed fans may also notice that Ana, the proprietor of an underground jazz club frequented by Spike, keeps a picture of composer Yoko Kanno in her office. 

For the episode that follows the events of the anime episode ‘Ballad of Fallen Angels’, the creative team even built the cathedral set in extreme detail, down to crafting the same red-and-black tile floors. The live-action episode itself also mirrors several exact shots from the anime! 

Check out a brief look into how the cathedral scene was shot in this on-set video with John Cho

2. During pre-production, everyone involved in the project would get together every Thursday to watch an episode or two of the original anime on the big screen 

Image, courtesy of Netflix

And it’s not just for the creative teams either. The invitation is extended across all departments, so even the transportation and accounting teams would join in the fun!

3. On top of composing new original music for the live-action version, Yoko Kanno also reunited with the musicians who performed the music for the original anime 

Image, courtesy of Netflix

Kanno was not the only person from the original anime’s creative team to play an active role in the live-action adaptation. The musicians from her band Seatbelts, originally formed in 1998 to perform the soundtrack music for the Cowboy Bebop anime series, came together for the first time since 2004 to bring the all-new soundtrack to the screen. 

In addition to brand new original pieces for the live-action version, songs used in the original anime were re-recorded for this series. Watch the band perform the opening theme song alongside some insights from Yoko Kanno on creating music for the show here.

4. Elena Satine, who plays Julia, performs her own piano playing in the series 

Image, courtesy of Netflix

The actress also worked closely with composer Yoko Kanno on a song that became very important to Julia’s storyline called ‘Julia’s Song’, with lyrics written by executive producer Jeff Pinkner. 

5. To train for the extensive action and fight sequences in the show, the cast went through a month-long boot camp with the stunt team 

Image, courtesy of Netflix

For five hours a day, five days a week, the cast trained in everything from basic gymnastics to specific weapons fighting. 

To emulate his character Spike Spiegel, who practices Bruce Lee’s famous fighting style called Jeet Kune Do, John Cho trained in martial arts and even considers the scene in which he practiced Wing Chun on a dummy to be one of the toughest sequences to film. 

Meanwhile, for his role as notorious Syndicate capo Vicious, Alex Hassell trained extensively with a katana sword. 

6. Spike Spiegel’s iconic blue suit is full of hidden details

Image, courtesy of Netflix

The suit’s silver buttons have the Kanji symbol for water, his trophy belt buckle has a Japanese wave, and the inside of his suit jacket is printed with roses in reference to his past with Julia. 

To complement the latter, Julia’s costuming is also full of roses, and many pieces were hand-painted by the costuming team.

7. Of all the complex sets, the Bebop took the longest to build

Image, courtesy of Netflix

Just as the Bebop was originally a fishing trawler, set decorator Anneke Botha and the set decoration team found a real-life fishing trawler for sale in Tauranga, New Zealand and stripped its insides to decorate the Bebop for the show. The ship’s guts, including the piping, engines, and machinery were also used to decorate the Bebop. All in all, it took the team a full 12 weeks to build the Bebop! 

To fully appreciate their attention to detail, take a tour of the Bebop, hosted by its one and only captain Jet Black here.

8. The Bebop’s iconic yellow couch was custom-made

Image, courtesy of Netflix

To recreate the Bebop’s yellow couch, the team bought a couch, hand-dyed different shades of leather until they found the perfect shade, and then stitched the leather and aged it.

9. Last but not least, Ein the corgi is actually played by two doggos! 

Image, courtesy of Netflix

Their names are Charlie and Harry. 

Keep an eye out for all of these details when you tune into all episodes of Cowboy Bebop, now streaming exclusively on Netflix!  

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