The problem with adaptations

I recently finished the Witcher season 2. Because my Witcher lore knowledge is limited I had questions. Questions regarding characters and events depicted in the show. So I did some research and quickly stumbled upon a video aptly titled: The Witcher Season 2: Is it really the Witcher? So outside of a few events in episode 1 the rest is all new. Or at the very least reimagined. Newly created stories and events that never happened in the books or video games. This discrepancy is a problem for long time franchise fans as well as for new fans exploring the dark fantasy world of The Witcher. Not only has the show continuity issues with the rest of the canon; its tone is also different from the original work. If I was a cynical drinking man, I would tell also tell you about THE MESSAGE1 but that’s not the subject of today’s piece. Today I’m talking about adaptations and the problems with canon.

Is it canon?

Canon or the material officially accepted as part of the story seems to be lost when translating or remaking a piece of media to “the modern standard.” Or whatever people say to justify decisions made to alter tone and story to please the viewers. In our current era, the owner of the i.p. holds the prerogative to make said decisions. So W.B. (now part of Discovery) and the Big Mouse (A.K.A Disney) are the ones who decide what is part of the main narrative and what is not.2

When it’s clear from the start what is canon or not makes it a lot easier for the fans to understand what media they’re consuming. But in our current era of adaptating properties that have been around for decades this poses a problem. If you take a piece of media, say an anime created 24 years ago, and do a live action remake there will be problems. Not only do I think that a near-media adaptation is silly; it could very well be that the original show commented on social issues which are not relevant anymore. So what kind of story do you want to tell that is not a straight copy of the original, but also one that does not alienate the fanbase.

Big Bad problems

My personal answer would be to think twice about adopting a show and asking what a retelling would add to the canon. But I’m not the one receiving a big bag of cash with an explicit wish to have my i.p brought to a large audience.

So that leaves us with the show creators and their eagerness to work on a property. And to these people there is only one thing that they’ll probably keep in mind: It’s never good enough for the fans. Even if they get free reign to bring their vision to the screen there is a fine line to walk. You have likely lost before you’ve even started the battle. I can appreciate bold decisions when adaptations are made; but I question the choice to insert a big bad as a narrative tool.

Examples of this are the adaptations of the Cowboy Bebop and The Witcher series. Where the name of the game is to put a big bad front and center. I can understand the decision to do so. It’s easier for the audience to understand what’s going on if the narrative is pushed by a big bad. But in both cases it’s absolutely not working, I’m not sure about The Witcher canon but I can definitely say that for Cowboy Bebop the big bad is not important. We see that characters overcome difficulties to (perhaps) learn something about themselves and grow as a character. But that growth can come from trying to help your indebted ex-girlfriend3 or from finally burying a resurrected monster baby.4 You do not need a mastermind that instigated these events.5

The power of transmedia

You’ve probably heard of cross-media storytelling. This is in short: telling the same story on different media platforms. It’s a big part of our current (visual) media landscape. It has the benefit of bringing a fanbase over to your platform by retelling a familiar story.

Transmedia on the other hand is using one story world and telling its stories across different platforms. Transmedia has the benefit of bringing the fanbase over to a new platform and expanding the universe with new stories. In the best cases it brings new vision, style and fans to the universe. Think of the Star Wars Visions project, Arcane or Pokemon. These are great examples of i.p’s allowing creators to do something that they want with an i.p (withing the storyworld rules) without compromising the canon.

It’s something that I personally would want if my work has taken an interest by third parties. While it is interesting to retell a familiar story in a different medium I am currently preferring to tell more stories to explore the created world. I hope that they (eventually) learn from constructive feedback from the fanbase that they have to put more care in adapting media properties. For there is a chance that they lose more than just the fans of said property.


  1. Don’t get me wrong, I find the Drinker’s videos very insightful, albeit a bit on the nose. They always clearly show what’s wrong with the media produced in our crazy society. I’ve linked his Witcher videos here: Season 1 review & Season 2 review
  2. A recent, famous example being the Star Wars Expanded Universe or Legends as it’s now known.
  3. See Cowboy Bebop episode 10: Ganymede Elegy
  4. Referring to the Witcher 3 quest: Family matters

Other sources:

Jakubisko, J. (2016). Defining Transmedia vs Crossmedia. Published in FNE Innovation

Like Stories of Old: Multiverses, Nihilism, and How it Feels to be Alive Right Now

Dena, Christy. (2004). Current State of Cross Media Storytelling: Preliminary observations for future design.

Green, D.A (2021). How Neil Gaiman kept control of the Sandman characters

Storyfloat: Introduction to Transmedia Storytelling

Cowboy Bebop: Adapting a classic

Let’s talk about the question that I had after finishing the Netflix remake of Cowboy Bebop. How do you adapt a classic series into a different medium? This remake has generated a lot of attention on the internet over the last months. And it wasn’t all good. From casting, story decisions and the intro; fans were worried.

The 1998 anime has that place in television history that if you’ve not seen it you have probably heard of it. If both of these do not apply to you let me explain why an animated show created over 2 decades ago still can be the topic of heated conversation. This show is one of the few that made anime popular in the west. It is a serious, character driven series with slick animation and an epic soundtrack. Many people regard it as one of the best or the best anime ever created. Which is a big statement to put on a show. It creates expectations of what it is or isn’t. And though there are certainly many people who don’t like the Cowboy Bebop anime, it is still a show that a great deal of people find entertaining and inspiring to watch.

With the release of the Netflix remake the world could finally give its unfiltered opinion on what the writers and showrunners did with the source material. Everyone who has seen it at least once knows what kind of herculean task it must have been. I’d argue the challenge is equal to adapting The Lord of the Rings into a film trilogy. There are only two options. Succeed and praise will be given in spades. Fail and the masses call “I told you so.” 

I intentionally had my expectations set low. The first reason being that the remake remains a close-media adaptation. Meaning that the original medium (animation) is similar to the medium it’s adapted to. 

Second: There are elements of the original that, in my opinion, work better in animation. And not in live television unless you might have a Foundation sized budget.

Third: I wanted to give the show a fair shot. Especially since I recently gained a deeper understanding of the original. Not just in the context of its animated peers, but also as a piece of art. 

And fourth: the 1998 show has high nostalgia value for me, which means I’m very biased.

Let’s have a look at four elements of the show that are vital to what makes Cowboy Bebop what it is and what happens if you change those.

1. Conceptual

To understand Cowboy Bebop is to understand its core phrase: “it’s not a kind of space opera; it’s a sort of space jazz.” Meaning it’s not an epic story set in a far future with fleets of space ships battling each other. It’s a story about people. In this case, they are bounty hunters. A lonely profession similar to what cowboys are when usually seen in western films. Which is purposfully the first part of the title.

Then there is the second part of the title. While you may not know what Bebop means, it sounds funky and adds a pleasant flow to the word Cowboy. It is there because the story of the people in this show is told in a Bebop way. But what is bebop?

Bebop (or “bop”) is a type of small-band modern jazz music originating in the early 1940s. Bebop has roots in swing music and involves fast tempos, adventurous improvisation, complex harmonies and chord progressions, and a focus on individual virtuosity. The name “bebop” originates from the sound of nonsense syllables that scat singers improvised in vocal jazz performances.

When the associations and (cultural) meaning of both words are combined we get a sort of space jazz. The people in this show are cowboys, Bebop is how the story and action are presented.

The starting point of both shows may be the same. But early on in the remake we clearly see that there is a difference. The remake focuses less on the bounty hunting and more on the characters progression, resulting in a show that is less serialized. The storyline is much more present, giving us a clear ongoing plot. Which is a very modern thing to do. But as a result, the show limits itself in what it can do with the characters.

The original focuses more on bounty hunting as the main narrative of each episode. And we learn things about the characters as we see them react to each situation. There are some character focussed episodes, but even those often start when the characters are hunting a bounty of sorts. We get to see the Bebop presentation used to make the Cowboys shine.  

2. Demystifying characters

Because the original has more focus on showing how characters react to situations and other characters, there is a level of mystique about them. Things aren’t very clear. And only by watching and rewatching episodes one might decipher what is going on. This is one of the strengths of the original and similarly the reason why people turned away from it.1

The remake wanted to make the show accessible for a greater audience and “modernise the characters”. So they expanded the characters’ storylines. They shaped the characters out of their respective tropes into something that could fill the role in the new plot. As an example, I will go with the Vicious and Julia plot. This is the most obvious one and has the greatest impact on the series as a whole.

In the original we didn’t know Vicious and Julia because we didn’t need to. We could clearly see that Julia was the one person Spike always followed. Every single shred of information he followed in a way that Jet “Black Dog” Black would be jealous of in his younger years. We see her maybe 5 times, and each time leaves an impression because we know how important she is to Spike. Vicious is a fearsome enemy because we only see him enough to get a basic understanding of his personality. One that thrives in chaos and bloodshed. Which makes him a formidable enemy. Not because he instills fear in the people surrounding him, but because of his charisma and how it affects those around him. These characters have a certain mystique because we know so little and yet so much about them. I agree with the assessment in the Glass Reflections video that they are a respective shadow and ghost because of the roles they play in the original. Vicious and Julia are side characters that serve as a tool for the viewer to understand the main characters. They are used as plot progression and fade into the background until they are needed again.2

The remake put these characters front and center to tell the expanded story which the original (partly) implies. This decision changes the role these characters play in the overarching narrative. Which changes the dynamic between (all of) the characters. It is sad that this change isn’t taken into account and the remake leans heavily on certain moments that were key in the original, but greatly devalued in the remake. An example would be those flashes we see in Ballad of Fallen Angels when Spike falls out of the church. The scene is copied into the remake and then rendered worthless because of the creators decision to tell us exactly everything that happened between the characters.

3. Show or tell

Show or tell is a balancing act. One that every writer should know. The original was more on the showing side of things. Because of that approach the dialogue was short and on point. If it didn’t need to be said, it wasn’t spoken. 

The Netflix remake is quite the opposite. Characters talk a lot. And while I find some of the banter between the main cast amusing at times, it often is a bit much for my personal tastes. Especially when characters are info dumping. Then there is this show‘s nasty habit of naming things. For example: they gave Spike the most stupid, on point nickname. Sure, it is a representation of his behaviour in his past life, but of all the times characters spoke the name Fearless, only 1 or 2 times were justified. The other 9 billion times they just could’ve referred to Spike as “Him” and everybody would’ve understood who the subject matter was.3

In the end the remake failed to use the visual medium that tv is. There are some genuinely great shots and some of the set pieces are really cool, but this show fails at delivering on promises given. 

4. Character stories

To me, the original is ultimately a story about broken people. People without a place in the system. People who don’t belong anywhere except with this little family they’ve created. They live on the fringes of society, trying to forget or escape from their past. That is part of the reason why Toys in the Attic takes place in the void of space. It is in that limbo that the main cast recites their (life) lessons. Lessons that are integral to their character’s plot over the show’s runtime. While it may not always be apparent, it is what caused them pain in the past. And this experience is part of what gives them their view on life. It is part of what makes them three-dimensional characters.

Which makes it sad that they changed the core of the characters in the remake. Sometimes to a point that they just aren’t who they were in the original. Or worse, when characters become caricatures of their former self. For example, Vicious is changed into a non-threatening antagonist. He is never a real danger. The moment he kills the elders, it feels like the height of his viciousness. It’s like changing Sauron into Lawrence Limburger. Everybody knows the latter will always lose while the former will be a threat until the end.

Adapting a classic

Adapting a classic is never easy, especially when the source material is in a similar medium then the one you’re adapting it to. I’m glad they went in their own direction and did not copy the original 1:1. Because that would be an unrealistic bar to reach. While the remake tries to do it’s own thing, most of the ten episodes suffer from the poorly written dialogue, badly shot scenes and broken worldbuilding. But the entire show suffers from the removal of the most important elements of the original: Cowboy and Bebop. It also doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. So it ends up being a jack of all trades but a master of none. It is not a goofy sci-fi buddy-comedy. And not a thought-provoking show about the human condition.

It is a show that would’ve fared better without the link to the original, or even without the original characters. The world of Cowboy Bebop is interesting and could’ve given us a great show with the original cast popping in on familiar events. But to paraphrase Spike: “whatever happened, happened. “

My wish is that this remake draws people into the original and into the broader world of animation. Because there are genuinely great shows that will blow your mind. The 1998 anime Cowboy Bebop is a great example of that. One that will pull people in because it is what it is: The work, which becomes a new genre by itself.

See you Space Cowboy

  1. At least I believe so because it makes everything a bit vague. Which is not something everyone likes.
  2. This is exactly what I mean: only important in the moment
  3. Sidenote: In the anime everybody calls him Spike.

The mark of the 1998 Anime Space Westerns part 4: an experience by itself

The last few months I’ve been giving a small insight into my experience watching Trigun, Outlaw Star and Cowboy Bebop. While every one of these shows has elements of a space western in it, all three shows provide a slightly different take on the genre. So there is no necessity to compare these shows with each other. So I won’t. Instead, I’ll focus on genre and the overall viewing experience now that I’ve had the time to distance myself from these shows.


When I think of western as a genre I mostly think of the dusty, desert frontier with gunmen riding into the sunset. And I really blame Sergio Leone for that. This image isn’t really created anymore, but I’m happy that elements of the western genre can be found in many other media. And how could it not be, our current culture of Sci-Fi-Fantasy adaptations creates a playground for elements from all genres to be combined. So naturally we find our westerns there as well.


Of the three shows Trigun looks visually the most like a western. It shows survival in a desert and brings many worldbuilding elements we associate with the old west. Think of hoarding water, wanted posters and train robberies. You name it and Trigun delivers.

But while it delivers the experience closest to a western, it is also the anime that I personally liked the least. As mentioned by BennettTheSage in his video on Trigun, the anime’s appeal is directly related to the main character. And this is where I have a disconnect with the show. I do think Vash is an interesting character. But I personally need a bit more than a unique protagonist. I want Vash to have more meaningful interactions with the world to keep me interested. Trigun delivers some interesting opponents, but with the lacking narrative the complete package isn’t capable of holding my attention. 

Like I mentioned in my blog, it was in fact the only show where I was actively questioning if I should continue to watch. For me Trigun is mostly a slow paced “new town, same problems” kind of a show, and I don’t find that interesting enough. Especially if the big selling point of the show isn’t capable of holding my attention, even though I tried very hard to find something akin to my taste in the show1.

Outlaw Star

It has been a while since I’ve watched something like Outlaw Star. By that I mean a self-conscious, fun, episodic show. The science fantasy of this universe is great but I am still convinced that there is a lot of unused potential. Even though I am aware that the main plot just serves as a the initial catalyst to start of the series.

The shows imagination of what strange species and places are out there are on par with Star Wars, and I find it a pity that we did not see more Tao magic in action. What gives this show it’s stickiness is the sense of grand adventure. That there are worlds to explore without limit. Something the other two shows don’t really have in them. In Outlaw Star, space is still a dangerous frontier and I find it a pity that there isn’t more adventure to it.

Cowboy Bebop

I’ll be short since you’ll probably know what comes next if you read my piece last month. Cowboy Bebop is a mix of hommages and tropes, exerted to the fullest. That might be the most accurate description I can give. It’s not just the characters or the storyworld. It is the combination of elements packed in a beautiful wrapper of sound and imagery. And every time I watch it it gets me. Not just the western or noir elements. It’s the complete package. Especially episodes like Ballad of Fallen Angels or Jupiter Jazz are a treat to watch. I’m not really sure how these will look and feel when experienced in live action.


I have no doubt that most of the people involved in the remake of Cowboy Bebop have the best intention to make it as good as they can. But I do question the need of doing one in the first place. My personal ruleset for doing a remake would be: 

1. Is the original story still worthwhile to tell. 

2. Has the animation aged poorly? 

3. Are the technical advancements in the medium improved enough to warrant one?

4. What does it add to the (tv) medium to do this remake?

Obviously the answer to question 1 would be yes. From my perspective the answer to 2 and 3 would be no. Even when considering that a live-action adaptation is something different than an animated remake, all three of the shows mentioned here don’t need a remake when purely looked at the visual quality. The nineties animation might be a bit dated, but it sure is not bad2.

Which leaves us with question 4. The only reason I see for doing a remake is that it shines light on a great product that should receive (more) recognition. 

Because this adaptation is in a different medium than animation, it doesn’t add anything to said medium. And based on the released opening credits I’m not sure what this show will add to the medium of (streaming) television. At this moment we are a month away from the Netflix release and the only thing we can do is wait. If the remake can capture the essence or the viewing experience of the original it will most likely receive less negative critique than when it doesn’t. We can only tell after the fact.

The viewing experience

While all of these 3 shows have a big “made in the nineties” stamp on them, they all are vastly different from each other. And while I have my preferences, each show had some aspects that I enjoyed. Overall the viewing experience was good and I did not regret it. Should you find yourself in a situation where you do not know what to watch, know that 1998 saw the release of 3 great animated shows. They might not all be as easily identified as westerns, but if you look closely, you will find that each of the protagonists are dealing with their own frontier.


  1. Perhaps this review from Glass Reflection may be your selling point to watch it.
  2. Disclaimer: This could be my nineties nostalgia speaking

The mark of the 1998 Anime space westerns part 3: Cowboy Bebop

Much has already been said and written about Cowboy Bebop. The characters, story and storyworld have been put under a magnifying glass by countless people. With the Netflix remake coming soon the influence of the show cannot be denied. Even 13 years after its debut many people remain fascinated by a show which, according to some, stands alone in the medium. I’m not here to discuss that. Instead I want to focus on what I think gives this show its stickiness: Atmosphere. This is the third part in my series on the 1998 space western anime. You can find part one on Trigun here and part two on Outlaw star here.

3, 2, 1 let’s jam!

The atmosphere of Cowboy Bebop

From the first episode it’s clear that this is a strange world. The unfamiliar scenes of spaceships travelling through hyperspace gates are blended with the familiarity of bar shootouts and smoking, lots of smoking. It might not be very far fetched to say that the smoke is the connecting tissue between the show’s western and noir elements with the science fiction part of it. Rickety space crafts are piloted by (smoking) gangsters and other dirty characters. In fact, the whole world seems to be filled with less than honest people. 

In this world we find Spike, Jet and Faye1. A strange group of bounty hunters or cowboys who hunt criminals of all shapes and sizes to claim the reward money. At first sight they seem to be on the good side of the law, but all of these characters are deeply flawed with a dark past. And while some are stuck in their past, others seem to just ignore it.

The portrayal of these characters, especially in combination with the close up shots, give us a picture of a world that is unfair. A world where the characters are disconnected, simply because they believe they cannot influence it anymore. They feel powerless and always return to the one place or mental state that they feel comfortable with. The Bebop itself is a relic that supports this notion. A ship that feels as lived in and looks like it’s flying on the fumes of the last earned reward. Much of the world is shown this way: dirty and gray. Especially in the episodes where we explore a bit of the characters history it looks like humanity is trying very hard to just sustain itself, rather than moving forward.

It’s Noir

This thick layer of Film Noir is all over Cowboy Bebop. The Britannica says this about the genre:  “Classic images of noir included rain-soaked streets in the early morning hours; street lamps with shimmering halos; flashing neon signs on seedy taverns, diners, and apartment buildings; and endless streams of cigarette smoke wafting in and out of shadows.”

This is the world of Cowboy Bebop in a nutshell. And it’s not just the images on screen, but also the music that empowers this feeling that the show is trying to convey to the viewer. While listened to out of context the OST might give you just the notion that it’s just blues or jazz, but combined with the imagery it creates a feeling of nostalgia. Nostalgia of an imaginary time long ago when the world was perhaps a more depressing place to live in. A world where characters make selfish decisions for their own benefit and nothing that lasts comes from it. 

Watching Cowboy Bebop is a good experience

Due to time constraints over the last few weeks rewatching the entire show to write a blog was a bit of a scary prospect for me. I already knew the episodes well enough to just start writing. And I probably would have been able to write an interesting piece in this anime western series, even if I wasn’t able to find a specific hook to start with.

But that notion left me as soon as the opening credits rolled on episode one. I could not suppress a big grin, knowing that watching the whole thing would be a good experience. I created time in my schedule to watch the entire series and wasn’t disappointed. The world and characters remain interesting; the shots feel important; and the music completes the bittersweet package. 

Though I am heavily biased when it comes to this show, I continually find that there’s something special with it. For me it is the combination of genre elements; the use of the animated medium and the nostalgic feeling of a time when I was younger. A time when the outside world seemed less detached then it is now. Perhaps that is a reason to watch the show. To remind yourself of that feeling and to realise that things aren’t as bad as they might seem. Because for all the detachment and somberness shown on screen, the music of this show shines a light of hope on the world that is sorely needed.

Should you watch it?

Somewhere on the background images of the commercial bumpers it says: “it’s not a kind of space opera; it’s a sort of space jazz.”

I believ that this is how you should approach this show. See it as a sort of jazz. Sometimes it’s slow and methodical and a few minutes later it’s a high energy dance. You alone can decide if this is for you, but you’ll never know if you like it if you haven’t tried. After rewatching this show, I can only conclude that Cowboy Bebop remains a staple in the medium. A character show where the characters don’t seem to progress that much over it’s 26 episode run. And that’s fine, given how contradictory it sounds. I also believe it was a good decision of the creators to end it. Sometimes it is just better to stop with a great project to let it live. Especially for Cowboy Bebop, since its ending allowed it to breathe amongst the community. And we now know the result of this decision. Cowboy Bebop remains a show that fascinates people like myself for many years to come.

Next month in the final part of this series I will put all previous parts together. And also comment on the value of doing a remake. Because I believe that there are valuable comments to make. See you then, space cowboy.

1. I’m not denying that Edward and Ein aren’t part of the crew. They play a different role in the show.

The mark of the 1998 Anime space westerns part 2: Outlaw Star

The science fiction and fantasy genres are a fun and creative place for creators. Strange looking races, unexplained magic, technologies and world-ending threats are their prerogative. And a quite popular one since all the Sci-Fi/Fantasy flavors are on the forefront of our media. Not just superhero films with world-ending threats; but also stories a little lighter on the fantasy elements like one of a young boy and girl who find their lives intertwined with the arrival of a comet. 

Animation can facilitate all of the above in many different styles. Last month I talked about Trigun and how things just aren’t what they seem to be. Outlaw Star is pretty straighforward and definately takes itself less serious when compared to Trigun. The universe of Outlaw Star is a large and mysterious place, where a lot of fun is to be had with the many species and the Tao magic users. So why not spin these together in a high energy story about freedom, family and the power of following your dreams. So you better get ready!

The wacky world of the Outlaw Star

Humanity has moved to the stars. Along the way they encountered different species and created alliances and enemies. Eventually three human factions formed: The Outlaws, Space pirates and Space Forces.

On the planet Sentinel III we find Gene Starwind1, a roguish entrepreneur who accidentally becomes the owner of an experimental spaceship dubbed and its bio-android navigator. He sets out to find the great treasure that can be found with this ship to create fame and fortune for himself as an outlaw.  He starts with just his friend and business partner Jim Hawking2. After Melfina they quickly pickup the assassin “Twilight” Suzuka and eventually the Ctarl-Ctarl Aisha Clan-Clan to join them on their journey across the stars.

A slow ride to freedom

The initial episodes start the series off really strong. There are a bunch of strange and cool characters, a fancy ship and Tao magic! So you strap yourself in, ready for a crazy ride. Only to have the pacing of the main plot drop like a brick after episode 4. 

While I personally don’t really mind that the show shifts into an episodic format, this can be a big let down for a lot of people. Because most of the episodes explore different aspects of the characters in a rather mundane way, the show creates a discrepancy of expectations with the audience. While I think the episodes are fun to watch, if you were expecting a high paced race to the finish line prepare to be thoroughly disappointed. 

Especially since the plots of the episodes are never referred to again. How interesting would it be if Jim later found out that the young girl he befriended was actually the Kei Pirate assassin they killed. And when he learned the girl’s background he would go from resentment to sympathy. Alas, we can’t always get what we want. 

What I do want to emphasize is the aspect of freedom that the show bolsters. When the Outlaw Star is grounded, Gene is lazy and in a worse state of mind than when they are on the move. Gene is a horny teen who only wants “the big score” while the others seem to do their part to keep them (financially) afloat. But when the Outlaw Star takes flight into the beautifully illuminated darkness of space there is a role reversal. This is the place where Gene is in his element, experiencing personal freedom and the power that comes with it. This dichotomy is really interesting and only became apparent to me after I let the show simmer in the back of my head for a few days.


I think most of us will recognise that there is much more to Outlaw Star than shown in the 26 episodes. I’m not sure how faithful the anime is to the manga, but if anything Outlaw Star makes me want to explore its story universe more. It’s the tip of the iceberg and I am left wondering how much I can find beneath the water. There are a lot of plot treads open that can be used to start another story. And because the themes of family, friendship and freedom are involved most writers interested in this particular universe can find a suitable hook to start. This also leads me to the conclusion that it is no surprise that elements of Outlaw Star made it into other shows like Firefly. Shelving the discussion of accidental or intentional copy, it shows that Outlaw Star’s creator Takehiko Itō had the correct elements in his mind when penning the manga. 

Should you watch it?

Overall Outlaw Star is a fun show to watch. Unlike Trigun it never had me questioning whether to stop watching. The main reason for this is the fun worldbuilding.

The outlandish characters this universe can produce made me stick around to see what the next episode would bring, even if I knew that there was a chance they could quite miss the mark. For me the episode that stands out is the absolute bonkers comedic fan service that is  “Hot Springs Planet Tenrei”. It’s so silly that it leaves no doubt in my mind that the creators were having fun placing the characters in all kinds of situations.

I watched the English dub on Youtube and it’s not bad3. Though the pacing of the main story is an issue, it’s not something that hindered my overall enjoyment of the show. The animation and backgrounds are beautiful and the soundtrack is pretty good as well4.

My biggest issue with the show is the commercial bumper. I can only describe it as over the top flashy in your face. If I had the power of remaking this show this would be the first thing to go. 

In conclusion: If you like a show that blends its fantastical elements like the caster weapon with some harder Sci Fi elements (like ship navigation); and you’re not scared by the prospect of the pacing issues; Outlaw Star is for you. If you’re not sure I can only encourage you to watch the opening six episodes and decide for yourself. Because if the show hasn’t bought your attention by then, it probably won’t. 

See you next month when I finally take a look at Cowboy Bebop

  1. A supposed reference to Gene Roddenberry
  2. Which I assume is a nod to treasue island’s Jim Hawkins
  3. The VA who plays Aisha is very good
  4. Big shoutout to composer Kow Otani, known for his work on Shadow of the Colossus and Gundam Wing

The mark of the 1998 Anime space westerns part 1: Trigun

The old west is dead. The frontiers we still have as humanity are arguably the deep sea and space, the final frontier. The western, with heroes riding their horses into the setting sun, rarely graces our screen. Instead the western genre has become a place of flawed characters, who defend our way of living by venturing to the edge of the abyss. Killing others who’ve fallen into it. It is in this context that we find three distinct anime. Three space westerns released in the same year: 1998. At a time when the change of the millennium was ever coming closer, we got three distinct storyworlds where the bad guys needed to be stopped: Trigun, Outlaw Star and Cowboy Bebop

I do not know if the writers of these shows all were inspired by the same sources like spaghetti westerns and sci fi movies, or that it was just a big coincidence they dropped in the same year. But the fact is that we have three entertaining space westerns who somehow ended up in multiple top 10 lists of 1998.1

While Cowboy Bebop still is one of the heralds of the animation medium, Trigun and Outlaw Star fly a little bit under the radar. I’ve been playing with the idea to bring these three shows into a similar spotlight. And it also provides an insight in why people prefer one over the other. So in the coming months I will dive into one anime per blog to see what the stickiness factor of each of these shows is. Note that there will be some spoilers.

Trigun and the power of facade

We see a deserted landscape. A post-apocalyptic view of dust and sand where humanity lives in small towns similar to the old west. The lightbulbs towering over the wooden and limestone houses tell us that this is not the world as we know it. This is the frontier of Trigun, where the highest bounty known has been issued on the head of Vash the Stampede. The humanoid Typhoon, who leaves destruction wherever he goes. The man is a legend and most people fear him. When they hear that Vash is in their town they either run or try to collect the bounty placed on him. Men and woman who tried all failed because when they encounter the main character of the show he doesn’t look like a dangerous killer, but like a stumbling idiot. 

Opening credits:

Yes, the main character of the show is not a homicidal maniac. He is a pacifist. But that doesn’t mean he can not be dangerous. He just prefers to solve his problems in a different manner. This facade, this way of presenting himself to the world is not just to make him look inconspicuous to people who encounter him. It is also to protect them from those that intend to harm him. Because those people, bounty hunters and desperate townsfolk alike usually destroy small cities in the process of assaulting Vash. Leaving the Bernadelli Insurance Company with ever-increasing costs to repair it. So they do the most sensible thing: send two girls to find The Humanoid Typhoon and try to sway him with donuts to limit the damage.

Evolving genre

At first glance Trigun seems like a comedy. Even the scenes depicted in the early part of the opening credits strengthen this image. But as the credits continue we see a more mature, serious and even threatening side of Vash. This is a great representation of the show as a whole. The series starts with a quite light-hearted and comedic tone which fades into the background later on. This starts at episode 12: Diablo, when the show becomes more serious and shows a darker side to Vash that we did not quite see before. The stakes are raised again for our main character in episode 17 where we learn of Vash’s tragic past and how the facade of the world around him is broken down as well. The first of Vash being a godlike alien being and the second that he is stuck on a planet with a remnant of humanity.

These are the two main instances where the show changes, or flips elements of the narrative to push the plot forward. The stakes rise for our main character. We learn a bit of his past and eventually get an view of the “end boss” of the show. But because Knives is a shadow in the background for most of the episodes, coupled with the lack of exposition this does quite hamper my enjoyment of the show.

Lack of worldbuilding

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed learning about the Vash as a character and watch him interact with the world. Which is especially important because we learn very little about the side characters. For example we know more of Wolfwood then we know of Milly, Meryl and perhaps even Knives. So it was a treat to learn about Vash’s past and how he sees the world around him. 

But the mentioned lack of plot and world exposition is in my opinion detrimental to the show. For me Trigun is now a villain of the week show where the backstory is only important to (A) push the plot in a new direction and (B) to finish the series.

I personally do not mind being left with questions about the workings of a world or the future of a character when a series concludes. But for me Trigun the anime leaves a bit too many questions unanswered. Like it desperately wants to uphold some facade after the final episode. Even if that one was an info dump on steroids.2

Should you watch it?

Having said all this, should you watch it? Well, Trigun is for you if you like a space western story with comedic elements. Even when it changes into a more serious tone later on the comedy will pop up. It is an interesting story about a lone gunman whose appearance is deceiving. Vash is not only enjoyable but honestly quite adorable to watch. And despite its flaws, Trigun is a show where the ending is true to its nature, even if you don’t expect it. Love and Peace!

Next month in part 2: Outlaw Star

1 Anime lists of 1998: IMDB, Anime News Network, Listal,

2 If you have questions after watching the show I recommend reading this fandom page. The manga section answers most questions I had.

Carole and Tuesday

Watanabe and the power of music

I love music. That is probably evident by the number of times I write about it to relate to my personal life or the world at large. Songwriters have the capability to catch a slice of life, capture that within 3 minutes and transfer that emotion to the listener. And while music is deeply personal, there are songs that receive praise for capturing a moment that we as human beings can identify with. With the holiday season coming closer All I want for Christmas is one example that springs to mind, putting emphasis on being together with a person you love.  But it’s not just music that can transfer emotions. Other media are just as capable of doing it, just in their own way.

Shinichiro Watanabe and Cowboy Bebop

Shinichiro Watanabe is a big name in the realm of anime. Director of the arguably most famous, highly praised series Cowboy Bebop. I love Bebop: the setting, the characters and the episodes plots. It is a complete audiovisual spectacle that is exactly as long as it should be. What I love about high quality shows is that moment when the soundtrack detaches itself from the imagery and you keep listening to it long, long after you watched the show for the last time. And while it sometimes brings back memories of specific moments or episodes, but more often than not it is what it is: just enjoying yourself listening to good music.

I don’t know how I first got to watch Bebop, but the pleasure I had watching it I will carry with me forever. To the point that I don’t need to rewatch the episodes to step into that (nostalgic) feeling but do so anyway.

My fondness of Bebop led me to Samurai Champloo, another of Watanabe’s projects. It did not disappoint. Again the clean cut action, likable characters and excellent soundtrack gave me a series that I will recommend to anyone without hesitation.

I know it is sometimes hard to step into something new, especially in the world of sequels we live in. Because you don’t know what you will get when you start watching, and sometimes previews or trailers don’t help either.

This preview is not representative of the complete product

Netflix tries to have it’s users watch films and series via suggestions. I don’t have insight into its inner workings, but I gather it is similar to youtube. All with the goal of keeping the subscriber subscribed. So when it kept recommending me the show Carole and Tuesday I checked the preview and wasn’t really interested. Simply because it did not tick the correct boxes for me at the time. ‘Two girls trying to make their mark in the music business’, is not something that peaks my interest. Especially because I saw something about a music contest in the episode description. 

When I eventually gave in to the system and started looking at the ratings of this show I discovered that it was directed by Watanabe and animated by Studio Bones. Two big names in anime collaborating on a project. Who was I not to try it for at least two or three episodes?

Watch and listen

The first episode starts with the two titular characters and their current situation. Nothing really special there, except it takes place on Mars. This is the moment Watanabe ticks a box for me: Sci-Fi setting. Though the animation style takes some getting used to it is fluent and serves the out of this world setting. Another box ticked.

Second episode. Carole and Tuesday have started their journey together and somewhere around the 14th minute mark end up in the memorial hall. They start to play their first song and it this is the moment the show grabs me. I don’t know what happened, perhaps it was the culmination of the events to that moment. But I kept watching, episode after episode. I was invested in these characters and their journey, laughing and crying with their successes and failures until there were no more episodes to watch.

Wait how many?

I rewatched a few episodes for this blog and the music still gets me. Most of the music hits home. It turned this show from something mildly interesting into a must watch. 

Granted, not all songs are my cup of tea. But there is enough variation in style to serve the character it belongs to. From Angela’s power pop songs to Ertegun’s DJ compositions. All are different and are definitely not made by the same person. The music team which served as a backbone for this production lists at least 28 people. The list includes names like Steve Aoki, Andy Platts (Young Gun Silver Fox & Mamas Gun) and Tim Rice-Oxley (Keane). And these are just the ones I am familiar with. 

How much influence they had on the overall music production I do not know. But it is clear Watanabe’s history as music video director has given him the necessary connections to realize this beautiful beast.

A love for music

This show breathes a love for music and the music industry. From the characters it portrays; the way music is made and the downsides the subsequent fame brings.* 

Now I always found it cool that Watanabe had episode titles of his previous shows refer to cultural phenomena, films or be literal song titles. In Carole and Tuesday all episodes are song titles, which in some part also relate to the plot.

And this is just one of the cherries on the cake. Carole and Tuesday was a wholesome viewing experience in 2020. A beautiful slice of life show with a deep rooted love for music. One that I believe I share with the creators of the show. 

But before you grill me, not everything is as good as I make it out to be. It is not a perfect show by a long shot.  But it scores high at what it sets out to do, and transfer a wide variety of emotions along the way. The main cast is well written and the show produced my favourite character of the year: DJ Ertegun. 

Closing thoughts

There is so much more I actually wanted to say about Carole and Tuesday, critique it in a more proper way. My options to do this would be a series of blogs or a video describing also my dislikes of the show. And although I am greatly intrigued by the second thought, I want to keep focus on my other writing for now. Perhaps if I return to the show in the future.

To end I would like to point out the optimistic note the show ends with. Music is personal. Music can help you cope with problems. And music is something that can bring people together. This is the message the show tries to convey to the viewer, and it also ends with that specific message. So I recommend watching and sharing it with your loved ones. Perhaps you will, like me, carry a piece of the music of Carole and Tuesday with you. 

* One thing that struck me is that there is always something with money in Watanabe’s shows. It is a bit present in the first 12 episodes but never on the forefront as it was with Bebop or Champloo.

Cowboy Bebop: celebrating 20 years of humanity

I just finished the last episodes of the anime classic that is cowboy bebop. And I must say the series still holds up to its legacy after 20 years. It’s not just the animation style and quality that keeps me glued to the screen. It’s also the excellent musical score but above all, the storytelling.

Let’s just start with stating that it was not the story that triggered me in the first place rewatch it. It was the question why Cowboy Bebop holds a special place in my, and many other people’s heart. It was about halfway through the 26 episode series that I discovered why: Cowboy Bebop tells a story about humans.

Human behaviour and emotions are the foundation of this series. And this behaviour and emotions that is so skillfully crafted around these characters that slowly pulls you in. And it all seems to centre around a main theme of people who are searching for a place where they belong while struggling with personal issues.


For example Spike is trying to find if he’s alive. He feels like he’s trapped in his past while witnessing present event unfold before him. Because of his past experience, he keeps other people at a distance so they cannot be involved and possibly get hurt by his actions.

When we look at Faye we see at first glance a character with no past or future, so she is trying to find meaning in her life while living in the present, not thinking or wondering about both.


These character developments are explored in several episodes, with an eventual resolution of some kind in the last two episodes (though probably not the one these characters envisioned). But it is certainly not the main bulk of the series. The show is highly episodic in nature, which allows for watching most episodes in a random order. It also rewards the viewer for a rewatch of the series, just so you better understand the decisions characters take at certain points during the episodes. And it allows you to have a deeper understanding of the human stories that are told in the episodes.

It sure helps that the entirety of the series is drenched in a stellar (pun intended) and methodically crafted blues and jazz soundtrack which increases viewing pleasure, and deepens the human emotion of the action on screen. 

To me, Cowboy Bebop is one of the rare series that can be watched and enjoyed by almost everyone. It just shows that, no matter the fantastical setting of your show, human behaviour and emotions connects viewers with the characters.* 

Until next time.

*The Game of Thrones tv series is a current example