On Tuesday, Netflix announced that Yoko Kanno, the musical genius behind Cowboy Bebop’s soundtrack, will be producing original tunes for the Netflix live-action adaptation of the hit anime series.
Excuse me while I lose my shit a little bit.
The live-action adaptation of Shinichiro Watanabe’s space noir-thriller about a ragtag group of bounty hunters stars John Cho as Spike Spiegel, Daniella Pineda as Faye Valentine, and Mustafa Shakir as Jet Black. But the music is just as important as the show’s star-studded cast—a fact that Netflix itself readily recognizes.
“There is no Bebop without Yoko Kanno,” said the tweet announcing the composer’s arrival.
And they’re goddamn right. On its own, Bebop’s story, characters, and delightful brevity make it an compelling and accessible anime to American teens back in the late 90s when it was a mainstay on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming block. But Bebop was elevated to its near unassailable top-tier status among anime fans because of Kanno’s music. In an interview Shinichiro Watanabe gave at Otakon in 2013 he said of Kanno:
“There were instances where I heard these songs she created for Cowboy Bebop, took inspiration from them and created new scenes for Cowboy Bebop. And then she would be inspired by these new scenes I’d created, they would give her new ideas for music and she’d come to me with even more music.”
Netflix has struck out on anime adaptations before, with an abysmal reception to its live-action movie version of Death Note. Anime fans are rightly concerned that Netflix’s attempt to live-actionify anime’s Paddington 2 will fail. However, securing Kanno’s talents shows that Netflix is serious about making an attempt to create something faithful to such hallowed original material.
Yoko Kanno composed soundtracks for anime series both beloved and obscure. She worked on The Vision of Escaflowne and Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex. She worked again with Watanabe on Space Dandy and Kids On The Slope (in which she made the greatest cover of Art Blakely’s “Moanin’” ever produced by humankind.)
Kanno briefly returned to Bebop in 2020 when she collaborated with Funimation, The Seatbelts, and Cowboy Bebop voice actors to release a special charity recording of “The Real Folk Blues” with proceeds going to fight the covid-19 pandemic.
Production on Cowboy Bebop halted in late 2019 after John Cho suffered a knee injury during filming, but from the tweet announcing Kanno it looks like the show might be released some time this fall.
As for me, I no longer care if the show ends up being hot garbage because at least I will have gotten new Yoko Kanno music out of it. That’s always a win.