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John Cho Discusses Race And Casting Decisions On Live-Action Cowboy Bebop

After comments from screenwriter Javier Grillo-Marxuach earlier this year,, Cho's comments are all the more interesting.

Many fans are getting excited for the live-action remake of Cowboy Bebop and one of the things they’ve been most excited about is the dedication of the project to stay true to the feel of the original anime. The original series director Shinichiro Watanabe and composer Yoko Kanno are both set to return and screenwriter Javier Grillo-Marxuach has previously discussed efforts to not whitewash the series.

“Spike Spiegel has to be Asian. Like, you can’t Scarlett Johansson this shit. We are making a show that takes place in a future that is multicultural, that is extraordinarily integrated and where those things are the norm.”

In an interview with Vulture, John Cho, the actor playing Spike in the new series, was asked about his thoughts on race in relation to casting the new live-action remake.

“I’ve been curious and I should’ve asked. I never really did. I’m pretty sure that they had made a decision that this character should be Asian. Having said that, I’m not sure whether the Japanese creators of the show cared. Because when I look at anime, there’s not really an answer to the question of what this person’s race is. And I think that partially has to do with the genre; it’s its own thing, and it’s not necessarily reflective of the planet Earth that you and I inhabit. However, we live on planet Earth and we’re making a product for people in 2021. And so if I were a viewer and saw that a white man was cast as Spike Spiegel, maybe I would say, ah, there they go again. I’m not sure if that’s fair.”

He also discussed his thoughts regarding American audiences imposing their ideas on race onto other people as well as how he thinks anime treats issues like race better than western animation.

“[T]here’s two ways of looking at it for me. I flip-flop. I’ve seen a lot of animation in my house because I have kids, and sometimes you go, okay, I wish that there were more Asian characters in animation. Flip side, sometimes when I see American animation, I feel like when they do draw a person of color, it’s so focused on the phenotypical differences between a white person and a person of color that it gets almost … creepy. Like, who cares, you know what I mean? There’s something loose and free about the way anime handles race, that it seems less meaningful. And I go, maybe this is what we should strive for.”

Cowboy Bebop is set to premiere on Netflix on November 19th, 2021.

Allie Capps
About the author

Allie Capps

Allie Capps is the Assigning Editor at We Got This Covered. Her over 10 years of experience include editing rulebooks for board games, writing in the world of esports, and being an award-winning author and poet published in several anthologies and her own standalone books. Her work has been featured at GameRant, Anime Herald, Anime Feminist, SmashBoards, PokeGoldfish, and more. In her free time, she's likely gallantly trying to watch Groundhog Day once a day, every day, for a year for its 30th anniversary.