How Netflix’s Avatar Can Avoid Cowboy Bebop’s Live-Action Mistakes

Many are eagerly awaiting Netflix’s live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbenderwhile hoping it doesn’t make the same kind of mistakes as the recent ill-fated adaptation of cowboy bebop. With production underway in Vancouver, Canada, news is regularly released to the public, complete with casting details and cast commentary. However, adaptations of beloved anime series don’t have a good track record. They often make the same mistakes and fans worry about Netflix Avatar.

The animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender is arguably one of the best stories of the 21st century across all visual mediums. Originally airing on Nickelodeon in the 2000s, the show has a 100% critic score / 98% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, maintaining a devoted fan base for over a decade after the broadcast its last episode in 2008. The years that followed saw a sequel series, Avatar: Legend of Korra, and several graphic novels exploring the larger world in which the stories are set. He also saw in particular a film adaptation, The last air Masterwhich was so disastrously bad that it has remained a running joke since its release in 2010. The live-action show has been in production since 2018, but Netflix has to avoid film adaptation issues and the original’s departure from the episode. the creators of the project left the fan communities understandably uncertain.

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The reason why Avatar: The Last Airbender has been part of pop culture for so long is that so many people saw ideas on the show that resonated with them. The messages of self-improvement and finding your own place in the world were powerful, especially for people who enjoyed the show at formative times in their lives. This was raised by Avatars a vibrant and memorable cast of characters that are as fun to watch as they are to tell. It is the beating heart of the story being adapted. The big question right now is whether the live-action adaptation will capture these vital aspects of the story, and whether it will avoid the issue that Netflix cowboy bebop suffered from.


The Problem With Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop Adaptation Avatar Must Avoid


Faye Valentine pointing a gun at Spike Spiegel in Cowboy bebop

For the most part Netflix visuals cowboy bebop the adaptation is undeniably brilliant. Despite some questionable editing and cinematographic choices (like the excessive use of Dutch angles), the spaceships and cityscapes are rendered stunningly and often perfectly capture the look of the original animation. Unfortunately, this is also the biggest problem. In a nutshell, the live-action cowboy bebop show feels so preoccupied with looking good that it doesn’t take long enough to act right. In doing so, he fails to understand the heart of the story. With modern effects, it’s possible to recreate the art style of an anime series with startling precision. But that alone just isn’t enough to make it a good adaptation.


There can be an undeniable sense of excitement seeing an anime series rendered in full live-action for the first time, but it ultimately feels hollow if there isn’t enough substance underneath. Like plastic food in a restaurant display, it may look appetizing but it has no flavor or food under the facade. cowboy bebop made that mistake when it became apparent the live-action show failed to capture what made the original great, which is part of why its Netflix cowboy bebop the reviews are so negative. Subtlety and unspoken subtext became long conversations full of exposition. The mysterious stories of the characters have been explained in advance, robbing them of any mystery.


The result is a show that looks like the original but doesn’t feel right. This dissonance triggers something akin to a strange valley response, where familiar characters and settings are used to tell an unfamiliar story, just different enough from the original for the differences to be shocking. That’s probably why many viewers find the adaptations so objectionable, and cowboy bebop is far from the first to make this mistake. Similar things can be said for other adaptations, like live action ghost in the shellor the cinematic failure of The last air Master.

Related: Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop Reveals Major Problem With Modern Adaptations


Live Avatar: The Last Airbender Must Balance Story With Aesthetics


Sokka tries to "capture the moment" in the final scenes of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and everyone gets mad at him.

M.Night Shyamalan’s The last air Master sets a gold standard of everything to avoid when adapting but, interestingly, there are times when it’s clear that a lot of effort has gone into recreating the look of the anime series. Scenes like Aang’s rescue by the Blue Spirit are shot to be near-exact remakes of the original. Sometimes this has uncomfortable results, such as the extreme close-ups during dialogue, clearly intended to mimic the style of similar scenes in the first season of Avatar. While they’re perfectly good in a cartoon, they feel especially awkward in live-action. The last air Masterunfortunately, made the exact same mistake as cowboy bebop would follow later, in that it paid too much attention to aesthetics while critically misunderstanding story and characters. Filmmakers keep making these same mistakes, and Netflix Avatar: The Last Airbender show needs to learn from them to avoid falling into the same trap.

Aesthetics are, of course, an essential part of the story, especially a story with such a distinctive look and feel. The original animation did a lot of work in this regard, from the clear Asian influences in the architecture to the use of traditional Chinese calligraphy when the writing is displayed on screen. But it is important not to get too attached to aesthetics. While it might be impressive to recreate an animated scene in live-action, it means nothing if the story falls flat.

With the casting details released so far, it’s at least certain that Netflix will avoid the whitewashing that has plagued so many past adaptations. A major criticism of live-action adaptations like Death Note or Ghost In The Shell, whitewashing is something the producers have obviously learned to avoid. The use of East Asian aesthetics without East Asian actors has uncomfortable implications of appropriation, which audiences are increasingly unwilling to ignore. However, as cowboy bebop shown, the racially appropriate cast isn’t enough without also capturing the spirit of the original.

Netflix’s The Last Airbender Must Capture the Spirit of the Original


Zuko and Iroh from Avatar: The Last Airbender, with terrible tea.

Some reviewers might complain about the slightest adaptive changes to the source material, but some changes can be a good thing. Book adaptations frequently make changes, sometimes even major ones, in an effort to tell a good story and adapt that story to the constraints of the medium. Animation and live action are very different media, so inevitably an adaptation can never be a perfect match to the original. Rather than trying to make a perfect adaptation, the key lies in capturing the spirit of the source material, which both live cowboy bebop and The last air Master film failed to make.


Related: Avatar: How The Show Got Away By Being So Dark

One of the main reasons why Avatar: The Last Airbender is a series so universally loved is that it is full of messages with real emotional impact. The story taps into deeply human feelings, like finding your place in the world, feeling left behind, and learning to forgive yourself for past mistakes. These are experiences so universal that Avatar: The Last Airbender can be enjoyed by everyone, making the story meaningful for children and adults alike. After more than a decade, it is still being discovered by new viewers.

One of the central themes of Avatar: The Last Airbender it is that no one is defined by the past. Each character must confront their own past and the mistakes they’ve made, and they still have the power to decide how they move forward. This message runs throughout the show’s three seasons, from single episode storylines to multi-season character arcs. It’s no coincidence that every antagonist who goes through this process becomes a hero in the end, and everyone who doesn’t learn from the past remains a villain. This carries the important message that the past does not define who you are. As Uncle Iroh points out, it’s never too late to choose your own destiny. There’s some hope in this post for live-action adaptations like Netflix’s Avatar Pin up. Just because previous attempts failed doesn’t mean future ones will, but they must learn from past mistakes if they are to succeed.


No matter what happens, Avatar: The Last Airbender will continue to hold a beloved place in pop culture. That’s unlikely to change anytime soon, regardless of what happens to the Netflix show. Live-action adaptations of animated movies and TV shows have a habit of turning out to be embarrassing but ultimately forgettable mistakes. Still, each carries an ounce of hope that maybe, just maybe, it’ll be the one to get it right and figure out what people really liked about the material it’s adapting.

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