Since Netflix’s reveal of the Cowboy bebop Opening titles last month, fans of the original sci-fi anime seem polarized in their opinion in the run-up to the premiere of the upcoming live-action adaptation. Reception is split between those who think the series looks like a fresh and entertaining take on a beloved anime classic, and those who think it looks like a cloyingly self-conscious fan video, albeit one on a admittedly huge budget.
These criticisms have been directed at everything from editing the trailers, the looks of stars John Cho, Mustafa Shakir, and Daniella Pineda in their costumes, to the appearance of supporting characters like Spike Spiegel’s nemesis Vicious, played by Alex. Hassell (Suburbicon). And to be honest, he does it look ridiculous. Look at the man. Looks like a guest judge at Iron cook he’s about to reveal the secret ingredient. It looks like Lurch from The Addams Family disguised as Alucard from Castlevania. Looks like a copycat Spirit Halloween costume from Rhaegar Targaryen.
That’s not necessarily that the creators of the Netflix show are wrong. In fact, I’d go so far as to argue that Alex Hassell’s version of Vicious is in line with the character from the 1998 series. It’s impossible for Netflix’s live adaptation of Cowboy bebop to “ruin” Vicious because honestly, Vicious’s character in Cowboy bebop it was already terrible to begin with.
Cowboy drinkP’s creator Shinichirō Watanabe first introduces Vicious using silent flashbacks and context clues in the fifth episode, “Ballad of Fallen Angels.” He is a high-ranking member of the Red Dragon Syndicate, a criminal organization Spike previously belonged to before becoming a bounty hunter. Vicious and Spike were former partners and friends when they were younger, both led by a senior Red Dragon member named Mao Yenrai. A rift formed between the pair when Spike fell in love with Julia, Vicious’s girlfriend at the time.
In “Jupiter Jazz Part 1 & 2”, it is revealed that at some point in Vicious’s life, probably after Spike left the Red Dragon syndicate and faked his own death, he served as a soldier in a war on Titan’s moon alongside to Gren. , a former partner whom he accused of serving as a spy and against whom he testified in a military court. Vicious is a sadistic, cold, bloodthirsty and unmistakably “vicious” man (it’s even his name!) Who wants power and will stop at nothing to get it. Also, he wields a katana and has a large pet crane-like bird that is filled with explosives. And that’s it.
Vicious is Spike’s main contrast and the closest thing the series has to a major recurring character, in addition to the main cast of Spike, Faye, Jet, and Ed. He appears in a total of five of the series’ 26 episodes. Despite this, he is more of a vague antagonistic presence than a character himself. His dialogue consists almost entirely of concise and ominous jokes such as, “When angels are thrown from heaven, they turn into demons” or “Cloudy climates do not concern me.” He’s a one-note anime antagonist with no discernible bow or motivation other than being a jerk. In contrast to Spike, a sympathetic and multifaceted protagonist with deep personality and undertones, Vicious simply pales in comparison. This is a character that is uniquely cool for 13-year-olds.
So I’m not saying I never thought Vicious was cool when I watched the series during its original Adult Swim run. And arguably there are much bolder and less characterful anime villains than Vicious – just look at Raditz from Dragon Ball WITH, or Shogo Makishima of Psycho-Pass. All I’m saying is that it’s been a long time since I was 13 years old. I’ve come to expect more now when it comes to characterization in the anime that I watch.
For example, there is Mereum, the main antagonist of Hunter X Hunterthe arc of Chimera Ant, who is arguably more ruthless and violent than Vicious ever was; His evolution throughout the arc finds audiences understanding and even sympathetic to him as he struggles to reconcile the human and half-insect aspects of his own nature. My hero academiaTomura Shigaraki essentially begins the series as All For One’s lackey apprentice, All Might’s nemesis, before gradually becoming a formidable and cunning adversary. Even Full Metal Alchemist: BrotherhoodThe father has his own bow, as the former dwarf homunculus, a creature incapable of performing alchemy on his own, aspires to divinity in his stubborn pursuit of absolute knowledge and self-empowerment. Vicious pales in comparison to these examples for the simple fact that he has no discernible arc or goal setting his goals against Spike’s, other than the simple desire for power on his own.
For a series as lively and original as Cowboy bebop, who riffs from several very different genres like sci-fi, noir, and westerns in creating his own colorful cast of characters and universe, Vicious is a disappointingly flat sad nihilist with a propensity for perching on narrow ledges and generally being disgusting. If anything, the costume design for Alex Hassell’s live performance of Vicious is an accurate representation of this. Plus, with more than two decades of time separating production from the original anime and Netflix’s live-action adaptation, there is more than enough room to enhance Spike’s nemesis.
Talking to Polygon, Cowboy bebop Showrunner André Nemec said that developing the story of John Cho’s portrayal of Spike also meant developing his relationship with Julia, played by Elena Satine of The gifted. Nemec describes Julia as “more of an idea than a character” in the original anime, a description that could also be used to describe Vicious. Whether the same level of attention will be paid to Vicious will become clear when Netflix Cowboy bebop premieres this fall.