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July 25 2003

" Cowboy Bebop." Dated late last year, this critique starts with the premise that Firefly is a ripoff of Cowboy Bebop and then milks it for all it's worth.

Interesting read. While disputable, yet another possible reason why network executives didn't give Firefly the chance it deserved. Provided of course suit-and-ties think like this guy. What's amusing to me about the essay though is how the writer goes everywhere mentioning show after show from Buck Rogers to Miami Vice. I think he's trying to prove that Whedon was influenced by Cowboy Bebop but he has absolutely no proof, so after several paragraphs of smokescreen, he just makes the blanket assumption that Firefly is plagiarism of Cowboy Bebop. This may or may not be the case, but if one's going to make such an accusation, one should either acknowledge it as opinion, or have actual proof.

Dated May of 2002, Animeboards fans read a description of Firefly before it ever got aired, and made the assumption that it was a "Fox Bebop ripoff".

Vectormatrix takes the exact opposite direction in its criticism of Firefly. Namely, that it would have benefitted Joss Whedon if he'd seen Cowboy Bebop before making Firefly so he could have stolen from it. There's just no pleasing everybody.

On other boards, Farscape fans made similar assumptions. It was a Farscape rip off. It was a Star Trek rip off. Yawn.

People dissed it because it was Whedon's unavoidable time for the "backlash". Everybody loves a winner. Until they get bored.
Never heard of it. Some people who really like an obscure show seem to think that it influences everything else. Personally I thought Firefly was one of the most original sci-fi TV shows in ages.

(But with an hour of hindsight Firefly may have influenced by The Clangers and Button Moon - probably).

[ edited by Simon on 2003-07-25 17:17 ]
I happened to see a couple episodes of Cowboy Bebop last night and the only similarities I can find are that they're both scifi which use a lot of lonely sounding acoustic guitar riffs here and there, made popular in mid 20th century westerns. There's also the "kinda near future outer space bounty hunters in a universe without aliens" milieu. However by contrast, I see no lesbians in Cowboy Bebop. It was hard to tell who exactly was the captain of the Bebop whereas in Firefly the roles of people on ship were more cut and dried. The humor in Bebop is more strained and forced. In Firefly the humor usually grew more organically from the situation. Firefly is more populated than Bebop with over twice as many regulars in the cast. Bebop has more of a noir look to it, whereas Firefly was occasionally dark but not as campy. Firefly was trying to capture more believably how humans would act in space. Bebop just seemed like an excuse to combine anime animation with computer graphics. Bebop's a visual roller coaster with plots that make Sailor Moon look intelligent. Firefly was damn fine storytelling.

The tv shows "Bonanza" and "Ponderosa" had more in common. The movies "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon" had more in common. Still, my point is I'm afraid some people who were fans of other shows thought Whedon was being too derivative with Firefly and didn't give it a chance on those merits.

And what's wrong with being derivative even if he WAS being derivative? Isn't all fan fiction derivative? I happen to like derivative.
Ooh! I'm just familiar with Firefly (waiting for the DVD's), but I just watched through the end of Cowboy Bebop two nights ago.

The whole show [Cowboy Bebop] is shot through with traditional cowboy/western imagery and music. It's not. The opening theme is an amazing skat/jazz song. The music is more American than Jpop, but it's rarely Country 'n Western. More importantly, Cowboy Bebop never took it's "Cowboy" theme as seriously as I think Firefly did. It was always a very self-conscious metaphor that, 4 episodes from the end of the series, is brought to the surface, ridiculed, and thrown overboard, as it were. Anyone watching Bebop for "cowboy/western imagry and music" is going to be very disappointed. They'd be better off watching, say, Firefly.

The article isn't as critical as you make it sound, Zachsmind, but the author obviously needs to read up on his fanboy history. Both Bebop and Firefly owe a great deal to The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonsai. "Cowboys in Space" has been a fanboy wet-dream for decades; the general public wasn't turned off because it was derivitive, they were turned off because it's absurd! Cowboys in Space! WTF? Big fun for geeks like me, but normal people scratch their heads and go 'Huh?' It would have caught on if FOX had given it the support it deserved, but that's been covered already.

Bebop's a visual roller coaster with plots that make Sailor Moon look intelligent.

Zachsmind, don't form snap opinions like this based on two 'Adult Swim' episodes. That would be like judging BtVS based on FX showings of 'Go Fish' and 'Beer Bad.' Bebop is a stellar example of mixing stand-alone episodes with an overall arc. All four main characters are fully developed by the end of the series, with their stories wrapped up without being "finished." Yeah, some of the computer animation is bogus, but the story is fun, original and engaging. At the moment, Bebop generally ranks as one of the Top 5 Best Anime Series ever, and it deserves the honor. I could list plenty of ways Bebop is superior to some of Joss's recent work, but I'll save that tirade for another day.

[ edited by wren on 2003-07-25 17:16 ]
I do like the Bebop, but I always thought Firefly was more based (and I don't mean peeled from, but inspired by) on the anime, Outlaw Star. Then again, Outlaw Star, is more like Treasure Island than a Western. Still, I always was waiting for River to integrate with the ship somehow (like her Star counterpart Melfina,) which sort of happened in one episode, so maybe the comparison isn't that far off.

And who's complaining? It's not like Firefly was blatantly based on Baby Looney Tunes or something. It just had some great anime influences. Good!
Prolific - I gotta agree with you about backlash. There is no more annoying section in an artist's career than when fans/media turn on his/her new project seemingly because they feel they gave previous projects too much acclaim. See Steven Soderbergh & Solaris.
I didn't mean to be insulting to anime enthusiasts, and it's not like I was a big Firefly fan when it came out anyway. I just think that of all the criticism Firefly's gotten, this one to me seemed the most laughable. Like comparing Sesame Street to Howdy Doody. Both were respectable, and both entertained children, but beyond that it's apples and oranges. My point though is that this criticism was out there. People were saying this when Firefly was still in production. It may have been a contributing factor behind the scenes regarding why FOX suddenly got cold as ice in regards to supporting what could have been a flagship broadcast for them.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzaii rocked. I've often wished somebody did a retread of it and brought it back to life. The idea was fun, but the weak budget coupled with a lot of political crap in post production just killed it outright in the box office.
What throws me is, people were saying this as if it were bad? The fact that I made anime connections just from viewing the promotional trailers was, at least in part, one of the reasons that I was right there in front of my TV that Friday night to watch it. I wanted to see Whedon's take on this new genre territory. I would think other fans of anime would have found this interesting as well. That's like saying I saw Dracula, I don't need to see Buffy. In fact, I only would find it a put off if I didn't like anime, and then, the odds would be low that I even knew what the hell Bebop was. Maybe I just don't get it.

Zachs, you may get lucky on that Banzai wish yet, they put out the DVD last year, and the Sci-Fi channel will recycle just about anything, see Battlestar Galactica, so I think it's only a matter of time before Banzai is born anew.

[ edited by jack knight on 2003-07-25 20:35 ]
that article annoys me. issues of plagarism is messy but this is just totally unnecessary. Cowboy Bebop is a cool animated series that looks pretty and Firefly is a kickass live action series that entertained me a hella more.

Grr. Argh.
Bebop's a visual roller coaster with plots that make Sailor Moon look intelligent.

Because, of course, Sailor Moon never had an intelligent or well-considered plot ever due to the entirety of S not existing... (that'd be series 3, the one with the rogue lesbian Sailor Soldiers and the unsettling apocalypse and Messiah arc?) If you're going to dis Bebop, make comparisons to something which actually is thoroughly inane. I wholeheartedly recommend the version of Saiyuki with the eyecandy boys.

I always thought that Buffy was just a little too close to Sailor Moon in places (Dawn pulling a Chibi Usa materialization, Darth Willow looking like Hotaru, the whole "ordinary girl saves world despite desire for ordinary life" thing), and Devil Hunter Yohko in others (ADV's "original Slayer" campaign was right on the money). It constantly amuses me that anime never comes up when Whedon influences are mentioned.

[ edited by weds on 2003-07-25 21:08 ]
weds - well said! I'd like to add Vampire Princess Miyu to the list of Buffy influences. Cute tiny girl (ok, so she's a vampire) is the Chosen One who dispatches big, ferocious demons. Helped and protected by a dark, mysterious, sexy demon who gave up his evil ways and bound himself to her. Taunted by a dark Doppleganger of herself who envies her purity and her position. Yeah, kinda similar.
ZACH --> Finds most anime inane and can't tell the difference between anime and hentai except for the obvious difference in costuming. Notable exceptions include Akira, Twilight of the Cockroaches, and Barefoot Gen.
ZACH --> Finds most imported alcoholic wine inane and can't tell the difference between red and white both taste equally icky regardless of expense or the fancy European name on the bottle. He prefers either beer coolers or fruity vodka drinks.
ZACH --> Wouldn't know class if it crawled up inside him and died, but he does know what he likes and so far Cowboy Bebop has been about as enticing as a mild tooth ache.
I totally hear you, weds! Sailor Moon was my very first anime obsession! The whole Buffy/Angel relationship always had a hint of Serena/Darien in my eyes. "My Only Love" sould have been the song they danced to during The Prom. Umm, did I just admit to all of you that I was a Sailor Moon addict? Well, I retract my last statement for fear it be used against me one day. . .
If Joss is starting to get accused of plagiarism in Buffy (and Angel too,by association), then let me put in my two cents as someone who was cited on the beta bronze board a month or so ago in connection with this very subject. A friend of mine mentioned the bronze post and I had a quick look at it,but didn't bother to reply. The post claimed that Buffy, Angel and Willow (and, if memory serves - Spike) were all based on different aspects of Chia Black Dragon, the eponymous ex-vampire anti-hero of my Chia Black Dragon series that was published from 1988-93.

So, do I jump on the bandwagon and start claiming Joss ripped off ideas from me? No, I damn well don't, because there will always be echoes and resonances between works dipping into the same myth pool, and any resemblances I've spotted between Chia Black Dragon and the Buffyverse are clearly coincidental. As far as I'm concerned, Buffy and Angel are the two most quirkily original TV drama series anytime, anywhere.
The worst thing about Firefly being off the air is not knowing why they were still using guns, and old looking ones to boot, in the future. Please don't tell me if I'm going to find out when I get the DVDs and watch the last three eps and listen to the commentary.
I thought it was rather obvious. In Whedon's space, there had been progress made in astrophysics, propulsions and other fields of science inter-related to space travel, but no one had come along to perfect ballistics. I mean just how fast out of a handheld cannon does a piece of metal have to go anyway? Progress comes in spurts. Evolution happens by leaps and bounds. It's not a gradual thing, and one science or technology can take a giant leap forward while everything around it takes a step back. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it.

...I dunno. Comparing Bebop to Firefly seems as silly as comparing Friends to Coupling, or Amelie to Ally McBeal... Hey waitaminute!

[ edited by ZachsMind on 2003-07-28 05:51 ]
I thought Firefly was character setup was initially somewhat derivative of Andromeda. Of course Firefly is way better, even before Andromeda started to suck. I was even watching the pilot to Futurama the other day ... intergalactic delivery service ... hmm. Some one else thought it was derivative of some other anime as well ... so much so that they petitioned its cancellation (nice work guys). I have never seen "Cowboy Bebop", but I can't imagine it being better than Firefly. Besides I don't think it's really the specific situations/concepts ... watch any given episode of Star Trek and probably Whedon has tried something similar ("Life Serial" being a noted and obvious example) ... but when Whedon does it, I tend to enjoy it more. I think it's not so much what is borrowed that matters, but what he brings to it ... that's the element that matters. I don't know or care how Whedon and Mutant Enemy comes up with the stuff they come up with ... I just hope the work continues to be as fantastic as it has been, if not better.
i'm a little late getting to this, but as for the inspiration behind the serenity and her crew.. i don't think we have to look much further back that alien resurrection (egad!) and the betty and her crew... i saw this movie again recently, and while it might not be such a good memory for joss i did enjoy it for what it was, and was struck by how much similarity there was with the two crews. the betty's crew was a bit darker.. serenity's obviously a bit lighter and more entertaining for the tv crowd, but still... i think the Cowby Bebop argument fits the the guy's agenda more than it resembles the truth... i'm curious if joss has ever made any public comments about the similarities.
oh.. and a quick fact check on Alien Resurrection (1997); Cowboy Bebop (1998).

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