‘Cowboy Bebop’ Changes the Game for Asian Casting in Anime Adaptations

Thanks to our friends at That Hashtag Show, we’ve got some great news regarding Netflix’s casting  for their upcoming Cowboy Bebop live-action series!

The company, who notoriously made some questionable decisions doing an all-white adaptation of Death Note (which was an assault from both a diversity perspective and as an actual adaptation) seems to have learned from its prior mistakes. They are now putting out open casting calls for Asian actors to portray the lead roles of Spike and Faye.

The descriptions are as follows:

Spike Spiegel

An Asian (or partially Asian) man in his mid 20’s to mid 30’s and must have athletic ability. Spike is the young and handsome male lead with a body like Bruce Lee. His care free demeanor hides a seriously dangerous individual. Spike is prone to shoot first and improvise, unlike his more serious partner Jet, but he gets the job done. Spike tries to hide his sensitive side but is a sucker for a damsel in distress and is haunted by his past

IN THE ANIME: Spike was a member of a crime syndicate but fell in love with the leader’s girlfriend. When they tried to leave, Spike was gunned down and presumed dead. The woman he loved vanished.


Faye Valentine

An Asian (or mixed heritage) woman in her early 20s to mid 30s and must have athletic ability. Faye is the female lead of the show. She is an attractive bounty hunter with a sharp tongue. She’s a survivor who will con anyone to get what she wants. Faye has no memory of her early life, including family or friends. So, even though she’ll never admit it, she likes working with the other members of the Bebop crew.

In addition to searching for Asian actors to portray the leads, Netflix is also looking for African American actors to portray Jet Black, and open calls for the characters of Julia, Radical Ed, and Vicious.


Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I do believe this really is one of the first times in an American adaptation of a classic anime/manga that the filmmakers have finally considered Asian actors for the lead roles, and that’s something I’m thrilled about.

In my opinion, as an Asian American male, it’s nice to have some form of lead representation in a series based off of Asian pop culture source material (shocking I know). While I’m disappointed it’s taken this long for us to get to this, I’m glad at least studios like Netflix are starting to learn from the atrocities that were the whitewashed casting decisions behind that god awful Dragonball Evolution movie from 2009, the horrendous Ghost in the Shell (2017), and the aforementioned Death Note example.

I’m assuming it has to do with all the nasty letters I sent them after Death Note. In any case, while time will tell what this show looks like, or whether the studio follows through with the above casting requests, I’m hopeful that this will be the first of many successful anime/manga adaptations that rightfully puts Asian leads in the center spotlight. God knows, the last thing we need in this industry is Finn Jones playing Spike.

12 thoughts on “‘Cowboy Bebop’ Changes the Game for Asian Casting in Anime Adaptations

  1. But.. Spike is not Asian. I always thought Spike looked more Caucasian than Asian. And considering the fact that Faye is a French name, I thought she had some kind of a French heritage, but her home on Earth was in Singapore, so mixed sounds great.

    1. There are quite a bit of Singaporeans who have Western first names especially given it was a former British colony (a handful of the actors in Crazy Rich Asians who are actually from Singapore for example have European First names – Pierre Png, Fiona Xie, etc:.) Hong Kong is similar. So simply because her name isn’t Faye doesn’t mean she is definitely mixed race (tho that’s not to rule out the possibility.)

    2. So one of the things about growing up in Western society and being surrounded by Western media that is predominantly white is that becomes normal in people’s minds. White westerners often project themselves onto Anime characters but honestly, Japanese animators haven’t spent decades drawing just white people. Sure, they don’t draw characters that have the stereotypical Asian features (dark hair, smaller eyes etc.) but that doesn’t automatically mean that the characters aren’t Asian.

      1. They aren’t Asian because none of them have Asian first or last names, and in a country as ethnically as homogenous as Japan thats indicative enough of the author’s intentions. Spike Spiegel has a Jewish last name and even uses and Israeli brand of pistol, which is an oddly specific thing to write in if it wasn’t meant to indicate something. They could be mixed, but its unlikely that any of them are fully Asian.

  2. I love the idea to work towards a diverse cast, and I hope this adaptation will be just as good as the anime itself. If this goes well, it might just revive the fandom and even catch the interest of many more to watch the original!

  3. Ghost in the Shell (2017) actually was not bad at all. The only thing wrong with it was the casting choice of Scarlet Johansson as the Major. Even then, casting a white person as cyborg is not that unreasonable. Johansson was was playing the part of a machine with the brain of a girl of Asian descent. The machine that made her did not make her an Asian person.

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