The age-old struggle between original source material and creative interpretation resurfaces again with Netflix’s “Cowboy Bebop,” a new take on the famous Japanese anime originally released in 1998. Costume designer Jane Holland used the aesthetic from designing the original series as a springboard for its work in the live-action reboot, which is already under intense fan scrutiny for not accurately reproducing the animated version.
Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda) served as the lightning rod for the costume debate as well as the casting. Avoiding the anime’s short shorts and crop tops in favor of less revealing fashion was Holland’s “2021 route in this character as opposed to a version from 1998,” she explains. She finds the new look equally sassy and sexy without the extreme level of gratuity of the original.
There were also logistical considerations that come into play for a live-action series, such as the practicality of stunt work during Auckland’s winter night shoots while wearing skimpy clothing.
Pineda herself addressed the controversy in an Instagram story where she apologized with biting bitterness for not matching the anatomical proportions of the anime at “six feet.” [with] double D size breasts [and a] two inch size.
While Faye Valentine’s costume initially got the most attention, Holland says the design process for everyone was the same. “Conceptually, [they all] have strong ties to the anime, but none of them are the same [to it],” she says.
Each costume is steeped in character-building detail and context. Faye, for example, has an abstract pattern on the back of her leggings that can “just” look like an interesting print. However, discerning eyes can distinguish the words “Babes in Arms” in stylized block letters. The well-known musical includes a song called “My Funny Valentine”. The song title is also the name of the animated episode where Faye Valentine’s backstory is revealed. Of course, there is also the connection between the name of the song Valentine. Everything is connected.
Other iconic costumes include equally important design details: Spike (John Cho) has a “fluidity and affinity with water, so I made a pattern of it,” says Holland. His suit jacket has custom designed buttons with the Japanese character for “water.” Her lining is printed with a pattern of drooping roses depicting her lost love Julia, whose own pattern is a rose.
“The idea is that Spike has something of Julia wrapped around him,” she notes of the character’s grief.
Also of interest is the serial number of Jet’s (Mustafa Shakir) robotic arm. A discussion of the features of the machine led to its inclusion. The letter and number combo relates to Jet’s love of jazz. The letters – CPMDNY – refer to the initials of famous musicians Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, as well as to New York, the place of a particular performance. The numbers are the date of this concert.
While many costumes connect through detailed elements relating to the characters’ stories, sometimes the meaning is elsewhere. One of the badges worn on screen identifies a character as Hine, a nod to a costume cleaner in the department.
“People watching from the costume department always say, ‘I did that,’ so that was my way of doing it. [letting her] take a little moment too, ”says Holland.