Cowboy Bebop Series Review – Netflix’s Live Action Take on a Legendary Anime

Cowboy Bebop Netflix Live Action Review

It is very hard to make a fandom happy and anime fandoms are notoriously hard to please when it comes to live action adaptations of their beloved franchises. Netflix’s announcement that it was adapting Cowboy Bebop was therefore met with a mixture of derision and some cautious hope that maybe, just maybe, they would get it right.

As the promotional art and trailer came out you could find discussions everywhere online as people dissected the outfits, the actors, the music, and literally everything else they could glean from bare minutes of footage and some interviews.

Through it all, I kind of remained on the fence other than my usual general cautiousness about any remake or adaptation given how few have ended well and I’ve learned from past experience that ignoring the rumour mill and watching the show once it is available is about the only way to make my mind up about something. And unlike so many other anime fans, I don’t have a long history with Cowboy Bebop or any particular emotional connection to the original anime.

See, the first time I watched Cowboy Bebop was during 2020 (otherwise known as the year that will not be named). I still haven’t gotten through a full rewatch and I haven’t even started drafting a review of the anime at this point. Largely because it does have a very strong fan base and I really want to make sure I get the review right when I finally put it out (mostly because while I enjoyed the series I’m not holding it up on a pedestal with all my other hopes and dreams and looking at it only through the lens of nostalgia).

So, the Cowboy Bebop live action came out on Netflix and I watched it from start to finish. And I’m going to say, it was a pretty fun viewing experience.

Cowboy Bebop cast
NETFLIX © 2021

Others may not appreciate it, but I found Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop a fun romp through space.

I’ve already seen the headlines online and my twitter feed has run the negative reactions passed me, but honestly this is a series that took the characters and premise from an anime, narrowed the focus a bit, tweaked a few points and considered what to include, what to leave out, and made a few deliberate changes, and generally managed to produce a piece of entertainment that works in its own right.

Sure, if you want to do a scene by scene dissection against the anime it is pretty obvious that this Cowboy Bebop isn’t just a recreation. And in fairness, the ending of the anime is so much stronger emotionally than the half-hearted ending we have here with Netflix quite clearly banking on a season two rather than letting the characters run their course and providing a solid resolution for them and the audience.

But it is not a cautionary tale about adapting anime. For me, Cowboy Bebop was a triumph giving me a lot of what I had enjoyed in the anime series in a slightly different form and with different packaging, but by and large presenting great characters with a story to tell.

There were only two moments in the live action series when I really felt jarred from my suspension of disbelief. One was an early fight scene in which Spike Spiegel, played fairly gloriously by John Cho, is punching some random guy but there is almost no weight behind his punches. This happens in a few other fight sequences where the moves seem right but it doesn’t look convincingly like the blows are landing or that they would do any damage.

The second moment is unfortunately during the final act where Julia’s character ends up in a car crash for reasons almost too stupid to contemplate but it was directly caused by someone else sitting in the car and the whole sequence was just so mind-blowingly dumb that it nearly soured the final episode.

Anyway, if a series these days makes it nearly ten episodes with only one or two moments that genuinely make you sit back and ask ‘what the hell are you doing’ then usually that is a pretty good sign. Of course, the conclusion where Netflix is obviously gunning for a sequel will also have fans of the Cowboy Bebop anime shaking their heads but it is a sign of the times. Let’s be honest, creating an ongoing franchise is more or less the goal of every new release.

So what is there to like about this new version of Cowboy Bebop?

The characters are fantastic. Admittedly, there is very little subtlety in the script and exposition tends to just be dropped into conversation with key reveals coming earlier in the series than the anime may have leading to a different view on some situations, but if you aren’t locked into a pre-conceived notion of each of these characters, the live action ones are pretty good.

By Netflix live action standards, I’m going to elevate that to very good.

I’ve already mentioned that outside of a few fight scenes I loved John Cho as Spike. Jet, played by Mustafa Shakir, is very solid in the role pulling Spike into line, doing an excellent job of showing Jet’s frustration and sadness at his past dishonour being framed and the disconnect from his child, and also just holding the core cast together.

Though, if I’m honest, my favourite in this new adaptation of Cowboy Bebop is Faye, played by Daniella Pineda. A character who could very easily have become unlikeable manages to play her role with a lot of heart and she brings a real sense of fun to most of her scenes. And you know what, I don’t care that they changed her outfit.

Vicious is a little bit more hit and miss with some really over-the-top facial expressions and the script doesn’t help him out much as his dialogue comes off as either petulant, insane rant, or derivative. Admittedly, I think it fit the character quite well and Alex Hassell clearly put a lot of care into the role but it ends up a little too pantomime-like leaving him feeling less like a threat and more of a hassle the other characters simply have to deal with before they can all move on with their lives.

Cowboy Bebop - Vicious and Fearless

The live action Cowboy Bebop’s Julia, played by Elena Satine, is quite the departure from her anime counterpart which may be because of the westernisation of the adaptation, the modernisation of the story, or maybe they just wanted to give her something more to do than be the MacGuffin of the narrative. I suspect some people will not enjoy the changes to Julia’s character and the role she plays in the conflict between Vicious and Spike, but I know for the most part I found this version of Julia quite entertaining (until the aforementioned moment in the car).

The supporting cast vary in quality but largely work and there are some really fun one episode characters in the ten episode run here.

Cowboy Bebop also kind of got the length right. These ten episodes, most running just under 60 minutes in length, give time to make the world feel fleshed out enough but there isn’t enough time to drag or linger on any particular moment.

I mentioned before a lack of subtlety in character backstories and exposition, and honestly the plot does suffer from a similar issue. Everything is kind of spelled out, betrayals and motives telegraphed by obvious facial expressions when the characters don’t just outright explain their actions directly. It makes for a story that is easily binged and digested but leaves little to contemplate once it is over, other than whether a second season will actually drop.

I suspect, if anything will spell doom for this version of Cowboy Bebop, it will be that it asks nothing of the audience. It really is pop-corn viewing with stylised action, some bright pretty colours, memorable characters, at times excessive and gratuitous violence for an emotional jolt, and all of it wrapped together with a sound track that you could just listen to forever.

But there are no greater issues or questions. There’s no underlying motives to figure out or questions about where characters have ended up. There’s little to really make you question the morality of the characters either. Where Spike in the anime could be quite the grey character, here when contrasted with Vicious, there’s little doubt as to which character truly is a monster.

So I guess the question is, what are you watching for? If you are watching to compare to the anime, Cowboy Bebop’s live action adaptation is different. If you are watching for something a bit thought provoking, you probably won’t find it here. However, if you are wanting a bit of sci-fi entertainment, you could do a lot worse than this series.

For me, this adaptation was a solid effort. There’s clear love for the original but also a sense that the creators weren’t bound by trying to duplicate it exactly. Sure, there are a few key scenes and moments they’ve clearly tried to recreate for the fans, but they’ve told their story, their way, and now it is up to the viewers to decide if this was a good thing.

Honestly, for people who have never seen the Cowboy Bebop anime, this is a series that can very easily be enjoyed even if it isn’t all that memorable in its own right. And what is entertainment for if not to be entertaining?

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Friday’s Feature: 3 Lessons To Be Learned From Bleach Movie Adaptation

Netflix Live Action Bleach

When the Bleach movie adaptation came out I instantly watched it and less than a week later (despite being pretty busy), I watched it again.

For a movie I wasn’t dreading the release of, but was fairly nervous about how it would end up looking, the Bleach live action movie that landed on Netflix certainly managed to get my attention. My review was fairly glowing and I’m standing by that review even after a second watch through.

All of this kind of makes me hope that future adaptations, such as the upcoming Cowboy Bebop (which I know is a series not a movie) might actually be at least decent.

While I will admit the movie is hardly a modern masterpiece and a lot of the enjoyment came from being a fan of the franchise, what has been delivered by Bleach is perhaps the surest sign that writers and directors are starting to learn from the many failed adaptations of the past (or maybe they just lucked out this time).

However, while there are certainly negative reviews to be found if you look for them, the majority of posts I’ve read covering this movie have been surprised in tone and largely positive of the choices made in adapting it. Though, since more time has passed now, really this movie just kind of faded out of discussions (which is at least better than being hater forever such as the Dragon Ball Evolution movie).

I’m normally not one for scoring shows or movies, but I was curious how this was playing out on popular sites like IMBD and Rotten Tomatoes so decided to take a quick peek at the scores Bleach had compared to other recent adaptations.

The break-down looked more or less like this:

Bleach: IMBD = 6.8 Rotten Tomatoes = 84% liked it

Full Metal Alchemist: IMBD = 5.9  Rotten Tomatoes = 75% liked it

Death Note: IMBD = 4.6  Rotten Tomatoes = 24%

Death Note Live Action Movie

Now it may not be fair to compare them given audience expectations, fans of the franchise, and all the other factors that are going to play into the end result that really have nothing to do with the quality of the movie at all, but it seems like at least most people agree that the Bleach movie is all right and likewise most people seem to agree the Death Note movie missed its mark as an adaptation (I still think it is perfectly fine as a movie in its own right – not great but fine – however it isn’t Death Note as anyone knows it or wanted it).

So I started wondering what Bleach did that seemed to work in its favour as a live action adaptation compared to some other adaptations that have fared less well and I came up with a few points that worked in Bleach’s favour.

So what can we learn from the Bleach Movie Adaptation?

01: The amount of content chosen wasn’t too ambitious.

We get that when adapting an anime or manga into a movie the time is getting cut down. A lot of things have to go. And it is tempting to try to adapt a lot of content. It makes perfect sense. Fans want to see such and such a scene and will be disappointed if X gets cut out. Cram it in and just keep cramming. You have to appeal to everyone.

Well, no, you don’t. You have to make a decent movie. One with pacing and a clear narrative in its own right. You don’t have time to shove every single plot point that might ever exist into your story and you certainly don’t have time to give the vast cast that probably exists all their shining moment.

Where Bleach worked beautifully was it chose one arc to tell in its movie. A simple story with a beginning and an ending. Then it cut almost every superfluous point from the source material that didn’t help that arc progress out.

Bleach movie adaptation - Orihime
I’m fairly certain that people who have never read the source or watched the anime probably have no idea that Orihime is actually supposed to be important.

I say almost every point because there are certainly characters and ideas that exist only for the sake of allowing a sequel to be made and to make sense. But these are minimised and given the barest of attentions. Fans of Orihime or Chad will probably be appalled at the way the characters were side-lined and there are certainly entire swathes of characters who were just completely ditched from the story altogether.

And Kon? Gone entirely and who can tell if that is ultimately a good choice or not because the idea of a live action plush lion wandering around with a perverted attitude kind of amuses me but somehow I’m just not sure it would have added anything of value to the movie here.

02: They weren’t slaves to the source material.

I actually argued in a feature I wrote after the Death Note movie that the biggest issue with it wasn’t that it changed the source material. No, the bigger issue was they didn’t commit to changing the source material and made changes but wouldn’t cut out particular points making a movie that ended up as an unsatisfying compromise between a new vision for Death Note and a slave to fan expectations.

In my Full Metal Alchemist review I pointed out that while the costume design was gloriously similar to the anime (and I assume the manga) the end result was a not-so-real feeling like the world was inhabited by very sophisticated cosplayers.

Fullmetal Alchemist Live Action - Edward

In both of these cases the movies were bogged down by trying to reproduce source material in a different medium and they didn’t pull it off. Ghost in the Shell also suffered from the need to recreate sequences that didn’t fit into the new context and while fans of the original may have squealed with delight at these overall they don’t make for a better movie unless they are well integrated.

Bleach didn’t suffer from this. As with the content selection where ruthless and sensible cuts and changes were made, with character designs and the world they undeniably created Bleach in a way that fans could recognise it but at the same time they weren’t laboriously simply trying to bring drawings to life. They seemed to really think about how to make the characters come to life without losing the sense of who they were. For the most part they largely succeeded with both character and world design.

03: They understood what makes Bleach popular.

I think this is where Death Note really lost its viewers. The anime is a slow build with some interesting mind games between two intelligent human beings who both like to keep their hands hidden until the last moment. The movie abandoned this atmosphere making Light far less intelligent and more brazen in his need to gather attention and L far less patient and contemplative. The end result was that a lot of fans felt like the core of what made Death Note had been ripped out and trampled on.

Bleach is a long running series (not the longest but certainly one where the episode count becomes daunting to newcomers) and it blends some fairly stupid slap-stick humour with some intense drama and action. The first season introduced Ichigo to a world of Hollows and Soul Reapers and a lot of it is spent balancing Ichigo’s everyday high school life with the new responsibilities thrust on him.

That balance of normal and supernatural, some moments of light hearted humour, and some moments of life threatening danger is what draws a lot of fans into the world that is Bleach (okay, the soundtrack as well but the movie can’t have everything) and as much as later seasons of the show become increasingly bloated and filled with overly long fight sequences, season one is where the show’s heart is and where the core of the story is crafted.

Bleach Movie Training.jpg

The movie did an excellent job of replicating the supernatural side and that turmoil in Ichigo’s life as he’s forced from high schooler who can see ghosts into the role of a shinigami and there was enough humour and light hearted moments between Ichigo and Rukia during training montages for it not to become too much of a drama. The fight sequences were intense and there was definitely a sense of danger in them and while we missed out on Ichigo’s normally copious buckets of blood pouring from wounds, the movie once again favoured some sort of realism over staying slavishly true to the source.

Wrapping It Up

So, great choices in content, in how to adapt characters and settings, as well as capturing the spirit of the story even while making necessary changes seem to be helping Bleach stay a little ahead of the pack of recent anime movie adaptations. Does that mean Bleach made no mistakes? Of course not. There’s plenty that could still be improved upon. Still, I kind of feel like Bleach is my light at the end of the tunnel and the possibility that I won’t be defending anime movies with the ‘it could be worse’ statement into the future.

I’d love to know your thoughts on live action adaptations and if you’ve seen the Bleach movie, what did you think?

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Given 2021 Series Review: Bringing This Beautiful Story To Life

Given 2021 Series Review

Given 2021: The live action drama version of the boys love story.

In 2019 the Given anime took my breath away and was one of my favourite series for the year. I’d never read the manga, and I will admit, I don’t really ever intend to. Largely because so much of what I enjoyed about the anime was the play between sound, music and colour and I’m just not sure that a static telling of the story could be as involving. So Given 2021 was coming hot on the heels of an anime I’d loved and had some big shoes to fill.

Given 2021

Then again, that isn’t really fair to this live action drama. And ultimately comparing it to the anime is a relatively futile activity because viewers have either not watched the anime or will already be able to make that comparison themselves. What most people want to know is whether Given 2021 is actually worth watching.

Click here for more anime reviews.

And in all honesty, the answer is “yes, but…”

That ‘but’ is fairly important and yet doesn’t take away from the ‘yes’ part of the answer.

Given 2021

See, the one issue the Given 2021 live action drama cannot escape is that ultimately it is only 6 episodes long. While I recently proposed that an anime like Mars Red would have benefited from being only seven or eight episodes, rather than stretching a full season, the story of Given really did need more time.

We needed more time to get to know these characters and feel their situations. Particularly the supporting cast that really felt just kind of there and the stories they have to tell felt barely sketched in.

However, let’s take this all a bit more logically.

Let’s talk about Given 2021

Given 2021 is the story of Uenoyama (a high schooler who is in a band) who when looking for a place to nap at school runs in Mafuyu who is asleep in a stairwell holding a guitar. After one of the most awkward and yet adorable meetings, which ultimately ends with Uenoyama fixing the broken strings of Mafuyu’s guitar the two end up meeting in the stairwell more often and Mafuyu works to convince Uenoyama to teach him how to play.

All of which is pretty ordinary until Uenoyama hears Mafuyu sing.

Given Live Action Drama - Uenoyama shouts at Mafuyu

Here I will praise the casting of this live action drama over and over again. Sanari, who plays Mafuyu, really does manage to bring everything to a halt with his voice and it really does make you stop and just listen. You can never quite tell if it is beautiful or heart-breaking and it just kind of overwhelms you. That the character only has a few moments where we hear his voice throughout the series in the build-up to the live-performance at the end really works because too much would simply lose the effect.

However, as much as the sound of this character works, and as much as the group of boys in the band kind of come together by the end, for those who are fans of either the manga or anime, there will be a small adjustment period as visually they aren’t quite what you would expect. Then again, they do all at least look like real people and there are no awful wigs in sight (such as the live action Full Metal Alchemist) so maybe we should just be happy. But Haruki at least took some getting used to in this form and he wasn’t really given enough screen time for the adjustment to be smooth.

Given 2021

If I were to go in with no expectations then I’d have to admit, they all kind of worked in their roles. And considering Given 2021 is a dramatic story rather than a fantastical one, turning this story into a live action drama is considerably easier because there are no weird weapons, physics defying movements, or even complex action pieces to somehow bring to life.


About the most action we get is a sequence where one of the characters runs across a bridge while having an internal monologue and while that was nicely done it does mean that this story didn’t come with a lot of the challenges other manga and anime have when being translated to live action.

Though, on that note, I did point out during my episode reviews that while scenes shot indoors were beautifully controlled in how they framed characters and the use of light and colour, exterior shots were a little more hit and miss. Notably when the characters were in a car or on a motorbike, shaking camera and less deliberate shot composition seemed to be on the cards.

Given Live Action - Tokyo Tower

It’s a minor point but an important one when one of the key strengths of this story is in the visuals and sound direction. While Given 2021 takes a different approach to sound to the anime, having more background music and using repeated motifs behind characters and filling silences, it is still a key component in what makes this enjoyable viewing. And they still build up to the explosion of sound that is the live performance. While the song may not be to everyone’s taste, the build up to it and the culmination of the drama of the final three episodes make it one of those amazing television moments that can really sweep you away.

The romance aspect between Uenoyama and Mafuyu is also well built up to, though again it suffers a little due to the short run time here. As much as everything makes sense, it all seems very quick. Though what was perhaps the biggest issue is that Mafuyu’s relationship with Yuki gets so little time and even the montage it does get feels a little rushed. Without this backgrounding, Uenoyama’s presence doesn’t come across as quite so necessary to Mafuyu.

Given live-action episode 6

Also, while we do get the after the performance moment with the two boys, as the series then abruptly comes to an end it feels like things have barely gotten going when the story concludes.

So, while I still think the anime did a better job of telling this story (particularly in giving us the aftermath of the concert), the live action does have a lot to offer. And for those who have never watched the anime, they probably won’t have many issues at all with what Given 2021 has on offer, though they will probably be left with some questions about Akihiko and Haruki because they get seriously left out in terms of any kind of detail here.

Given 2021

What is important is that this live action drama can and does stand on its own and offers a fairly solid viewing experience that you could go in to without prior knowledge. And for those who have read the manga or watched the anime, this is just another version of a story you probably already love.

Images from: Given. Dir. K Miki. 2021

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Given Live-Action Episode 6 Impressions – The Sound Of Tears Yet To Be Shed

Given live-action episode 6

It was always going to take a lot for the Given live-action drama to move me the way the anime adaptation had. Not because this drama has in any way been bad but more because the anime just blew me away and swept me off my feet in a way similar to the way Yuri on Ice had back in 2016. It was kind of like lightning striking and it didn’t seem likely it could happen again.

Given live-action episode 6

Episode 9 of the anime portrayed Mafuyu finally stepping up to the microphone and singing his feelings out and it was one of the most cathartic experiences I’ve ever had watching anime (you know, outside of the graduation ceremony in Angel Beats and maybe a handful of other anime moments that reduce me to tears more or less every time I watch them). While the final episode of the Given live-action didn’t reduce me to tears, it did cause a lump in my throat and I was certainly ready to cheer at the end of the performance.

A strong ending to the Given live-action drama.

I think part of the reason this didn’t quite hit me as hard as it did in the anime is I was well aware of what was coming, which is hardly a fault of this adaptation. Just as manga readers knew the conclusion in the anime. That doesn’t make it less worthy of being watched but it does change the viewing experience somewhat.

given live-action episode 6

On the other hand, I kind off feel like Mafuyu’s performance was even more mesmerising because it was live-action this time around. Watching Mafuyu step up to the microphone and holding our breath as the actor looked like he was fighting his flight impulse was a genuinely tense moment and when he finally opened his mouth the sound didn’t just still the whole audience, it brought me to a stand-still as well.

Where this episode of the Given live-action drama is a little less strong is in the emotions behind the song. While we do get some images of the relationship Mafuyu shared with Yuki, this montage feels a little sparse and honestly a little too short. While this relationship with Yuki has been behind everything it doesn’t feel fleshed out enough in the 5 episodes leading to this performance and visually the scenes weren’t that impressive of memorable.

Given live-action episode 6

But, the band did come together spectacularly after their individual emotional fall-outs in episode 5. Uenoyama recaptured what it felt like to perform for the first time and the smile he had on stage was wonderful to see. Haruki really stepped up and even Akihiko had a smile during the performance.


Of course, timing remains the overall issue with the after song encounter between Uenoyama and Mafuyu being incredibly short and the epilogue focusing entirely on Mafuyu with the rest of the band more or less disappearing.

Which is kind of a shame given Murata actually did attend the performance, made one comment about Mafuyu’s being naturally talented but then we never get to see him with Akihiko afterwards leaving this at a completely loose end.

Given Live-action episode 6

That said, if you are going to adapt Given in 6 episodes, focusing in on Mafuyu’s character, even at the expense of others, is probably the way to go. His character arc from sitting alone in the stairs and holding the guitar to his performance during this episode and facing the death of Yuki is completed and while this final episode leaves me wanting more it is a pretty satisfying way to conclude the Given live-action drama.

Plus, the off-stage moment between Mafuyu and Uenoyama is adorable.

Given live-action episode 6

Images from: Given. Dir. K Miki. 2021

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Given Live-Action Episode 5 Impressions – On The Eve of Disaster and The Broken String

Given live-action Episode 5

The Given live-action drama this week plunges headlong into the drama set up at the end of episode 4, as the penultimate episode before the band’s concert. While I don’t think this episode was quite as strong as the anime had been at portraying Yuki’s relationship with Mafuyu, it does a decent enough job of setting the scene prior to the performance and it certainly makes it clear that every member of the band is currently not in a great head-space.

Given live-action episode 5

The Given live-action drama really explores each boy’s drama.

Haruki is given a bit of a cold-shoulder this week as the anime focuses on Akihiko’s home-life and issues as well as the disintegrating relationship between Mafuyu and Uenoyama as misunderstandings and miscommunications abound. Honestly, it isn’t always comfortable viewing even if the subject matter does feel a bit rushed through in an effort to set up the final episode.

Starting with Akihiko waking up at home and his morning interactions with Murata (who I’m struggling to remember if he even got a name mention in the episode), this episode of the Given live-action adaptation lingers on facial expressions and the distance between characters. We see Akihiko’s obvious distress as Murata drapes himself over his shoulders, the more comfortable space when there is a gap between them, and the long pause before he asks him to come to the concert.

Given live-action episode 5 - Akihiko

That Akihiko is in shadows while Murata sits with the light behind him is obviously not just a coincidence given how light and shadows have been so deliberately used all throughout the series to frame characters and scenes.

Likewise, when we cross to Uenoyama heading to the studio and then roughly playing before sinking to the studio floor, that he is perhaps the darkest spot in the room is clearly not a coincidence.

On that note, this is perhaps the strongest performance by this character yet in the series. Earlier in my reviews of this Given live-action drama I’d made light of his attempts to portray mixed emotions and use deliberate facial expressions and yet here the scene works so well because he isn’t over-the-top. There is pain clear on his face, his breathing is ragged both because of the rough practice he’d just been doing and the emotional overload, and his sagging to the floor, back to the audience, just works.

Given live-action episode 5

Less effective this week is Mafuyu’s performance as he is confronted by an old friend of his and Yuki’s and we briefly see a flashback of Yuki and Mafuyu when they were together. All things considered, it was probably a good move to have the character’s backs to the audience for a lot of this scene because what we did see of them wasn’t amazing.

Fortunately, the inherent drama in what they were talking about still carried the scene, but it was the weakest part of this episode of the Given live-action adaptation.

Given live-action episode 5

All too soon it feels we’re moving on to the rehearsal before the concert and the band sounds amazing but Mafuyu doesn’t sing. Not a peep or a sound.


This leads to a melodramatic show-down between Mafuyu and Uenoyama leading to the guitar falling to the ground and the convenient breaking of the string.

I kind of loved how the two young actors portrayed this moment. Certainly it is over-the-top as they both just stare mutely at the guitar, their breathing heavy, as though the world just ended. While it is a little silly in a live-action version of this, it suitably fits the overall drama of the moment, and makes Haruki’s obvious annoyance with the two so much more fitting as he chides Uenoyama, reminding him that a broken string can be fixed.

Given live-action episode 5

While not the best metaphor in the world, the cohesive nature of the broken string being repaired as the starting point for Uenoyama and Mafuyu’s relationship absolutely works here and Uenoyama’s running to the show is definitely a solid moment for the Given live-action drama.

Now we just have to get through the concert.

Images from: Given. Dir. K Miki. 2021

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Given Live-Action Episode 4 Impressions – Losing The Way

Given Live Action Episode 4 Review

Drama, drama, drama. The Given Live-Action adaptation is pushing the drama up to 11 as band rehearsal falls into a conflict between Uenoyama, venting his emotions, and Mafuyu who is all but shut down, forcing the older band members to intervene. Mafuyu’s disclosure at the end of episode 3 hasn’t left Uenoyama any clearer about where they stand and cracks are definitely showing as the concert looms ever closer.

Given Live Action - Uenoyama argues with Mafuyu

All things considered, Mafuyu has made excellent progress in two months. Later in the episode when he practices guitar alone he’s sounding pretty good (for a relative beginner). That he’s totally blocked on writing the lyrics and doesn’t really even know where to begin is hardly his fault and Uenoyama and the rest of the band’s expectations are clearly kind of crushing him.

The Given Live Action Adaptation sounds amazing.

One thing I did like about this episode of the Given Live-Action drama is that we returned to the girl who told Uenoyama the rumours about Mafuyu. She’s feeling pretty terrible about her actions though part of me thinks her pity party at the bins was more just to get any attention from Uenoyama than genuinely feeling too bad for spreading rumours about Mafuyu.

Given Live Action - Drama

That the scene resolves a potential external conflict for Uenoyama is good. That it is also used to create some artificial drama as Mafuyu also witnesses the exchange from afar is less great given Mafuyu already had enough on his plate.

Still artificial drama and teen romance go hand in hand and this was hardly the most obvious forced plot convenience to be found in such a story. We’ll save that for Gamers with the many ridiculous misunderstandings and plot coincidences that essentially make up the entire story.

The other issue with the Given Live-Action adaptation that becomes a bit clearer in this episode is that t clearly isn’t working on a huge budget. The shaking camera when filming the motorbike on the road was distracting and while shaky-cam can be used to great effect, here it just felt like they didn’t have the right tools to steady it.

Given Live Action - Tokyo Tower

And this episode had a lot of external scenes compared to previous ones. Whether it was Uenoyama and Akihito on the roof with Tokyo Tower glowing in the background or the various car rides home or even Uenoyama taking out the rubbish, these characters spent a lot of time outdoors and it is in these scenes where Given feels less controlled in how it frames its characters.


Of course, the interior scenes were up to the usual standard with some clear attention placed on how the characters sat within the scene and there’s a truly adorable moment toward the end of the episode where Mafuyu, who is asleep, ends up resting his head on Uneoyama’s shoulder.

Given Live Action Episode 4 - Mafuyu sleeps on Uenoyama

The Given Live-Action story here leaves us on a very unresolved note at the end of episode 4 and that’s fine. We’re two episodes from finished and leaving us hanging right now is definitely creating a sense that we are moving forward and that there’s something coming just ahead that is worth waiting for. Anticipation is great and it doesn’t feel like they’ve dropped a cliff-hanger without thought.

I’m not sure how I feel about Akihito’s interference. I know he involved himself in the anime as well, but perhaps because that had 12 episodes and was more spread out it didn’t feel as intrusive. Here it feels like he’s trying to set himself up as some kind of puppet-master and while Mafuyu and Uenoyama certainly needed a bit of a helping hand his manipulations are a little intense in this episode.

Still, looking forward to episode 5.

Images from: Given. Dir. K Miki. 2021

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Given Live-Action Episode 3 Impressions – Rising and Falling Emotions

Given Live Action Episode 3

Carrying on the emotional outpouring in episode 2, episode 3 of the Given live action drama seems determined to cram all the emotional beats of this story in. That is perhaps the downside of this adaptation only having six episodes as we are definitely racing right along through the content with Uenoyama already well along in composing Mafuyu’s song.

Not that there’s anything wrong with this episode it just doesn’t feel like we get a moment to breathe.

Uenoyama - Given live action drama

The Given live action adaptation feels a little rushed.

From the opening where we see Uenoyama doing all-nighters to create the song to match the sound Mafuyu has shown him to the rumours swilling around the school with a short contrast of Akihiko and Haruki’s own dramas before we plunge fully into Mafuyu’s trauma over Yuki’s death it all comes one hit after another with scarcely a moment to digest it. Though this week all the characters are putting in a solid performance in the Given live action so at least none of it comes across as trite.

I’m kind of feeling if I didn’t already know this story, episode 3 might have left me feeling a little confused as it seems like so much happened simultaneously.

Given live action drama - what?

Though, I’m not all that upset that the Given live action adaptation has decided to speed through Kasai’s rumour spreading moment. Rather than focusing on her unrequited crush on Uenoyama we instead skip to the impact her words have on him as he processes what Yuki must have meant to Mafuyu and we see the rift that forms between the two because of it.

It’s a nice contrast to early in the episode where the boys had become close enough that Uenoyama thought nothing of putting his arm around Mafuyu’s should and Mafuyu actually gave Uenoyama a genuine smile.

Mafuyu smiles - Given live action drama

A little more jarring is the Given live action decision to really speed through Akihiko and Haruki’s relationship woes as the audience does get a brief glimpse of Haruki’s reaction when Akihiko chooses to crash in his bed rather than lay out a futon but there’s seemingly no follow up for either character in this episode.


Instead Akihiko ends up providing Uenoyama and opportunity to process his thoughts when he drops around to his house with a recording of the song he’s been working on. From the laptop the sound is small and underwhelming but the promise is there and I’m really looking forward to how the band sounds in this Given live action when they finally take the stage.

Akihiko - Given live action drama

Still, it was an important moment for Uenoyama as he really did need to sort out his thoughts about how he felt when Mafuyu was singing.

Haruki on the other hand tries to offer Mafuyu some advice and Mafuyu, in his most polite way, shuts him down with a simple question.

It’s a powerful moment and reveals more about how Mafuyu is feeling than all the contorted facial expressions ever could.

But if we needed further evidence of the rift opening between Uenoyama and Mafuyu by the end of this third episode in the Given live action adaptation, we get it clearly shown to us as a visual when Uenoyama goes for a nap in the stairwell and ends up beside Mafuyu. Mafuyu talks to Uenoyama about how he’s feeling with the song lyrics and Uenoyama pretends to sleep. In this moment we get a shot of the two on the staircase from outside the building and they look so small, with the window itself dividing them.

Given live action episode 3 - Uenoyama and Mafuyu

That’s something that has remained a strength in Given in both the anime and live action adaptation. Both pay attention to visuals and use framing, light and colour to really tell the story of these boys and to draw the audience into the appropriate emotion.

With three episodes left I am curious to see where the Given live action adaptation intends to end this story but with the speed we’re moving forward I somewhat suspect it will be the concert and I am very much looking forward to that.

Images from: Given. Dir. K Miki. 2021

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Given Live-Action Episode 2 Impressions – The Sound That Shook Him

Given Live Action Episode 2

There’s something utterly heart-warming as this second episode of the Given Live-Action drama kicks off repeating Mafuyu’s comment that Uenoyama was cooler than the light music club. However, unlike in episode 1, here we progress to the next stage of teaching Mafuyu how to play.

The episode quickly progresses us to Uenoyama leaning in to show Mafuyu how to strum and play chords and the scene between the two is pretty adorable. Of course, Given doesn’t leave us at adorable for too long before Haruki and Akihiko return with their comedy routine around people in bands needing jobs.

Given Live Action Drama - Aki and Haruki

One thing the Given Live-Action adaptation struggles with at times are the actor’s expressions.

Throughout episode two of Given’s Live Action we have a number of occasions where the characters need to pull off just the right change in expression. There’s a beautiful scene between Mafuyu and Uenoyama where a slow smile creeps across Mafuyu’s face that is soon mirrored by Uenoyama.


Affiliate Link

Live a Live – RPG Game

Equally though, there’s a scene later in the episode where Uenoyama’s actor tries really hard to demonstrate a mix of emotions but mostly looks like he’s contorting various facial muscles. I kind of hope they didn’t have too many retakes on that scene because I can imagine his face hurt after that effort and it really kind of broke the drama of the scene they were trying to create.

Points for effort and all and at last it was obvious what they were trying to accomplish with the scene.

Given Live Action Drama - Uenoyama shouts at Mafuyu

Other than the strumming and a few chords, we actually don’t get to see the band perform or play in episode two of the Given Live-Action story and that’s probably a good thing because it means Mafuyu’s two shining moments, where he sings for Uenoyama shine.

Really, the sound just takes on a life of its own and in amongst an episode otherwise devoid of musical performances it really does manage to stand out. When Uenoyama claims the sound shook him you can really believe it because from such a quiet scene between the two to Mafuyu filling pretty much the whole world with his voice it has much the same effect on the viewer.

And this did lead, in the second instance, to a far more nuanced reaction from the actor playing Akihiko. Rather than the various contortions of the face, he remains seemingly pretty indifferent until the camera focuses down on his cigarette trembling in his fingers. It was an effective way of showing the reactions and worked well with the character.

Given live action - Akihiko

Though while we’re talking about Akihiko, we may as well look at the older pair in the Given Live Action story. Akihiko and Haruki really don’t have a great deal of chemistry so far. Whether they are in the practice room or the scene where Haruki witnesses Akihiko dropping off the girl before borrowing a cigarette, the two work well enough but there’s hardly fireworks going on between them.


While this might work in favour of the electric chemistry brewing between Mafuyu and Uenoyama’s characters, it doesn’t do much for building the whole cast and so far the two older characters have been largely forgettable.

Given Live Action - Title

The Given Live Action adaptation continues to be a pretty solid watch providing another take on a story I loved and I’m really wanting to see the next episode because I am very caught up in this Mafuyu and Uenoyama’s story at this point even if the other characters haven’t quite drawn me in yet. Plus, I can’t wait to hear Mafuyu actually sing a song rather than ‘la-la-la’ even though I know that will be a bit further down the track.

Images from: Given. Dir. K Miki. 2021

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Given Live-Action Episode 1 Impressions – The Sound and Sweetness

Given Episode 1

It’s the arrival of a Given live action adaptation.

For those who followed my coverage of the Given anime series with Irina, you will know we both kind of loved it. So the opportunity to see a live-action version of Given is surely tempting with a vague sense of trepidation in wondering how could it possibly top the amazingly emotive experience the anime already gave us?

Seriously, I have Mafuyu singing his song as a poster on my wall in my study and there he will stay as the amazing and inspirational character that he is.

And the opening moments of this Given Live-Action adaptation weren’t awesome.

Given Live-Action - Uenoyama in the dark

The opening of the anime drew you right in with how quiet it was with the actions speaking for themselves. And then the sound began to build.

But this isn’t going to just be comparing Given Live-Action version to Given Anime version. Honestly, they deserve to be judged on their own merits and once I got over the fact that this wasn’t going to be the anime with real people, I kind of got drawn right in because I’m going to say, I loved this episode.

Given Live-Action, Worth It.

The story begins with Uenoyama explaining how he found and then lost his passion for his guitar and music. It is this disenchanted and kind of defeated character we meet at the beginning who then has a chance encounter with another boy sleeping in the stairwell with a guitar.

Given Live Action - Mafuyu sleeping

Now, I know I said I wouldn’t compare to the anime, but I will remind you that Irina and I declared the stairwell our favourite character at one point in our episode reviews of the anime. And I’m going to say that seeing stairwell-kun in live action was probably the best thing ever. How does one set of stairs have that much personality?

Probably because of the attention to details such as light and shadows as well as colour and textures. Something that has carried over into the Given Live Action version. Even if the first ten minutes there’s so much attention on lighting and this continues all through the episode. That and hands. So much focus on character’s hands.

It definitely makes it a little more interesting to watch.

Uenoyama actually ends up initiating their interactions by critiquing Mafuyu’s lack of guitar maintenance and before he knows it Mafuyu is following him to band practice.

Mafuyu does an excellent job here of looking hopeful and nervous simultaneously and once the band starts playing his expression says it all.

This was something I was worried about as we moved dove into the Given Live-Action and that was that the characters wouldn’t have enough nuance in their expressions to really convey the emotions of each scene. I can assure you, they can.


Of course, Given whether as an anime or as a live action is an anime about a band and music, and also a relationship and the characters and their journeys, but if the music sucks it would be hard to stick around. Fortunately, the band kind of rocked and not just because the whole band sequence was filtered through Mafuyu’s fan-boying.

Given live action band

While the anime is still going to be my go-to for this particular story (it really did take a special place in my heart), I’m really impressed at this first episode of the Given live action adaptation and I am keen to watch the next 5 episodes to see how much of the story they tell and how it plays out with real people rather than in anime.

It certainly seems like a lot of attention to detail was put into the making of this episode and the two boys playing Mafuyu and Uneoyama seem to work really well together. There’s already been a number of scenes that have set my heart fluttering and we’re not even that far into the story yet.

Given live action - Mafuyu and Uenoyama

Anyway, if you checked out this first episode, let me know what you thought and if you haven’t given it a look, it is on Crunchyroll.

Images from: Given. Dir. K Miki. 2021

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Cherry Magic! Thirty Years of Virginity Can Make You A Wizard?! Series Review

Series Review Cherry

At least I now know for sure that overly long and descriptive titles are not just used for anime and light novels. Live action TV in Japan also suffers from trying to stuff the whole plot into the title.

Okay, Cherry Magic isn’t the kind of plot I’m usually drawn to or interested in. Guy doesn’t have sex until he’s thirty and then discovers he has a magic power, which in this instance is to read minds when touching someone. Throw in the contrivance of his male co-worker actually liking him and this one definitely had all the red flags of being pretty generic and forgettable.

If I add to that I’m not a huge fan of live action Japanese TV because I find the exaggerated facial expressions of the actors kind of painful to watch (I seriously wonder if they have a face masseuse on staff to help deal with all the pulled facial muscles), then there were all sorts of reasons to just pass on this even if I did stumble upon it while randomly trawling Crunchyroll.

Adachi - I shouldn't wish for things I can't have.
Image from: Cherry Magic
Adachi really is an upbeat kind of guy.

That said, I was kind of curious and reading the reviews on Crunchyroll they promised a really sweet and cute experience so I decided to dive in. I was feeling sick having come down with yet another cold that was taking up residence in my lungs and feeling a bit on the miserable side so at worst I was about to find something light to sleep through. Half-a-day later I finished episode 12 and was left feeling relatively satisfied with the viewing experience.

Actually, if Cherry Magic had ended after seven episodes, I’d have been solidly in love with this story. Unfortunately, the story continues beyond a confession scene and in the grand tradition of romances, the act of falling in love is more interesting than the random conflicts and interferences that occur afterward. Even the attempt at wrapping up the magic power side of the story all felt a bit extraneous given we already knew the conditions for Adachi to lose his ability to read minds.

So what is Cherry Magic about?

The plot of Cherry Magic is, much as the synopsis describes, a relatively straight forward one for a romance set up. Adachi just kind of goes through the motions of his life and is neither really liked nor disliked by those around him. He isn’t bad at his job but nor is he particularly recognised. Really, he’s just the most ordinary guy you could imagine other than the absence of any kind of romantic interaction by the age of 30 (and honestly that’s not as uncommon as movies and TV would like people to believe sometimes).

Cue a 30th birthday arriving without any particular ceremony and suddenly Adachi can read minds. This leads to an awkward encounter with his much more prominent co-worker, Kurosawa, in an elevator, and wouldn’t you know he’s thinking about how cute Adachi is and is worried if he’ll hear his heart beat.

Kurosawa and Adachi.
There’s a lot of crowded elevator moments or fainting, falling forward or literally any other excuse for the two to come into accidental contact.

Adachi is understandably freaked, given he doesn’t really get romance at all and kind of hadn’t even considered a male romantic interest, however fate, and a little persistence will bring the two together over and over again. Including the usual tropes of missing the last train and needing to do a sleep over, a sister staying over requiring another sleep over, and just a whole bunch of coincidental meetings and seemingly random touches that naturally convey the most pertinent thoughts to Adachi.

Like, why is Kurosawa never just wondering whether it will rain later?

Likewise, every-time Adachi eats when Kurosawa is anywhere near he ends up with some food on his face. I mean literally every single time. While this only results in the stock-standard eating the rice grain that you just plucked off the object-of-your-affection’s face once, it gets a little repetitive.

However, just in case you think I’m tearing this to pieces for the fun of it, I’m really not. Standard is fine in romance as long as it is executed in an interesting way and the characters have enough chemistry to pull it off. Adachi and Kurosawa fall absolutely into the adorable category and as they both lamely work their way toward episode 7 you can’t help but smile every time they manage to actually connect on the same wavelength.

Adachi - understandably freaked out.
See, why doesn’t Kurosawa ever have thoughts that make Adachi have this reaction near him?

So while the basic premise is a little on the twee side and there aren’t a lot of surprises in store, there’s a definite charm to watching this story. My only real complaint of the first seven episodes are the subplot involving Adachi’s writer friend, Tsuge, and his growing attraction to his delivery guy. Seriously, while they convolute things a bit in the final arc to make this subplot in some way relevant to the main plot you could largely just cut it entirely without hurting the narrative. And given Tsuge is the character with the least on-screen chemistry in the cast it would probably actually end up improving the overall flowof the story.


Of course I do need to discuss the final episodes, though I will avoid spoilers. Part of me is thrilled that we past beyond the confession point but it is in these final episodes that the execution seems most lacking. They shove in a subplot about Adachi taking initiative at work where he decides to enter a planning project, Tsuge’s subplot comes back into focus, and the supporting co-workers who had been charming enough in the first half suddenly show up to drop in some unnatural dialogue about how Adachi has somehow inspired them. If it wasn’t for the payoff of all of this, episode 12, I’d actually just suggest not watching beyond episode 7.

Adachi - What's going on?
I’m not sure what happened? Too many ideas and a loss of focus perhaps?

But episode 12 is well worth watching and does in fact bring everything in the story full circle, including the encounter in the elevator back at the start. So you’ll just have to get there even if during episode 11 I swore at the TV more than once and paused the episode twice to berate the characters for just being idiots. Okay, I may have been a little too emotionally invested in this particular story. I’m blaming my fever.

Bottom line, Cherry Magic is a sweet romance between two nice guys who both genuinely want the other to be happy. Don’t expect much in the way of action because you’ll barely get a kiss on the forehead and even the final scene gets cut off before it gets started when the elevator door closes. What you will get instead is some great emotional connections as these characters stumble and fumble their way through to romance and when the not-official fireworks go up in episode 12 you’ll be cheering on the inside if not actually just cheering for them.

I definitely enjoyed watching Cherry Magic even if objectively I know it wasn’t particularly good or bad as far as a TV series goes. What elevates it from beyond pure mediocre is the majority of the cast and the two guys at the centre of the romance. Which largely proves that characters and chemistry are probably the most important ingredients in a romance story rather than innovative writing or direction.

Images used for review from: Cherry Magic! Dir. H. Kazama, H. Yuasa. M. Hayashi. TV Tokyo. 2020

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James