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Even Cowboy Bebop skins aren’t enough to make me play Overwatch 2

Overwatch 2/Cowboy Bebop crossover
Image: Blizzard

That ephemeral-yet-iconic 90s anime, Cowboy Bebop, has proved itself to be quite the posthumous gift that keeps on giving. There was that live action attempt in 2021 (I stomached 3 episodes, then had to excuse myself from the room), and now we’ve found ourselves facing a second re-hash some 26 years after the show’s last episode — but this time in the most unlikely of places: Overwatch 2.

I guess it’s not completely surprising though, as this will be the Overwatch 2’s second collaboration with Bandai Namco. In 2023, One-Punch Man skins were available for a limited time and… it was fine. No beef with that whatsoever. Still, why is this particular collaboration rubbing me the wrong way? 

Maybe the feelings of revulsion have to do with my barely concealable distaste for Overwatch 2 in general. The objectively underwhelming free-to-play sequel to Overwatch has been rightly crucified on Steam and gaming outlets alike. But, no, I think I hate what’s happening for reasons deeper than that. 

Just get a load of this gameplay trailer:

An interview with Overwatch 2’s art director gives us a peek behind the curtain how the skin collaborations play into the actual lore of the game. With the One-Punch Man collab, the characters in Overwatch 2 were very much aware that these were simply new skins and nothing more. Something like going to a cosplay convention. However, the difference with this Bebop business is that the characters look so much like the source material, that it’s more like a semi-crossover. 

Essentially, they’re trying to blur the lines between Overwatch 2 characters and the actual Bebop crew with the least amount of winking as possible. And yet, it still feels blatantly on-the-nose and comically insulting. Cole Cassidy, an actual cowboy, portrays Spike Spiegel from the show and sports a belt that reads “BBOP” that could either be an acronym for a pop band, or — worse — the name of his ship. 

If you’ve seen the live action show, you’ll understand that sentiment. Netflix’s short-lived 2021 adaptation was a cringeworthy attempt at stripping away all the lovable elements from the anime and distilling the rest into a sleek package for people who probably don’t watch anime. In lieu of subtlety, ennui and jazz, we got kitsch and a sense of self-mockery. And bless your hearts, Blizzard, you’re making the same mistake with another soulless exorcism on what should be left to rest in peace. 

To be fair though, it’s not entirely Blizzard’s fault, as it takes two to tango. I can’t help but wonder: what the hell is Bandai Namco thinking, giving away the keys to one of their most precious franchises? It smacks of either capitalistic intent, or that the company actually believes in one of Steam’s lowest-rated games.

And look, all this rancour doesn’t stem from me being an elitist or a gatekeeper. In fact, I encourage everyone to stop reading this article and binge the entire Cowboy Bebop anime right now — but give me just a few more seconds. What this is really about is dignity.

Cowboy Bebop was and always will be a unicorn of a series, not just because of its memorable characters, rich plot and futuristic setting, but because it was truly an original that had no predecessor. Thus, it makes for an easy and coveted corpse to resuscitate. However, there’s a poignant beauty to viewing the past retrospectively as opposed to constantly seeking reboot opportunities.

Maybe I’m making too big a deal out of all this. Full transparency: I’ve never played Overwatch 2 and don’t plan to. Instead of dropping $40 on a Jet Black/Mauga skin, I think I’ll use that cash for a Crunchyroll subscription. 

Guest contributor // Joshua Furr's problematic obsessions with video games and pop culture have hounded him since the early 90s. A fierce disciple of Nintendo, his tastes bounce around from AAA games like Tears of the Kingdom to indie darlings like Hollow Knight, Stardew Valley and Cuphead. When he's not clacking away, you can find him in the kitchen, playing Mario Wonder with his kiddos or doing some light jogging.