Cowboy Bebop: The Movie Anime Review
Cowboy Bebop 天国の扉
Cowboy Bebop - Tengoku no Tobira
Cowboy Bebop - Heaven's Door
US Release By
Space Bounty Hunter Action
The justly popular "Cowboy Bebop" television series is brought to the world of feature film.
In the distant future, humans find their Earth in a desperate situation. The collapse of nations, fueled by greed, has forced them to expand to other planets. Humans settle across the solar system, almost as the pioneers did, long, long ago. Ushered by this new frontier of sorts and by the free spirit of the day, a new generation of people, lawless bounty hunters, living life on the edge, Cowboys, come into being. The setting in a gritty, less-than-ideal future where lawlessness runs amok. Among this chaos, there is a hapless group of bounty hunters, Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Faye Valentine and Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV (Ed). A series of biological attacks brings on a record 300 million woolong reward for the capture of the currently unidentified culprit. The group is all too anxious to pursue the case, but what is strictly business quickly turns to something far more deep and sinister, laying the fate of the world in the group's hands.
First off, I'll elaborate a little on the Cowboy Bebop phenomenon. Starting out as a TV series in 1998, Cowboy Bebop has reached international acclaim for it's gritty, brutally honest take on society, heavy themes, offbeat humor and one amazing soundtrack. Now it has it's own well deserved feature film. To say the least, it pretty good.
Something notable is that it manages to cater to all audiences, diehard fans of Cowboy Bebop, to those who've never heard of it. For fans, they'll find everything they loved about the TV series reiterated flawlessly in the movie, and the those new to Cowboy Bebop will find the plot clear and will fit right in, though there are a few insider elements for fans of the series to enjoy.
Okay, on to the characters. With true Bebop style, the characters are incredibly varied, deep, and tortured. Spike is 26 years old. He maintains a slick, fearless personality with others, however, he has a softer, more tortured side that he is reluctant to show. When he was younger, he did not fear death. He viewed it as a part of life. Then he met a woman and it all changed. For the first time, he was afraid to die, no longer living life recklessly. However, like his fearlessness, that woman eventually fizzled into nothing more than a fragment of the past. Losing her, and assuming the role of a bounty hunter, he found himself right back where he started, this time carrying the burden of maintaining his almost lost sense of fearlessness. Still, this description is based heavily on his personal side, that he rarely lets slip during the film. Away from this side, he's a martial arts buff with a quick wit and no panic. He takes everything calmly, even in the direst of situations.
Then there's Jet, the polar opposite of Spike. He's an ex-cop who quit the syndicate when it became crooked, constantly covering up it's own mess, rather than stopping others. Jet teams up with Spike when he was short on money. He plays the father role on the good ship Bebop, worrying about others, his wisdom never getting listened to.
Faye, a mysterious woman without a past. As a teenager, she was severely injured in an accident and went in to cryogenic freezing. When she was unfrozen, she remembered nothing, but was confronted with a huge debt from her past. Having no way to pay of the enormous debt, she fled. She developed an obsession with gambling and horrible luck. Through a twist of events, she ended up with the Bebop crew. She's a self-conscious and very self-motivated tomboy with a knack for getting in trouble.
Then there's Ed. She's a 13 year old eccentric who joined the group under rather strange circumstances. She's quite strange, but is also a genius hacker, but that's sometimes hard to see through her zany antics. I can't stress how strange she is, so you'll have to see for yourself. Her character is one you would never see in real life. Extremely zany, but a total genius at the same time. Not to say her lack of believability is a flaw. No, not in the slightest. It aids to her extreme personality wonderfully. She serves a comic relief through most of the movie. Although I surely appreciated what Ed added to the movie, sometimes her antics are too sharp a contrast with the normally serious and dark monotone of the movie and brought done my enjoyment. Such instances are rare, though, and when the do occur, aren't really blunt enough to detract too much.
And the "villain" of the movie, Vincent. I use "villain" somewhat reluctantly because the line between good and evil is seriously blurred. Really, he's just "looking for the door" To quote his own words. In my opinion, Vincent is by far the best character of the movie. He is an extremely tortured soul. Really, he's so complex, it's very hard for me to coherently explain him in words. I'll start with his physical description, because what makes writing about him so hard, is that a large part of the character is metaphysical. He was a soldier in the war in a place called Titan, where he and some of his comrades were selected to test a new technology aptly titled "counter-Nano Machines", which countered the deadly effects of "Nano Machines" microscopic weapons that circulates in the human blood stream and are comprised of protein. The Nano machines were secretly produced as a biological weapon. A thick veil was kept over the project, as it broke strict interplanetary weapons agreements. He was the only one who survived the testing, but his past was erased and there was no longer an indelible line between reality and hallucination. "A man who lived in dreams" as the movie puts it. Now Vincent is a prime target of the Nano machine's creators, who would do anything to keep the nano machines a secret. Tortured by the counter-nano machine's effects, Vincent hatches the plan to release this new type of rapidly contagious nano machine on to the city, eventually wiping everyone on Mars, except for himself, due to the counter-nano machines put into his blood on Titan. Vincent's philosophy and mind are so complex yet conveyed so clearly, it sometimes seems the writer, Keiko Nobumoto, is bordering on a sort of infinite wisdom and understanding.
Well, there's the essential characters. I could ramble on for pages about the rest of them, because all the characters are really that deep and colorful.
The plot, sadly isn't a continuation of the TV series, though that would quite hard after the tight cap they put on the series. Still, the plot couldn't be more complex, emotional charged, philosophical, or full of strong themes. I won't spoil anything here, but I will say you have a lot to look forward to. Equally astounding is the trademark Bebop action sequences that are intertwined flawlessly with the moving plot. Elaborating on that statement, as with most anime TV series to feature conversions, the action is a big step up from the TV series. Longer, more complex and certainly better animated. Brutal and beautifully choreographed fist fight fights, slick and amazing aerial combat. The plot's one downfall, as with many anime, is that is sometimes hard to follow. While I understood most of it, the talk of nano machines and counter-nano machines was sometimes a lot to process and apply throughout the movie. Still, the gripe is minor, and probably won't apply to most older viewers (I'm 10).
As expressed above in context to the action sequences, the animation is an obvious step up from the TV series. The character models are crisp and detailed and the lushly detailed backgrounds and almost overwhelming ambient movement is certainly a plus. The action sequences feel a lot more fleshed out and slicker. Also, since this is a feature, they animators where aloud a lot more cels than with the series, so everything seems more fleshed out and fluid. One downside, though, is with the crisper and more detailed characters, the character models sometimes look super-imposed on the background, since the background is more subdued than the rest of the animation. Still, this is a rare occurrence, but when it happens, it is a subtle annoyance.
As with anything associated with Yoko Kanno, the music is brilliant. Rich, authentic and covering a wide spectrum of genres, from world music to heavy metal, the soundtrack is certainly something to behold. However, the music seemed more rock-inspired than the jazz and funk found in the series. I found this a flaw, but it really comes done to your musical taste. All of the voice actors reprised their roles from the series, not that they had any reason not to. In my opinion the dub is great and is one of the few were I actually prefer the dub cast over the original Japanese voice actors, though Jet's voice actor does have some low points.
Overall, Cowboy Bebop is an insightful, thematic, heart-pumping and rather cynical take on the future that should not be missed, by fans of the Cowboy Bebop, by fans of anime or by fans of a good time.
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Notes and Trivia
The movie is supposed to take place between episodes 22 and 23 of the TV series.
(Also, thanks to LPNinja for supplying supplemental info.)
US DVD Review
The DVD features are plentiful and cool. They include interviews with the American and Japanese crew on the different characters, on the conversion from a TV series to a feature, on the international appeal of Cowboy Bebop, and on the Cowboy Bebop universe as a whole. There are primary sketches of the characters and technology used in the film. There are the music videos for the opening and ending songs, though that is just the song along with the scene from the movie in which it was being played. There is also the standard trailers and scene selection. All in all, I'd say the special features are worth watching.
Special Features Rating: 4
I'd say 13-up, but more conservative viewers would probably agree with its R rating.
Violence: 3 - Definitly bloody, but nothing too brutal.
Nudity: 1 - Standard Faye fan service.
Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - One non-consensual kiss.
Language: 2 - Nothing hardcore, but it does slip every once and a while.
Staff & Cast
Director: Shinichiro Watanabe
Screenplay: Keiko Nobumoto
Character Design & Animation Director: Toshihiro Kawamoto
Mechanical Design: Kimitoshi Yamane
Set Design: Shiho Takeuchi
Color Design: Shihoko Nakayama
Art Director: Atsushi Morikawa
Sound Director: Katsuyoshi Kobayashi
Music: Yoko Kanno
Music performed by: Seatbelts
Editor: Shuichi Kakesu
Director of Photography:Yoichi Ogami
Producers: Matsuo Ueda, Masahiko Minami, and Minoru Takanashi
Executive Producers:Takayuki Yoshii (Sunrise), and Ryohei Tsunoda (Bandai Visual)
Based on the Story by: Hajime Yatate
Co-Director: Yoshiyuki Takei
Mechanical Animation Director: Masami Goto
Action Animation Director: Yutaka Nakamura
Spike: Koichi Yamadera
Faye: Megumi Hayashibara
Ed: Aoi Tada
Jet: Unsho Ishizuka
Rasheed: Mickey Curtis (this is the Japanese dub, not english)
Vincent: Tsutomu Isobe
Spike: Steven Blum David Lucas
Jet: Beau Billingslea
Faye: Wendy Lee
Ed: Melissa Charles
Electra: Jennefer Hale
Rasheed: Nicholas Guest
Vincent: Daran Norris
Available in North America from Columbia Home Video on bilingual DVD (buy from RightStuf or AnimeNation). Was also shown in a somewhat limited theatrical release in the US, and the DVD is also available as a double-feature with Metropolis (buy double feature set from RightStuf.)