So again, here is another movie that resolves around sprawling cityscapes and people in the streets with some science fiction on the side. What difference is there compared to the other movies I reviewed you ask? Shinichiro Watanabe, it’s attached to a successful anime series, and the people who eventually formed Studio Bones worked on this film. Yes, the production studio may be Sunrise but it was actually Bones. Don’t lie to yourself. Another thing is that people are in the streets not for protest reasons, but because of a Halloween parade. Compared to the others, I think that this Cowboy Bebop film is a Halloween film. You know in the same way that a lot of people, including me, consider Die Hard a Christmas movie. Within that context it works. Besides though, what better excuse to talk about the Bebop film then Halloween? Not that any excuse is necessary really. Just watch it whenever you want to because it’s just that kind of film. Something that will keep your attention the second you start it.
You all know about Cowboy Bebop, right? At least by reputation? It features three broke bounty hunters, a strange tech wiz girl by the name of Ed, and Ein the super intelligent corgi failing upward in space society because of their lack of finding bounties for funding to get something to eat. Not because they are bad at their job, but because each one of them has a heart. If you didn’t know that, the opening scene of Cowboy Bebop The Movie will tell you everything you want to know. Spike, our protagonist, and Jet, his former police officer partner, go for bounty hunt against four people at a convenience store. It’s a rather beautiful scene and also illustrates the difference between law enforcement and Cowboys (bounty hunters). Plus, it shows that Spike really does care about other people when he is dismissive, which is a very important plot element that plays out later into the movie.
The Cowboy Bebop film is like an extension of the famous Cowboy Bebop anime. I also think that it is considered as Cowboy Bebop episode 23.5 or The last major mission or bounty hunt with the whole crew before the beautiful finale of the show itself. That doesn’t mean that people who haven’t seen Cowboy Bebop before can’t see this film. Just like a lot of episodes in Bebop, consider this movie another episodic adventure with the Bebop crew. The only difference is this one is longer. This film isn’t attached to anything in the show besides some thematic elements and it does a great job of characterizing everyone important for you. All that changed is the length of the film is two hours instead of half an hour and the aspect ratio is 16:9 instead of 4:3, which means that the animators had fun using widescreen for action scenes.
With that amazing character focused scene in the convenience store out of the way, we jump into the plot of the film. In the capital city of Mars, Faye Valentine, another member of the Bebop crew, witnesses a gas truck crash by some terrorists. This is later revealed to be a poison attack by the Martian Government and the terrorist involved are placed with a 300 million Wulong bounty on their heads. Something the Bebop crew pays attention to considering they eat cheap, cups of noodles everyday. (At least they can eat.) With Faye being on the scene, the Bebop crew at least has a leg up in investigating who the terrorist involved with this plot is before law enforcement get to them. Well, at least if Spike and Jet could interpret Faye’s drawing of the people involved. In true Bebop fashion, everyone goes their own way of investigating the crime because they can’t get along. Sort of.
With that investigating on the way, we have our cast explore different parts of the Martian city. A critique that I have it isn’t as large of an look as it could be. The problem is that there isn’t as much people moving around and doing things to give it life. Compared to Akira and Metropolis, the world building in this film isn’t as good, but I still feel like I understand different areas of this film’s city alrightly. Faye Investigates during living centers and business areas of the city so we get a sense of how people life. Jet visits the law enforcement areas and drive in movies to flesh out that important side of this film. Lastly, Spike visits more of the outskirts of the city that are very Moroccan in origin where people who know the undergrounds might know something. Big areas that mean something in the end. Plus, the old guys that appear in Bebop are back and Spike got to talk to them which never happened before.
After some experimentation of the element that our villain is planning to put into the atmosphere (micro machines that ruin the body through protein cells) and finally tracking the terrorist team together, everything in the film starts to fall in place. Our main villain’s name is Vincent Volaju, a former member of a military squad killed in the Titan war who was found who experimented on with the vaccine for the micro machines he is using to kill everyone using floating jack’o lanterns. He was found using the credit card of the hacker Lee Sampson, his team mate. Someone who really loves retro video games. At the same time, we find another party going after Vincent, a military unit hidden in the pharmaceutical company building. This is where we find another important character to the story, Electra Olivo. She’s another former titan military member who used to love Vincent. As you would imagine, parties meet up, Spike fight Electra then Vincent, the inevitable team up, and so on. Plus, Spike gets to fly his Swordfish around which is awesome.
The best part of this film is that the Bebop crew are still working together when they are working apart. When each person gathers information or figures out what might be a clue and possibly dismisses what they found, another member takes that lead and runs with it to find more information. Still, that doesn’t dismiss the fact that the Bebop crew has no sense of unity. Jet is like the stay at home dad who watches his annoying, rebellious kids Spike and Faye wander out into the cold without ever calling him about what they are doing or when they get back. Still, they are the family in some way. Jet is a former cop who still carries a rigid life style and thought process with him. Spike is a former syndicate member that is trying to find himself and is weighed down by his past. Finally, Faye is the character who wants to find a way to earn tons of money without doing anything, but also can be a fem fatal who uses guns at the same time. This isn’t just knowledge from the series, all of these facts are well established in the film too.
Also, Ed and Ein moments are great and I won’t take criticism on that. They are tonally different compared to the others, but I think their lightness and humor is very important when the movie is filled with characters who drowned in their, depressive feelings. Not to mention that the Bebop crew wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything without these two around. Ed is a fantastic hacker that knows how to easily break into important government databases when she needs to. How would the Bebop crew function without having any sort of information on their bounties. Ein, on the other hand, is under utilized. He’s a brilliant dog that does nudge everyone in direction without any of them noticing. That’s about all he does sadly. How can you waste a wonderful dog character like that? Together, the two are an unstoppable and fun duo. I really do like their shenanigins together like their early trick or treating while scouting through the city. I still like this well characterized cast, but the lack of character arcs for them in the film does hurt some parts of the film.
The three additional characters have their own pathos as well. I do think that our main villain Vincent isn’t the most interesting character when you first get a glance on him. He has a boring monotone voice and he’s been winning at everything he’s trying to achieve without even trying. Then his backstory starts leading in. He’s a man that already considers himself to be dead and wants to bring humanity along with him, so of course he wouldn’t have that many hobbies or other kinds of goals. The fact that he and Spike have a lost soul would only make sense for those people who know the Bebop series, but it still carries a lot of weight. (Gotta carry that weight). Lee Sampson is hacker that likes retro games, but you can tell that he went along with Vincent’s plan because he’s just as out of his own time period as Vincent is. Lastly, Electra is under utilized because she’s is an amazing character. She’s smart, strong, and in charge, but it becomes a moot points when a lot of that is sacrificed because of love for the long mentally dead Vincent. Not as bad as it could be though because she’s still there on screen, but her action scenes with Vincent are taken up by Spike. I still think that every moment between her and Spike is golden.
I’m talking about Cowboy Bebop: The Movie when it comes to visuals here. The original Bebop series already had amazing visuals in regards to art and animation for a tv production, do I need to even talk about the visuals in this? Yes actually. Everything has been heavily upgraded because of the increased budget and focused time frame. The character designs are still true to the tv show with some adding details to make them more grounded. Plus the already fluid fight scenes and movement are much more dynamic and interesting with more good angles. With the 16:9 aspect ratio, animators have much more room to play around with and you can tell because it’s not as claustrophobic as the series. More room means more background showing up in the fights and more space for those fights to look impressive. Plus, there are more fights now and each one of them is more eye popping then the last one in this film. Ok, maybe not completely true. I still think of the monorail fight between Spike and Vincent because it’s just so unique. The mechanical design in question is just as solid as the series and those flight scenes aren’t as important in this film because the important fights are person to person with hand to hand combat.
So what am I supposed to say here? Watch Cowboy Bebop: The Movie? Yeah, I think you all knew that I was going to say that in the first place. On a thematic and character level, Cowboy Bebop: Knocking on Heaven’s Door isn’t as strong as the full Cowboy Bebop TV series. That doesn’t make this film bad at all though. It still has a cast that many of us know and love with more action spectacle then what we are used to with a decent plot with good original characters. Maybe it’s like a shonen jump film in that way? But anyway, what I’m saying is that Cowboy Bebop: The Movie is a fantastic anime action movie. I do recommend watching the series first before jumping into this film because more things would make sense, but I won’t stop you if this is the first time you decide to jump into this world. It is stand alone enough just to do that because nothing besides some minor character thoughts that could be explained away easily or just ignored. More Bebop is always good except maybe for that coming Netflix thing. Jury is still out on that.
So here is my Halloween movie for this special. Yeah, don’t have much else to say in that regard because I think I talked about this wonderful film enough. Still, this Halloween movie event isn’t over yet because it’s time for something different. A month and some change ago, a movie appeared on Netflix that continued a series that I’ve wanted more from for a while now. Tomorrow is the time that I chose to talk about it. Yeah, I just gave this one away didn’t I? Meh, doesn’t matter.