Cowboy Bebop used to be my favourite anime and holds the honour of being the second ever series that I purchased on DVD (the first, in case you are wondering, is the less lauded Bubblegum Crisis 2040.) Manga Entertainment have recently re-released the Bebop movie Knocking On Heaven’s Door in the UK, which has given me the excuse to fire up my DVD player and spend some quality time with everyone’s favourite band of bounty hunters. Spike Spiegel, Faye Valentine, Jet Black, Edward Wong and Ein star in a Halloween themed adventure that pits them against a terrorist. Is the movie a trick or treat? Read on to find out.
When bomber Vincent Volaju detonates a truck loaded with a deadly chemical, in the Martian capital city, authorities respond by placing a 300 million Woolong bounty on his head. The reward catches the attention of Spike and chums, who are eager to supplement their unbalanced diets. Just think of all the meat you could buy with that money. Beats chowing down on instant noodles everyday – man shouldn’t have to live on carbohydrates alone, complex or otherwise. Motivated by appetite, the hunt for Vincent begins. Spike investigates the pharmaceutical company that the destroyed truck was registered to, Faye pursues one of Volaju’s associates, Jet hits his law enforcement contacts for leads and Ed in the meantime puts her hacking talents to good use.
Despite being set in the year 2071, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie doesn’t feel like a science fiction film. The Mars metropolis, where Vincent is based, has the architecture of a modern US city. Only the existence of spacecraft, which hardly factor into the plot, remind us that Bebop doesn’t take place in the present day. For the most part, the action relies on contemporary firearms and Spike’s martial art skills. Viewers who are not acquainted with the series can still enjoy the movie, as it is a standalone story. Long time fans of the franchise will however benefit from the full experience, as they will spot references and cameos that the uninitiated won’t.
My rating for Cowboy Bebop: The Movie is a four out of five. I enjoyed the movie a little more, this time round, than the first time I saw it. What starts out as a routine manhunt soon morphs into a tale were the hunters become the hunted. Spike’s pursuit of Vincent reveals that Volaju is armed with illegal weapons that were pilfered from a drug company. Needless to say, said corporation is keen to cover-up their involvement in the case and will silence anyone who gets in their way. By the end of this two-hour feature the fate of Mars hangs in the balance, due to the threat of a nanomachine outbreak. Why does it always have to be nanomachines? I have had my fill of those microscopic bots, ever since I completed the Metal Gear Solid saga.
Although I liked Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, I must admit that the series is better. For me, the show’s funnier episodes were its highlight. This movie however is low on comedy, aside from some humorous banter. On the plus side Vincent is a compelling villain, who reminds me a little of Spike. They both have fought in the Titan War for example and they both make remarks about how life feels like a dream. Visually the movie’s animation belies its age and the audio is solid. Like most Shinichirō Watanabe productions, the soundtrack is great. I also think that the dub is good. Steven Blum, who has previously voiced Wolverine, is responsible for Spike’s vocals. Perhaps that explains why the protagonist has superhuman recovery powers? One moment Spike is on the cusp of death and a few scenes later he enters the final battle showing no ill effects!
Fans of Cowboy Bebop, who missed this movie the first time around, should take advantage of Manga’s re-release. They won’t be disappointed. What do you guys think of Cowboy Bebop, be it the series or movie? Let me know in the comments section below. Until next time, see you space cowboy.