Review of Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

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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.

OVERVIEW

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.

VERDICT

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.

26 thoughts on “Review of Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

  1. I don’t think that I have ever seen the movie, but I did watch the series. I really enjoyed that one. It contained some terrific characters (really who can forget Faye Valentine), and even though I am not a comedy fan, the humor in this series was spot on. And then we have the opening tune: how awesome is that! It’s been a quite a while since I last saw this one, so I figure it moght be time for me to rewatch this one at some point. I like the story you are describing for the movie though. Even if it isn’t as good as the series, a 4 out of score definitely makes me want to see this one. Thanks for sharing this, and as always: great post 😀

    • Tank is a great opening theme. A lot of shows directed by Watanabe tend to have good music, such as Samurai Champloo. If you enjoyed the Bebop series you might as well check out the movie, to experience some new content. Sadly Faye doesn’t get much screen time in this flick, as the story focuses mostly on Spike.

      • I will definitely watch the movie, but also think I will rewatch the series itself first. As mentioned it’s been quite a while since I last saw it. I remember enough, but there are also a lot of details that I have forgotten.
        Too bad that Faye did not get much screentime, but Spike is a cool character as well, so I guess that’s okay 😊

  2. I like the movie. It was cool but I think the series was way better. I guess with the movie they had to pack everything into one movie but the series we had enough time to she the plot unfold.

    • Yeah, in most cases I prefer a series over a movie. Being able to tell a few short stories works better than cramming everything into a long feature. Sometimes it can work though. I loved the Transformers animated movie as much as the G1 cartoon for example.

  3. I noticed that movies of TV series tend to be hit-or-miss. I think a lot of the time, they have difficulties translating what makes the show work into a two-hour long film. Either way, this is a series I will check out eventually, as I’ve heard many great things about it.

    • The series was huge back when I got into collecting anime, even if it has been eclipsed by other stuff over the years. I highly recommend it to anyone, whether they are into anime or not.

  4. I never bothered to watch the movie since everyone said it wasn’t as good or necessary to the main series. That, and even for a few bucks, I was too cheap to cough up the money.

    • You are a cheap skate? Ah, that explains why you are so savvy at finding bargains 🙂 If you liked the series you might as well check out the movie. Perhaps it isn’t as good as the show, but it’s still cool to see the characters do their thing in a new adventure.

  5. Faye Valentine may not get much screen time but you can’t say she doesn’t get any exposure in this film (shower scene anyone?) … 😛

  6. I watched the movie years before I saw the series, and quite liked it. So much so, that when I finally got round to watching the series, I was initially quite underwhelmed, considering how well-regarded it is. Been over ten years since I watched the film, so definitely time to refresh my memory!

    • High expectations, due to good word of mouth, can sometimes work against a series. I liked the series more because it was funnier, but a viewer who seeks a good story could prefer the movie over the show’s episodic tales. Hopefully the movie will still hold up when you next check it out.

  7. To me, Cowboy Bebop is about as perfect a series as there is. It’s very much of it’s place an time, and I think that context is part of my evaluation of the series – it’s still wonderful now, but it’s made to reflect an audience that grew up in the 80’s and 90’s and were to enjoy it at the turn of the millennium. The movie doesn’t capture that same tone – it’s beautifully made, but it just doesn’t quite fit. Your review has me interested in revisiting the movie, which I haven’t seen in years. It likes on my bookshelf, gathering dust, and maybe saying, “Give me another chance. It’s almost Halloween, after all.”

    • When I originally watched the movie I liked it a lot less, due to the more serious tone. Perhaps the film can win you over if you give it another chance after all these years? Watching it on Halloween sounds like a cool idea, given how Vincent’s master plan plays out.

  8. Great review of a great movie! I agree the series is better overall, but there were times that the plots seemed crammed into the short episode runtime, so I appreciated that the film had more room for the story to develop. I also consider that first scene to be one of the best opening scenes ever, so perfectly depicting Spike’s innate coolness, and the soundtrack is just stellar. Cowboy Bebop is one of my favorite series, and the movie just built on that fondness.

  9. I love the series, and I even love the movie. The movie actually counts as an episode in that it takes place between two of them. I like the movie as much as the rest of the series. Sure, if you haven’t seen the series, and only the movie, you may not get the same connection with the characters as they’re presented in a way you’re already supposed to be familiar with them. And that to me is the issue with it. It’s harder for non fans to watch in that regard. The plot is interesting enough to grasp anyone though, and I think that’s really the best thing about it. You kind of want to learn about the virus, until you learn it’s not a virus, and what it actually is being possible is even creepier. Then it slowly rolls out the motivations of the villain. It’s really well done.

    • Cowboy Bebop: The Movie is a good crime caper. The investigation was interesting to see unfold. When the movie was originally announced I was wondering how events would play out, given how the series ended. Later I learned it wasn’t a continuation, which is fine… although it somewhat kills the suspense of thinking the heroes may not survive.

  10. I saw the movie before I saw the series. Was actually a really good introduction to the greater Cowboy Bebop world. I have to agree though, the series is even better than the film.

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