The hurt won’t go away, but this will help.
It was pretty rough for anime fans when Cowboy Bebop came to an end in 1999. Luckily, director Shinichiro Watanabe heard their cries of anguish through his office window and decided to do something to shut them up. Thus, Cowboy Bebop the Movie: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door was born.
Now it might seem odd that there would even be a movie after the way the series ended (calm down, that’s not even a real spoiler), but fear not because audiences aren’t subjected to a simple reunion tour. Instead, the film simply portrays another adventure the team experienced before the end of the series.
The film catches up with the Bebop crew doing what they do best, hunting bounties and barely scraping by. However, luck is on their side when a terrorist (Daran Norris) hatches a plot to release a deadly virus on Halloween. The government of Mars offers a 300-million woolong (or, as we call it, “future money”) reward to anyone who can stop him. So, Spike (Steven Blum), Jet (Beau Billingslea) and Faye (Wendee Lee) leap into action with the help of wacky androgynous hacker Ed (Melissa Fahn). As usual, though, things don’t go as easily as the crew would like when it turns out that the terrorist is just as tough as Spike and the survivor of a military cover up.
Cowboy Bebop the Movie doesn’t miss a step as it picks up right where the show left off (in a manner of speaking). It’s filled with everything audiences loved about the series, including high-octane action, thought-provoking themes, witty dialogue and, of course, some of the most incredible characters anime has ever seen. The only downside is that the story feels a little light compared to those the series produced. Along these lines, the two new characters, the terrorist Vincent and security contractor Electra Ovilo (Jennifer Hale), feel a little simplified when standing next to the likes of Spike or Faye. Overall, though, the film fits nicely into the mythos of the anime.
Despite being a little light on the story, the movie has some amazing action sequences. The final showdown between Spike and Vincent is one of the most intense and fluid fight scenes audiences have seen in an anime (which is to be expected from Cowboy Bebop). Watanabe makes the camera part of the action as the two through punches and kicks. The two move around as if the camera isn’t there (which it isn’t), emphasizing the depth of field as they weave in and out of the foreground. The way he portrays violence is almost like a beautiful dance, and combined with the dramatic visual elements, there is something poetic about the film. At the center of these visuals is Spike, who once again sets out to remind fans why they loved him so much in the first place. Once again he plays the laid-back, reluctant hero with a devil-may-care attitude that hides the fact that deep down he’s tough as nails.
With an incredible soundtrack by Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts, the movie moves away from the jazz-inspired sounds that filled it before. This isn’t to say that the new direction it’s gone in is bad, but it’s just not what one might expect from something brandishing the Bebop name.
Overall, Cowboy Bebop the Movie is a triumph for fans of the series and something that even those who aren’t familiar with the series can get in to. While it might seem a little light at times, and almost like it’s trying too hard to fit everything audiences want to see, it does well to stand on its own legs just fine. For those looking for something to fill the Spiegel-shaped whole in their hearts, this is defiantly the right place to start looking. It’s just a bandage, but with therapy and medication, life can get easier. That is, until Keanu Reeves makes the live-action movie (which no one should hold their breath for).