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Cowboy Bebop: The Movie Review (2001)
Recap (Cowboy Bebop)
Cowboy Bebop is the critically acclaimed space opera and western anime directed by Shinichiro Watanabe and animated by Sunrise studios. The 1998 anime television series made waves during its initial TV run not only in Japan but later in America as well. It's musical composer, Yoko Kanno, signature blues and jazz compositions create a surreal dichotomy with the show's noir narrative and Kung-fu action style. Remembering the early 2000's, the anime is a childhood treasure for many anime fans in America. Taking place in the future where bounty hunters take on requests for Wulong (the show's fictional currency), the show focuses on Spike Siegel and his crew of bounty hunters as they travel through space hunting bad guys on their spaceship, the Bebop!
To understand the excitement behind Cowboy Bebop, you'll first have to take a look at the anime's opening. The intro puts on full display the jazz and blues soundtrack that the show is famous for. And the western theme is shown prominently through its silhouettes. Everything together gives off a pleasant James Bond meets New Orleans vibe. Which is what the series is iconic for.
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (Knockin' On Heaven's Door) takes place during the last few episodes of the anime. Originally, the movie was a response to the outcry of fans wanting more Cowboy Bebop content. And when the word "movie" is attached to a television show, you expect everything to be bigger and better. Knockin' On Heaven's Door turns up the volume on the amount of action and existential crises. Combined, the movie delivers create more of what fans already love.
Knockin' On Heaven's Door opening is the picture perfect representation of 1990's New York City. The opening's life-like animation and black and white aesthetic flows beautifully with its American soundtrack. Sometimes the characters in the opening perform gestures, look towards the camera, and sing along with the music! This opening is a perfect example of how good cell animation can be when given the right direction. The music, animation, and cinematography are all meticulously done to the point where it becomes a masterpiece.
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie takes place after humanity has successfully built civilizations elsewhere on other planets; However, that does not stop the threat of domestic terrorism. On Mars, shortly before Halloween, a deadly pathogen is released via a vehicle explosion that kills and sickens hundreds of people. The rest of the movie centers around Spike Siegel and his crew has they prepare to stop another potential terrorist attack. The bounty for the terrorist involves skyrockets to monumental proportions and Spike and the gang are on it! The plot heavily focuses on existentialism and of course features heavy Kung-fu action.
As stated before, the movie's existential dialogue goes perfectly with the theme of the movie. The antagonist, Vincent Volaju is a man who after surviving a traumatic incident is unable to tell reality apart from dreams. As you can probably guess, this leads to a lot of interesting and high-tensioned situations. Throughout the film, he goes into hallucigenic fits and tirades of paranoia. The dialogue explores the meaning of what it means to be sane and philosophical discussions about the differences between dreams and reality. However, the dialogue is done so well that the movie does not become hampered by such heavy material. That same heaviness is what the series is memorable for.
The action featured in the film is the most memorable because the animation and fight choreography is so well done. Spike can be said to be Kung-fu master and is ready to throwdown wherever and whenever. The video below, shows Spike undercover as a janitor until special agent Elektra encounters him. Next, they fight and Spike uses whatever is available to fend her off. Notice, how the animation and soundtrack works so well during the fight scenes. I mean honestly, deflecting a gunshot with a broomstick? Best fight scene, ever.
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie is a great watch even if you know nothing about the Bebop universe itself. The movie is its own self-contained story and is a complete joy to watch from start to finish. There are other genres intertwined in this series such as film noir, science fiction, and western. If any of these genres at all appeal to you, then give this film a try. You don't have to be an anime lover to enjoy this movie, just a lover of film in general.
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (Knockin' On Heaven's Door) is available on Blu-Ray, DVD, and all major streaming platforms.