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Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001) – DVD Review


Written by Marc Handler, Keiko Nobumoto, and Hajime Yatate
Directed by Shinichirô Watanabe
Starring Kôichi Yamadera, Unshô Ishizuka, Megumi Hayashibara, and Aoi Tada (voices, Japanese); Steven Blum, Beau Billingslea, Wendee Lee, and Melissa Charles (voices, English)


  • Six making-of featurettes
  • Two music videos
  • Concept art
  • Storyboard comparisons
  • Character profiles

Released by: Columbia Tri-Star
Region: 1
Rating: R
Anamorphic: Yes.

My Advice: Own it.

[ad#longpost]Originally intended as an extended two-part installment in the television series of the same name, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie brings all the style and action of the show to the big screen. The always-destitute bounty hunter crew of the converted fishing vessel Bebop are on Mars looking for some cheap bounties to buy supplies and, most importantly, food that doesn’t come in a styrofoam cup. When Faye Valentine goes out to collect a simple pocket change bounty on a young hacker, though, the situation goes from dull to deadly in a heartbeat. When a tanker truck explodes on the freeway, she gets a glimpse at a mysterious dark figure leaving the scene. Hours later, the news is reporting an outbreak of some deadly malady that’s baffling disease specialists all over the city.

With a little help from hacker-savant Edward, the crew discover that the mysterious dark figure is in fact a supposedly deceased special forces operative. When a tremendous bounty is announced for anyone that can solve the mystery illness or catch the perpetrator, Spike, Jet, and Faye hit the streets in an effort to save the planet and make a few million woolongs. As the story unfolds, the government, other military spec ops types, and a pharmaceutical company that maintains its own standing army get thrown into the mix. As the crew of the Bebop get closer and closer to solving the mystery, the stakes are raised.

Making the leap to large screen and long format is a difficult thing for any television show, but this one manages fairly well. It brings with it the distinct style and pacing of the series, but takes the action that is so standard to the show and makes it bigger, faster, and more explosive than is possible in the confines of television. On the technical side of things, the movie doesn’t mark a radical shift in the quality of animation from the television show, but this speaks more of the show’s quality than to any deficiency in the feature film. The voice acting is superb in both languages, though I confess to preferring the English Spike and Jet, while liking the Japanese Edward better. Alas, one cannot pick and choose…perhaps in some perfect future of digital entertainment technology.

The only real complaint I have on the filmmaking end of the spectrum is the choice to forego the standard Bebop theme song in the opening of the film. Part of the show’s reputation and appeal lies in the typically stellar musical selections interspersed throughout each show, and the theme song is probably one of the most instantly recognizable in anime fandom. If it ain’t broke, and all that.

One of the things I find refreshing about the film is that the martial arts action sequences typically refrain from the over-the-top physics-defying tendencies of most anime titles. For the most part (there are some exceptions, to be sure), when Spike Spiegel squares off with someone with a little Jeet Kune Do, his capabilities are limited to the sorts of things a real person could do, albeit with years and years of training. The gunplay tends to follow this same mold, though with a dash of Hong Kong-inspired gun fu thrown in to keep it exciting. The only really reality-defying stuff in the film (aside from Faye’s gravity-defying wardrobe and Spike’s similarly anti-Newtonian hair) revolves around exactly what sorts of damage a person could take and realistically survive, as Spike regularly suffers injuries that would prove fatal to mere mortals, only to recover in a matter of hours and be back on the streets looking for a fight.

The DVD provides a slew of bonus features, and it’s nice to see an American distributor that doesn’t specialize in anime doing right by an anime title. You get a half-dozen production featurettes, featuring interviews with the director, animators, voice talent, and writers. You also get a great set of character profiles that should help the uninitiated get up to speed nicely before diving into the film (though the movie itself does a fine job in setting the characters up for newbies). Concept art, soundtrack music videos, and some nice storyboard comparisons round out the package. With this kind of loaded package, the disc is a must-buy for anybody that enjoyes anime, science fiction, or action movies at all.

Buy it from Amazon.
Buy the CD Box Set from the series from Amazon.
Buy the boxed set of the manga from Amazon.