Anime Film Review: Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

Cowboy Bebop The Movie: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door is a film for the Cowboy Bebop anime franchise, and it takes place between the episodes “Cowboy Funk” and “Brain Scratch.” The film was directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, and was released to Japanese theaters on September 1, 2001. In 2004, the film was nominated for the Online Film Critics Society Awards in the Best Animated Feature category. In North America, the film’s title was shortened to Cowboy Bebop: The Movie.

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie
Directed by: Shinichiro Watanabe
Written by: Keiko Nobumoto
Starring: Kōichi Yamadera, Megumi Hayashibara, Unshō Ishizuka, Aoi Tada, Ai Kobayashi, Tsutomu Isobe, Renji Ishibashi, and Mickey Curtis
Run Time: 115 minutes
Rated: R

The film is set around Halloween of 2071, and begins with Faye Valentine trying to capture a bounty. During the capture attempt, she witnesses a mysterious man in a trenchcoat walking away from a stolen tanker truck; moments later, the tanker explodes and releases a deadly virus that kills hundreds. The government places a huge reward of 300 million woolongs for the arrest and capture of the person responsible, out of fear that an even bigger attack could take place.

Spike, Jet, Faye, and the rest of the crew of the Bebop decide to try to find and capture this bounty. During their hunt, they meet new allies and foes, and must also try to find a way to keep an even bigger attack from taking place.

When I finished watching Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, it felt like I had watched an extended version of a Cowboy Bebop episode. Not that this was a bad thing at all, but that’s what it felt like. The advantages of the longer runtime for the story is that it allowed for more time to be spent on character development, and some of the action sequences could also be longer. I thought the film had a really good story to tell, and that a full-length film works much better to tell it than to try to break it up into multiple episodes for the anime series.

Overall, I thought that the character of Ed was actually rather useful in the film; in a lot of respects, it felt as if Ed was in the anime series more for providing comic relief than for actually helping to move the story along.

When it comes to the DVD release for Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, a lot more effort was put into the special features included on this release in comparison to the six Cowboy Bebop Remix DVDs.

The first special feature is “Storyboard Comparisons.” There are four scenes included in this feature; for each scene, the storyboard is on the left side of the screen, while the animation that appears in the movie for the scene is on the right side of the screen. Personally, I think this is one of the better storyboard comparison bonus features that I have seen on an anime DVD.

“Character Biographies” have a biography for each character. The biographies include basic facts for each character alongside their picture. “Conceptual Art Galleries” include the conceptual art for the characters, aircraft, automobiles, monorail, and accessories.

There are also six featurettes included on the disc: “From the Small Screen to the Big Screen,” “International Appeal,” “Spike: A Complex Soul,” “Faye: Intellectual Vixen,” “Ed: Resident Eccentric,” and “Jet: No Ordinary Dad.” These featurettes include interviews with the director, the Japanese and English voice actors for Spike, the Japanese and English voice actors for Jet, the Japanese and English voice actors for Faye, the ADR Director, the Character Designer, the Composer, and the Japanese and English voice actors for Ed. There are English subtitles provided when anyone who is interviewed is speaking in Japanese. The documentaries aren’t too short, yet they also aren’t so long that they bore the viewer. Personally, I enjoyed watching these featurettes.

There are also music videos included in the special features for “Ask DNA” (the opening song of the film) and “Gotta Knock a Little Harder,” which appears at the end of the film. In both cases, the “music videos” are just textless versions of the opening and ending sequences of the film.

Overall, Cowboy Bebop The Movie: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door is an enjoyable film for fans of Cowboy Bebop. However, a viewer has to already have some familiarity with the property in order to enjoy the film; if they don’t, then they won’t understand a lot of what’s going on.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of Cowboy Bebop: The Movie that my husband and I purchased.

Additional posts about Cowboy Bebop:

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