A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

March 6, 2011

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

Back when we were reviewing the Star Trek movies we talked about a couple of them being little more than big budget feature length episodes of the television show. This is very much that sort of movie. It is, however, a very good episode of a wonderfully fun and delightful show. Seeing as how the original run of Cowboy Bebop ended in 1998 it was delightful to be able to revisit all our favorite characters in this “lost episode” three years later.

This movie clearly takes place somewhere in the center of the television show’s run. The whole team is together aboard the Bebop so it’s after they have picked up Ed but before the last three episodes when the team began to go their separate ways. For those unfamiliar with the anime this movie is part of it is the story of a group of starving bounty hunters sometime in the future who operate out of the starship Bebop. It’s a kind of space comedy western, not unlike Firefly, but with a slightly sillier feel a lot of the time. Our cast include the ultra cool ex-gangster Spike Spiegal, the ex-cop Jet Black, the compulsive gambler and loner Faye Valentine, the prepubescent genius hacker Ed and her best friend Einstein – a super intelligent corgi dog. Together they are trying on the fringes of outlaw society around Mars, to make a living. Most of the time they are barely scraping by. (It is implied that any bounties they actually collect are mostly spent on repairs for their spacecraft; they tend to get into firefights and break a lot of stuff.)

The series ended on a very sad note. You need to understand this to appreciate why this movie is such fun. This is one of those series where it comes to a very definite conclusion and there’s not really any way that the story could be continued. It’s a brave, touching, poignant, and unforgettable ending. As such there was no real hope once the series was over for any more Beebop. This was disappointing because these characters were so much fun to watch in action. The series was full of great action, silly humor, and fantastic animation. But it was over.

Until it was announced that there was going to be a new movie based on the series. A movie that plays out as though it were an episode somewhere in the middle of the series that just didn’t get released until a few years later.

The plot here will be familiar to anybody who has seen the show before. The crew are sick of instant noodles but that’s all they can afford on the little bounties they’re collecting on. When Faye is tracking down a small time hacker she happens upon a much bigger operation – what appears to be a terrorist attack on Mars using unknown biological agents. There’s a colossal bounty on the heads of those responsible and so our friends get caught up in a twisted plot that involves corruption, cover ups, unsactioned military experiments, and a terrifying super-soldier with no memory who wants to wipe out the entire population of mars. Just another day in the life of the Bebop crew, really.

Everybody gets their moment to shine. Spike kicks a lot of ass, Jet leverages his ties in the police department, Faye goes out on her own as always and risks her life for a lead, even Ed and Ein get to do some investigating. It’s like all the best bits from all the best episodes strung together into a single hour and a half.

The animation is astonishing. There are a lot of fantastic fight scenes, chases, even a space battle, and everything is full of this fluid, gorgeous animation. A lot of it is probably rotoscoped from live action footage, but there’s also a sort of heightened reality to some of it. Spike’s smooth fighting moves put me in the mind of action greats like Jackie Chan and Jet Lee. And of course there are the bizarre contortions of Ed, which are hilarious as always. (At one point Jet mentions they could probably sell her to the circus for a tidy sum.) The space battle reminds me a lot of the fantastic firefights at the conclusion of Macross Plus (with good reason since both are directed by Shinichiro Watanabe.)

As usual with Cowboy Bebop (an Macross Plus as well for that matter) the soul of the movie is the astonishing music of Yoko Kanno. Her hip, jazzy score brings everything to life and ties the movie together. I very much miss the iconic “tank” which was used for the opening theme song in the original show, but what this music lacks in familiarity it more than makes up for in vibrancy.

What can I say? I love Cowboy Bebop. I love the music and the animation and the characters and the humor and the entire strangely anachronistic future world of it. This may not be my favorite episode of the entire series (that would be Toys in the Attic) but it’s close. Top five at the very least. Once again I’m glad of our movie project because I hadn’t seen this in a couple years and it’s nice to have an excuse to watch it again.

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March 6, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , ,

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