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The fifth film in the anime series is Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, also known as Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.

Mars, 2071. The crew of the Bebop, Spike, Jet, Faye, and Ed, land in the Martian capital days before Halloween. All are bounty hunters. Spike is the lean, leisure suit wearing, martial arts expert former criminal. Jet is the muscular former cop and owner of the Bebop. Faye is seductive and dangerous with an unknown past. Ed is a 13-year-old girl who is a hacking genius.

Faye is on the tail of a wanted hacker Lee Sampson. Tracked down to driving a semi-truck through the heart of the Martian capital, Faye is about to make the bust when the truck pulls over. Out steps a mysterious man, not Lee Sampson. The truck explodes, releasing an unknown gas that kills over 300 people in the immediate area. Faye returns to the Bebop only to learn the Martian government has issued the highest ever bounty for the capture of the person responsible for the attacks, 300 million woolong. Each member of the crew goes their own way to track down the terrorist.

Each crew member goes about this how you would expect them to given their backgrounds. Spike works the streets and back allies, ending up on Moroccan street and talking with a man known as Rashid. Rashid gives Spike a giant vase that “is perfect for him.” Jet works his police contacts to track down the manufacturer of the pathogen. Faye and Ed use the internet and a photo enhancement program to identify the man Faye saw, and caught on camera, step out of the truck. In the vase they find a blue marble. Jet learns a major pharmaceutical company with a private army called Cherious Medical is behind the manufacture of illegal nanomachines. These machines are 100% fatal and undetectable. They can be transmitted through the air or by touch. Faye continues tracking Sampson, which in turn leads her to finding the man behind the attacks named Vincent.

Vincent is an extremely violent man who was the recipient of medical experimentation while in the Special Forces. His goal is to bring about the end of the world on Halloween. Spike infiltrates Cherious and encounters one of their special agents named Elektra. She engages Spike and during the fight Spike plants a tracking device on her. As she is sent after Vincent, Spike tracks her down. She leads Spike to Vincent, where he nearly dies. Spike recovers, and the crew of the Bebop race to stop Vincent’s holocaust.

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie takes place during the series, yet was made after the series had finished its run. As such, it flawlessly sits within the previous material. The characters are not altered in any way, which is a good thing. Spike is apathetic, lazy, and aloof. Jet is Spike’s foil and is outspoken and hard working. Faye is sarcastic and somewhat distant. And Ed is incredibly eccentric.

The great thing about Cowboy Bebop: The Movie is that it is not necessary to have seen any of the series to enjoy it. Much like the series, the story is self-contained. It doesn’t lean or lead to any other story. In fact Shinichiro Watanabe, the director of the series and film, viewed the series episodes as mini films and the movie as an extended episode.

With the extended length and increase in budget, The Movie featured better animation than the series. Not that the series featured bad animation. It actually was good. But the film amped it up. Colors were a little crisper, action scenes were longer and more complicated in their choreography. Everything just looked a little livelier. It is all top notch.

This may be a little controversial, but this is one anime where I recommend the English dub over the subtitled Japanese. The English voice actors do an amazing job of becoming the characters. They perfectly embody the personalities of the characters. The Japanese voice actors are good, but there is just something about the way the English voice cast members bring the best out of the characters.

The music is a standout. Folky blues is the theme throughout the film, with some Arabic music thrown in because of Morocco Street. The music often sets the mood of the scene, with upbeat jazzy blues playing during exciting moments, and more somber “Mississippi” blues playing during downbeat moments. It is an interesting take on theming music when most thematic elements are scored with a symphonic or digital style. But it does fit the mood and characters found in the film.

Central to the theme of the plot is the question of what is reality. Vincent, in his madness is not sure if the world he is living is real, or some other place. He often asks if the world is real or if they are in purgatory but don’t realize it. Much like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, the question that he asks and, in turn forces Spike to confront, is whether what they see is a shadow of what is real or if it is the reflection of reality. While this has been done before, it doesn’t feel stale as Vincent’s past of being a human guinea pig offers some different perspectives.

Over all Cowboy Bebop: The Movie is an enjoyable ride with a colorful cast of characters. With a building suspense, philosophical questioning, great action scenes and a lot of sarcastic humor thrown in, The Movie is a great entry point for newcomers to the series as well as enjoyable to those who are familiar with the series.


Directed By: Shinichiro Watanabe

Produced By: Masuo Ueda, Masahiko Minami, Minoru Takanashi

Written By: Keiko Nobumoto

Starring: Spike: Steve Blum/Koichi Yamadera

Jet: Beau Billingslea/Unsho Ishizuka

Faye: Wendee Lee/Megumi Hayashibara

Ed: Melissa Fahn/Aoi Tada

Vincent: Daran Norris/Tsutomu Isobe

Distributed By: Sony Pictures Entertainment Japan

Release Date: September 1, 2001

Run Time: 115 minutes

Rating: R


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