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Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

Reviewed By Joe Cooper
Posted 04/15/03 16:52:08

"The full potential of anime is on display in Cowboy Bebop: The Movie."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (aka Knockiní on Heavenís Door) is a glistening example of everything that anime can be. As the big screen debut of the cult television series, it takes the imagination on a wild ride with a non-stop barrage of escapist action, stunning animation, and all the chic hallmarks of Bebopís version of the future. For fans of the series and initiates alike, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie is an experience not to be missed.

In 2071, the term cowboy is slang for bounty hunter. On a spaceship called the Bebop, a small group of misfits eke out an existence tracking down and capturing societyís wanted criminals. It barely pays the bills, but life as a cowboy fulfils a need in each member of the Bebopís crew. Leading the posse is Spike Spiegel, a moody young maverick with a never-ending need for sensory stimulation in the form of danger and excitement. Partnering and arguing with Spike on most hunts is Jet Black, a cynical ex-cop that fled the corruption of the Inter Solar Systems Police to dish out his own form of justice. Completing the team are Faye Valentine, an attractive gambling addict, and the oddly named Edward, a young female hacker whose best friend is a corgi.

As they tire of eating instant noodles out of styrofoam cups and bickering amongst themselves, the crew of the Bebop is presented with a timely opportunity to improve their bank balance. A tanker explodes in the heart of one of Marsí futuristic cities, releasing a virus that immediately kills everyone in the vicinity. Struggling to develop an effective vaccine to thwart the virusís ghastly effects, and fearing further attacks, the government immediately announces an enormous bounty for the capture of the terrorists responsible.

With an unprecedented $300 million up for grabs, Spike and his team are quick to begin their hunt for the perpetrators. However, rather than their usual prey of terrorists, drug dealers, and mobsters, they discover Vincent, a dark and deeply disturbed character with a well crafted plan to eradicate the entire population of the planet. With the government harbouring its own sinister agenda, itís up to the Bebop Cowboys to race the clock and defeat the pressing threat to life on Mars. Wild shootouts, heart pounding chases, and spectacular fight scenes ensue until the final explosive showdown.

The full splendour of several forms of Japanimation are on display in Cowboy Bebop: The Movie and are seamlessly meshed. Director Shinichiro Watanabe keeps the viewer perpetually amazed by background scenery that often appears photographic, along with the small-nosed, large-eyed characters engaged in mind-blowing action sequences. Anime fans will be delighted, and newcomers to the genre will discover what all the fuss is about.

When the mind isnít reeling from the thrills and spills on screen, itís caught by the interesting view of the future that the movie presents. Mars is an intriguing blend of the past and the future, with its towering metropolises separated by vast red desert plains. In many ways itís Bladerunner meets a Sergio Leone western. Itís an entertaining mix and stamps Cowboy Bebop with a unique feel.

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie also benefits enormously from its soundtrack. The movie is accompanied by a series of pumped up jazz-funk tracks composed by Yoko Kanno and performed by The Seatbelts. The use of the distinctive music sets Cowboy Bebop: The Movie apart from many of its competitors and projects the movieís pace and mood beautifully.

There do appear to be unnecessary gaps in the storyline, and a few instances of plot digression in Cowboy Bebop: The Movie. The frequent return to dialogue sessions on the spaceship appear to be pointless, and Edwardís Jar Jar Binks-like cutesy antics are mildly annoying and distracting. However, these moments are a small price to pay, and easily forgiven.

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie is an amazing cinematic experience, and an impressive display of the potential of anime. A clever plot and a surprising soundtrack combine with the dazzling animation to thrill newcomers and seasoned Beboppers alike.

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