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Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001)

July 20, 2010

8/10 Space Aces

Not quite as good as the show, but pretty darn awesome all the same.

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie is about a ragtag gang of intergalactic bounty hunters who set out to cuff a vigilante terrorist and collect the reward money before he unleashes a viral epidemic on the bustling metropolis on Mars and wipes out all of civilization.

I don’t know how much this movie is going to appeal to anyone who isn’t already familiar with the show that it’s based off of, but since I’m of the mindset that Cowboy Bebop is greatest anime series of all-time and still stands as one of my favorite TV shows, animated or otherwise, yeah, I was a bit excited when this thing finally turned up on Netflix Instant. I don’t know, it’s been a while since I really gave a shit about anime shows since I started seeing kids on the subway wearing every last shred of Naruto paraphernelia they could get their hands on at Hot Topic, but this one holds a special little place in my heart and is truly in a league of its own.

I guess the root of why I’m hyping this sucker up like no other is mainly because it’s a wild display of genre-bending at its finest and packs in more quality storytelling and effortless style than a huge majority of live-action I’ve come across. It’s part-Western, part-sci-fi, part-film noir, part-action and the thing that ties it all together is jazz.

Yup. Jazz. The music. Hence the whole “Bebop” thing in the title. Was a revelation when I finally figured that out.

The brainchild of this whole operation is one Shinichiro Watanabe, a guy who is clearly well-versed in all things badass and knows how to score fist fights, dog fights (not the Michael Vick kind) and bullet ballets that all would have been the bomb on “Mute” but take on a whole new life and electricity when they’ve got a big band backing them up. Shit, it’s really hard to convey how awesome this single strength of Watanabe’s is without seeing and hearing it first-hand, but I guess the closest analogy would be the way Quentin Tarantino set the final sword fight between The Bride and O-Ren Ishii to a mariachi ditty at the end of Kill Bill: Vol. 1. In theory, it might seem kinda stupid, but in practice, it is effing beautiful.

This element was an integral part to the series and it’s a big reason why I’m definitely not the only one who goes apeshit over this stuff, but the weird thing about this movie is that a lot of it is gone. There are only two action scenes where the brass starts blaring, and while those are out of sight, this baby ain’t limited to just two action scenes. Instead, there’s a handful of American alt-rock tracks (none of which I’ve ever heard before) accompanying the uncharacteristically lame opening credits along with all the beatdowns, and I don’t know why that is. Honestly, I have no clue. Stupid move, but the action here is still a total freakin’ rush.

And then there’s Watanabe’s characters, and oh how I missed these guys. In a nutshell, the gang is made up of an ex-cop with a metal arm named Jet, a femme fatale with a gambling problem named Faye, a corgi named Ein, an androgynous wiz-kid hacker named Edward and the leader of the pack with a mysterious past, Spike-fuckin’-Spiegel. Jesus Christ, I don’t know where to begin with this guy. Simply put, you couldn’t ask for a cooler, more entertaining fella’ to be the driving force of a movie, show, book, play, haiku or knock-knock joke. He embodies everything that makes Watanabe special and it’s rare to find such an insanely cool lead like this who steals the show right off the bat and keeps you wanting more long after the credits roll. Folks, Spike is Cowboy Bebop.

Wasn’t too keen on Keanu being cast as Spike for the eventual Hollywood transition from cartoon to human, but after keeping him in mind while watching this again, I can kinda see it now. Hope to God he doesn’t screw this one up.

The script here is also pretty solid, and while it may take a bit to get going, it doesn’t really let up once it gets over that hill. Quirky sense of humor, too. Somewhat typical of anime comedy, but whatever, it serves its purpose.

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie is a pretty kickass spin-off in its own right, but if all this is news to you, you’re better off just checking out the first couple episodes of the TV series. It’s still very accessible to newcomers who fall into the said category, it’s still a whole lot of fun and there’s still a whole lot enjoy, but I’m still not sure that this is the right place to start. Take it in half-hour doses, see how that works and go from there. And hey, if you end up loving it and are itching for more, check out Watanabe’s follow-up series, Samurai Champloo. Pretty similar in all the right ways, only it’s Capoeira sword fighting in feudal Japan set to hip-hop.

Trust me, just go with it.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2010 1:19 am

    The show is one of my favs. I got the whole box collection in my room. I still haven’t gotten a chance to see this yet.

    • July 20, 2010 9:29 am

      Used to have the box set myself, but some dickhead stole it and I’ve been weeping ever since. Really need to replace that.

  2. July 20, 2010 5:04 am

    Great film, more of a detective story than the series but it’s still appealing and keeps you interested enough to see it through. The DVD soundtrack is also pretty awesome, great 5.1 mix. And talk about the theme tune “Tank!”… Great song! Spiegel’s the fuckin’ dude. I reckon he could take 99% of every so-called bad-ass in fiction. And man… Faye’s the only anime character I’d ever consider rooting!

    • July 20, 2010 9:31 am

      God, “Tank!” is such a kickass theme song. The only TV theme song I have my ipod aside from The Jeffersons. And Spike is SO the fuckin’ dude.

  3. July 21, 2010 10:15 pm

    Damn Aiden, the stars must have aligned or something. I just watched this on Monday! Also thanks for your first sentence. Pretty much been my opinion since I saw a ripped copy of this in 2001. Totally agree with your love of Spike. Hands down my favorite animated character ever…and I do mean ever (Best episode imo is “Pierrot le Fou”)

    The problem here is that the show is so awesome and gets its appeal with its 22 minute episodes. I find it so tough for any TV making the jump to a movie to be as compelling at 90 plus minutes. Bebop got a little thin in some parts but for the most part I like the movie, however if i were given the show or the movie, I would pick the show every time (even though the best music of the series was from the movie). It does have insane fight scenes and jaw dropping animation. But a bonus here, much like Steamboy, is watching through the credits and getting a little more eye candy/story continuation and a final Spike easter egg.

    Btw Aiden I got the Bebop collection off eBay some years ago and it was either a 6disc $200 Box Collection or an import (that was a Chinese reproduction) for 40…hey it’s digital right; quality’s the same…plus it came in a neat 3 disc flip book:)

    • July 21, 2010 10:30 pm

      Dude, Pierrot le Fou was the best action-based episode of the whole series by a long shot. Definitely one of my faves of the series. DAMMIT I NEED TO BUY THIS SERIES AGAIN! They’re selling it at the Best Buy around me for 30/40 bucks, but I’m a cheap bastard, so I’ll wait for my birthday or something to roll around.

      God, I freakin’ love this franchise. You ever watch Samurai Champloo?

      • July 22, 2010 9:58 am

        Damn that is a great deal, I wish I could tell what the Extras were on the set. My set has bunches of interviews but they’re all in Japanese and no subtitles.

        As far as Champloo, I just put it to the top of my Netflix queue…get back with you as soon as I finish;)

      • July 22, 2010 11:28 am

        Please do, homey. It’s pretty freakin’ awesome.

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