Cowboy Bebop is deservedly loved for its eclectic mix of sci-fi, western, noir and jazz influences, all blended into a fine stew and served piping hot. Unless the movie is lumped together though, there’s no full discussion of how cool this series is because Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door arguably the best part of the whole meal.
It was 2001 and by then Sunrise members Masahiko Minami, Hiroshi Osaka and Toshihiro Kawamoto had already left. Cowboy Bebop and gundam‘s studio, Sunrise to form Bones. But through a special twist, Bones took the reins of a film adaptation of Cowboy Bebop to give the galaxy’s best (worst) bounty hunters another job. It may seem ridiculous to list the film as the best part of the series, given that it had to follow such an emotional and story-perfect ending, but the film should not be underestimated. While the film may not have the time to weave the same web that the series was supposed to suck up viewers, it pays tribute to the things that made the series so great, with an original story lasting just under two hours.
The Bebop The film’s first great idea is that it doesn’t try to move on from the end of the series, which felt so final that continuing would risk ruining it. Ever since Bebop‘s story was so episodic, it was easy for the film to settle in between episodes 22 and 23, according to the now-archived website for the film.
The film revolves around the Bebop crew on the hunt for Vincent Volaju, a terrorist who plans to unleash a chemical weapon on Mars. On Vincent’s trail, Spike meets the fiery Elektra, a researcher with a connection to Vincent. The entire crew becomes entangled in a conspiracy involving the military and this strange bioweapon.
Starting with a “Bang!”
The film’s introduction alone is one of the best opening scenes of any action movie of its time and beyond. The characterizations, the comedy, the cinematography and the action are all at their peak. Someone who has never looked Bebop could watch this scene and immediately know who these characters are.
The original voice actors were all brought back by Sony for the film’s release, including Steve Blum, Beau Billingslea, Wendee Lee, and Melissa Fahn. Jennifer Hale also joins the cast as Elektra, playing Spike almost as well as Mary Elizabeth McGlynn. It’s hard to say their performances are better as the acting from the original show was already sublime, but it’s still top notch to say the least.
After the opening scene, the title card sequence itself is a jam that could seriously rival even the show’s opening, if only for its understated magnificence. By the time the opening is done, the audience is stuck for the long haul and the story has an incredible flow that doesn’t feel like it’s making too much effort to provide fan service.
Bebop’s greatest hits
The best of Bebop is that it doesn’t feel much different than a great episode of the TV show. It’s just longer, has a bigger budget, and visually stands out enough from the series to make it clear that this is a “Film” with a capital F. Toshihiro Kawamoto’s already beautiful designs get this subtle yet meaningful glow up on the big screen and the color direction gives the film a very “shot on film” look.
Much of this style could be attributed to the production of this film when animation cells were still the dominant method, but slightly darker tones give this film a more pronounced look of maturity. It takes itself seriously, but never shuns any banter or frivolity between the characters, least of all Ed’s shenanigans.
The Bebop crew isn’t exactly a high-functioning team, and they’re hardly successful bounty hunters. They work well because they are equally lost and broken people who have found each other and bicker like a dysfunctional family that is there for each other in the end. Each character explores on their own until they all converge at the climax.
It might be abnormal for dynamic team movies, but it can’t be more Bebop, and their individual travels produce some of the best moments in the franchise. Spike’s fight with Elektra and the ensuing escape, the entire sequence on the train and the final battle on the tower are just some of the key moments that not only take the movie to the next level, but also rank among the best in the series.
And sure, a lot of them revolve around Spike, but the rest of the Bebop crew is as charismatic as ever. Spike simply gets the best fights because he’s the Bruce Lee of the series and the antagonist, Vincent, is arguably an even better rival than Vicious was in the series. Rest assured, Faye and Ed have had enough of their own shenanigans.
The only one who got the short end of the stick might be Jet, who usually stays on the ship or gets worse when everyone goes out alone. However, it remains in character that Jet tries to be the most reasonable in the group, and to keep Spike honest about how dangerous the mess they are in is. And again, when the chips are in place, each character has a role to play at the end.
Do you live in the real world?
The Bebop film is about dreams; a villain who tries to destroy everything because he is convinced that life is a dream and a cowboy who tries to stop him who constantly dreams of the past and the future. Since it’s a side story set shortly before the end of the series, there isn’t much of a threat to the characters, but that’s not the point, and it never was the point of Bebopalso the best episodes.
A lot of BebopThe best stories are about the characters the audience meets once and never again. Vincent and Elektra, two people with shared pasts, who once again clash over their interactions with the Bebop crew, are all there is to it Beboptell his stories. Their relationship and the parallels with Spike make the film feel so powerful with every rewatch.
The movie may not gut the audience like the show did when showing Faye or Jet’s past or Ed’s sudden departure or Spike’s final battle with Vicious, but it has just as big a heart as those episodes. Perhaps the government conspiracy story and subtext about terrorism isn’t the strongest part of the story, but it adds texture to the show’s own lore, which is constantly used to deepen these characters.
Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door is one of Shinichiro Watanabe’s greatest gestures and certainly the most beautiful gift for fans of the series. It’s short, smart, witty, fun, gripping and hugely rewatchable thanks to its great pace. All in all this is probably the best part of the Bebop series and – to be quite daring – definitely one of the best anime movies of all time.
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Source: Cowboy Bebop – Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door /Archive.org