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Cowboy Bebop: Tengoku no tobira (2001)

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (International), Cowboy Bebop the Movie: Knockin on Heavens Door (USA), Cowboy Bebop: Knockin On Heavens Door (Video)

They’re here to save the planet. But not for free.

Directed by:

Shinichiro Watanabe & Hiroyuki Okiura

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 116 minutes

UK Certificate: 12A

On DVD

Country: Japan, United States

In the opening scene of ‘Cowboy Bebop’, a lone stranger single-handedly stops a gang of ne’er-do-wells in the process of holding up an off-license. Following the battle that ensues, you can’t help but feel that the cost of repairing the resultant damage would amount to considerably more than simply allowing the thieves to make off with the contents of the till. And there lies the problem with vigilantism.

Thankfully, I can stop my rant right there, as it turns out this stranger isn’t a vigilante at all, but a member of a gang of intergalactic bounty hunters. Of course, if you’re a fan of the Japanese cartoon series this film is adapted from, then you’ll already know that – but this was my first delve into the world of ‘Cowboy Bebop’, so cut me a little slack.

It’s the future, Mars has a government, and Spike (the stranger I just mentioned) is about to become embroiled in a terrorist plot to infect the planet with a deadly new virus. So, along with noodle-munchin’ pals Jet, Faye, and a GIRL called EDWARD(!!!), Spike sets about trying to save the world – for a price, of course.

It’s certainly eclectic stuff, from the self-consciously multi-cultural setting of Alba City, to the diverse range of backing music, to the inclusion in the gang of the hermaphroditic and deeply-annoying Edward. All of which would normally point to a distinct case of style-over-substance, but ‘Bebop’ just about manages to pull off chucking an engrossing storyline into the bargain. Just about.

The best thing about it is easily the astonishing futuristic animation, which seems to place us right slap bang in the middle of the action. As a result, the film’s visual qualities tend to overshadow its attempts at story-telling, which aren’t brilliant but aren’t terrible either.

Those often put off watching anime by the shoddy standard of the dubbing should note that in this case the voice-over work is excellent, and the conversion from Japanese to English is an outright success. But for a more solid grounding in the particular world of ‘Cowboy Bebop’, I’m told you’d be better advised watching a good few episodes of the TV show first. Fat lot of use that is to me now.

It's Got: A lead female character with some less-than-modest outfits.

It Needs: An episode from the TV series included on the disc.

DVD Extras Two documentaries, titled ‘From the Small Screen to the Big Screen’ and ‘What’s Not to Like’, along with an individual featurette relating to each of the four main characters (I’m going to stick my neck out and guess most male viewers will like Faye the best). The disc also features storyboard comparisons, character bios, art galleries, a couple of music vids (which are basically lifted straight from the film) and some trailers. DVD Extras Rating: 8/10

Alternatives:

Cowboy Bebop (TV series), Spirited Away, The Animatrix, Transformers: The Movie

Summary

A stylishly created piece of anime – the storyline’s a little cluttered, but it’s still decent entertainment.

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