If you enjoyed the style and substance of Cowboy Bebop the series then there should be nothing to actively dislike here. A rarity among sequels, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie manages to replicate the mood and tone of its predecessor, meandering through its milieu in a way that truly engages the imagination, whilst providing just enough stunning climaxes to keep even action junkies on a pleasant high.
However, don't expect it to match up to the series as an overall product. I enjoyed Cowboy Bebop because it told a series of short simplistic stories with unparalleled style and attitude whilst paying careful attention to the characters along the way. The movie makes a valiant attempt to utilise that same episodic template but, due to the extended running time and lack of character development, ends up losing steam towards the end. For a feature length movie the plot is just too generic; whilst the specific details are obviously a surprise, the general direction and flow of events is predictable. Cutting the movie down to an hour-long OVA would have been one easy way to avoid that problem.
Still, getting engrossed is easy enough because the direction - Watanabe's hands on the tiller, so to speak - is first-class. Moreover, nothing compares to that nostalgic feeling of settling back into a classic; the movie is a welcome opportunity to watch some excellent characters, particularly Spike and Faye, doing what they do best.
In short, Bebop: The Movie is coherent and generally enjoyable, but lacks originality due to its ‘sequel' nature. I should also add that until writing this review I had not rewatched the movie at all because, when in need of that Bebop experience, I just revisited my favourite episodes of the series instead.
I don't actually know where to start when describing what this movie looks like and, more importantly, how it makes me feel. Sure, Bebop: The Movie is already being left behind by newer productions but it can still hold its own against a host of others despite its age. As far as concepts go, Bebop: The Movie performs with effortless grace, the biggest highlight being the montage of Spike strolling through the city in search of information. Everything combines seamlessly to provide a multifaceted experience, from the use of light, to the design of buildings and roads, and even the nuances in posture regarding some characters. If you're into anime that capture the soul of realism through detail, then this one is for you.
Furthermore, what this movie does best, beyond doubt, is to provide stunning action sequences; every move is intricately animated, whether running or kicking or stumbling around. As with the combat in Seirei no Moribito, you'll find no silly power-ups or beams of light, just fantastic and realistic martial arts.
Just when I thought it could not get any better, Yoko Kanno improved upon perfection once again. A couple of the tunes are recognisable from the series but the vast majority are new, and they set the combination of cool and haunting moods flawlessly. Also, with such a generous array of blues, pop, jazz, country, and choral pieces, the movie is continuously refreshing to listen to; in fact, I believe only one of the songs ends up being used more than once.
In terms of voice acting, one of the best things about Bebop: The Movie is that whether in English or Japanese the voice actors are both believable and suitable. These are by no means the best vocal performances in the anime universe but they are fully enjoyable.
Supposedly, the movie takes place between the twenty-first episode and the final two episodes of the series, which means that the main characters are fully developed and the dynamics of their relationships are already established.
Spike and the rest of the Bebop gang remain exactly the same as we remember them, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Each character has a strong personality, a fascinating attitude, and a distinct flare; so, as one of the strongest features of the movie, their impact is only diminished by the ordinary plot within which they act. All in all, they are highly engaging to watch even if nothing surprising is revealed about them. That leaves only the newer cast members:
Considering Electra Ovilo has a spot next to Spike and Faye on the DVD cover, her role is somewhat disappointing. She has some great moves and an interesting uncompromising attitude but that's about it. In light of how flat she turns out to be, I feel she exists mainly to provide a fresh face. She matters to the story in a limited sense and more as a passive participant than an active force to push the plot forward.
Unfortunately, Vincent Volaju, the antagonist, is also far from awe-inspiring, mainly because I find it difficult to understand what drives him. If he wants revenge, then it seems lathered in an excess of self-conscious philosophy; if it is something more complicated then his clichéd approach undermines any credibility. While I appreciate that he is meant to be one of those ‘interpret your own motivation' types, this also makes it impossible to sympathise with him and leaves me feeling rather dissatisfied. Despite that, he still adds an interesting soullessness to the movie's atmosphere, meaning he slots in nicely with Bebop's style even if he is not a great character in his own right.
For me, Cowboy Bebop has always been about the peculiar mood it generates and the way it presents a story in such a way that it can also be interpreted through an intuitive lens. Bebop: The Movie translates this unique richness in style very well and in many ways it just delivers more of the same. And that is also its problem, the fact that it brings nothing new. Still, considering this is Bebop, it is an easy sequel to enjoy.
While on the hunt for an underage hacker, Faye is the sole witness to identifying a man who causes a tanker explosion that leaves people up to three miles away in comas. The bounty that ensues is the largest the galaxy has EVER seen, 300,000,000 wulongs. It's up to Spike and the gang to solve the mystery of this strange disease, and to stop the assailant at large, for failure would result in all life on Mars being eliminated on Halloween night.
I'll review anything as long as there are words in the dictionary to describe it. Disagree with me? Want to leave feedback? Please do, but take a look at my personal rating scale first.