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.
AP FRIEND REVIEW 1 (MagneticLotus)
After replying to a review of Gungrave that literally made me LOL, by a user named MagneticLotus, He left some comments on my profile, and kindly followed me. After returning the favor and checking out his Anime List I decided to watch one that he really liked, but I hadn't seen before. After watching it, I sat down to write a review for it, and came up with the idea, to watch and review a high rated Anime from any new friends I may meet on this site, and give it a fancy name. I kinda failed on the fancy name part, but here's my review for one of his highest ranked anime's that i didn't know existed but was stoked to find out it did, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, which he rated 5/5 Stars.
STORY: Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (or Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' on heavens door) seems to take place sometime in the middle, to just before the end of the original series, as the entire group is still together. The writers do an excellent job of picking up where they left off in the series. Unlike the series the writers actually tell the story at a very efficient pace and are able to wrap it up properly.
As per usual, the crew on board the Bebop is down on their luck, chasing minor bounties in an effort to barely get by (more or less, Jet's own words). Eventually they decide to go for the big one, or at least, a big one, 300 million woolong. The Bounty is for the purpotrator of a terrorist attack (which makes me wonder if this is meant to harken back to the original series' cancellation) who seemingly crashed a transport truck loaded with an airborn virus. Initially, it is thought that the Beboppers are the only one with a lead, because Faye (who happened to be trailing the truck for an unrelated reason) was the only witness who saw the person responcible. Eventually however we discover that the culprit is indeed being tracked down by someone else, connected to his own past involving his time spent in the Martian Millitary.
ANIMATION: Having been released 3 years later then the series, the animation is obviously improved, which is somewhat dissapointing to me, as I do prefer the look of the old school animation in the original series, but not enough to make a big deal about it. The movie is loaded with all the awesome fight scenes, interesting shading/lighting effects, and camera angles that you remember from the series.
SOUND: I was a little dissapointed at first when I didn't hear the opening from the original series, but by the time the intro was finished, it subsided. Not once did CB: The movie fail to live up to the musical standards set in their original series, so much so that I had to look up a couple of the songs so I could add them to my collection.
CHARACTERS: The whole main crew is back and just as bad ass (and nutty in the case of Ed) as you remember from the series. Also returning (and actually sharing in a bit of the spotlight) are the grumpy old men who i was always a fan of. There is of course some new characters, one of which being a new bad ass good "guy". I think the best part of this story is the new antagonist though. He draws a wide range of emotion from you, all the while, being just evil enough to never forget that you don't like him.
First of all, the story raised some questions and I couldn't follow it. Something about people getting sick from nanomachines? The story didn't seem to do the TV series justice. It takes place around Halloween and the characters are off to try and defeat Vincent and there's a tower that looks like an Eiffel Tower. The Halloween plot just seems to be unnecessarily added in there just to make Vincent look freaky than he already is.
It was nice to see the characters especially Spike again, but I always felt that this movie was was disappointing compared to the series. I felt that something was wrong with the characters like Spike. He just seemed quite persuasive. Vincent is a terrible villain. He's just a Spike copycat for Spike to try and relate to and also defeat.
I didn't really think much of Faye and Jet, but Faye in here was annoying with her talkativeness about going out on the race track or something.
Electra minus her know-it-all personality seemed like she could be a good character but the end ruined it for her. If Vincent was the guy who wanted to terrorize other people, why was she still in love with him? She's beautiful but this whole love story at the end was contrived.
The Cowboy Bebop animation looks more exciting and surreal than the series. There is some fast camera movements. Though, Spike's clothes look darker than in the TV series. But the problem is that one minor character kept moving his arms around when he was frightened and he was talking to Vincent before he shot him.
Voice acting and music:
The English dub was probably the best part of the movie. I liked how well Steven's voice captures Spike's interest for Electra, and like the series, the other voice actors did well capturing the characters' personalities. Though, I don't know about Vincent, I think he still needs to shut up. The music captured the emotions well. Though, the music isn't jazzy, disappointingly, but oh well, it sounds more country-like and the music sounds catchy. I don't like country music but the country music here sounds pretty catchy.
It's pretty good for a Cowboy Bebop movie. It has pretty high re- watch value because I loved some of the characters but I still thought the series was more interesting.
The Movie manages to replicate the mood and tone of its predecessor which is totally great! I really enjoyed the music in this music as well. Watch this after you seen the series it is great and enjoyable to watch over and over again.
Story - 8.5/10
Knocking on Heaven's Door is cast perfectly in the vein of the Cowboy Bebop series, mixing equal parts intrigue, adventure, and slick, fast-paced action with a few moments spared for slapstick comedy and character development. As usual we find the crew in pursuit of a bounty, but complications arise. What results is a struggle on a scale none of them bargained for.
The plotting is mostly very effective, though there's a few moments I caught foreknowledge apparently beamed to a character's mind by some higher power because there was no way for them to acquire it otherwise (in particular one chase scene around midway through the running time seemed rather prescience-laden).
I will also mention that the tone of the story is actually quite a bit darker than even the closing episodes of the series, and the body count among innocents is noticeably more than we'd have had in a six episode stretch of the show. It's intended to make a memorable impact in a smaller, more cohesive format and I would say that it works.
Animation - 9.5/10
All the awesome character designs from the series are present, though I don't think any of them got updated at all. Which is fine for fans of the show, really, but I think perhaps an opportunity was missed. The linework could have stood to be cleaner, but I'm not complaining when the frames are so fluid and the storyboarding and choreography are just about perfect. The action probably tops the most memorable moments from the series. It really is that good.
Sound - 9.5/10
All of the main cast VA's are back and they're as good as ever. The only downside is that since the film follows the episodic format and can't contribute directly to the plot of the main series, we don't get to experience much in the way of emotional highlights or lowlights from them. Sound effects are punchy and perfect.
The music is as good as anything Kanno has ever done, which is to say very good indeed. Standout track for me was 'Pushing the Sky', partly because it's just such a hectic rocker and partly because it's fitted so perfectly with the choreography of the fight it's set to.
Characters - 9/10
As previously mentioned, we unfortunately don't get to see much in the way of development for the main cast because of the restrictions of the format. We do see them being themselves, however; Ed in particular carries her role very effectively. Jet barely makes an appearance at all, on the other hand, mostly just facepalming his way through the script. Spike is Spike, dark and quirky as ever, but I feel like the role doesn't serve as much purpose when it's not the main focus of the story. That spotlight has been mostly transferred to the two characters whose story we're following, and they both carry it splendidly.
Overall - 9/10
For anyone who's looking for an extra helping of what made Cowboy Bebop such a success, look no further. I was struck with a fair bit of notalgia throughout my viewing and had a doofy grin on my face by the end of it. If you're not as familiar with the series, I'd recommend perhaps watching an episode or two first to get to know the characters at the least. The story stands well enough on its own, but I feel like it doesn't make a lot of sense as an entry point into the universe.