Anime review: Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

Effectively a side story to the main series, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie sees Spike, Jet, Faye, Ed, and Ein reunited for one more adventure on Mars. A man by the name of Vincent Volaju has been spotted on Mars and is seemingly responsible for a series of explosions within the capital city. As the crew of the Bebop works to connect the dots between Vincent’s true identity and the grander scheme he has in mind for Mars’ populous, they discover that the situation at hand may be more dangerous than any of them had anticipated.

For a 2001 release, the film looks quite visually impressive. It is from an era when digital animation was starting to be phased in and traditional hand-drawn series being phased out, but the film looks very clean. The environments are in keeping with the gritty backwater setting that frequented the series, though both crowded narrow market streets and neon-lit arcades are brightly colored and highly detailed. The film utilizes some fun and unexpected camera angles at times – these are not overly frequent, but come into play enough to bump fights or chase scenes another step up from the excitement the series offered. Spike’s lanky form dodging throws and reloading clips is as fluid and well-animated as ever, and the same goes for Faye taking tight turns inside her ship the Red Tail, and Ed and Ein having fun in exploring nearby neighborhoods. While the soundtrack is just as enjoyable to listen to as ever, it opts for some grunge and alternative rock tunes over the series’ signature jazz tracks.

There are a number of familiar faces that return, including the trio of elderly men and the Native American named Tribal Bull, though all see little more than brief cameos. The story hones in primarily on Spike, Jet, Faye, Ed, and antagonist Vincent, as well as Elektra, a rough-and-tough war veteran who is investigating Vincent’s string of attacks separately. Spike’s less-than-serious demeanor plays off her no-nonsense routine in a fun way, and the two develop a sort of unusual rivalry as they both seek the same individual – one of them playing by the rules, and the other paying them little heed.

When it boils down to it, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie is a love letter to fans of the series. It may carry a slightly more serious tone than purely-for-laughs episodes like “Mushroom Samba”, but it doesn’t tread too near the notably darker territory of the original series’ finale episodes. One last adventure for the crew of the Bebop may not have been entirely necessary, and the film doesn't actually offer extra insight to the larger story or any further development of the main cast. Nonetheless, it’s an enjoyable ride.

My rating: 8 (out of 10)

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