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Cowboy Bebop: The Movie(2001)
2071 A.D. Planet Mars. On the eve Halloween, a tanker explodes killing and injuring more than 500 people on a freeway in the crater of Alba City. The damage extends beyond one kilometer from the center of explosion. The use of biological or chemical weapon is heavily suspected. The reward is W300,000,000.00 (Mars currency) to find out the perpetrator. Short of funds as usual, the crew of the Bebop is lured into the investigation by the staggering amount of money they could possibly receive for being able to accurately point the blame. They start a search on their own, and so begins the adventures of the young slacker, Spike Spiegel, and his cohort, the ex-cop, Jet Black, leading their gang of bounty hunters on the trail of an elusive nemesis.
For more about Cowboy Bebop: The Movie and the Cowboy Bebop: The Movie Blu-ray release, see Cowboy Bebop: The Movie Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on June 28, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Beau Billingslea, Wendee Lee, Jennifer Hale, Nicholas Guest, Daran Norris, Steve Blum
Directors: Shinichiro Watanabe, Yoshiyuki Takei
» See full cast & crew
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie Blu-ray Review
Some substance, lots of style.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, June 28, 2011
Anime can be daunting for the uninitiated, and if specialized terms like mecha, maho shonen, and moe throw you offŚand those are just in the M'sŚit can be tough to know where to start. Let me suggest Cowboy Bebop, a 1998 series that might as well be a primer in Japanese animation. It's easy to get into, it's relatively short on WTF-inducing culture shock momentsŚthat is, it translates well for western audiencesŚand it's straight up cool. Specifically, cool like beat poets, early rock 'n' roll, and 1950s jazz, hence the Bebop of the title. As for the Cowboy part, that has to do with the show's emphasis on a group of lonely interplanetary bounty hunters, who, in the show's universe, are referred to as "cowboys." Quite a mash-up right? That's the series in a nutshellŚa conglomeration of unexpected elements. It's graphically violent but often philosophical. It breaks up its ample action scenes with moments of existential ennui. Like Blade Runner, it's both sci-fi and neo-noir. Although it would be best to watch the 26-episode series before viewing the movieŚwhich came out in 2001Śprior Cowboy Bebop experience isn't really necessary here. Newcomers might miss some of the references, and the characters won't seem as developed as they should be, but otherwise, the film stands quite capably on its own.
Set in 2071, Earth has been rendered largely uninhabitable by mankind's first attempt at creating a hyperspace portal, and most humans have left the planet to colonize and populate the rest of the solar system. A newly terraformed Mars is now the center of civilization, and it's been made to look as much like Earth as possible, down to famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower. Criminal syndicates and mega-corporations hold sway over the government and the Inter-Solar System Police, and this has led to the rise of vigilante crime fighting in the form of space "cowboys," bounty hunters who are more interested in money than justice.
Aboard the spaceship Bebop live four of these latter-day gunslingers. Spike Spiegel (Koichi Yamadera) is the gang's sarcastic leader, an old soul who's one part Dirty Harry and one part 1940's private eye. He's a lanky figure in a sharp suit, and he's frequently got a cigarette dangling from his lips. Naturally, he's haunted by the memory of a lost love, although this particular plot line doesn't really show up in the film. Jet Black (Unsho Ishizuka), Spike's best friend, is a burly former ISSP officer who tends to be the moral center of the group, and Faye Valentine (Megumi Hayashibara) is the requisite busty female, a bounty hunter who often has her own agenda separate from the other members of the Bebop crew. For comic relief, we have the oddly named Edward (Aoi Tada)Śa young girlŚa skilled hacker who pals around with a so-called "data-dog," a Welsh Corgi named Ein. They're drifters who have found one another, and together they form a kind of lonely, semi-dysfunctional family.
When the film starts, Spike and his crew have been catching nothing but convenience store thieves and other small time crooks, but their luck changes when a huge bounty is posted for a mysterious man in black who detonated a tanker truck in the capital of Mars, killing 73 and releasing a deadly virus into the air. Faye spots the criminal in action and, from a Special Forces tattoo on his arm, I.D.'s him as Vincent Volaju (Tsutomu Isobe), a soldier who supposedly died during the second Titan war. Working off of limited intel, Spike, Faye, and Jet set off looking for Vincent in opposite directions, hoping to stop him before he sets off another device. Without giving away too much, the somewhat convoluted plot involves human guinea pigs, a pharmaceutical conglomerate that wants to cover up its illegal nano-bot testing, and marble-shaped vials of a mechanical virus that could wipe out the population of Mars if released in large enough quantities.
Volaju's motives are initially vagueŚat first, he seems like your standard maniacal end-of-the-world-facilitating villainŚbut as his past is revealed and his reasons become clear, we almost sympathize with the character, even as he plots the destruction of all mankind. There's an ethical ambiguity at work here that shows series director Shinichiro Watanabe's admitted indebtedness to Sam Peckinpah's westerns; the good guys aren't all good and the bad guys aren't necessarily all bad. A particularly elegant touchŚif a bit confusing, upon first viewingŚis the use of the Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu's famous "butterfly dream" to explain Volaju's behavior. You might have to Google that one.
WatanabeŚwho later directed Samurai Champloo and two sections of The AnimatrixŚoversees the show's transition from TV to the big screen with ease. Although there are episodes of the series that are more inherently interesting than the film, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie has an appropriate cinematic scopeŚit's bigger, more explosively violent, and as you'd expect, features better production values. The animation here is excellent, especially in the two key fights between Spike and Vincent, one in an elevated monorail train car, and the other atop a tower in Mars' capital while a Halloween parade proceeds in the streets below. If there's one downside to The MovieŚwhich went by the subtitle Knockin' on Heaven's Door in JapanŚit's that the plot is both more and less than it seems. This is a story that would've been wrapped up in half an hour if it were a regular episode, and the feature film expansion results in a bit of runtime padding, including a few red herrings, some plot machinations that don't serve much of a purpose, and a dogfight sequence that goes on for a little too long. The pace rarely flags, though, and the film bebops along to its own beat, exuding effortless, finger-snapping cool.
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie Blu-ray, Video Quality
Hand animated with a few effective CGI touches, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie has a distinctly analog look that's quite different from the glossy digitally drawn series that are predominately being produced now. Instead of a flat, untextured plain, you can see natural film grain in the 1080p/AVC- encoded image, and there's been no attempt to smooth it out with DNR. This gives the picture some warmth, but it also means that it isn't as sharp or slick as most all-digital productions. That said, if you've seen the film on DVD before, the upgrade to high definition will be immediately apparent here. Outlines are bold and free from aliasing, and everything is now tighter, crisper, and more colorful. There are a few hazy looking scenes with dull blacksŚ sometimes intentionally soŚbut most of the movie is wonderfully vibrant, with rich background paintings and clean cel shadings that never fluctuate in color or brightness. Some slight compression noise occasionally joins the modest film grain, but I didn't spot any harsh banding, macroblocking, or any other potential distractions. I'm more than happy with this transfer.
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie was released on Blu-ray in Japan with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track, so I'm not sure why Image Entertainment's Region 1 edition only has stereo audio options. There are two tracks on the disc, the original Japanese and a serviceable English dubŚ using the same voice actors who dubbed the TV seriesŚboth presented in Linear PCM 2.0. Considering all the gunplay, fisticuffs, and dogfights in the film, the omission of a multi-channel audio offering is a real bummer. There's plenty of wasted opportunity here for immersive rear channel engagement, and the lack of a 5.1 track makes the film seem less like a movie and more like a standard episode of the series. That said, there's nothing particularly wrong with the front-and-center Japanese mix. Although there's no LFE output, the track has deep enough bass to handle the film's various explosions, and while the dynamic range isn't particularly broad, the music and effects are potent and clean. Gunshots are definitely powerful, and there are a few that are panned out of the front speakers from left to right so deftly that you might think the rear channels were actually activated for a split second. Dialogue is clear too, with no crackling, muffling, or other distortions. Most fans will want to stick with the Japanese track, but the English dub isn't bad if, for whatever reason, you don't feel like reading the optional English or Spanish subtitles.
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Unfortunately, there are no special features on the disc whatsoever.
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Cowboy Bebop is one of the better known anime series in the U.S. and for good reasonŚit's smart, action-packed, and incredibly stylish. It's also fairly straightforward, which makes it appropriate as a kind of 101: Intro to Anime-style class for newcomers to Japanese animation. The film works as a stand-alone story, for the most part, so if you haven't seen the series yet, don't let that dissuade you. You can always get caught up later. Although Image Entertainment's disc lacks a multi-channel audio presentationŚit's stuck in stereo, whereas the Japanese release had a lossless 5.1 trackŚthe video transfer is great, which reason enough to upgrade if you already own the DVD. Recommended.
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Cowboy Bebop: The Movie Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Four Catalog Blu-ray Titles from Image in June - March 9, 2011
In June, Image Entertainment will release on Blu-ray four more movies licensed from the Sony Pictures Home Entertainment catalog: Apt Pupil (street date June 6); Johnny Mnemonic (June 14); The Medallion (June 21); and Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (June 28).
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