“Feels Good to Be Back With Old Friends”
Cowboy Bebop changed my view of anime. This is Art!
My Asian husband, who introduced me to anime, also introduced me to the 1998 original Cowboy Bebop series. He’d watched it in high school and remembered how edgy and cool it was. I, too, got hooked on Cowboy Bebop. Apparently I have excellent taste.
The Cowboy Bebop series has had widespread critical and commercial success both in Japan and Internationally and is largely considered one of the best anime of all time. Both the original 1998 series and the 2001 movie, were directed by Shinichirō Watanabe. Watanabe is known for incorporating multiple genres into his anime stories. In Cowboy Bebop Watanabe blends classic cowboy western with 1960s/1970s New York City film noir, jazz/blues music, Hong Kong action movies, and sets the entire series in space.
The original series is set in 2071 and centered on the adventures of a gang of bounty hunters in space, the series delves into the unresolved issues of the protagonists’ past, exploring concepts such as existentialism, boredom, loneliness, and the influence of the past.
The characters are Spike Spiegel, a former associate of the Red Dragon crime syndicate; Jet Black, a former police officer and owner of the Bebop; Faye Valentine, a woman who was once a fugitive from bounty hunters and who was in a cryostate for 50 years; Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV (Ed for short), a 13-year old androgynous girl with genius computer skills (and genius-level eccentricity), and Ein, an artificially enhanced “data dog” with human-level intelligence, and Ed’s constant companion.
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie is set to occur between the 1998 series episodes 22 and 23.
The original director, voice actors, art direction and music composers were reunited for the movie and the feel, look, and sound are flawless. You notice only the story and the characters…not the differences.
The movie is set on Mars in 2071, 49 years after Earth was largely abandoned after some type of catastrophe. As in Sci Fi, humanity has settled on other planets and moons in the solar system and has carried on doing what humanity does…not learn from it’s past. Sigh…but I digress.
The Bebop’s crew is, as always, is lurching from one measly bounty payout to another, scratching by and making due. The movie repeats this theme opening with us witnessing Faye who witnesses an act of domestic terrorism which results in the Mars government setting an enormous bounty of 300 million woolongs for the capture of the terrorist.
FYI: Cowboy Bebop: The Movie debuted in the US on Sept 1, 2001…and was uncomfortably overshadowed by the real life parallels of Sept 11, 2001.
The plot is good and involves the complex themes that the director wasn’t able to explore in the single episodes of the series.
So…the movie opens with a man exploding a truck in Mars’ capital city, spreading what is assumed to be a new pathogen that kills or sickens hundreds of people. As a result, the Mars government sets a record bounty of 300 million woolong for the culprit’s capture..and this is the Bebop crew’s bread-and-butter. Because this is a feature-length film, the director was better able to flesh out the script and the Bebop’s crew each pursuing their own leads in their unique ways.
In the mix is bio-terrorism by a clandestine lab that doesn’t technically exist: Human experiments in the military: Former lovers separated by these experiments: In what looks like a Moroccan souk, a mysterious turbaned man, who was the former lead on its development, makes sure Spike receives a hidden sample of the pathogen: The pathogen proves to be a type of protein-based nanomachine that mimics human lymphocytes then breaks down into protein after death, making it undetectable. A plot to wipe out a whole city by distribution of this pathogen into the city’s water system: The saving of this city involving Jack-O-Lanterns distributing an antidote made from the blood of the female guard hired to kill Spike…and who inadvertently was exposed to the antidote while in a relationship with the villain…before he became villainous.
Of course this abbreviated plot description doesn’t do this film justice, but you get a sense of the cross purposes, lingering past pain, and honor in the face of futility that make this film noir anime so good; so amazing. As a fan of the Cowboy Bebop series, I’m most interested in this film’s continuity of feel, look, and character style from the original series. It does this with even better animation with the use of filming techniques translated into this medium.
And the music is the same from the same composer of the original series music! Yoko Kanno’s former Jazz/Blues band, The Seatbelts, reassembled to play the 2001 soundtrack for this film and they didn’t disappoint. This full length anime film remains darkly perfect.
Listen to Tank! Then you know a small bit about the talent and power of this tiny composer. The series ended with her composition, The Real Folk Blues. Yoko Kanno is the bomb!
FUNimation sold tickets to the August 15th and 16th, 2018 released of Cowboy Bebop: The Movie in the US (Knocking on Heaven’s Door in Japan). Here in San Francisco it showed at the famous Roxy Theater in the Mission District. The Roxy sold limited Edition Prints of the film’s release with the Roxy Theater’s name on it for $52. They sold out and should be available online at the Roxy’s store.
If you’re reading all the way down to here, I trust you’re intrigued by Cowboy Bebop, Crunchyroll streams the series.