Cowboy Bebop: The Movie follows the crew of bounty hunters aboard the Bebop as they chase after a biological terrorist who intends to wipe out the human population of Mars with an unknown pathogen. The film takes place between episodes 22 and 23 of the original anime series, and was released three years after the original series’ conclusion.
I have never seen the original Cowboy Bebop series, but I still very much enjoyed the film and felt like I was keeping up with the story, characters, and world. The film throws you right into the world without much exposition, but I prefer that a film won’t drag out an introduction. There were some moments where I was unsure if I was missing some context or if I was just a little confused about the storyline, but nothing was too big of an obstacle in my overall comprehension of the film. The film does not rely heavily on the lore of the original series, which allows new audiences to enjoy the film alongside long-time fans.
I was most impressed by the film’s soundtrack, art, and action. Yoko Kanno, the original series’ composer, returned to score the film and perform the soundtrack with her band. The soundtrack elevated the atmosphere of the film, whether it was upbeat rock instrumentals in action sequences or subtle, more moody music as the crew chases after the bounty.
As for the art, I thought the backgrounds were particularly worth noting – they were all incredibly detailed and drawn from interesting perspectives and angles. I liked the use of bold but less-saturated, almost matte colors. I also really enjoyed the character designs, specifically for Spike and Ed. I found Spike’s ridiculous height to be amusing, especially in the montages of him walking through crowds. I think his design is very clever, with his long and lanky stature contrasted with his suave and easy going demeanor. On the other hand, I loved Ed’s ridiculous way of moving around – the way she flails her limbs and entire body around while moving can be likened to a wet noodle. I loved how the animation showcased both that Ed is a child and a genius – for example, there is a scene where she is hacking into a database to retrieve crucial information for Spike as sea creatures swim across the screen and attack the windows that pop up.
The action sequences are perhaps the most impressive, not only because of the accompanying score but of the moves the characters use in their fighting styles. None of it is overly gorey, but there is just enough gore that you recognize how brutal the fights are. I’ve found that in recent action or superhero films, there is a lot of mindless fighting and shooting at faceless and nameless CGI antagonists, but the action in Cowboy Bebop feels more believable – you can better understand what it would be like for Spike to slam your face into a handrail than if he was shooting at you while flying through the sky on alien spacecraft.
Though Cowboy Bebop isn’t the genre I typically gravitate towards, I had a very enjoyable time watching it. I am interested in exploring the series, but for the time being I thought the film did an excellent job of introducing me to the world of the series.