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Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

Cowboy Bebob: The Movie is a rare thing, a motion picture spinoff from a TV series that both satisfies the fans and stands strongly on its own for new inductees.

This review is from the new inductee POV, figuring if you're already a fan you bought this on DVD back when it first came out. I'd seen the promos for "Cowboy Bepop" on Adult Swim and been intrigued, as I am a fan of both cowboys and bebop, but I'd only kind of half-assedly watched one episode. How truly enjoyable Cowboy Bebop: The Movie was without knowing anything about the series that led up to it was the big surprise.

It starts with a solid character establishing mission when heroes Spike Spiegel and Jet Black break up a run of the mill robbery. They aren't cops, they're bounty hunters, and aren't working to help people, just to pay the bills. Spike and Jet collect contracts traveling in a spaceship named bebop that is also inhabited by a girl named Ed, a competing bounty huntress named Faye Valentine and a really smart dog.

The meat of the adventure begins with Faye on the tail of a bounty who doesn't look like his picture and ends up blowing up a tanker truck that releases a biochemical cloud. Plot-wise things seem fairly generic: find out who the mystery man is and find the antidote, but this classic is draped with some nice new robes.

Part of the picture's strength lies in its depth. Not that it kept me up late at night pondering the moral ramifications of bounty hunting, but the characters all had depth and history. Yes, this is probably because the film takes place late in the chronology of the TV series, but it's also thanks to some really great storytelling instincts. Spike and Faye aren't just your standard "will-they-won't-they" competitors; there's a real history there that isn't explored but that colors their relationship nicely.

Cowboy Bebop turns a few clichés on their ears as well. Characters like Ed the super insane computer expert are fairly standard for the genre, but something about this character actually makes her interesting and successful as the comic relief she's intended to be, instead of just another cloying wacky computer nerd. My favorite cliché dissolution is when Faye is asked to draw the mystery man, she does so with a lack of sketching skills rivaled only by yours truly. Never before have I seen a character mocked for their useless stab at sketch artistry.

On the other hand, the art style of the film is great. All the players in the story are boldly and stylistically drawn, while the rest of the world is drawn in a gritty realistic style reminiscent of Ralph Bakshi. Spike is impossibly tall and thin like a Frank Sinatra caricature from an old Warner's cartoon, while Ed slides around the floor of the ship like an eel with poison oak.

The action bogs down for a little while in the middle of the picture but overall Cowboy Bebop: The Movie is a winner. The only thing that surprises me about this picture is that they chose to release it here in April. The plot line pivots around a Halloween celebration, and considering Halloween-based pictures not involving The Shape are rare, you'd think that would be the time for this one.

The best news about this whole picture is that in the future of spaceships and nanomachines, there will still be drive-in movie theaters that show westerns on film. There really could be no more utopian view of the future as far as I'm concerned. Even if you aren't an anime fan you might want to give this one a test ride.

What's It Worth?: $7

Jordan Rosa

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