Welcome to The AniMAYtion Challenge, where Ashe and Branden review one animated film every weekend throughout the month of May. Each film was chosen in draft style, with Ashe recieving the first pick of round one. Today, Ashe Collins selects Cowboy Bebop: The Movie from 2001.

Cowboy BebopTitle: Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001)
Director: Shinichiro Watanabe
Runtime: 117 minutes

Created in the wake of the ongoing popularity of the television series of the same name, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, or as it’s originally titled, Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, for the most part captures the lightning in a bottle that the main series had, and nestles its story right between episodes twenty-two and twenty-three of the main series. Many of the original series production crew was brought back for the film and the voice cast for both the Japanese and English dub over are also completely intact. While the film is still excellent, it has a few pacing issues and feels a bit overlong at points that keep it from being really exceptional, but the elements are there.

The series itself was about two bounty hunters in the future onboard the Bebop, which was a converted space-fishing vessel. Both of them had troubled pasts, but Spike and Jet managed to get along despite being from completely different backgrounds. Enter Faye, one of their bounties gone wrong, who ends up as part of the crew, the little girl named Ed, who’s extremely goofy but insanely good with a computer, and their genetically enhanced dog Ein, who also happens to be brilliant. These, of course, are three things Spike never wanted on board: a woman, a child, and a dog. Yet they grow on him and Jet, and become a sort of family as they move form job to job, never earning much, but managing to survive while running from their own past.

The movie drops them on Mars, a heavily terraformed and domed Mars, where they’re looking to make some money off bounties. On a failed trip home from the track, Faye ends up stumbling across something greater as she tracks a bounty that leads her to an exploding tanker that unleashes something that’s unidentified and is fatal for blocks around the explosion. The crew is only half interested in the explosion until they find out whoever is responsible now has a sizable bounty on their head and they begin digging into the explosion and what’s going on using their contacts and every bit of street level detective work they can find.

The hit ends up being bigger than any of them realized and things go from bad to worse as the military, corporations involved in cover ups, the Mars police, and the Bebop crews own infighting starts to take its toll.

While the shows always seemed to move while things were going on, the film slows things down a bit, and where this might have taken two episodes to cover normally, we end up with it hanging on for almost four episodes worth. I don’t mind it normally, but where Bebop had this great pacing in the show to keep even the most politically charged episodes or detective work episodes moving, the film tends to crawl a bit. It’s bad that during an action sequence involving Spike piloting his spacecraft recklessly that I find myself asking if we really need it at this point in the film at all, even though it’s a fantastic sequence.

They do manage to include several mainstays from the TV show, including the bounty show they always watch and the three old guys that seemed to crop up to antagonize Spike.

The English voice cast is back for this, and, yes, I watched it in English because my first experience with Bebop was on Cartoon Network, so English is what I am used to. Besides which, the English voice cast is perfect for their characters. My one big complaint with the audio jumping from the TV series to the film is that the opening sequence from the TV show with the song titled “Tank!” is nowhere to be found.

The design of Cowboy Bebop: The Movie is pretty close to the show, but they made some improvements, mainly to the background people and some of the overall action. The show was amazing for its time, and honestly, it kicks the crap out of a lot of the newer anime that’s airing, so they didn’t have to do much at all. It is a little jarring to see the blend of art styles, but it still works. The action sequences are beautifully animated and I can’t criticize how well the film looks overall.

One of the other things I love about the film is that they brought composer Yoko Kanno back to write the songs and score for the film. While “Tank!” may not make an appearance in the film, the music has the Cowboy Bebop stamp all over it and fits every scene it’s in, as well as making for an awesome soundtrack. Yes, I own it.

Is Cowboy Bebop a perfect leap from the TV series to the big screen? No. But it’s a damned fine attempt at taking what worked on the show and applying it to the motion picture format. My only beef with this is that we haven’t gotten more Cowboy Bebop, but between the film and the series, I’m not sure there’s much more for them to say. This is a great sci-fi action romp with some brains behind it, and a great cast of characters, but if you haven’t seen the show, you may want to watch that first.