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Cowboy Bebop: The Movie
Reviewed by Jason Myers, © 2003

Format: Movie
By:   Shinichiro Watanabe (director)
Genre:   Action/Sci-Fi/Anime
Released:   April 4, 2003
Review Date:   April 02, 2003
Audience Rating:   R
RevSF Rating:   6/10 (What Is This?)

I've watched a lot of anime in my time. Some of it brilliant (Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Spirited Away) or beautiful (Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust.) or hilarious (Ranma 1/2). But much of it was simply . . . forgettable. I mean this literally, in the sense that I can still remember titles like Cyber City Oedo, Genocyber, and Dirty Pair, but couldn't summon more than a hazy mental image or two to go with those titles. The only thing I remember about Project A-Ko is that the little girl had a hyper-annoying scream. And it's not that I watched these movies while bunking at Big Joe's Anime Emporium and Opium Den. It's just that they failed to make an impression on me. In the world of flowing cloaks and schoolgirl skirts and large weapons and white panties and space adventure and explosions and robots and ruthless villains, there was nothing of note to anchor those movies in my brain. Once I got over the initial excitement of discovering a new artform, I came to realize that Japanese animation is like American television and movies in at least one respect: much of it is the same old stuff repeated over and over again.

To me, this is Cowboy Bebop: The Movie.

I know that this may get me a right good torching from fans of the Cowboy Bebop series. But at the same time, I know that a ho-hum review from me won't influence the fans' decision to see the movie. Nor should it. There's obviously something about Cowboy Bebop that people are responding to. Maybe it's the affable unhunky swagger of the main character, Spike ("Just a humble bounty hunter, ma'am."). Maybe it's the cruel/cool ideas (the one thing I remember from the first eps that aired on the Cartoon Network was a smuggler masquerading as a pregnant woman). Maybe it's the off-the-wall goofiness, like the bounty hunters' televised newscast/gameshow, where the hosts of the show ride hobby horses while giving updates about who's on the wanted poster today and how much the reward is. Maybe it's the time spent thinking about where the strappy things on Faye's outfit lead to.

I enjoyed all those aspects of Cowboy Bebop: The Movie. I even enjoyed watching Cowboy Bebop: The Movie. But I didn't enjoy it enough to contact my old anime-watching friends and tell them to check it out.

"Cowboy", by the way, is slang for bounty hunter. The "bebop" part of Cowboy Bebop, I assume, refers to the music, which is ever-present both in the series and the movie. The music is one of the things that stylistically sets Cowboy Bebop apart from other anime. But this "bebop" is very hit-and-miss. Sometimes it provides good atmosphere. But it's just as often cheesy, or off-putting, or ill-matched to the on-screen action.

As far as characters, I like Spike, but Faye and Jet are almost non-presences. Both Ed (Ed is a girl, I think) and the dog look so out of place that it's as if they joined the cast of Cowboy: Bebop after being fired from some other animated show.

Aside from these things, what does Cowboy Bebop have to offer? A villain in rippling clothing. A plot to destroy the world. A military/government experiment and cover-up. Shiny technology, gun fire and √ęsplosions. More-than-decent animation, with well-framed action sequences. Shattered glass and ruby-red bullet wounds. And at the center, a down-on-his-luck hero with devil-may-care charm.

Fun, but too familiar to leave a lasting impression.
Just like the folks on Cowboy Bebop, RevSF Film/DVD Editor Jason Myers has an arsenal of ships, technology and weapons, but yet is unable to buy anything more expensive than Cup'O'Noodle for dinner.

 
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