Released by: Columbia Tri-star.
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 (anamorphic)
As one of the features on the disc says, what's not to like about this movie? R4 is graced with the, now seemingly inevitable, movie tie in to the anime series which in Bebop's case always was going to be an interesting given the dramatic turn of events towards the end of the series. Originally named "Cowboy Bebop - Knocking on Heaven's Door" the name had to be changed for Western release due to a certain artist being a little reluctant to co-share the phrase.
Thus we get the more staid title of 'Cowboy Bebop - The Movie'. We also get a much higher animation budget and many of the same hands return on both the production and localisation teams giving this film a heavy degree of continuity to the series. Fitting in around episode 21 to 22 of the series this really does feel like an extended episode of the series.
It is both a blessing and a curse. Good because for fans of the series this really is more of the same, just spread over a better canvas and for a little longer. Bad because this isn't quite as epic as perhaps you might expect for a movie. It further shoehorns itself by being set inside the series so that you know exactly how the movie has to conclude in general terms - making the ending a somewhat foregone conclusion for fans. Newcomers to the series probably won't suffer from this issue and should find the tension a little stronger.
So what is the film about? Well as usual it is about a bounty the crew of the Bebop are hunting. As often happens this turns out to be not quite as straightforward as they thought as the target may well have some illegally researched military grade nano-weapons in his possession that could destroy an entire city if not more. Naturally once the authorities realise this the bounty becomes considerably more and this engages the interest of the Bebop crew even more. It all leads to a climactic showdown between Spike & friends and the bounty with matters hanging in the balance.
With the expanded budget the director wastes little time in showing us more of the Bebop universe with wide vistas prominent along with a city that does have a very New York feel to it serving as the main backdrop. It is all nicely detailed stuff with more effort also being put into fluid motion so that the fights have a definite snap and zing to them. Care has been put into the audio with a strong 5.1 mix that is pretty directional in effects use and ambient noisework. Yoko Kanno returns to give us more of the Jazz infused score the series was so well served by but this time the overall tint is more towards seventies urban film music.
It is a nice work and well presented on the single disc release. We also get behinds the scenes features that combine four character studies as well as two on the film. A trick was missed to not let all of these play in sequence or perhaps use seamless branching to re-order them a little into one long feature. It is a little annoying having segments that are mostly five minutes in length stop and starting so that you keep having to kick the next one off. It is only a minor grumble as the actual features themselves are quite interesting with both Japanese and English vocal casts members musing on their characters. Nicely we get all the same voice actors for both sub and dub tracks returning to do this film so vocal continuity is preserved.
We also get two music videos, one that doubles as a credit free version of the films opening title sequence. Finally for those new to the series a set of two page character bios is included for the main characters to bring you up to speed.
Because of it's good natured humour, high quality dub and high quality audio work in general and reasonably straightforward storyline this is an excellent film to show to people new to anime. But then that was true for the series too so hardly surprising that the more self contained film would be too. For fans of the series this is a must buy, it really is a 'missing' episode of the series. Most everyone else should enjoy it too, strongly recommended.