Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (Kaubōi Bibappu: Tengoku no Tobira)

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (Kaubōi Bibappu: Tengoku no Tobira) 2001

Another powerhouse film from the dawn of Bones as a studio.

Back when I was reviewing the Escaflowne movie I was reading about Bones using certain scenes to showcase the animators and I wonder if that holds true with the Cowboy Bebop film?

The opening credits come to mind or the smash-up in the convenience store (“You take too long in the toilet!”) where things are very self-contained, serving as both a reintroduction to some of the cast, and as its own little mini story.

In any event, it all looks pretty ace and not just the fight scenes – but plenty of the scenery and montage moments too. The team themselves also look great with all that extra detail and narrower aspect ratio, which did take me a bit of time to adjust to, actually.

A note, this won’t be a detailed analysis, it’s just going to be me skipping through a few things I liked 😀

So, if you loved the series but for some reason have never seen the film, will you like it? Surely yes.

This time, the gang have to deal with a terrorist with the skills to actually bring about some serious destruction, choosing the chemical warfare path. Vincent is a pretty good villain, menacing and understandable if not someone I’d actually empathise with perhaps.

Of the new characters showcased in the film, Eletcra is easily my fav – fitting nicely into the ‘girls with guns’ mold, but great hand-to-hand skills are also on display with the that fantastic ‘Clutch’ fight against Spike.

The OST is another triumph of versatility from Yoko Kanno (even with the uncredited Sugababes cover), with What Planet is This?! and Time to Know being my favs, and of course, having Time to Know linked to Ed and Ein’s search is obviously perfect.

There are too many great scenes to highlight of course – and so beyond the two I’ve already mentioned above, I will also say the super-dramatic introduction to Vincent is great, especially with the depth of field tweaks.  

Speaking of Vincent, I’ve always wondered about his almost half-hearted attempted rape of Faye. Is it meant to illustrate his disconnect with reality or was it ‘just’ fan-service?

If it is supposed to show Vincent as dehumanised (which fits) I find it hard to believe he’d bother, he’s so apathetic – yet at the same time, desperately focused on a singular goal to the exclusion of everything else.

(Sometimes the film is described as a long episode of the show, and that feels right but not in a disparaging way, I hope. Cowboy Bebop’s episodic storytelling often had more content and stronger resolutions in 20-odd minutes that plenty of feature films).

But to return to the film now and also wrap things up – for me Cowboy Bebop The Movie lives up to the series, and exceeds it visually, and even though Jet is a little side-lined throughout, it’s still one of my fav anime films.

5 Stars

Wolf’s Rain (Urufuzu Rein)

Wolf’s Rain (Urufuzu Rein) 2004

With so much of the Cowboy Bebop team involved here I felt exactly zero seconds of doubt in terms of whether I’d enjoy Wolf’s Rain.

Of course, that shouldn’t be enough by itself – execution matters, right? But Wolf’s Rain definitely works and it’s a great series despite the inclusion of four recap episodes.

And while recaps can obviously be useful both from a production standpoint and for the viewers, I was thrilled to be able to skip them 😀 (Supposedly the recap episodes had to happen due to production delays re: the SARS scare or perhaps more likely(?), just a temporary budget problem and Bones didn’t want to ‘waste’ the slots they’d already lined up during broadcast).

Well, whatever the reason – you can safely skip the recap episodes and still enjoy a pretty ace show. It covers a lot of ground, dystopian science-fiction, fantasy, action and romance, and looks great, though viewers raised on modern anime might consider the animation dated – though to my eye, it’s pretty much as great as Bebop.

To sum up the story in an incredibly short (and not at all uanced) way, Wolf’s Rain follows a small pack of wolves (and the humans who help and hinder them) as they search for a legendary Paradise.

It’s a nice simple premise that allows the ‘quest’ element to shine through, as the wolves slowly come together and learn to trust and work with each other, hounded at times by human hunter Quent, or the menacing all-powerful Nobles, or even their own internal conflicts.

If you’re familiar with Keiko Nobumoto’s writing style then you can expect a certain amount of sacrifice and tragedy even, so get ready for the heart strings to be manipulated throughout – especially toward the end, though the epilogue should please some viewers at least. You can also probably expect a few surprises about your favourite characters or even the villains, some of which are foreshadowed really nicely too… but I don’t want to spoil any of them here!

Another aspect I really enjoyed was Yoko Kanno’s OST – which is overall really quite lush and orchestral, and one of the recurring themes I especially liked:

Opener Stray shows her ability to once again work with typically western pop sounds, with that 1980s-era Genesis feel to the song, and where the chameleon that is Steve Conte provides another great vocal (with more Tim Jensen lyrics, to reunite the classic Cowboy Bebop musical team).

I know some folks do consider this series ‘slow’ (and even at times dismissive of some its background plot-threads) but I didn’t have that problem myself, nor did I really focus much on the allegorical aspects re: Christianity, they didn’t add to the series nor distract me, as they’re pretty subtle – it’s not like Neon Genesis for example, where it’s very upfront.

With a series like Wolf’s Rain I think the main aspect I really appreciated, aside from the characters and mythology it built (and everything I’ve mentioned above of course) was the fact that Wolf’s Rain was an original idea. Now maybe that word is a misnomer here, but I mean, as opposed to being an adaptation, or being set in a school or having only teen leads, which is a nice change compared to a lot of anime.

5 Stars  

(If you’ve never seen this and you do give it a shot, you’ll probably recognise Mamoru Miyano’s vocie (who plays lead wolf Kiba) as ‘Light’ from Death Note or ‘Ling Yao’ in FMA: Brotherhood or maybe where I realised I’d heard him before, as ‘Rintarō Okabe’ in Steins;Gate.)

(I especially love this version of the artwork for the physical release)