One of the difficult things about reviewing anime as a movie critic is so many of the films require investment into their accompanying series. Some like My Hero Academia Movie try to get you up to date on what is happening and others just throw you into the fire and hope you can figure it all out. Now, in my recent Downton Abbey review I said I didn’t think it was the job of the movie to please non-fans of the show. I’m fine with a film having a narrow audience; however, it does put me in a bit of a tough situation when I an admitted bystander doesn’t like the end product. Do I toss it up to not being in the intended audience or do I review it for the problems it has? It’s a tough dilemma but in the end I can’t imagine what the intended audience will think. I can only know what I think and share my experience in my review.
This rather long-winded lead-in, is my way of saying: I did not like Cowboy Bebop: The Movie. It clearly has lots of fans, and I respect that, but it didn’t work for me in some fundamental ways. Let me explain:
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie tells the story of a group of bounty hunters that live on the planet Mars in 2071. They are hunting down a mysterious man in black named Vincent who is intent on destroying all of humanity (supervillains are so ambitious these days). The main characters are leader Spike Spiegel, femme fatale Faye Valentine, punk kid Ed, brooding Jet Black and super intelligent dog Ein. These are an eclectic group of characters (much like Guardians of the Galaxy), but I never felt like I got to know any of them very well. Plus, we spent a lot of time on stuff I didn’t care about like what type of microwave noodles they each liked.
I never got the sense they were developing a case to follow Vincent but instead they kept accidentally running into him which made the momentum drag. There is some cool animation and some violent action scenes but rarely was the futuristic setting used to its advantage. Most of the events could have been done in any modern situation on any planet. This made the world-building and scifi elements feel generic to nonexistent.
Vincent is a cool character and his scenes are engaging, as his motivations are complex and troubling. I also really enjoyed how he was animated with the feel of an outlaw in an old-fashioned western. There are scenes some Johnny Cash tunes would have fit right in, which was a fun aesthetic.
Unfortunately a good villain can’t save a film. I found myself getting sleepy while watching Cowboy Bebop: The Movie and losing interest. The story is probably compelling for fans of the series but here in the film it felt pedestrian and bland. It was a lot of time of people sitting around, talking, mixed in with some enjoyable action, which isn’t enough to make a compelling movie for 2 hours (it’s at least 20 minutes too long).
The only reason I could recommend Cowboy Bebop: The Movie it’s one of the few anime films that has a lot of Halloween in it, which makes it an eclectic holiday choice. But even then it is more ornamentation than an actual interesting part of the plot. This movie just didn’t do it for me. It’s crazy how something with so many pieces can still feel so slow and bland? I’m sure some anime fans will be horrified by that statement but there it is.
Are you a fan of Cowboy Bebop? What do you think of this movie and should I watch the show before making a final judgement? Let me know what you think.
3.5 out of 10
One thought on “Blind Spot 46: ‘Cowboy Bebop: The Movie’”
Any fan will recommend you watch the show because this movie is the final statement of the longest running theme throughout the show. That’s probably a turn off for many critics, that the movie almost requires you to have watched the show, but just looking through a different analytical lense may be quicker. The villain and Spike are analogous, two sides of the same coin (a coin that Spike literally pulls out and flips for Electra, Vincent’s former reason for living). Spike and Vincent both lost their most cherished person, but Vincent was Spike at an extreme. Not only did he lose his love, but himself in military trials that wiped his mind. Both Spike and Vincent have worldviews that predicate existence as a dream, Spike’s modernized (and tortured) take on bushido and Vincent’s complete inability to tell the difference between dream and reality. His life is purgatory, and so he uses halloween as the day to escape it. Vincent and Spike clash, but what kills Vincent is Electra, his love. The theme of the show that I mentioned being that the past can’t be escaped forever, that eventually you have to carry the weight of it. It killed Vincent, and if you don’t mind a spoiler, *it will probably kill Spike too*. What makes Spike different is that he had people to share his pain with, while Vincent was truly alone until his reckoning