I admit that I have never seen an episode of the long-running Cowboy Bebop animated series, but nevertheless, I had no trouble following and loving this 2001 movie.
Set in a dystopian 2071, the story revolves around the bounty hunters of the spaceship Bebop: Spike Spiegel, a former dangerous criminal; Jet Black, an old and intelligent detective; Faye Valentine, a former sexy gambler; and finally, young Ed, a brilliant hacker living with her dog Ein.
It all begins on Mars, the most important colonized planet, where a terrorist parks a truck in the middle of a major highway and blows it up. Authorities issue a hefty bounty for the responsible man, prompting the Bebop crew to act.
During the investigation, Spike crosses paths with a mysterious man named Vincent, who turns out to be the very terrorist everyone is looking for.
Vincent suffers from amnesia and sudden violent outbursts, consequences of an experiment gone wrong when he was in the military.
His personal vendetta has determined him to unleash a biological attack on Mars, using the same toxic substance with which they ruined his life.
Fortunately, while investigating the origin of the truck used in the attack, the Bepop boys find help from Elektra, a security officer for Cherious, a powerful pharmaceutical corporation.
Elektra has a personal connection with Vincent, both being two survivors who have always had to fight, even he no longer remembers his close relationship with this girl.
However, when Vincent kills another hacker in front of Faye, they finally discover his plan: to detonate some decorated floats for the Halloween party, when the streets will be full of people.
At that point, a race against time begins to try to stop Vincent’s madness before it takes out half the city.
The future to-come with an already-been style
As mentioned, you don’t need to know the series to appreciate this 2001 movie because the Cowboy Bebop crew are like old friends with whom we immediately bond in the intricate Mars metropolis, where a fusion of cultures summons the vibrant atmospheres of our present, reflecting anxieties and insecurities of humanity hovering between today and a distant tomorrow.
While futuristically advanced, these places resonate with familiar echoes of vintage analog tech, creating a mix where retro flavor intertwines with cutting-edge high-tech.
Shin’ichirō Watanabe‘s inimitable talent shapes a scope that transcends traditional genres, evoking shades of noir and spectacular action moments with breathtaking fights and shootouts.
Yōko Kanno’s harmonies further enrich this fascinating world, in whose musical genius we have grace other mammoth works such as, recall for example, Ghost in the Shell and The Vision of Escaflowne.
Flavoring the recipe, Watanabe and screenwriter Keiko Nobumoto infuse a sprinkling of humor reminiscent of the dreadful spaghetti western hues, both in the framing cuts and in the memorable duel between the hero Spike and the villain Vincent.
Contrasting Spike, Vincent lives in a blurred boundary between reality and illusions, haunted by visions of an ideal future he has lost where lines between the present and his delusional iridescent butterfly dreams become increasingly indistinguishable.
Like the past he barely remembers, his mind is also a labyrinth, where reality and fantasy intertwine, causing him to plunge into a meaningless abyss, wishing to make all humanity share in his pain.
Yet even for this tormented monster, there is a light of hope, the sexy and untamed Elektra, who embodies the possibility of redemption and love.
In short, we are pretty far from the good/bad guys’ simplification of usual adventures because each character is always open to every possibility.
The strange life aboard the Bepop
I assume the characters don’t have the same space and time they get in the series, yet there is no wait to know them right away in their distinctive roles and traits.
Above them, of course, is the overflowing personality of Spike Spiegel, voiced by Steve Blum for the American version. Spike is the rebel among rebels, an arrogant, brash-faced braggart who confronts the villain more for the love of challenge than out of intention to save the city.
Making us boys’ heads turn instead is Faye Valentine (voiced by Wendee Lee), a curvy and hot bounty hunter who is better not messed with because she kicks ass equally as hard as Spike despite her ultra-female look.
Instead, highly amusing is tiny Ed (voiced by Melissa Fahn), a keyboard genius for whom every computer has no secrets and no password can resist, although he often seems more like a comic relief in the background than an actual character.
Finally, there’s old Jet Black (voice by Beau Billingslea), virtually almost an adoptive grandfather to this bunch of society’s misfits, patiently trying to keep Spike’s aggressive attitude and Faye’s wild initiative at bay, not coincidentally often at odds over which course to take.
We have already mentioned the excellent villain of this adventure, Vincent Volaju (excellently voiced by Daran Norris), who is really that extra boost of charisma in every scene he appears in.
I would have appreciated maybe just a little flashback of his past together with the beautiful Elektra (voice of Jennifer Hale), a character who initially seems to be somewhere between Spike and Faye, yet later turns out with an excellent solid and stubborn personality, also sweet and melancholy, like an old wounded lover.