Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

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Cowboy Bebop: The Movie
Japanese 劇場版 カウボーイビバップ 天国の扉
Hepburn Gekijōban Kaubōi Bibappu: Tengoku no Tobira
Directed by Shinichirō Watanabe
Produced by Masahiko Minami
Minoru Takanashi
Masuo Ueda
Screenplay by Keiko Nobumoto
Story by Hajime Yatate
Starring Kōichi Yamadera
Unshō Ishizuka
Megumi Hayashibara
Aoi Tada
Ai Kobayashi
Tsutomu Isobe
Music by Seatbelts (band)
Cinematography Yōichi Ōgami
Editing by Shūichi Kakesu
Studio Sunrise
Distributed by Destination Films (US theatrical)
TriStar Pictures (US home video)
Release dates
  • September 1, 2001 (2001-09-01)
Running time 116 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese
Box office $3,007,903 (NA)[1]

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (also known as Cowboy Bebop the Movie: Knockin' on Heaven's Door (劇場版 カウボーイビバップ 天国の扉 Gekijōban Kaubōi Bibappu: Tengoku no Tobira?, titled Cowboy Bebop: Heaven's Door in English)) is a 2001 animated film directed by Shinichirō Watanabe. The screenplay was written by Keiko Nobumoto, based on the Cowboy Bebop anime series created by Sunrise. The plot centers on bounty hunter Spike Spiegel and his crewmates aboard the vessel Bebop in their efforts to find a criminal who is planning to release an unknown pathogen on Mars. The title of the movie is taken from the Bob Dylan song of the same name. The character Vincent is based around the musician.[2]


The year is 2071, a few days before Halloween. An unknown pathogen is being released in the capital city of Mars, and the government has issued a 300 million woolong reward, the largest bounty in history, for the capture of whoever is behind it. The bounty hunter crew of the spaceship Bebop; Spike, Faye, Jet, Ed and Ein, take the case with hopes of cashing in the great bounty. But the mystery surrounding the man responsible, Vincent Volaju, goes deeper than they ever imagined, and they are not the only ones hunting him. The original creators of the pathogen have dispatched an agent named Elektra to deal with Vincent, as well as take out anyone who might uncover the truth behind his murderous crusade against the Martian government. As the hunt for the man with no past and no future continues to escalate, the fate of Mars rests with the Bebop crew, a responsibility they are not so sure they can handle.


Shinichirō Watanabe, creator of the Cowboy Bebop series, said in an interview he aimed to use "more difficult technical effects" available for the film to create a "live-action look" that would permeate throughout the animated film.[3] When asked what the audience should "watch out for" in the film, Watanabe responded by saying that one should not just pay attention to "images," since the creators "pushed [themselves]" on the story, the facial expressions, and "everything". In addition Watanabe said that he "kept the whole 'Bebop Flavor' in mind" and that some viewers would not perceive the film as being distinct from the television series.[3]

Watanabe chose to use an "Arabesque" atmosphere, which was described by an interviewer as permeating "everywhere from the images to the music," saying that the Arab world was "alien" to him and that it "wasn't used much" in the television series. He said that he ultimately created the film "using the inspiration I got while I was in Morocco" to gain inspiration, adding that he would not have used the material in his film if he did not like what he saw.[3]

Watanabe used two guest directors, with Hiroyuki Okiura creating the opening and Tensai Okamura created the "Western film-within-the-film." When asked by the interviewer if he asked directors to create segments with "different sensibilities," Watanabe responded by saying that the segments were "very different" from the rest of the film and that the schedule would not have allowed Watanabe to film them, so he had decided that he would rather let "someone I could trust" film the segments.[3]

Watanabe cast Tsutomu Isobe and Ai Kobayashi as guest voice actors; neither of them had very much experience in animation voice acting. Watanabe said that he cast them since he "knew exactly what kind of voice I wanted." He said that he "especially" experienced this feeling regarding Kobayashi since he thought "That's it! She's Elektra!" after hearing Kobayashi's demonstration tape. Watanabe said that he also felt that Isobe had "the right voice." Watanabe said, in terms of dramatics, he wanted to use voice actors who could give a "raw, naturalist feel to Bebop."[3]

Watanabe added that he had not originally planned to use Renji Ishibashi for the role of the robber Renji. He said that when he and the other creators planned the convenience store robbery scene, writer Keiko Nobumoto said that she could not find inspiration. The creators decided to use a real-life actor as a model for the robber and the writers based the robber on Ishibashi. The creators seriously offered the actor a role. Watanabe said that he was "half-joking" and doubted that Ishibashi would accept the role; Watanabe said that he felt "so pleased" when Ishibashi accepted the role.[3]

The interviewer said that he believed the film was "very psychedelic." Watanabe concurred, adding that the film "can get a little psychedelic" and cited the hallucination scenes.[3]

Characters and voice cast[edit]

When asked by an interviewer "With which character do you empathise the best? Or on whom do you feel you can best project yourself?" Watanabe responded by saying "That's a difficult question." He added that he empathized with all of his characters but that he had to simultaneously "keep them all at arm's length" or else he could not "create with them." Watanabe also said he felt there were "bits of me in every one of the characters."[3]

Role Japanese Voice Actor English Voice Actor
Spike Spiegel Kōichi Yamadera Steven Blum
Faye Valentine Megumi Hayashibara Wendee Lee
Jet Black Unshō Ishizuka Beau Billingslea
Ed Aoi Tada Melissa Fahn
Vincent Volaju Tsutomu Isobe Daran Norris
Elektra Ovirowa Ai Kobayashi Jennifer Hale
Rashid Mickey Curtis Nicholas Guest
Lee Sampson Yuji Ueda Dave Wittenberg


Reception to the film was positive, earning a 64% score on Rotten Tomatoes.[4] The BBC gave it 4 out of 5 stars, calling it "an example of anime at its very best" and "good enough to deserve mention in the same breath as 'Akira', 'Ghost in the Shell', and 'Spirited Away'."[5] A positive review on fansite The Jazz Messengers, which gave it an A, indicates that fans of the series were not disappointed.[6] It was nominated in 2004 for the Online Film Critics Society Awards in the Best Animated Feature category.[7]


The original soundtrack was written and performed by The Seatbelts who released an album and a mini album of the film's music, entitled Future Blues and Ask DNA respectively.

Blu-ray disc[edit]

The movie was released on Blu-ray disc in Japan on July 25, 2008 featuring remastered 1080p video, and Dolby True HD lossless 5.1 audio.[8]


External links[edit]