Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

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Cowboy Bebop: The Movie
Cowboy Bebop Knockin' on Heaven's Door poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Shinichirō Watanabe
Produced by
Screenplay by Keiko Nobumoto
Based on Cowboy Bebop 
by Hajime Yatate
Music by Yoko Kanno
Cinematography Yōichi Ōgami
Edited by Shūichi Kakesu
Distributed by Sony Pictures Entertainment Japan
Release dates
  • September 1, 2001 (2001-09-01)
Running time 116 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese
Box office $3 million[1]

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, known in Japan as Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' on Heaven's Door (Japanese: カウボーイビバップ 天国の扉 Hepburn: Kaubōi Bibappu: Tengoku no Tobira?, lit. Cowboy Bebop: Heaven's Door), is a 2001 Japanese animated Space Western action film directed by Shinichirō Watanabe, with the screenplay written by Keiko Nobumoto, and the music scored by Yoko Kanno. Based on the acclaimed 1998 anime series Cowboy Bebop created by Hajime Yatate, the film serves as a midquel and takes place between episodes twenty-two and twenty-three of the series.[2] The plot centers on bounty hunter Spike Spiegel and his crewmates aboard the spaceship Bebop in their efforts to find a criminal terrorist who is planning to release an unknown pathogen on Mars.

Most of the original staff members of the Cowboy Bebop series returned to work on the film, while the central voice cast also reprised their roles.[2] The film was animated by studios Sunrise, which had previously developed the original series, and Bones, which was founded by producer Masahiko Minami, character designer Toshihiro Kawamoto, and animation director Hiroshi Osaka, all of whom had worked on the series at Sunrise.[3] The title of the Japanese version of the film was taken from the 1973 Bob Dylan song "Knockin' on Heaven's Door".[4]

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie was released to theaters in Japan on September 1, 2001 and in the United States on August 11, 2002, and went on to gross $3,007,903 worldwide. The film received generally positive reviews from mainstream and anime critics and was nominated for the Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Animated Film.


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.


Character Japanese voice cast English voice cast
Spike Spiegel Kōichi Yamadera Steven Jay Blum
Jet Black Unshō Ishizuka Beau Billingslea
Faye Valentine Megumi Hayashibara Wendee Lee
Edward Wong 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


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.[5] 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.[5]

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.[5]

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.[5]

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."[5]

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.[5]

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.[5]


Reception to the film was positive, earning a 64% critic score and 90% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.[6] Internet Movie Database gave the film a 61% metascore and a 79% audience score.[7] 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'."[8] A positive review on fansite The Jazz Messengers, which gave it an A, indicates that fans of the series were not disappointed.[9] It was nominated in 2004 for the Online Film Critics Society Awards in the Best Animated Feature category.[10] Helen McCarthy in 500 Essential Anime Movies praised the music of the movie, calling it "the show's secret weapon", and stated that "the movie's only real fault is that it's about half an hour too long".[11] After being polled in 2013, ranked the film at #6 on their "Top 10 Anime Movies" list.[12]


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.[13]


  1. ^ "Cowboy Bebop (2003)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 29, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Cowboy Bebop - Heaven's Door - About the Movie". Archived from the original on November 17, 2002. Retrieved June 1, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Cowboy Bebop Helmer Shinichiro Watanabe, BONES Plan New TV Anime". Anime News Network. October 16, 2012. Retrieved June 1, 2014. 
  4. ^ Khan, Ridwan (March 2002). "Animefringe Reviews: Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' On Heaven's Door Original Soundtrack - Future Blues". Animefringe. Retrieved June 1, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "The Director's Voice Shinichiro Watanabe Interview." at the Wayback Machine (archived March 7, 2003)
  6. ^ "Cowboy Bebop: The Movie - Rotten Tomatoes". Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  7. ^ "Cowboy Bebop: The Movie on IMDb". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved November 26, 2014. 
  8. ^ Russell, Jamie (17 June 2003). "Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2003)". Retrieved 2013-02-27. 
  9. ^ "Knockin' On Heaven's Door review". Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  10. ^ "IMDb: Online Film Critics Society Awards: 2004". Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  11. ^ McCarthy, Helen. 500 Essential Anime Movies: The Ultimate Guide. — Harper Design, 2009. — P. 18. — 528 p. — ISBN 978-0061474507
  12. ^ " Top 10 Anime Movies". July 18, 2013. Retrieved November 26, 2014. 
  13. ^ "Cowboy Bebop Knockin' on Heaven's Door Blu-ray Disc at Bandai Visual". Retrieved 2009-05-03. 

External links[edit]