- For information on the upcoming live action film, see: Cowboy Bebop: Live Action Film.
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (劇場版 カウボーイビバップ 天国の扉 Gekijōban Kaubōi Bibappu: Tengoku no Tobira?, known in Japan as Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' on Heaven's Door, also known as Cowboy Bebop: Heaven's Door in English), is the 2001 animated film directed by Shinichirō Watanabe.
Opening on September 1, 2001 in Japan and in the U.S. on August 11, 2002, the film grossed over $3 million worldwide and received positive reviews.
A man sits alone in a bare empty apartment at a single table playing marbles. He always sits alone, never anyone to share the game. He lived in another world, a world of dreams.
Jet Black wakes up Spike Spiegel on the Bebop for another bounty opportunity. Converging on a convenience store with a robbery in progress, Jet informs Spike there are three guys inside. While the lead robber, Rengie, is harassing the cashier, Spike uses his usual misdirection to subdue the lookout and pretend to not hear what's going on due to his headphones. Rengie approaches him and is promptly knocked out. Jet drops down from the ceiling as Spike pulls another robber from the other aisle. They handcuff them just as the last guy, who Jet did not see, is coming out from the toilet. He hurriedly takes a gun to a nearby old woman. Jet puts his gun down, but Spike raises his. He provokes him, making him point his gun at himself so he can shoot him effectively. The woman asks him who he is, and he simply replies, "just a humble bounty hunter."
On the Bebop, Jet and Spike play shogi. Jet berates Spike for not taking the game seriously, just like at the convenience store, but Spike notes Jet is just losing. Fortunately, Ein nudges a move for Jet, but, unfortunately, Spike has fallen asleep.
Elsewhere, Faye Valentine is after a hacker, Lee Sampson, which should be an easy target, but she soon sees she's not tracking him. Rather, another figure exits the tanker truck he was supposed to be driving. Suddenly, it explodes, and Faye watches as the man, unphased, walks to the edge of the bridge and jump off, disappearing. She returns to the ship to tell the others. Oddly, she sees it's on the news and that there was a virus spread from the tanker. The others are now afraid of her being contagious, but she insists she is not infected and chases them around. They all stop dead in their tracks when they hear the Mars government's bounty – 300 million woolongs.
At a hospital, Detectives Hoffman and Shadkins visit the lead doctor to get the latest news. However, the doctor says they're at a total loss. No wounds, just an abnormal lymphocite count that has now stabilized and increased brain pressure. They can eliminate nerve gas, smallpox-like or Ebola.
With Edward's help, Faye briefs the crew on who she was after, but is unable to really give a detailed picture of who she really saw. Jet gives up, and is quickly surprised when Spike says he'll look into it. After much searching for a "bean seller," he meets a man called Rashid. The man seems to know what Spike is looking for, but is coy as to the information. He leads Spike to a shop and is given a vase for purchase. Spike chases him out the shop, but can't find him. Oddly, he sees he's under observation by a cloaked woman who passes by him without notice. She vanishes, too.
Meanwhile, Jet makes a rendezvous with Bob for information. Bob tells him whatever it is they don't know anything about it. However, there was a space transport, registered to Cherious Medical, found near an asteroid with a dead driver and empty cargo hold. It wasn't reported missing, indicating Cherious didn't want to draw attention. Unfortunately, the ISSP is not interested in getting involved.
The man Faye saw is now with Sampson driving to a secluded area. Sampson is fascinated with a 20th-century video game and thanking the man for his chance to play the terrorist. A cop stops them, but the man quickly shoots him when he asks for his license. They eventually reach a warehouse of Halloween decorations, with a man named Murata waiting. The man delivers a suitcase and a money card for Murata. It is the virus, and the inside man is being paid for something. He'll get the full amount "after the party."
On the Bebop, Faye and Ed try to research (not Faye's forte). Ed tries to clear up the tattoo on the mysterious figure's hand, and Faye narrows it down to one tied to Mars Special Forces. Running through a list, Ein barks at Vincent Volaju, and Ed trusts him. Faye ignores that, and despairs on the couch. Just then, Ed sees that Sampson used his card, and Faye jumps up and out. She passes Spike on the way, who brings his vase into the room. Jet also arrives and relates what he found out from Bob. As he starts to talk about it, Ed dives into the vase and finds a marble.
Faye has caught up with Sampson, finding him at an arcade playing a shooting game. She holds him at gunpoint, but he's not phased. He uses a device on his belt to take out the electricity in the building, distracting her in order to escape. She finds his hat instead. Meanwhile, Jet and Ed do some analysis on the marble. It has human lymphocytes in them, but they're not normal, and act oddly under a microwave.
Spike is observing Cherious Medical, and uses the cleaning company for the way inside. Inside, Elektra Ovirowa reports to her superior about not finding Mendelo earlier on Moroccan street. The man says they need to eliminate both him and Volaju. She leaves the meeting and passes by Spike, in cleaning uniform. She recognizes him, and holds him by gun. Spike casually flirts with her while noting he saw her earlier. Knocking the gun out of her hand, they fight and eventually he has to run when security arrives. He goes out the front door and escapes over the cleaning truck leaving the premises. Ovirowa watches him leave in concern.
The terrorists have struck. Sampson watches a big screen in public and gestures as it begins. A jack-o-lantern appears not only there, but everywhere. On the Bebop, Jet reads the message and connects it to the lymphocytes they found. There were nanobots made of protein that must have been a research project by the pharmaceutical company. That's all he has, though. Faye decides to leave the conversation and look for Sampson's hat. Spike reports the facility had security armed with G21 weapons, military issue. The woman he found also had the same tattoo as Volaju. Spike decides to sleep on it.
Ed and Ein have the hat, and are looking for Sampson. They eventually track the scent to a block and go trick-or-treating to get a look at different inhabitants. However, they find Sampson walking toward the building. Ed informs Faye, but then promptly joins other kids she sees. Faye arrives at the location, but without Ed's direction. Inside the building, however, Sampson meets Volaju playing solitaire. Unbeknownst to him, the marbles have the nanobots. Volaju shoots the last piece left, killing Sampson. Faye sees the window he busts out trying to breathe and enters the building. She finds Sampson stumbling and falls dead. Soon, she feels the effects of the nanobots as Volaju comes up behind her. She turns and shoots, hitting his hand as he grabs her gun from her. She stumbles toward the table and Volaju, licking the blood off his hand, goes to kiss her.
Spike, who's been listening in on Ovirawa's communications, hears that a contact of hers has found Volaju. He jumps up and uses the locator he put into her pocket to follow them to a train station. She finds Volaju boarding and gets on, but Spike is a bit too late, and forced to run to jump on top of the train and shoot his way in. He gets to Volaju first, and they have a shootout, which causes many to flood backwards, impeding Ovirawa. They have a standoff, as Spike can't lose his bounty. Volaju taunts him, but then moves his gun just a bit as he sees Ovirawa behind him. He shoots and hits her, Spike fires back and uses the opportunity to advance and go hand-to-hand. He thinks he knocks Volaju out, but as he kneels down Volaju finger-punches him so hard it bleeds. He holds Spike out the window and says he'll see him in another life as Ovirawa yells for him. Volaju threatens to shoot Spike, but she stays firm. He smiles and shoots him in the torso, letting him fall to the water. She watches as he holds an explosive, and hopes he remembers her, hesitating to shoot. The explosive knocks out the windows, but was obviously only the nanobots. Shocked, she realizes it doesn't affect her, only those around her. The train stops to a halt and he's gone.
Spike wakes up to see Laughing Bull and another. Bull notes it was not his time to go. Jet eventually makes it there, and offers to let it slide, since there's something much bigger than them going on. Spike falls asleep instead.
Meanwhile, Ovirawa is disciplined for breaking from the plan. She thought she could get to him, but she failed. Her superior takes her off active duty and, after she goes, orders her under surveillance.
Jet helps Spike back into the Bebop where Ed and Ein are very happy to see him. Ed helps hack into the Cherious Medical computers to find out more about them. They find that the truck that exploded was carrying "macadamia nuts" and that same term is used for departments in research and development. They then find Mendelo al-Hedia is a scientist who specialized in nanomachines. They're banned for military use, which is why they're trying to cover up the incident.
Faye wakes up on the floor of the apartment, and asks Volaju what his goal is. He explains he was a test subject and relates his time on Titan. He also says Faye has some of his blood, keeping her from dying. Meanwhile, Spike has found Mendelo (or, rather, Rashid) and learns about his regret at his invention. He deleted all the data he could and left three years ago. Spike punched him, asking him to relay that to the doctor. He agrees and leaves. Suddenly, soldiers corner Spike and he's captured.
At Cherious Medical, Ovirawa is captured, too, as her superior has learned that she has the anti-nanobot vaccine. She protests, saying that they can use the blood to cure others, but the man is dead set on destroying the evidence instead. She's imprisoned next to Spike, and they share stories, her of helping Volaju and him of his meeting Julia.
Volaju tells Faye he intends on infecting everyone with the nanobots on Halloween. He also confirms that she knows Spike, which startles her. He offers for her to come with him, but she rejects him. Just then, the man from the warehouse came looking for his payment. Volaju kills him and leaves, telling Faye he'll be "where the Earth meets the heavens."
Spike and Ovirawa coordinate their escape, reaching through the bars to grab Harris's gun and a guard's gun. Spike convinces her to get more of the anti-nanobots before they leave. Steve helps them. Meanwhile, the ISSP realizes through Sampson's hacking that the mastermind plans to hit the water treatment plant to distribute the nanobots. Hoffman immediately orders a homeland defense squad to raid the facility, despite needing permission from the captain. They find a jack-o-lantern, but it doesn't have anything in it. It was a false alarm.
Faye escapes and calls Jet to warn that the attack is coming soon. Just then, Spike and Ovirowa arrive and Jet informs them Bob told him the ISSP is raiding the plant. They realize the jack-o-lanterns used during the celebrations will distribute the nanobots, and make a plan. Spike goes off in the Swordfish II while Faye takes the Red Tail to a climate control station to make it rain. Jet and Ovirawa try to find any planes that can fly to distribute the anti-nanobots. Spike is able to shake off the fighters on his tail, but the ship is damaged and he has to land. Nevertheless, he gets a taxi and makes it to the bridge Volaju mentioned – an Eiffel tower replica. He goes to the top to find Volaju. Volaju drops from above, gun in hand, but they both lose their guns and fight hand-to-hand. He reveals he purposefully didn't kill Spike earlier, but intends to do so now. Soon, Ovirawa sees the lights flicker from the street, and realizes where they are.
When Spike drops to the floor, Volaju takes out his detonator and presses it, making all the large floats explode with the nanobots. Soon, Spike is affected, too, and finds himself under Volaju's gun. He asks Spike whether Titan was real, if the butterflies are real, or if it's all a dream. Just then, Ovirawa interrupts them. He starts to shoot and, this time, she fires. He falls, and explains he remembered loving her finally. He realized there was no door out of this world, and died.
Faye and Jet fly above the area, satisfied at the outcome of their plan. The vaccine was spread quickly and minimized the damage.
- Masahiko Minami
- Minoru Takanashi
- Masuo Ueda
Original Story by:
- Shinichiro Watanabe
- Yōichi Ōgami
- Shūichi Kakesu
Voice cast (order by Japanese voice credits):
|Japanese voice||English dub||Role|
|Kōichi Yamadera||Steven Jay Blum||Spike|
|Unshō Ishizuka||Beau Billingslea||Jet|
|Megumi Hayashibara||Wendee Lee||Faye|
|Aoi Tada||Melissa Fahn||Ed|
|Yusaku Yara||Grant J. Albrecht||Hoffman|
|Kazuhiko Inoue||Kerry Gelb||Shadkins|
|Jyurouta Kosugi||Mirron E. Willis||Harris|
|Kinryu Arimoto||Murphy Dunne||Captain|
|Hidekatsu Shibata||Mike L. Reynolds||Colonel|
|Yuji Ueda||Dave Wittenberg||Lee|
|Nobuo Tobita||Michael Reisz||Murata|
|Rikiya Koyama||Kirk Thornton||Steve|
|Ai Kobayashi||Jennifer Hale||Elektra|
|Akihiko Nakajima||Steve Kramer||Carlos|
|Paul St. Peter||Punch|
|Renji Ishibashi||Tom Wyner||Rengie|
|Yosuke Akimoto||Doug Stone||Crime lab group A (Analyzer A)|
|Kazuya Ichijo||Jamieson Price||Crime lab group B (Analyzer B)|
|Eisuke Yoda||Bob Papenbrook||Antique store owner|
|Mickey Curtis||Nicholas Guest||Rashid|
|Yutaka Nakano||John Snyder||Pop|
|Houko Kuwashima||Michelle Ruff||Female cashier (Cashier)|
|Masuo Amada||Robber A|
|Junichi Sugawara||Robber B|
|Isshin Chiba||Robber C|
|Katsuyuki Konishi||Kirk Baily||Robber D|
|Kazusa Murai||Mary E. McGlynn||Riley-Journalist|
|Tsutomu Isobestaff||Daran Norris||Vincent Volaju|
|William Knight||Van Damm|
|Peter Spellos||Duvchenko / Queen|
|Michael Lindsay||Taxi Driver|
Other English cast:
- Ewan Chung
- Dorothy Elias-Fahn
- Lex Lang
- Peter Lurie
- Jad Mager
- Joe Ochman
- Brianne Siddall
- Carol Stanzione
- Lynsey McLeod
- Leslie Hicks
- Peggy O'Neal
- Fingers – During the cold open, Vincent plays solitaire
- 24hours OPEN – Muzak at the Convenience Store
- Ask DNA – Opening titles
- Cosmic Dare (Pretty With A Pistol) – Faye chases the truck
- "Metallics" – [Unreleased] Faye watches as Vincent escapes and vanishes
- "CBC Action News Theme" – [Unreleased] CBC News Live shows the aftermath of Vincent's attack
- Diggin' – Spike scours his Martian street sources for information
- Musawe – On Moroccan Street, Rashid gets allegorical about pulses
- No Money – Rashid leads Spike to the merchant's store
- "Clocks" – [Unreleased] Spike sees Elektra in the street
- Old School Game – Lee playing the Pac-Man rip-off
- "Fistful of Woolongs" – [Unreleased] Soundtrack to the old western movie
- "Metallics" – [Unreleased] Vincent meets Murata at the warehouse
- American Money – "Big Shot"
- SF Game Center – Lee's game of Sporky Dorky is interrupted by Faye
- "Metallics" – [Unreleased] Jet and Ed realise the marbles hold a secret; Vincent plays solitaire
- Clutch – Spike and Elektra get to properly introduce each other
- "Trick or Treat" – [Unreleased] Happy Halloween video from Vincent
- Time to Know~Be Waltz – Ed and Ein track down Lee
- "Metallics" – [Unreleased] Vincent uses the virus to kill Lee, and Faye tracks this commotion to Vincent's apartment
- "Infection" – [Unreleased] Faye gets infected, but Vincent saves her
- "Central Station" – [Unreleased] Spike, Vincent and Elektra all converge on Central Station
- Powder – Vincent beats Spike and hangs him out of the train
- Dijurido – Jet finds Spike not dead; Elektra gets suspended from duty
- 3.14 – Ed sings. The English dub of 3.14 is unreleased
- Hamduche – Spike returns to Moroccan Street to meet Rashid/Mendelo
- Is it Real? – Faye talks to Vincent, Mendelo explains to Spike
- Rouya – Spike and Elektra spend the night in the cells
- Fingers (Ambient Version) – [Unreleased] Vincent learns Faye knows Spike
- 7 Minutes – Elektra and Spike escape, and the army over-rules the ISSP
- What Planet Is This?! – Spike dogfights, Faye makes a windy entrance to Climate Control, Jet and Elektra locate some air support
- Yo Pumpkin Head – The Halloween Parade
- Pushing the Sky – The old aircraft approach the city; Spike and Vincent go hand-to-hand
- Gotta Knock a Little Harder – End credits
While the movie is set in late October 2071, the relative placement of the movie within the series wasn't stated clearly. With the presence of Faye, Ed, and Ein, this would suggest before the events of Hard Luck Woman. With the appearance of the show Big Shot, this would suggest before the events of Brain Scratch, in which the show was cancelled. Also with the appearance of Andy in the Halloween parade in his samurai outfit, this would suggest after the events of Cowboy Funk (however, he could have been fond of that dress even before the episode). This puts a reasonable occurrence between sessions 22 and 23. This is also stated on the official website.
Other background notes:
- Contrary to popular belief, there was no rotoscoping or tracing used for the lifelike characters in the opening credits.
- Much to the chagrin of fellow staff members, halfway through production the movie extended from a ninety-minute film to a two-hour film.
- The movie was banned in Iran & Iraq due to themes of terrorism and Middle Eastern setting.
- Guest directors include Hiroyuki Okiura and Tensai Okamura, who directed the opening and the "Western film-within-the-film" respectively. Shinichirô Watanabe chose to use guest directors as those sections were quite different from the body of the film; and also because of the time restrictions.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
Homages and real world references
- The movie is named after Bob Dylan's song Knocking on Heavens Door
- The opening scene in the film is highly inspired by Pulp Fiction especially with its motifs
- During the scene where Faye tries to find Vincent from Ed's instructions, she stands before a wall that has references to the television show Law and Order and the film Three Godfathers.
- The western that Jet and Bob watch at the drive-in is a hybrid of Shane and High Noon.
- Spookey Kong is highly inspired by Donkey Kong.
- In the shots showing the T-shirt salesman, the T-shirt in the very lower left says "Bones", which is one of the production studios responsible for Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, and made up of former members of Sunrise, who created the show.
- Among the 'antique' planes seen in the movie are the Supermarine Spitfire, Fokker Dr.I Dreidecker, Faerie Swordfish, P-38 Lightning, F-84 Thunderjet, TBF Avenger, F/A-18 Hornet, and the A6M5 Zero.
- Lee Sampson makes reference to Captain Crunch when he talks to Vincent.
Reception to the film was generally positive, earning a 70% score on Rotten Tomatoes. For example, the BBC gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars, calling it "an example of anime at its very best." A positive review on fansite The Jazz Messengers, which gave it an A-, indicates that fans of the series were not disappointed. It was nominated in 2004 for the Online Film Critics Society Awards in the Best Animated Feature category.