By Jonah Morgan
It may have been a fitting coincidence that on the heels of the major news that Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment plans to release the Cowboy Bebop Movie in North America last Friday, at almost the same time on the other side of the globe in Japan, retailers were gearing up to release Bandai Visual’s region 2 DVD version of the film. As I type this in it’s first week of release, acccording to several leading ranking charts for the sales of DVD’s in Japan, the release of Cowboy Bebop: Knocking On Heaven’s Door has achieved the #1 slot for Japanese DVD sales. With the recent announcement surrounding CTHE’s plans for the Metropolis DVD there is a good chance fans may be looking forward to many if not all of the below features in an American release. On Saturday the 25th, Yukio-san, a close friend of ANS and editor Jonah Morgan picked us up a copy and put in express mail where it reached us on Wednseday.
The Cowboy Bebop Knockin On Heaven’s Door DVD lists a running time of 114 minutes with 13 minutes of extras, Sound Track is Dolby digital (5.1ch), DVD is single sided dual layer, aspect ratio 16:9, retail is 7,800, serial: BCBA – 1065. Extras include Special information for theaterical release, TV ads, textless OP and ED, special I.S.S.P. FILE (16 page booklet). As for the contents of the disc, director Watanabe personally selected the chapter marks for the Movie chapter menu. Release was on January 25.
Before going down the list I will say this release is aimed at the collector with a retail price of 7800 Yen. Fans are greeted to this disc with a transparent clear Amaray case with Chronium silver / orange / black slip cover with original illustration by series character designer Toshihiro Kawamoto. Open that up and the DVD disc itself reveals a color print of Vincent, the film’s dark bioterroist villian, removing that, a pic of Spike aiming his hand pistol at the viewer can be seen.
The liner notes section of the case is semi packed with the 16 page full color I.S.S.P. booklet. The booklet is content heavy, with lots of Kanji. The various backgrounds of of figures in the film are explored including Vincent. Other paper documents are a few Bebop promotionals and a Beat ad book from Bandai. Get through all of that to the inside of the shell and the fan / collector elements of this dvd keep revealing themselves, there one can find an easy check chapter listing personally selected by director Watanabe.
Stick the disc in and we have fluid video menus, not that animated menus are not fairly common with DVD releases these days in Japan but the menues featured here are truly on par with some of the work’weve seen coming out of Bandai Entertainment and their Bebop releases.
Extras are all pretty common fare for a film release but skipping back to the chapter select we take a major depart from the chapter select quality used by Bandai Entertainment’s releases. Although we do have Mr. Watanabe’s chapter marked tracks listed unnumbered as Japanese katakana, hiragana and Kanji titles, fans of the American Bebop DVD’s who grap the Region 2 Movie may be disapointed to find no video cut-scene chapter selection. However, this is where the chapter printout on the DVD case itself comes in handy , although it unfortunetly is also not number / track listed either but it can aide the viewer quite well in-film.
Onto the movie, alot of things about Knockin On Heaven’s Door struck me as it being TV Bebop like, before I go into that I will mention that within the movie are a great deal of interesting camera angles and shots (in the grocery store notice the shot from in the corner like a security camera angle). When some films go to the big screen conversion they can alter drastically from previous anime or manga incarnations but with the Bebop Movie we have very little X media – film transtion feel or even that general big cinematic feeling at least visually (Audio wise- it’s a whole different story with a shaking Dolby Digital 5.1 track ondisc). That’s not a slam either, with Bebop TV we had already assembled perhaps the most talented group of people that were in a position to create Bebop, characters were so detailed, the plotlines deep, wittily written and wrought. Backgrounds filled with unrelenting details. With the film it’s my personal opinion that we basically see the TV version transfered fully intact onto the big screen, we can see the movie’s extra budget in the use of the latest CGI effects, the souoped up budget at play with more fluid animation scenes, more detailed backgrounds, more richly colored and penciled cels, but in the end it’s same (good) old bebop fans are used to.
After a brief scene we get an Opening Sequence accompanied by one of many of Yoko Kanno’s wonderful new upbeat melodies for this rendition, then it’s back into the plot, without giving the story away, story setting is in virtually the same 2071 (betweeen eps. 22-23) but the story of the movie could be looked at as an alternate series of events that the characters come into contact with and not neccesarily within the TV series universe. The 4 bounty Hunters are on the trail of a terrorist (Vincent) who commited a massive attack at the Mars crater capital injuring and killing 500, a pricetag of 300,000,000 Woolong rests on his head. Supporting TV characters Punch and Judy (hosts of the TV bounty hunters program) and the 3 old guys Carlos, Antonio, and Jobin return. TV mecha also return (images here) with an upgrade for Spike’s SwordFish II, and the introduction of a new black diamond shapped Martian fighter that is be piloted by the movie’s main villian.
Video Wise, the transfer is great on the dual layer release, you can tell you are watching a 35mm transition with some very small noise and clutter poppoing here and there. The Audio transfer is crisp and pristine, Dolby Digital 5.1 track is strong / thunderous and as cinematicly reproduced as it gets in anime, hopefully we may see this track preserved in the American release.
On the whole the film comes across like another wacky episode of Bebop, all your friends are there slightly changed and amongst great new music and a more fluid enviroment, the villian Vincent is believable, air combat scenes really remind me of some of the stuff from Macross Plus, we even see some vintage fighters like the F-18 Hornet. When and if Cowboy Bebop Knockin On Heavens Door comes to a theater near you I highly reccomend it as s totally unique trip, nothing from the world of anime has ever been released into American theaters on par with it!