Tag Archives: Kôichi Yamadera

CAPSULE: COWBOY BEBOP: THE MOVIE (2001) [BLU-RAY]

AKA Cowboy Bebop the Movie: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

DIRECTED BY: Shinichirô Watanabe

FEATURING: Voices of , Unshô Ishizuka, Megumi Hayashibara, Aoi Tada (Japanese version); Steve Blum, Beau Billingslea, Wendee Lee, Melissa Fahn (English dub)

PLOT: Based on the popular anime series, the film brings the core bounty hunting team

together for another mission, while adding a few new characters involved in an experimental super soldier program and a deadly virus outbreak on Mars.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: For the most part, Cowboy Bebop is straight sci-fi, notable for its stellar animation, eclectic soundtrack, and fascinating characterization.  It’s got a few strange bits—especially the character of “Ed”, an androgynous child hacker who speaks in nonsense—but nothing especially out of the ordinary, especially in the world of anime.

COMMENTS: As a television series, Cowboy Bebop was a mix between comedy and drama, action and mystery, single-story episodes and an overarching plot.  Released after the initial 26-episode run, the film takes place sometime before the end of the show, and can stand on its own as a film for anyone unfamiliar with the series.  The titular “Bebop” is a spaceship that serves as home and headquarters to a bounty hunting crew.  Spike Spiegel is a laid back but highly skilled fighter with a shady past; Jet Black is a gruff and sometimes fatherly former cop; Faye Valentine is a wily, scantily-clad con artist with a gambling addiction; Ed is a brilliant and fanciful young hacker.  Of course there’s also Ein, their fluffy “data dog.”  While chasing after a low-level bounty on Mars, the crew stumbles upon a sociopathic killer and his massive plot to infect the planet with a new kind of virus.

The dynamics of the group (always shaky as it is) are explored as each goes off on his or her own mission at various points, chasing down personal leads and hunches.  Spike and Faye are content to be on their own, while Jet and Ed hope for a more familial camaraderie.  New characters Vincent—the soliloquizing killer with a tragic past–and Electra—a government agent with impressive martial arts skills and questionable motivations—further the film’s investigation of isolation and outcasts  The city they explore (the capital of Mars) is packed with crowds preparing for a big Halloween festival, but our protagonists wander alone through the throngs with the weight of the world on their shoulders, adding occasional philosophical and mystical mutterings.  Well, all except for Ed, who seems content to hop around dressed as a pumpkin.

The story is solid, combining mystery and crime drama with thrilling action sequences and a dash of comedic relief.  The animation is gorgeous and incredibly fluid, with exciting fight scenes and high-speed chases (usually involving a space vessel) packed with R-rated violence . The colors vary from soft to bold, with hazy backgrounds and intricate settings that include fun futuristic details and references to antique technology.  The sharp HD upgrade is a welcome sight after the TV-quality Cartoon Network reruns that introduced Cowboy Bebop to many American fans.  Aside from the luscious visuals, the film features a truly kickin’ soundtrack from inimitable composer Yoko Kanno.  The combination of syncopated jazz, kooky soul, and thumping rock perfectly suits the story’s changeable tone and offbeat pacing.

So it’s not weird, especially not by sci-fi anime standards, but Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (also known as Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door) is a fun and involving film for longtime fans and curious newcomers alike.  It’s a little overlong but never boring, and the impressive action, set pieces, and ultracool characterizations are enough to keep everyone entertained!

BLU-RAY INFO: Unfortunately there are no special features for the US Blu-ray release. It’s a beautiful high-def transfer (1080p/AVC- encoded image), with Linear PCM 2.0 stereo sound. There’s a Japanese and English track (the English dub uses the same voice actors from the series, which I always liked).  Honestly, I think the visual upgrade is enough of a reason for fans to check this out on Blu.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“This switched-on futuristic anime noir is visually stunning — and it makes a lot more sense than ‘Spirited Away’!” –Stephanie Zacharek, Salon.com

82. PAPRIKA (2006)

“I think that within human nature, and within the human heart as well, there are a ton of absurd impulses and instincts. But you can’t express those things because society has created these rules that say that things can’t ‘warp’ like that. It’s a rule that maintains a sense of balance in the world. But when you’re restricted like that you tend to release these impulses within your dreams. Everything ‘warps.’ I think that in the past you were able to spontaneously experience such things within the framework of reality. I think religious ceremonies would be a good example of that. Now we don’t really have that. I think that if someone from prehistoric times saw Paprika they’d say, ‘That’s how it is!’ I think they’d be confused. ‘Why would you make a movie about such everyday occurrences?'”– on the Paprika DVD commentary (inspired by the scene where the balcony handrail spontaneously warps)

“I do feel regret that my weird visions and ability to draw things in minute detail will be lost, but that can’t be helped.”–from “Satoshi Kon’s Last Words

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Satoshi Kon

FEATURING: Voices of Megumi Hayashibara, , Tôru Furuya, , Katsunosuke Hori, Toru Emori

PLOT: A group of scientists invent a device called the DC-mini that allows the user to enter the dreams of those who wear it; they are experimenting with the invention on mental patients as an aid to psychotherapy.  A prototype of the machine is stolen, and the team discovers that it can be used to wreak terrible mischief when one of their number starts spouting incomprehensible babble and jumps out of a window while believing himself to be dreaming.  The situation reaches an apocalyptic peak when the thief uses the machine to absorb others’ dreams, and eventually discovers how to make dreams cross over into reality.

Still from Paprika (2006)


BACKGROUND:

  • The movie was based on a 1993 novel of the same name by Yasutaka Tsutsui; at the time of this writing, the original novel has never been translated into English.
  • Tsutsui personally chose animator/director Satoshi Kon to adapt his work.
  • Kon began his career as a manga illustrator.  He died in 2010 of pancreatic cancer, having completed only four highly regarded animated feature films and the television series “Paranoia Agent.”  Although he was working on a new project at the time of his death, Paprika was his final completed film.
  • Kon finished the storyboards before the script adaptation was completed, then wrote the story to fit the images rather than the other way around.
  • Voice cameos: Kon and writer Yasutaka Tsutsui speak for the two mystical bartenders who appear in Paprika’s dreamspace saloon.
  • The film’s soundtrack was the first to be created using a Vocaloid: all singing voices are computer generated.
  • A live action remake is in development with an estimated completion date of 2013.  Director Wolfgang Peterson has promised to tone down the weirdness for a mainstream audience, aiming to create something more like The Matrix than a surreal exploration of dream states.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: The dream parade, which features marching refrigerators, a Dixieland frog band, porcelain dolls, the Statue of Liberty, confetti falling from nowhere, and more.  This toylike promenade tramps through the film, through forests and movie theaters and the streets of Tokyo, growing larger and larger as it absorbs more and more dreams—and it’s as intense an accumulation of imagination as you’re ever likely to behold.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Near the end of Paprika, two characters turn to each other and stare in stunned, silent disbelief. They’ve just seen a giant naked girl grow to womanhood by inhaling an anthropomorphic smog monster. Watching Paprika‘s nonstop cavalcade of technicolor fever dreams should fix your expression into the same mask of bewildered disbelief long before that point.


English language trailer for Paprika

COMMENTS:  Having suddenly grown butterfly wings, Paprika finds herself pinned to a Continue reading 82. PAPRIKA (2006)