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Anime / Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' on Heaven's Door

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Cowboy Bebop: Knockin on Heaven's Doornote  is a 2001 anime sci-fi film based off the popular show of the same name. It serves as a Interquel to the series, as the events of the film take place chronologically between episodes 22 and 23 of the show. It was directed by Shinichiro Watanabe with assistance from Hiroyuki Okiura (A Letter to Momo) and Tensai Okamura (Darker than Black), with the screenplay written by Keiko Nobumoto, who also wrote and co-wrote 11 episodes of the main series, and was released on September 1, 2001.

The Bebop crew – Spike (Kōichi Yamadera), Jet (Unshō Ishizuka), Faye (Megumi Hayashibara), Ed (Aoi Tada), and Ein – are going about their usual bounty hunter business when a bomb goes off in a city on Mars. The culprit, Vincent Volaju (Tsutomu Isobe), soon has a sizeable bounty placed on his head. The gang jumps at the chance to catch Vincent Volaju and claim the reward, but soon discover a deeper well of conspiracy and revenge that puts the fate of the city – and the lives of the Bebop crew – at stake.

The film also stars Ai Kobayashi as Elektra Ovilo, Renji Ishibashi as Rengie and Mickey Curtis as Rashid.

The dub of the film was released in theaters for a limited run in 2003 before going to DVD.

Cowboy Bebop: Knockin on Heaven's Door contains the following movie-exclusive tropes:

  • Action Prologue: The movie begins on an unrelated bit with Spike and Jet trying to catch a group of low-level thugs at a convenience store.
  • All Just a Dream: Or Was It in that the film may or may not be just a dream: it starts with Spike falling asleep and ends with him waking up. There's also a bit in the middle where Spike has a vision of Jet, and judging by the layout of the ship, Spike would be lying in the exact same spot where we see him in the beginning and end.
  • Anachronism Stew: Several scenes look like they could be set on present day Earth rather than a Mars colony in the future.
  • The Atoner: Vincent ultimately let Elektra kill him when he regains his memories to both atone for his actions and apologize to his former lover.
  • Autobots, Rock Out!: "Pushing the Sky," which plays in the final battle with Vincent.
  • Back for the Finale: In terms of production order rather than chronological order, Punch and Judy, Laughing Bull, Bob, and the Three Old Men all return for final appearances. Punch and Judy's return is also a downplayed, minor plot point, as it establishes when the film takes place in the series narrative (given Big Shot's cancellation in Episode 23). The same goes for the Old Men given Jobim will be one of the victims of the Brain Scratch cult in Episode 23).
  • Batman Gambit: Vincent fakes an attack on Alba City's Water Treatment Planet to divert the ISSP's manpower and resources, which leaves the Halloween parade wide open for his real plan. Given his military background, Vincent also likely anticipated, and counted on, the Army trying to intervene (in the hopes of getting Vincent first and covering up their weapons research). The Army thus gets caught up in a jurisdictional squabble with the Mars Cops (which ensures they too are diverted from the actual target).
  • Battle in the Rain: Spike and Vincent's final battle qualifies.
  • Bazaar of the Bizarre: Moroccan Street is one of these.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Vincent Volaju was once a clean-shaven short-haired man, judging by the picture taken of him when he was still in the military. His Sanity Slippage caused him to grow a beard and apparently stop cutting, or even combing, his hair.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Bebop crew stops Vincent, saving Alba City and millions of innocent lives. But they receive no recognition for their actions, nor are they able to collect Vincent's substantial bounty from the Martian government. The crew also has no way of knowing this will be one of their final gigs together given the coming events of the show's closing episodes. Vincent also finally regains his memory, only to commit Suicide by Cop at Elektra's hands (who likewise will now be on the run due to the Army's betrayal and her own knowledge of the conspiracy).
  • Bland-Name Product: Both played straight (a WcDonald's sign over a subway entrance) and averted (a canopy over a shop entrance clearly has "Coca-Cola" on it).
  • Book Ends: The first and the final action scene both end with the criminals threatening to kill innocents, and Spike telling them to go ahead and do it because he knows he can stop them before anyone else gets hurt.
  • Butterfly of Death and Rebirth: A side-effect of the nanomachine virus causes people to see illuminated orange butterflies before death.
  • The Cameo: You can see Cowboy Andy — or "Samurai Musashi", in this case — from episode 22 of the series during the parade scene. It's a minor, downplayed plot point, as it helps establish when in the series narrative the film takes place.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The movie brings in one from the series. Remember that poker chip from "Honky Tonk Woman"? In the movie, Elektra breaks one in half to scramble Spike's tracking device. Those chips can seemingly be used to hide all manner of electronics.
  • Chickification: Faye gets a bad case of this in the movie, what with her not being able catch a pudgy hacker and spending a sizeable amount of time as a captive of Vincent.
  • Climactic Elevator Ride: Spike has one before the final battle with Vincent.
  • Darker and Edgier: Downplayed example, since the series got fairly dark at times. There's noticeably more on-screen violence than the typical Cowboy Bebop episode, especially involving civilian casualties as bystanders get killed during Spike and Vincent's fight on the train even before Vincent unleashes another nanoweapon bomb. Also, Vincent's treatment of Faye once he captures her: he cuts her shirt open with a knife during a scene with creepy sexual undertones.
  • Defector from Decadence: Elektra goes AWOL and allies with the Bebop crew after realizing her superiors prioritize covering up their illegal weapons research rather than trying to stop Vincent and saving millions of Martian citizens' lives. Doesn't hurt that they've already written her off and were going to either wipe her memory or kill her.
  • Dub Name Change: The film was retitled Cowboy Bebop: The Movie in the U.S. because the distribution company could not secure the rights to use "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" from the song's copyright holders.
  • Failed a Spot Check: In the Cold Open, Jet's surveillance of their target misses there are actually four gunmen and not three as he'd told Spike (the last guy was in the bathroom).
  • Feel No Pain: This is apparently a side effect of the nanomachine virus, at least for Vincent. He barely registers any pain despite being punched, kicked, and even shot at one point.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Since it's set late in the series and prior to the closing stretch of episodes, the crew of the Bebop (not to mention their spacecrafts) will all survive the events of the film. The crew will likewise be unable to claim the bounty on Vincent, as they're still all but broke going into the closing episodes. However, given the ambiguity of the ending and whether or not the film was actually all just a dream of Spike's, it can alternately be argued if the trope was ever really in play or not.
    • The Three Old Men will also survive the events of the film given Jobim will fall victim to the Brain Scratch cult in Episode 23.
  • For the Evulz: The film never really clarifies the motive for Vincent's rampage. He does what he does because, as he puts it, he feels like he is in a dream from which he can cannot awaken. He believes that if he does something extreme enough in this "dream," it will basically shock him awake so he can be in the "real" world.
  • Friend on the Force: As in the series, Bob's still Jet's ISSP contact. He relays intel on Cherious Medical to the Bebop crew).
  • Game-Breaking Injury: Spike suffers one before his final fight with Vincent thanks to the latter shooting the former at point blank range in an earlier fight.
  • Government Conspiracy: The Cherious Medical Pharmaceutical Company (which is actually a front for the military) wants Vincent captured because he was a test subject for pathogen warfare and the process made him insane. The company wants him caught — or dead — to hide both how it experimented on him and how the tests led to the creation of a biological weapon.
  • Grand Finale: The film does not count as this chronologically, but given how the movie came out after the series — and the events of the series from episode 23 to the end — this is, in every way possible, the last big adventure of the Bebop crew as a whole.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: The Bebop crew prevents the nanovirus from spreading and saves the city on Mars. But no one will ever know that they saved the city, and they receive no reward for their efforts other than staying alive for another day.
  • Gun Twirling: Spike does this to great effect (not to mention just oozing style) in the opening sequence. For those viewers for whom the film is their introduction to the characters, it was a definitive Spike moment to start them out.
  • Halloween Episode: The whole movie takes place around Halloween. It ends up being a plot point, as Vincent took the holiday into account when plotting out his plan.
  • He Knows Too Much: The aerial dogfight between Spike and the Army's pilots in a nutshell, as they're trying to eliminate a witness/person of interest to the conspiracy.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: In the climax, Vincent disguises himself as a warlock to get into position for the Halloween parade. The bombs are also hidden inside the Halloween parade floats and balloons.
  • How Much More Can He Take?: Vincent becomes one of the few people who obviously outclasses Spike in personal combat. Spike does a little better in the last battle with Vincent — at least before the virus kicks in.
  • Incredibly Conspicuous Drag: While Ed is looking for Lee, she comes across a crossdresser who has stubble and a bit too much muscle to pull off the look.
  • Interservice Rivalry: The ISSP and the Army squabble over who gets to stop Vincent's plan to spread The Plague through the water supply. His "plan", however, is a distraction from the actual plan.
  • Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: Spike does this in the middle of the movie to infiltrate Cherious Medical Pharmaceutical Company. Elektra sees through the disguise before he can get too far inside.
  • Karma Houdini: The Army escapes any culpability for their role in Vincent's rampage and the conspiracy remains unexposed by the end of the film.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Jet tries to do this after the train incident. It confirmed, as he'd feared, that Vincent isn't an ordinary bounty and they're in way over their heads on this one. Doesn't work, as Spike keeps digging and circumstances force the Bebop crew to step up to stop Vincent's endgame.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: A small envoy of military fighters intercept Spike, then launch a simple pair of missiles at him. When the missles get close to the Swordfish, however, they split into about a dozen rockets each.
  • Magic Skirt: Vincent cuts open Faye's halter top while she is tied up. The top opens up a bit, but does not fully expose her chest, and it stays in place when she wriggles around trying to free herself. Maybe she was wearing costume tape.note 
  • Menacing Hand Shot: After Vincent knocks Faye to the ground, there's a POV shot from her perspective as he pulls out and opens his switchblade.
  • The Movie: Shinichiro Watanabe says the movie takes place between episodes 22 and 23 of the series. This can also be inferred from the film, as Andy appears as Musashi during the Halloween party — which means episode 22 has already happened — but "Big Shot" has not yet been cancelled, which happens in episode 23. The supporting role of the Three Old Men also establishes this takes place before Episode 23 given Jobim hasn't yet become a victim of the Brain Scratch cult.
  • Never My Fault: In the Cold Open, Spike gets irritated at Jet for screwing up with the surveillance of their target — and then gets even angrier when Jet tries hiding his screw-up behind quotes from The Art of War.
  • Only a Lighter: The movie features a lighter shaped like a grenade at one point.
  • Put Down Your Gun and Step Away:
    • One of the robbers attempts this with Spike at the start of the movie. Naturally, it fails.
    • Elektra tries this with Vincent when he has Spike pinned and at gunpoint. It fails; Spike nearly dies as a result.
  • Rescue Equipment Attack: After fighting Electra, Spike runs away from the guards chasing after him, then grabs a fire extinguisher and aims it at them so he can escape.
  • Schrödinger's Butterfly: Spike wonders if this is all the dream of a butterfly, and one lands on his hand.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Jet and Spike are playing Shogi. Jet is lecturing on how it is necessary to plan ahead, both in the game and in their work as bounty hunters, yet is having trouble against Spike, who never plans ahead at all. Then Ein comes along and makes a brilliant move on Jet's behalf.
    "It's just that he was all alone. Always by himself. Never anyone to share the game."
  • A Simple Plan. The Bebop crew's initial plan: Find Vincent, collect the lucrative bounty, and sail off into the sunset. It turns out to be far more complicated, complex, and dangerous than they ever anticipated.
  • Suicide by Cop: Vincent regains his memory at the last moment, then lets Elektra kill him to atone for his actions.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Vincent is an obvious stand-in for Vicious as an Evil Counterpart to Spike, while Elektra's relationship with Vincent — past lovers who still care about each other — is similar to Julia's relationship with Spike.
  • Titled After the Song: The Japanese release features the English subtitle "Knockin' on Heaven's Door", a nod to the Bob Dylan song. The Japanese-language version of the subtitle, however, averts this, instead reading "tengoku no tobira" (天国の扉), which translates to the more generic "heaven's door." The English release meanwhile simply uses "The Movie" as its subtitle due to rights issues.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Even with the discovery that Vincent is ex-Special Forces, Spike still just thinks he's ultimately another terrorist and bounty to collect. Spike doesn't truly understand who and what he's facing until Vincent nearly kills him during the train fight.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Lee Sampson using his credit card to secure the truck in the opening bombing rather than just hacking it. This allows Ed to track him for Faye, which allows her to be on the scene during the first bombing and see the clues that will get the Bebop crew involved in the plot (and ultimately bring down Vincent's plan).
  • Weather-Control Machine: Mars' weather is man-made and each domed city controls its weather at a control station. Faye breaks in to one and threatens the workers there so they will make in rain, as part of the Bebop crew's plan to stop a terrorist.
  • Wham Line: "The Government of Mars has posted a reward for the capture of the culprits of 300 million Wulongs". That simple statement from the evening broadcast news locks in the Bebop crew's role in the film.
  • Whatever Happened to the Mouse?: Elektra's ultimate fate following Vincent's death. Presumably, she has to go on the run due to the Army's betrayal and her own knowledge of the conspiracy.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Two people help Vincent with his plans throughout the film. Neither of them survive.
    Vincent: When the game's over, there is only one left.