They’re here to save the planet. But not for free. Gekijban Kaubi Bibappu: Tengoku no Tobira or Cowboy Bebop: The Movie or Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door Image Entertainment releases a Sony Pictures/Columbia Tri-Star and Destination Films, um, film: Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, an extension of the anime series of the same title. Overseas, this film has also had the subtitle of Knockin’ on Heaven’s Doors. This Bluray release of Bebop has a 1.85:1 widescreen image, runs almost 116 minutes, and has two uncompressed PCM stereo audio tracks: Japanese and English. Soundtracks are encoded for Dolby Pro•Logic surround. The film is accompanied by subtitles in English and Spanish; English subtitles are translation subtitles of the Japanese track, not of the English track. Or, rather, since I don’t speak Japanese, the English subtitles do not match the English soundtrack. On loading the disc in the player, there is an anti-piracy slate, an Image Entertainment logo, and a Java-based menu that allows for bookmarking. The feature is divided into sixteen chapters. The package is a fairly standard Bluray case, with no inserts. The feature is rated R by the MPAA, for ‘some violent images.’ This disc will be released in North America on June 28, 2011, and seems to have an MSRP of $17.97. The Feature — •••• This is the third time I have seen this film, and while I am getting a better understanding of the film, I still have a hard time trying to describe it. Thus, for those who are unfamiliar with this film, let me try to be... somewhat simplistic in listing what is understood. The film takes place on a colonized, thriving Mars in 2071. In the local vernacular, “cowboy” means “bounty hunter.” Bebop is the name of the space-ship that our principle characters live on and work out of. Our principle ‘cowboys’ are Spike Spiegel, Faye Valentine, and Jet Black. Supporting ‘cowboys’ are Ed, the adolescent uber-computer-geek, and a bio-genetic enhanced Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Ein. Jet is the owner of the ship, and comes from a law enforcement background. Faye is something of a loose cannon, and Spike is, at least in this film, sort of ‘the lead.’ That these disparate people are a ‘team’ is not because they explicitely sought eachother out, but that they sort of... coagulated, albiet with some personality conflicts. Non-heros include two former members of a special assault team, Vincent Volaju and Electra Ovilo, one mysterious Rasheed, and a motley assortment of corporate goons, corporate bosses, old retired flying aces, a game-obsessed hacker, and countless other bit-parts to populate the colorful Martian environment. Street-bazaars, anyone? Old American Indians living on river-banks with tame wolves? To add to the local color, the primary action begins after a tanker-truck explodes on a busy highway in a large city, spreading a virus-like ‘terrorist attack.’ And then things start getting strange. The Picture — ••••• The 1.85:1 high definition picture is an excellent representation of the film. The backgrounds are richly detailed; the foreground animations have details that were lost in previous SD transfers, and the treatment effects — video scan-line effects, intentional ‘film dirt’ for the drive-in theater — are actually read as intentional effects, rather than just sort of an odd blurriness or noise. On the other hand, it is more revealing of moments of non-effect dirt, either from literally dirty layers of acetate under the animation camera, or from a less-than-pristine film source. The disc is generally free of digital compression, noise-reduction, or edge-enhancement artifacts. The ranges of tone, contrast, and color saturation seem to be excellent representations of the film-source. The disc is encoded in the AVC codec, ranging between 19 and 34 megabits/second, and averaging at about 24 megabits/second. The Sound — •••• I did listen to a bit of the two-channel English version. Yes, it is there. It— felt odd. I do not know if it was because it did not match the running English subtitles, or if it was just I was more accustomed to the Japanese voice-actors. The Japanese stereo track is clear, clean, and free of most noise and distortion. Dialog is mostly centered, but is occasionally panned with the action. Auditioned in both Dolby Pro•Logic and via a decent pair of head-phones, the stereo track is generally satisfying. As an aside, IMDB.COM references a potential SDDS and Dolby Digital sound tracks, while Wikipedia suggests a Japanese Bluray edition included a Dolby True-HD uncompressed surround track. Again, while this feature may have had digital surround tracks, only uncompressed PCM stereo tracks are included on this blu-ray disc. In The End — ••••½ Bebop is not an easy film for a relative outsider to describe. It is fun, serious, a little confusing, and full of different perspectives and philosophies. If you are unfamiliar with it, this probably does not make much sense. If you are familiar with the film, series, manga, or anything like that, then you probably know what I am trying to say (successfully or not.) As a disc, while some may bemoan the lack of extras, it is (a) of excellent quality, and (b) quite reasonably priced. Recommended.