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To American subway riders inclined toward paranoia, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie may seem disturbingly timely. The overcomplicated plot turns on a terrorist who assaults the population of a major city with what seems to be a deadly virus. Yet this feature-film offshoot of the Japanese anime series (seen in the United States on the Cartoon Network) was probably inspired by a cult’s 1995 sarin-gas attack on Tokyo commuters. Plus, the 21st-century metropolis that’s home to young bounty hunter (aka “cowboy”) Spike Spiegel and his cohorts is even farther away than Japan: Ethnically diverse Alba City looks to be about half New York, one-quarter Tokyo, and the rest various European capitals, but it’s actually on Mars. Spike works with fellow bounty hunters Jet Black, Edward, and Faye Valentine, who’s the first of the Bebop team to encounter the villain of the piece. She observes Vincent Volaju, who looks like a Fields of the Nephilim understudy, when he blows up a tanker truck and disperses the killer substance. After that attack, Vincent is worth a 300-million-woolong reward, which gets the attention of the perennially underfunded Bebops. Also on Vincent’s tail is Electra, a government agent who knew the bad guy in a previous life (and is not to be confused with Daredevil’s Elektra). As one might expect, the various pursuers give chase and their quarry repeatedly escapes—notably during a tussle aboard a doomed monorail. (So much for the train’s exemplary safety statistics.) Director Shinichiro Watanabe and his crew render the action and backgrounds in a style that’s more realistic than much anime, obviously drawing inspiration from Hayao Miyazaki. (A fleet of antique aircraft seems a direct homage to the biplane-loving auteur.) What’s entirely typical of Japanimation is Cowboy Bebop’s attempt to substitute a wealth of detail for a compelling story, with results that nonfans will probably find tiresome. The film’s most wearying aspect, however, is Yoko Kanno’s score, a series of anemic pastiches of everything from Memphis soul to Steve Reich’s Tehillim. —Mark Jenkins