Set in the future on a huge Martian colony, Cowboy Bebop starts with a cracking heist in a convenience store. Then it's down to animé business as usual: terrorists release what seems to be a deadly virus (shades of the Sarin attack on Tokyo in 1995), and the good guys - led by laconic bounty hunter Spike and colleague Faye - scramble to catch the baddies.
While Japanese studios produce almost as many animé films each year as Sony make CD players, only a handful get a cinema release over here. Maybe Bebop got the nod because it's directed by Shinichirô Watanabe, the man who made The Animatrix's Kid's Story. Or maybe it's because its UK distributors think they have something special - and they're partly right, this being a nick, if not quite a cut, above the usual.
Yet for all its superbly detailed backgrounds, funky jazz/hip-hop soundtrack and Philip K Dick-esque story, it's let down by stiffly drawn characters (which is typical of the genre) and some annoying supporting players, especially a pre-teen computer geek of indeterminate sex.