Hard Luck Woman

Unlucky? Faye finds her past and runs into Julia next episode.

Unlucky? Faye finds her past and runs into Julia next episode.

“Belonging is the very best thing there is.” – Faye Valentine

At some point I wanted to do something epic. I wanted to experience every cultural product referenced in Cowboy Bebop. I really may not be able to do this anymore, as I’ve come to watch more and more anime that take up my time. I believe that a massive part of the show’s coolness is due to the interesting things it references. There are many “Easter Eggs” that I still come across after viewing the anime maybe about 4-5 times in as many years. Right now, I’m here to write about episode 24: “Hard Luck Woman”.

Perhaps the best place to start is here. Quite the informative article on what’s behind the Cowboy Bebop name. As the article suggests, a big influence of the Bebop musical style is on the aspect of quoting. In a bebop track, often it would start with two musicians quoting a musical phrase from another song entirely, and then building a new song from there. Most if not all of the episodes is named after a song: “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Wild Horses” are Rolling Stones tracks, the movie title “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” is a Bob Dylan song, and “Hard Luck Woman” is a song by the band KISS. So the writers take that song title and jam away to put out this awesome episode.

I’ve never listened to the song itself, and I don’t want to read too much into its lyrics (it’s mostly a song about a “sailor’s daughter” who the narrator is saying goodbye to, as men seem to leave her a lot). But I do know that this is probably my favorite episode.

The Bebop Cowboys disband. They were never really a team anyway. They worked together due to contingency and whatever genuine attachment they had for each other was never overtly expressed. Maybe they all hated each other as they hated themselves. But we want to believe otherwise, because we’re really fond of them. In this episode, Faye and Ed find out about their pasts, serving as a wrap-up of their storylines.

Faye studied the video of her past life (in betamax format, lol) when Ed mentions that she knows the location of the waterfall in one of the video segments. They set the Bebop’s objective to Earth instead of Mars. While the girls explore, Spike and Jet are not happy about the change of course, but manage to find a bounty to work on. This bounty turns out to be the father of Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky 4th, who reveals Ed’s name to be “Francoise”. We know Appleby is the father because Ed says so: “This is the father person.”

It was a very interesting meeting, because Spike utterly failed to beat him in a fight. Spike was only really thwarted by Cowboy Andy prior to this, but Appleby swatted away Spike’s attacks with ease. Appleby didn’t take Ed with him, but gave the boys a whole bunch of hard boiled eggs.

What really made this episode a winner is the outro, which featured a break-up montage set to “Call me, Call me”. One of the reasons I did not want to write about this episode is because I hate it when the writer fails to take into account what I find to be important references and allusions (I felt very bad when Television Without Pity missed the boat on the significance of the musical pieces used in 30 Rock season two ep. 13 “Succession” which heavily alluded to the movie “Amadeus“). Here, the hard-boiled egg eating scene references the Paul Newman movie, “Cool Hand Luke”. I never saw this movie so I can’t comment on it at depth I’m afraid.

Nonetheless, the music plays. Spike gets a pinwheel, and tells Jet that he doesn’t think Ed’ll be coming back as look upon Ed’s goodbye painted on the Bebop’s deck. Faye lies down where her bathtub used to be. She traced out the lines on the ground with a stick. The Merlion monument lies broken. Ein convinces Ed to take him along. And it all ends in the next two episodes.

All things come to an end

All things come to an end

There are people who watch Cowboy Bebop who complain that it had too much filler. I’m not one of those people. Groaning when I remember a particularly painful episode to watch is part of why I love this anime so much. There is a palpable nihilism running through the entire narrative. Human society didn’t get better after the colonization of the solar system. Earth is broken. They are headed nowhere. The Bebop crew’s careers as bounty hunters aren’t the successes that their talent promises, and only Jet is truly serious about it. Everyone else is just drifting. The empty filler is the true content. I can even argue that the introductions and culminations of the (Spike’s) narrative are just placeholders for the emptiness of life in that place and time that the anime portrays.

But is it supposed to be depressing? No. It’s supposed to be musical. And it is.

See you space cowgirl, someday, somewhere…

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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26 Responses to Hard Luck Woman

  1. coburn says:

    I’m always up for being reminded how profound this series can be. Those moments where the writers take the borrowed phrases and melodies and carry them away into their own songs are worth so much.

    It’s always tempting to write up that last CB episode just because… well because it glues itself into the mind with goodness. But in a way Ed walking off into the sunset while the others wallow in their repressed crap makes a more “real” conclusion (not that that’s the point).

    And good luck with the future of the blog, I’m looking forward to reading it.

  2. ghostlightning says:

    Thanks Coburn, Ed and Ein (the many double-takes Ein made to Jet and the Bebop just killed me) walking off to their sunset is the good ending.

    Appleby is madly laying the foundation for rehabilitating the Earth’s surface – though the quixotic presentation does not inspire confidence in his success.

    I just realized the series aired in 1998 (though I discovered it only in 2003). This post of mine takes a gulp of air to surface in the sea of pointlessness by offering itself as a toast to the series and its 10th anniversary.

    It’s also the series that made me care about Kanno Yoko (though I’ve enjoyed Macross Plus prior). I’m so glad she’s still making awesome work as I absolutely loved the Macross Frontier music.

  3. I had a conversation with the pater familias the other day (he was checking up on his progeny’s status, I think). I wound up saying that it isn’t the amount of knowledge out there that’s depressing, at least not directly, it’s how everything seems tied to everything else. Perhaps that’s similar to the idea of watching everything alluded to by CB? And perhaps that’s why isolating a single musical phrase (or, well, episode of anime) and improvising on it is a fun thing to do.

  4. ghostlightning says:

    @ Animanachronism

    I discovered the absolute joy of cross-referencing while reading Umberto Eco’s “Focault’s Pendulum.” They were playing jazz with entries from the Dewey Decimal System (How’s that for an anachronism? But by the time of publication it wasn’t).

    As soon as you elaborated on the joy of riffing from a single episode I’m taking on a comparative reading of two series on a macro level (if not meta) – very much what you’ve done in several very good posts.

    I will quote/link to them liberally.

  5. lbrevis says:

    Nice post, you touched on a lot of the things that make this episode and Cowboy Bebop as a whole so great. What you wrote about nihilism is interesting too. Makes me think of the end of the Jupiter Jazz episodes where Gren and the Bebop crew drift off into empty space as the saxophone wails. I’ve actually been re-watching Bebop with a friend and enjoying it this time around as much as ever. Although I do feel like an idiot because I never knew about the Cool Hand Luke reference. I’ve got that in my Netflix queue now.

    Good luck with the blog, if you want more traffic make sure you put yourself on some kind of aggregator like Anime Nano.

  6. ghostlightning says:

    Thanks for the tip. If I’m not mistaken, that saxophone track is “Space Lion.” It’s one awesome piece of music. Animanachronism above mentioned how good it is to riff on a single episode like this at times.

    Bebop, improvisational music, and the CB anime as well become a metaphor for us bloggers. I mean, I riffed off from your introductory post and I’ll be writing more and more mostly from blog posts that get me interested.

  7. TheBigN says:

    It’s been a while since I’ve watched Cowboy Bebop, but it’s moments like that made the anime that special. And I haven’t seen an anime that integrates music into the show as well as CB. You could say that it’s another of the main characters in the work. :P

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  11. animekritik says:

    i just watched this episode and i loved it. one question, did you ever get to sit down and watch the newman movie??

  12. Ryan A says:

    “a man can’t eat 50 eggs”

    Luke was a cool dude. ^^

  13. Venom says:

    You know, sometimes I’m glad my searches derail into other subjects. I was looking for pictures of Radical Ed, and what do I find?

    An amazingly intelligent review for, in my opinion, one of the deepest, most beautifully bittersweet anime.

    The youtube video you posted nearly got me misty-eyed in seeing my favorite character walk off, knowing that I wouldn’t ever see her in anything again. But, as you put it, everything comes to an end. I’d rather her ending have been like that than anything else; it’s the same with all of the other characters. Their endings were as close to perfect as I think one can get.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Thank you very much. Radical Edward doesn’t get much love, and the kind she does get is often due to her being a reference to Kanno Yoko more than anything else. While not a favorite, I’ve found ways to remember love for Ed: I’ve named every single computer I’ve ever used MPU since 2004. (I’m typing this on MPU6).

      A walk into the sunset facing possibility is indeed a good ending, and serves as a good contrast to the abrupt non-ending for Faye and Jet, and Spike’s ‘release’ into the blue.

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  15. Loz says:

    The concluding paragraphs to this post are probably some of the best summaries about Cowboy Bebop that I have read. Nice one.

    • Thank you very much. This is the first post I ever wrote seriously about anime and it’s both amazing to me, and very humbling too, how I feel that I barely (if at all) surpass it over 300 posts later.

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