A Masterpiece of Remembering Love: Cowboy Bebop; Episode 01 “Asteroid Blues”

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In the very first blog post I ever wrote here on WRL, I said I wanted to do something epic someday. I said I wanted to consume everything ever referenced in Cowboy Bebop, a show that I’ve come to believe to represent so much of the aesthetic I’ve come to call “remembering love.” Part of this, is paying tribute to a previous work by incorporating an element of it in the subject work towards creating new significance. I had said then that I’ll probably never get the chance to do it because I would only get busier.

It’s indeed true that I got busier, but when I had time on my hands I didn’t get it done anyway. So I can’t use that excuse. This is a bucket list kind of feat and I’m doing it here, I’m doing it now. I’ll be blogging every episode of Cowboy Bebop with the view of commenting on every reference (at least the cinematic ones) it makes from popular media culture. Why this objective? I think so much is already said about the show. I don’t disagree with the writing that establishes its merits, and I’m not a popular science fiction novelist that I can get away with saying hyperbolic statements while knowing very little of the tradition from which Cowboy Bebop comes from.

I intend to make a tangible contribution to public discussion of the show, although I may at times refer to some academic writings I’ve encountered thanks to suggestions and contributions of fellow fans of the show. I will start with a couple of these first, as a key to understanding my approach in rewatching and analyzing the show.

Cowboy Bebop is meta, or, it uses many other things to give some things in it particular significance.

I am purposely avoiding post-structuralist concepts such as intertextuality, hypertextuality, and the like. I think of ‘remembering love’ as something author-centric and deliberate. It is a purposeful editorial decision, as opposed to something ‘found’ in the text by an active reading. It is closer to allusion, without allusion’s burden of carrying meaning that is more or less “important” to the subject narrative. A whole lot of remembering love is non-integral to the narrative, and are presented as “Easter Eggs” – that are, rewards for fans who are so inclined to find them, and have a relationship with the referenced work1.

It is not the case as with some humorous work: sketch comedies, parodies, Lucky Star, etc. wherein the referenced subject is some kind of punch line, the value in itself after some set-up. We won’t find anything in Cowboy Bebop that has a reference that figures so significantly in the narrative so as to be the primary source of meaning and value. Cowboy Bebop can be fully enjoyed not knowing a single reference or allusion the show is making.

I wager that it won’t matter if a viewer doesn’t know anything about Bruce Lee and Jeet Kun Do and how Spike Spiegel’s martial arts style is clearly derived from these. It could be just another martial art like Karate or Tae Kwon Do for all the viewer is concerned. But if that viewer is aware of, or more – a fan of Bruce Lee, the viewer may feel rewarded for making the connection.

cowboy bebop lupin iii spike spiegel bruce lee clint eastwood

The Spike Spiegel Allusions Database Ver. 1 (by row): 1) Asene Lupin III; 2) Bruce Lee (Way of the Dragon); 3) Clint Eastwood (A Fistful of Dollars).

What I Don’t Know

Sometimes Cowboy Bebop goes beyond simple allusion of a singular element, and adopts an entire style of a movie, and/or a cinematic director. I don’t know if whether the success of the scene or episode is critically dependent on that reference. I don’t know whether Cowboy Bebop is figuratively standing on the shoulders of giants. I don’t know if Cowboy Bebop is subverting the source by the deployment within the show. I don’t know if there is any further significance should Cowboy Bebop indeed subvert the source material it references.

These are gaps in my knowledge that I will attempt to fill in each episode. So we arrive at the very first, “Asteroid Blues,” which references the Robert Rodriguez film Desperado featuring Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek.

Episode 01 “Asteroid Blues”

Tijuana is an asteroid settlement. It’s a frontier town. Why would Cowboy Bebop  start here? Well, it doesn’t quite start here. The show starts in Spike Speigel’s memory. We find out later that it’s a memory of Mars, a haunting memory that figures in Spike’s personal narrative which is accepted as the show’s main narrative. Therein lies the answer.

Spike’s narrative is more a Hong Kong Triad film than it is a western. But this is the show’s first episode, and it is only fitting that it begins in a frontier town, to establish the Cowboy element in the science fiction setting. Tijuana is not just a frontier town, it’s a Mexican town in Earth’s history. But the bounty is not of Mexican descent – Asimov Solensen is a name weird enough to be at home in a Gundam show.

It is Mexican only enough to pay homage to the referenced material: Desperado, a film wholly set in Mexico (and A Fistful of Dollars; by Sergio Leone featuring Clint Eastwood). I watched this film and it had quite a memorable gunfight inside a bar in broad daylight. Asimov Solensen got into such a gunfight – albeit he did not use guns. What did Cowboy Bebop do with its referencing:

  • In Desperado, the hero was hunting down the bad guy with the help of a woman companion and love interest.
  • In Cowboy Bebop, Asimov was the villain, and was running away from the drug dealers with a woman companion pregnant – presumably with his child.
  • Asimov was a drug dealer himself – the drugs were his currency for freedom (to Mars where “they have everything”).
  • In Desperado the hero gets to live and ride into the sunset with his woman. Asimov and Katerina die charging into a police barricade (actually, Katerina kills him first, then throws Spike a forlorn look that carries with it the very state of the Solar System in this narrative).

On one hand, Cowboy Bebop is dependent on the coolness of Desperado’s barroom gunfight scene. I’d say it’s standing on the shoulders of this film in this regard. However, it distinguishes itself with the use of science fiction elements: the Bloody Eye drug turned the prosaic gunfight into a super villain rampage.

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Portrait of a tribute (by row): 1) The bartender gets shot in the head by accident; 2) Big ‘ol battle in a bar in broad daylight (with automatic weapons); 3) contrasting rides into their respective exits.

Desperado lionized El Mariachi as a hero of vengeance. A just and righteous killer of criminals. It overlooks its protagonist’s murderous intent and habits: a disregard for his own life and of others. Asimov is more authentic in this fashion: he just wants out of his game, and for that he needs to make a big score, and he’s willing to kill whoever stands in his way.

We have instead an amoral, devious ‘hero’ in  Spike and a corrupted villain in Asimov which I argue is more morally authentic than the righteous murderer El Mariachi. But I won’t argue too hard, since it smacks of asserting that Cowboy Bebop is in some way superior to the referenced work – which is never the intention in this series of blog posts. I do prefer Bebop’s story though, since it gives the opposite of hope. It gave a very, very bitter end. Katerina shoots Asimov in the head, ending her own hopes and aspirations by her own hand, though perhaps not on her own terms.

It’s a spectacular first adventure, carried by the superb production values (taking into account the action choreography so evocative of the source materials). It establishes many world-building touches, including how hyperspace gates work, Mars as the economic center of the Solar System, the necessity of bounty hunters to augment police work, while grounding the show in very 20th century elements: fast-paced close-quarter gunfights, martial arts street fights, and a car chase.

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When Katerina dies in a hail of police bullets, we see the lie that was her pregnancy. Her womb only held contraband – there was never going to be a future for her and Asimov, only hopes built on the continued selling of the past. It’s not so different from Cowboy Bebop itself. This show was never going to be the future of anime. It’s just a show selling us shells of references of the old and past glories of 20th century culture. It’s science fiction, but it’s meaningful eye is always looking backward, it’s other eye is blind to the emptiness and nothingness of its present.

1I am quite aware that there are works in English that have allusions so obscure that it’s highly questionable whether they are integral to the reading of the work: T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. I have only read the former and I do think that so much of it went over my head and I do blame the allusions I did not understand. I missed so much of the references in Cowboy Bebop without any loss of enjoyment or understanding of the work.

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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53 Responses to A Masterpiece of Remembering Love: Cowboy Bebop; Episode 01 “Asteroid Blues”

  1. Tronulax says:

    I could never put it into words as elegantly as others, but Cowboy Bebop really does remember “the love” of 20th century cinema and fiction. One of my favorite lines from that particular episode: “You look ridiculous in that outfit” (when Spike confronts Asimov a second time in disguise). That very same (ridiculous looking) outfit that references western cinema. I think that in a way highlights that notion of science fiction looking backward, not forward, like you mentioned. How it ends each episode with “See you space cowboy” and then “you’re gonna carry that weight.” It really feels to me like passing the torch at the turn of the millennia to a new generation of visionaries, animators, and directors.

    I’ve always been a Watanabe fan, but it wasn’t until recently that I began to understand why. It’s because of his meticulous attention to detail while having uncanny ability to make all the story elements flow, almost as if it was just a walk in the park. Spike is the very representation of this, and I love it. Those Lupin inspired boots and his hand-in-pocket walk. His style of Jeet Kun Do, particularly chosen to highlight a range of techniques flowing smoothly from one to the next (also prevalent in Mugen’s Champeru style in Samurai Champloo). And finally, the music of Cowboy Bebop really brings it full circle.

    Cowboy Bebop is my second favorite anime series of all time, and I’m thrilled that someone is actually going to be episodically blogging this series. Time for a long overdue rewatch!

    • Yes, rewatch it!

      I spent 23 years in the 20th Century, 20 of those I remember with some clarity. Still 2/3 of my life at this point so I have an affinity for the references by default — even though I’ve only seen Desperado and A Fistful of Dollars a month ago, and only because of this project I’m doing.

      Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series is founded on Gibbons’ The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I’d say it’s far more future-facing than Cowboy Bebop, but its rootedness in the past goes even much further than Bebop’s. What makes Bebop different is its utter nihilism about its present and future. I made this point in my very first blog post on WRL, but I’ll explore this idea in throughout the series of posts.

      I’m with you re Watanabe, the little touches that can be found all over the episode are a joy to pay attention to. I had just watched my first Lupin show (Cagliostro) and can now appreciate Spike’s hand-in-pocket shuffle (not to mention Jet’s entire look).

  2. hearthesea says:

    I’ve made no secret of the fact that — even though I love this series — I’ve never been particularly taken with the opening episode, aside from the great memory sequence in the introduction. That being said, I like this point you make:

    ‘I do prefer Bebop’s story though, since it gives the opposite of hope. It gave a very, very bitter end. Katerina shoots Asimov in the head, ending her own hopes and aspirations by her own hand, though perhaps not on her own terms.’

    This feels very important to the series as a whole. What I also enjoy is the way such grimness is actually handled in this opening episode. There are no histrionics from Spike, no sudden emotional meltdown to try and force the feeling of tragedy onto the audience. The episode instead explores Spike’s feelings in a typically understated way — just that simple shot of him quietly looking out into the darkness of space works very well as a form of closure.

    • Totally agreed, though what seals the deal for me is Spike’s repeated workout from the beginning of the episode. It feels much heavier, and yet, it’s the everyday. The end of the episode purposefully displays that Spike’s life goes on like normal as if this incident was just a blip, but we can see that it did have at least a little emotional weight, with Spike sweating out those feelings in his work-out.

    • Thanks for noting this point. It’s part of the overall idea that I present, that of Cowboy Bebop’s overall nihilism. I argue against it being a “downer” though, as nihilistic content presented this way produces the opposite of despair, albeit without excluding despair. I made this point at the very beginning of my anime blogging “career” and I will explore it further in this blog post series.

      The closure “provided” by Spike’s staring at the wreckage of Asimov and Katerina works similarly to how harem anime character leads are vessels of viewer projections: but in an overarching way. Related to my previous point, this is how we’ll end up looking at the ‘resolution’ of the show, or at least Spike’s narrative. Spike’s face is a template for how our faces will look as “Blue” plays on in the final credits. I know this because I’ve seen my friends’ faces as they watched the ending LOL.

  3. Reid says:

    Ghost,
    I’ve come to accept that almost everything you say is so perfectly well thought out that I should just accept it as fact. That you’ve now written so eloquently and thoughtfully about “Cowboy Bebop”, a show that I hated on (but not outrigh hated, because I never watched more than a few parts of a few episodes) for a long time, has forced me to admit to myself that it’s really worth my time to watch it. The show just got so much positive attention I thought it couldn’t possibly be any good, similar to how a lot of popular music is not actually good but only liked by a lot of capricious people for the same brief time. “Cowboy Bebop” has of course stood the test of time, much like its contemporary “Neon Genesis Evangelion” (a show that I came to hate not because of the fans but because of the way I felt betrayed by the very nature of the show itself), so that should have told me it was worthwhile.

    Being someone who really loves westerns (and has published a few short stories of that genre) and other classic movies AND anime, “Cowboy Bebop” probably does have a lot to offer me by way of references to past works. I’ll have to check it out so that I can properly join the discussion. Thanks, once again, for making me come to terms with my own poorly conceived biases.

    • Thanks, and very good that you can look past your own biases. If anything, We Remember Love as an exercise in the anime hobby enabled me to get past innumerable biases and thus expanded my tastes incredibly. Sure it turned me into some kind of anime/manga Frankenfan, who wholeheartedly and publicly declares his love for K-ON!! while being an omnivorous robot anime fan whose background started with Nagai and Nagahana and grew forward with Kawamori and Tomino. Remember that I didn’t even like Gundam at all 3 years ago!

      And look at the kind of fag I became.

      Neon Genesis Evangelion and Cowboy Bebop are my 2nd and 3rd most favorite anime shows ever. While this isn’t grounds for your appreciating them, I mention this as a vote of confidence anyway.

      • animekritik says:

        I like this Frankenfan concept :) And I like Franken Fran too, on a totally unrelated note…

      • Reid says:

        Votes of confidence are duly noted. After I finish the “Yukikaze” OVA and read the second book in that series (“Good Luck, Yukikaze”) my next mission is to watch “Cowboy Bebop.” As I said before, I never gave the show a chance on the (admittedly stupid) grounds that it was a default “best anime” the way that “Citizen Kane” is called the “best movie of all time.” Now, though, I’m going to intentionally look out for the Easter Eggs and I am sure to enjoy the show all the more. I always thought the fight scenes were cool and the airplane lover in me adores the Swordfish, so that’ll be there even if the show ultimately doesn’t work out for me. I’m intrigued by this sense of nihilism you and others have written about, that sense of melancholy and “the blues.” One of my favorite animes, “Area 88,” is good in a heavy-handed way of expressing that same nihilism, I think. It reminds me a lot of Hemingway’s (anti?)heroes and all the tragic things that happen to them over the course of their stories, which really serve as a means of showing the reader the tragic things that happened in the past. Here’s hoping “Cowboy Bebop” and I will get along. ^^

        As to “Evangelion,” I can now appreciate the story thanks to the movies. That’s the story I wanted to see all along. I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t engrossed in the TV series, but the sheer weight of the bleak and twisted nature of the original movies and the really screwy, borderline incomprehensible ending to the TV show made me do a proverbial “rage quit” on the whole thing. If that’s shallow or whatever, so be it. I genuinely came to feel for the characters, probably more than I have for any other fictional characters other than the main cast in “The Lord of the Rings” novels when I first read them years ago. To say I felt betrayed and let down is an understatement. Again, that’s life; sometimes we get let down by people we care about, but that’s why I live real life. I don’t need any more of that in my entertainment. In that sense, I hope the new Eva movies will finally allow me to really love that franchise again.

  4. terebi-kun says:

    Excellent analysis! The Jeet Kune-Do and Bruce Lee references are now more notorious, but the Clint Eastwood/Spaghetti Western influence was right there.

    I’m sure you’ll eventually get to mention this at some point, but the one show that I think really influenced Bebop was Space Adventure Cobra. There’s some Lupin in that too, but it was the first example I can think of the Western/Cowboy logic applied to sci-fi.

    Of course, the tone is different, but not that much.

    Anyway, great post!

    • I don’t know about that with Space Adventure Cobra. Cobra is really a product of classic sci-fi pulp, and no doubt the popularity of Star Wars (which Cobra debut one year after), what with Cobra being basically Han Solo meets James Bond. Similarities to Cobra are more like similarities to the whole of late-70s and early-80s sci-fi, which surely influenced CB, but CB’s range of influences is so vast that no one thing could be said to dominate.

    • Thank you! Alas, I have not seen Space Adventure Cobra, but what I do know about it is its comedic treatment of its subject matter. Certainly, part of the nihilism I love in Cowboy Bebop is the utter meaninglessness of many of the zany chases it shows Spike and Jet undertake to catch silly bounties. The humor, IN SPACE is part of what makes the numbing effect upon reflection.

  5. >>It’s science fiction, but it’s meaningful eye is always looking backward, it’s other eye is blind to the emptiness and nothingness of its present.<<

    Well put~ you're doing it right yourself!

    This is exactly why Cowboy Bebop warrants so many comparisons to Quentin Tarantino's films—nevermind the similar style of coolness and violence, but that both CB and Kill Bill were among my favorite works when I was thirteen years old and couldn't possibly have understood any of the referenced works in either. I like to think I appreciate remembering love as much as you do, and it plays a huge role in why I love this show and those movies so god damn much.

    And I agree that remembering love is very much a conscious decision, but also think it's one that can't be helped. It's not as though the writer has a scene in mind and models it after another scene—the other scene is the definition of the idea in the creator's mind. Like, Spike Spiegel doesn't perform Jeet Kun Do *because* Bruce Lee performs it, but rather *for the same reasons* that Bruce Lee performs it. Sentences like that blow my mind and make me love the work even more (and I don't take credit for that verbalization of the idea, since I only figured out how to phrase it after Roger Ebert's review of Kill Bill.)

    This was a great post, and I really hope other eps will give you more to elaborate on.

    • I’ve reread Ebert’s reviews of the Kill Bill volumes many times so I know what you mean.

      Thanks for liking the post as much as you do, you may be able to tell the shit-ton of effort that I’m putting into this series. Probably the most effort I’ve put into a hobby to date (apart from the WRL blog overall). The next two eps will be interesting — as you have an ep where nothing really happens and there’s a lot to talk about, and then an ep where a lot of things happen and then the things to talk about are almost unrelated.

      Fuck this show mang, so good.

  6. TWWK says:

    I’m very excited about this series of posts! I think there are two anime which I’ve watched in awe, riveted at it, knowing I was seeing something amazing. The first was Princess Mononoke, and Cowboy Bebop was second. From the opening jam to the closing credits, the show is a true experience. It reaches near perfection on so many levels and with so many elements, not least of which is of course the referencing of pop culture.

    Thanks for discussing the plot of Desperado. While I was aware of Cowboy Bebop’s framing of the first episode around that film, I’d never seen it (bad Austinite! I don’t think I’ve seen any Rodriguez films.). When I originally watched the first episode, I got the Leone references (The Man With No Name movies were a part of my childhood) and the Lee references, but beyond our antagonists bearing some resemblance to Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek, I didn’t understand the Desperado allusion. Of course, as you mention, I didn’t need to understand to “get” the episode. It was a brilliant, bang-up start to one of the greatest anime titles.

    I’ll be looking forward to more!

    • Thank you!

      LOL I’ve only seen Desperado for the express purpose of making this series of posts. Same with A Fistful of Dollars, though I’ve seen Yojimbo independently. I didn’t even know until recently that A Fistful of Dollars is related to The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly which I’ve seen over a decade ago.

      But yeah, this bang-up start… which if you recall our lengthy conversations over email, will be very consistent with how I look at the world — a non-despairing nihilism. Though, I take it further (there’s a near-infinite gap between non-despair and “happy as nuts” LOL).

      • Reid says:

        Spaghetti Westerns (and not just Leone’s either) constitute what I love best about Westerns, without a doubt my favorite genre in all cinema. On this basis alone I should have given Bebop a chance years ago!

  7. megaroad1 says:

    Enormously pleased to hear that you’ll be blogging Cowboy Bebop, that most stylish of all anime. And you’re absolutely right, there are few anime that “remember love” in such a deliberate yet classy manner as Bebop. There’s just all these little details and references all over the place.

    One that I like is that the 3 old geezers outside the bar are called “Antonio”, “Carlos” and “Jobim”, a reference to the great Brazilian bossanova singer and composer Antonio Carlos Jobim.

  8. Shinmaru says:

    So glad to see the first post come out. This is going to be a pretty damn awesome series!

    What this post highlights about Cowboy Bebop is how it (most of the time) does not make references simply for the sake of making references — the specific references add something to the show because they color our view of the story and/or characters (if we recognize the reference, of course). Digiboy’s elaboration of why Spike uses Jeet Kune Do is a perfect example of that.

    • Much thanks for the feedback, especially from behind the scenes!

      What Cowboy Bebop could’ve done better, is to have shown Spike work out more often. I can only recall episode 24, and I may even be mistaken about this. Without consistency in showing him work out (and smoke in between sets LOL), it’s arguable that this workout barely overcomes it being a set scene to make a Bruce Lee reference among other scenes to complete the Bruce Lee allusion.

      Of course, not knowing Bruce Lee still leaves us with a characterization piece that establishes Spike’s martial ability isn’t some kind of fluke power. When he pwned Asimov it wasn’t because he was some kind of superhero, but something more earthy (or Mars-y) kind of badass.

  9. First off, now I know where the Sound Holic song gets its title from. I made sure to listen to it while reading this post.

    Second go, I had to trudge through Cowboy BeBop and I still can’t appreciate it fully. Lupin, Bruce Lee, Clint Eastwood, these things mean nothing to me. Yes, I’ve seen bits of Lupin and its influences in anime. Sure, I’ve watched some Bruce Lee movies and know more of its influence in the martial arts cinema than any of my non-asian peers seem to. True, I know of Clint Eastwood and I’ve probably seen some of the movies he starred in. Going by your theme of Remembering Love, there’s no nostalgia for me to rely on. I have to actively seek out these fine gentlemen in order to love them.

    So it really is an anime for old people. Even the characters are older than your average post-2004 anime and they’re full of hindsight. I thought it was pretty boring. I also thought it was good. But it can always become greater when you remember the love.

    Third final, I’m really looking forward to these posts. I know why it is such a great series, but I want to know what makes it great. I already think the first episode is a lot less boring than I remember it to be.

    • Matt Wells says:

      I’m 19 and I’ve seen (and dearly loved) Bruce Lee films, Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Westerns and Lupin III. You don’t have to be an old guy to remember love, you just have to seek out quality entertainment, regardless of its age. In older works we see reflections and ideas we cherish in newer properties, hence newer shows remembers love, even if we, the viewers don’t.

      Bebop has been widely acknowledged by Western fandom as an all-time classic for over a decade now, so it depends on how far back your fandom goes really. Is Bebop an anime that only older viewers can enjoy fully? Perhaps, but it all depends on your experience with wider pop culture. For a pop culture junkie like me, I got most of the references off the bat, though I neglected Desperado.

      Great post Ghostlightning, easily matches some of your best work, and we still have 25 episodes left. Have fun writing your opus!

      • Thank you! The effort I’m putting into this is intense.

        Like I said to Numbers and Space, I wasn’t even able to get most of the references in this show during the first viewing, since I just liked the action and drama and the rest. The references only mean anything for those who care about them. The show doesn’t rely on these to tell its story.

    • When I watched Cowboy Bebop, I didn’t know about Sergio Leone, didn’t know much about Jazz music, wouldn’t watch a Lupin film until 7 years later, etc etc.

      It was only in repeated viewings — as a result of being blown away by the first ‘superficial’ viewing where I ‘only’ enjoyed the characters, action, dialogue, and production values, story, setting, musical score, individual songs, etc. that I thought there was far more to Cowboy Bebop than these things I liked a lot. I was certainly not bored by the show, and especially not the opening ep. at any point.

      It was then I started to truly fall in love with it.

      This post series isn’t here to establish the overall merits of Cowboy Bebop. People have been doing so for years and years. I’m here to explore the referential relationships and meanings as a reward to Easter Egg hunters, though there will be other points to make as well.

  10. Cuchlann says:

    *cough*

    I wager that it won’t matter if a viewer doesn’t know anything about Bruce Lee and Jeet Kun Do and how Spike Spiegel’s martial arts style is clearly derived from these. It could be just another martial art like Karate or Tae Kwon Do for all the viewer is concerned. But if that viewer is aware of, or more – a fan of Bruce Lee, the viewer may feel rewarded for making the connection.

    So… reader-centric, and not authorial intent?

    There’s absolutely nothing wrong with your post, but I thought I should point out a theoretical inconsistency. If the references are viewed as author-centric, then they simply are, and if the reader doesn’t get them, then the reader is stupid. If they add a layer of enjoyment to the narrative, which doesn’t exist if the reader doesn’t see the reference, then they are, necessarily, reader-oriented and “found” in the text.

    Also, I’m re-watching Bebop as TheKittyMeister sees it for the first time, so I look forward to more.

    • Perhaps I haven’t laid it out as effectively as I should, the ‘stupid’ may not be the best word to describe the reader who has no access to the references.

      1. Allusion is indeed author-centric.
      1.1 There are 2 kinds of allusions I distinguish that are relevant
      1.1.1 Allusion wherein important meaning is contingent on understanding the allusion (Milton’s, Dante’s, long poems are dependent on a working understanding of the Bible and Judeo-Christianity; in Dante’s case, often a working knowledge of contemporary Catholic politics in Italy circa Dante’s lifetime).
      1.1.2 Allusion wherein the meaning is barely relevant to forwarding the narrative.
      1.2 Cowboy Bebop’s allusions are of the 2nd category
      2. I did not understand nor even notice these allusions in my prior viewings of the show
      2.1 I researched these allusions (crowdsourced at times)
      2.2 I loved the show for other, obvious merits
      3. The value of CB in this series of posts is to laud it as an exercise of casual, if purposeful referencing; but this accomplishment is not the foundation of its overall value as a work (as valued by other critics)

      Is it possible that the binary of author vs. reader centricity kind of breaks down in this instance?

      • Cuchlann says:

        It is possible, but I don’t think it’s likely.

        (Also, I use the word “stupid” to describe — and possibly villify, I suppose — the author-centric critics who have insisted that the only reader worth listening to is one who gets all the references).

        It sounds like your allusion1 is allegory, or related to it. That’s not important, I’m just centering myself.

        Anyway. OK. Allusion1 is important, and necessary. You have good examples there. Allusion2 isn’t necessary at all. You’re certainly right that Bebop’s references are A2.

        It actually seems to me that you’re reinforcing the value of reader-centric criticism here. See if this makes sense: if an author or team of authors add a reference and the audience (member) doesn’t get it, it is as though the reference doesn’t exist — as they effectively didn’t for you your first time through. Your finding the references is as though you are on a process of discovery, which puts most of the action in your hands. You are digging, rather than being presented with the ore, if you will.

        I think this is an exercise in defining terms. You likely could have made this post without the theoretical reference at all, and I don’t think it’s important to the thrust of this post series. I say that mostly because I think of myself as still working this stuff out too.

        Here’s an idea, though (and it’s actually about Bebop to some extent, hurrah). We could consider a third class of allusions, Allusion3. A3 would be allusions that are more to modes, genres, styles, &c than actual things. While you’re demonstrating quite well that the references in Bebop are to actual things, I think for many of us they function more as A3 than A2 allusions, because they create a sense of postmodern, Otaku-style, wibbly-wobbly allusion to a background of texts, a world of entertainment, than any specific works. Someone mentioned “spaghetti westerns” in response to your Clint Eastwood stuff, which is exactly what I mean. Spike’s outfit functions more as an allusion to a world of texts than any particular movie, even while it is very similar to Clint’s outfit there.

        I grew up on these kinds of references, which is why I like genre fiction so much, I suppose — also parodies, which don’t have to be about one particular thing (as satires usually are), but a whole group of things.

        • Excellent, I suspected we’re actually on the same page here and lo, we are.

          I rather am not big on author-centric readings, though in this case I cannot fail to acknowledge the centricity of the act of making references. My stance on:

          (Also, I use the word “stupid” to describe — and possibly villify, I suppose — the author-centric critics who have insisted that the only reader worth listening to is one who gets all the references).

          is tangential, but should be informative.

          I agree that the theoretical reference isn’t necessary for this post to work, but I put it there for my own piece of mind — like a historical document to say where my mind was when I was writing this. Also, there may be later episodes wherein I end up bringing in more theory, so this much would be a small investment in building casual readers’ tolerance for it (in a manner of speaking)…

          …precisely because Allusion3 would require me to bring to bear post-structuralist ideas… the intertext stuff that is almost entirely reader-centric. The author can control the signification of this web only so much (very little), though the influence is still notable. I’m not quite comfortable with taking Cowboy Bebop on this way (more likely because of my own skeletal ability to discourse about genre criticism), but that’s what you’re here for! You can bring these observations to the discussion table in the comments, or, I can even add them to the posts. I’ve written only 3 so far, so it’s still wide open if you’re interested.

          • Cuchlann says:

            Maybe when you get up to writing what we’re re-watching. I’m not sure I could do such a tightrope act based on watches from last year. Let me know when you write up episode eleven or twelve. (I believe we’re up to 14)

  11. VyseLegend says:

    I wish you were blogging this when I did my own rewatching of the show earlier this year, but better late than never.

    I also felt (and still sort of do) that the 1st episode is not my favorite, and if it weren’t for the less, how can I describe it, tragic or noirish tinge to the later show I might not have felt some fondly on it. CB strikes a balance between that tragic ending scene and the sort of carefree, layabout nostalgia with its Rolling Stones references and such.

    About ‘Remembering Love,’ I also think its not really a conscious narrative decision. I mean, the show is so heavily infused with pop culture that its like an impressionist painting of reality, through the eyes of someone whos live their whole life on this kind of stuff. IN a way its a tribute and maybe a tragic one at that, to the kind of life one lives looking backward and potentially into idealistic fantasies all of the time.

    Some sites I looked at when I was reading about this during my re-watch recently:
    http://members.fortunecity.com/thebebop/index.html
    http://www.absolutetrouble.com/bebopmusings/

    • VyseLegend says:

      Hmm not sure why I wasn’t logged in properly here.

    • Excellent links. I’ve read a bunch of essays from both already just now. They’ll definitely inform some of the later essays I do going forward.

      There’s a postmodern reading of the show that’s begging to be done, but I’m not up for it anytime soon. Instead of “impressionism” we can just go ahead and use collage as a means of describing the work, and mixed media collages I think may represent a multimedia work like CB, with all the layers of meaning and materials, etc.

      But as I said, I’m not up for that kind of reading, and affix myself with a formalist-type of method for ease and clarity’s sake. If there are any theoretical gray areas, it’s the gap between author-centricity implied by allusions, and the value assigned to them by reader-centricity — especially given that I contend that CB does not “depend” on such to be meaningful.

    • Reid says:

      I just had to jump in and say it, Vyse. Your screen name is intensity in ten cities. Skies of Arcadia is the best of all time. (Does my pointing this out count as remembering love? lol)

      Ok, guys, back your serious discussion :) Sorry for the intrusion.

  12. animekritik says:

    I love this show, but I find that the episodic nature of the thing makes me value it less than more plot-heavy anime like Evangelion. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I would have preferred a show with the same awesome characters but with a more sustained storyline… Maybe this relates to how I prefer novels over short stories…

    BTW, even though I haven’t seen Gundam, Asimov Solensen sounds 100% gundam to me :)

    • I actually prefer plot-heavier shows, and I do prefer Evangelion over Cowboy Bebop as you must’ve noticed!

      Same deal with short stories, the same way I prefer mini-series like HBO’s The Wire or even TV series like NBC’s Friday Night Lights over films (FNL had a very good film too).

  13. sadakups says:

    OH SH-

    Cowboy Bebop Retrospective on WRL!

    BRB at Episode 5.

  14. Jack says:

    “Sometimes Cowboy Bebop goes beyond simple allusion of a singular element, and adopts an entire style of a movie, and/or a cinematic director.”

    Considering that direction is an area you did not comment upon I figures that I could attempt to share what little insight I posses on the matter. In short, I just want to point out how stylistically different ‘Desperado’ and ‘Asteroid Blues’ are.

    ‘Desperado’ was a film directed and edited by Robert Rodriguez, a director perhaps most notable by his concern for his ‘stylish’ films, in that he employs a number of specific techniques to make the scenes in his movies look ‘cool’ and exaggerated. For instance, rapid editing, zooming, high contrast lighting and a certain self-aware nature to his movies.

    If we consider a couple of early bar-fight scenes from ‘Desperado’ these elements become clear. For example:

    - El Marachi’s face is hidden by a shadow through most of his action in a particular fight, until it is revealed by a fairly intense close up of his eyes.

    - The weapons he wields are in one sense completely absurd and in another oddly plausible. A single shot can send a man flying across a room, which is clearly a huge exaggeration, but at the same time he’s governed by the laws of limited ammo so we constantly have to see him reloading his ridiculously overpowered weapons.

    - The bartender makes says “I knew it, the bartenders never get shot” which is presumably a reference to old Westerns. This kind of playfulness can also be seen when El Mariachi taunts a thug about his poor aim, or when a ceiling fan comes down and hits the thug in the face, with humorous consequences.

    - Speaking of referencing other movies, these action sequences seem to have something of the Jon Woo to them. El Mariachi wields to pistols at times, has ridiculous aim and even occasionally engages in the Jon Woo patented slide. However, a Woo movies would take it’s action sequences a little bit more seriously, have a far greater body count, there would be a lot more ‘debris’ flying off every surface, the hero might be shot and wounded on numerous occasions and the main character would NEVER need to reload in the midst of a battle. In that sense, Cowboy Bebop has action sequences far more reminiscent of Woo, e.g. in The Ballard of Fallen Angels.

    Now, if we return to ‘Asteroid Blues’ the difference in style is quite apparent. The tone is largely serious, the action is brief but memorable, the editing is decidedly rhythmic as opposed to super-quick and it frequently synchronises with a piece of music making the characters movements far more impactful. While the ‘Red Eye Bar Braw’ is indeed stylish it doesn’t borrow from Rodriguez’s techniques. Instead we see something more original and complicated, a fight scene shot entirely in first-person, largely from the perspective of Asmiov.

    A first person action sequence is fairly rare in action cinema because of the complicated camera movements that would be necessary to pull it off convincingly. The added difficulty with this particular scene is that, from Asmivo’s perspective, everything is moving at a slowed-down rate, so the action scene has to convey that AND convincingly depict a first-person action scene. This is the kind of action sequence that you can argue is really ‘made for anime’ because it takes full advantage of the animation medium in that you don’t have to worry about shooting the sequence with ‘real cameras’.

    So whilst ‘Asteroid Blues’ may share characters, plot or setting elements from other works it certainly seems to be the case that these are just, as you say, references for those familiar with a wide body of work. The way this episode is ‘filmed’, ‘directed’, ‘edited’ and so on is not in direct reference to those pieces of work in particular.

    • Gotcha.

      Whatever Asteroid Blues is paying homage to in Desperado, it isn’t the directing.

      If you ask me though, since I’ve watched a fair bit of HK gangster films after starting this project as well as read a bunch of statements, Rodriguez is a big fan of such things. The Killer and Better Luck Tomorrow 2 are significant influences on him (AND to Cowboy Bebop particularly ep 05 Ballad of Fallen Angels, and 26 The Real Folk Blues part 2; but let’s not get ahead of ourselves).

      I merely say this to attempt to account for the HK-ness of what you see in this episode and perhaps you’ll see it in Desperado as well (as I do).

  15. rxsiu says:

    It fills me with glee that you’re embarking on a journey to analyze every episode. A huge part of my enjoying Cowboy Bebop was from the musical references I catch. The jazz styles, country styles, etc. But now I’ve a chance to learn much about the visual cultural references. Thanks! If there was ever a title of anime culture connoisseur, you’d take it.

    • Thank you. The word connoisseur evokes an image of snobbery, which I am uncomfortable with. I actually like many things and can only hate things that I love to begin with… while snobs can categorically hate on things…

      Basically, I love anime more than I love presenting my tastes as some kind of yardstick, etc. etc.

      I just happen to really like what I like.

  16. shumbapumba says:

    Very excited to see you’ve started this project. Love the last paragraph, too. Will you be looking at musical rerences at some point? Particularly the bebop style?

    • I will attempt to do so, but it will be the weakest part of the post because I am not very articulate about music, and especially jazz. I listen to it without having a connoisseur’s perspective, not that I have such a perspective for anything outside say, robot anime LOL.

      Thanks for all the assistance you’ve provided me to get me started on this.

  17. Pingback: Cowboy Bebop Episode 02: “Stray Dog Strut” and The Comedic Shift in the Formula | We Remember Love

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  19. Evang.M says:

    I love coming to your blog every few months (busy all the time, sorry!) and finding delicious bits of goodness like this. I’ve seen Bebop start-to-finish maybe a half dozen times over the years, but I think it’s time for another viewing! Just reading this post makes me want to fall in love with CBB all over again and again and again… thanks for this and I’m looking forward to reading your updates as I go through each episode!

    • Thank you.

      These posts take a lot out of me to make so I take my time to make and post them. I’m sure if you start rewatching now you’ll outpace my ability to publish them. Rest assured, I will finish this blogging project if it kills me.

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  22. andrewgwallace says:

    you need to check this out dude –> http://champlou.bandcamp.com/

  23. Pingback: The Good, The Bad, And The Funky: Cowboy Bebop 22 “Cowboy Funk” | We Remember Love

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