The Good, The Bad, And The Funky: Cowboy Bebop 22 “Cowboy Funk”

cowboy_bebop_remastered_22[h264.ac3][niizk].mkv_snapshot_15.40_[2012.02.08_09.21.38]

[Cowboy Bebop 21 “Boogie Woogie Feng Shui” Post 1]

[Cowboy Bebop 21 “Boogie Woogie Feng Shui” Post 2]

If there was going to be a recurring theme, a recurring touchstone for Cowboy Bebop to return to, it would be the “Spaghetti” Western, whose pinnacle for many was the Dollars Trilogy of films by Sergio Leone starring Clint Eastwood as “The Man With No Name.”  The first reference occurred way back in “Asteroid Blues” when Spike wore the sombrero and poncho alluding to Clint Eastwood’s look in the three films.

Bear with me here. We’re going down a rabbit hole of circular referencing. The first film A Fistful of Dollars is pretty much an unofficial remake of Kurosawa Akira’s Yojimbo set in the West. Yojimbo itself was inspired by earlier Western (Cowboy) films. Cowboy Bebop is a Japanese exercise of storytelling using science fiction to write love letters to such Westerns. This episode spins the revolver chamber further; when Andy and Spike have their gunfight showdown, they run sideways shooting at each other—a trope of samurai sword duels in media; and when Cowboy Andy “retires” from being a Cowboy type bounty hunter, he reinvents himself as the Samurai Musashi.

He’s stupid as hell, and meant to highlight and make fun of Spike’s incorrigible, aimless nature. Andy is anything but filled with purpose, but Spike is wholly without it. But this episode occurs near the end of the narrative, which tells us how this too, is a call out to Spike that his purpose will come soon. And keeping with the “opposite, but mirror image” theme, Andy gets to ride into the sunset, never having to carry that weight.

And now Kanno Yoko does her thing with the theme,

I love it, just love it. At one point around 2005 I whistled this every goddamn day on the way to work. It’s a sad tune for a sad episode. What makes it great as tragic notes won’t be clear until everything ends. But since we do know how everything ends, the notion that this session is perhaps the funniest episode in the whole show makes the irony deliciously sad. It gave Spike a rival that got to him in ways that Pierrot Le Fou or even Vicious himself never did.

cowboy_bebop_remastered_22[h264.ac3][niizk].mkv_snapshot_20.58_[2012.02.08_09.27.48]

Cowboy Andy is interestingly enough, the Good. Stupid, but good. He’s the kind of good that serves the idea of justice almost as much as he serves his own narcissism. His vanity and egotism is played for laughs, and he either is completely ignorant of it, or completely owns it. Either way, he’s funny as hell.

Spike on the other hand, is the Bad. His interest in capturing Teddy Bomber is not motivated by reducing the net entropy in the human experience of the universe. He just wants the bounty reward at first, and revenge later on (against Andy, for pretty much being an annoying reminder of Spike’s own idiosyncrasies).

cowboy_bebop_remastered_22[h264.ac3][niizk].mkv_snapshot_13.17_[2012.02.08_09.20.33]

Teddy Bomber (Ted Bower) is pretty much the Ugly. He’s not the Bad because his motivation for bombing isn’t so much murder or terrorism, but rather another comical case of vanity. He’s pretty much drawn from Ted Kazinsky, the Unabomber. He’s comic relief here, as the story pretty much doesn’t want it to be about him, and he wants it to be about him. Spike wants to kick Andy’s ass way too much.

cowboy_bebop_remastered_22[h264.ac3][niizk].mkv_snapshot_19.39_[2012.02.08_09.26.14]

And my goodness, the fight animation, as silly and stupid as it plays out, is superb. I’m not too thrilled about the heroic efforts in animating the “Pierrot Le Fou” episode as good as it was, but here in its more limited fight scenes, Spike and Andy tear up the rooftop in an amazing sequence of animation. I don’t think this episode would be so memorable if it wasn’t so well done, but it is, and I’m glad for it. It’s by Nakamura Yutaka, master of fight scenes. Here’s a feature on him in the 2011 Sakuga Panel at Anime Central (intro ends after 3 minutes):

Part of the formula is to put Faye into sexually charged situations, while remaining pretty much chaste scenes overall. We saw it with Gren, and we’ll see it with Vincent (in the film), and now we see her on a “date” with Cowboy Andy. As usual nothing much amounts from it, but it’s still good for a few laughs.

cowboy_bebop_remastered_22[h264.ac3][niizk].mkv_snapshot_11.55_[2012.02.08_09.19.03]

…which again underscores the underlying emptiness the human condition in this time and place. The most purposeful characters we’ve met in the show, fall in the range of space environmental terrorists (that have since turned to monkeys), a chess-playing troll that has since gone senile, and this rich kid who has way too much time on his hands that wank himself stupid being a Cowboy then Samurai.

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.
This entry was posted in Cowboy Bebop and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to The Good, The Bad, And The Funky: Cowboy Bebop 22 “Cowboy Funk”

  1. animekritik says:

    Kurosawa Leone this Kurosawa etc etc. Great stuff.

    I think your last paragraph says it all. A truly end of days anime.

    • End of days anime… I don’t believe I’ve ever come across the term… and I’m unlikely to forget it. It is a fascinating way to call Cowboy Bebop. I think I shall call it thus from now on.

  2. MarigoldRan says:

    Wait wait wait. Just got an idea. Maybe Faye should marry ANDY.

    After all, he’s rich. And they seem to get along.

    ????

  3. Shinmarizu says:

    I love this episode for all the throwbacks to the old Westerns and samurai flicks my dad and I used to watch. Andy was an amazing character who served as Spike’s caricature / mirror image.

    • One of my earliest memories of my father was him bringing me, child as I was to the cinema to watch The Lone Ranger. I too associate Westerns with my father, though I don’t believe we’ve watched that many.

  4. Matt Wells says:

    Posting the Montenegro version of “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” main theme? BLASPHEMY. Serious Morricone fan here.

    • Then why didn’t you post the video of Morricone’s you whiny prat?

      • Matt Wells says:

        Heh. That’s YOUR job. You thought subtitle fans were arrogant whiny snobs? Try hanging around with the classic cinema crowd… Montenegro’s rendition is the pop charts version; think of the the difference between an Ichiro Mizuki ballad and the trance-mania dance mix and you’ll get the divide. Here’s the real deal:

        Listen to those howls! Hear those trumpets blare! Nothing cosy about this version, it’s raw, heartfelt and hotter than the desert sun. Kanno’s track is gentler, a lilting pastiche of Spaghetti Themes in the same way this session affectionately lampoons the likes of Leone and Corbucci. The twanging guitar strings and repititious whistling lift from the earlier Dollars film scores, but it’s more general parody than anything specific.

  5. megaroad1 says:

    This episode is funny as hell. Andy’s lines in engrish are memorable as is the final “MUSASHII…GO JIROUMARUU!” And the references to Leone and Morricone all over the place are delicious.

    It’s ironic that Andy despite his apparent stupidity is actually what Spike could become if he could ever let go of the past. As you said he doesn’t have to carry the weight. But he does carry it and that lies at the heart of this great series

  6. Sanagi says:

    Great review except for overuse of the phrase “pretty much.” And it’s a phrase that shouldn’t be said at all, because it pretty much undermines your authorial voice.

  7. The Kenosha Kid says:

    The rabbit hole of referencing goes even further: Kurosawa took much of HIS inspiration for Yojimbo from the Dashiell Hammett novels Red Harvest and The Glass Key. So here’s a Cowboy Bebop episode that takes major inspiration from an Italian/American western, based off of a Japanese samurai film, which was inspired in large part by a couple of seminal detective novels.

    And besides Westerns and samurai films, what’s one of the most prevalent aesthetics/genres in Cowboy Bebop? Noir!

  8. Pontifus says:

    Aw yeah! This episode is the best.

    Andy is stupid. The Bomber is stupid (and not even as sickly dedicated as Kaczynski; this guy doesn’t live in a cabin in the woods, he makes regular trips to the toy store so he can keep up his calling card). Spike is stupid. It probably does amount to their attempting only to create shows of which they are the stars. What’s the point?

    This seems to be a universe in which the value of entertainment and the fear of boredom, already high fifty years before the Bebop crew assembles, has continued to increase. It’s unsettling. Funny, but unsettling.

  9. jakflash says:

    So, all I got left is the last two episodes. Hard Luck Women was amazing, easily one of my favourites. Looking forward to your synopses and review.

    • Thanks, these aren’t really reviews but just exploratory essays that indulges nostalgia among other things. There’ll be a post on the film as well. I have them all finished, just a matter of scheduling the publication. Watch out for them.

  10. Pingback: Knockin’ a Lot Harder: 3 Viewings of Cowboy Bebop “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” | We Remember Love

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s