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 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).
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.
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.
…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.