If “Asteroid Blues” is a slow and angry tune, with hard riffs and a throaty saxophone for a solo, then “Stray Dog Strut” has a lot more whimsical horns, a faster beat, and a kazoo. Cowboy Bebop is not a consistently somber tale of woe, and despite the whimsical antics of Spike with poor dead Katerina and Asimov, that story is one bitter song.
There is mirth in melancholy – the mirth is what makes the sadness more sad, and taking a long view over the show, it must feature episodes where the tragedy isn’t as dark and deadly as the Bonnie and Clyde in Space affair in the pilot. Thus, this little strut, that involves a less sinister bounty, a dubious prize, and an ending that underscores a way of life in this time in human history.
The bounty is a ‘serial pet thief’ for crying out loud! It’s as far from a dangerous drug dealer as you can get. But see, there’s something else going on here besides the presentation of a silly bounty. It’s a statement on the way of life for these Cowboys, dependent on this show ‘Big Shot’ which is aimed at the 300,000 bounty hunters in the solar system. Is there a registration? A license? How does the show come up with this number?
Spike alone has a past that he doesn’t fully disclose to Jet, so this number is very suspect. It’s almost like Jet is an owner to Spike’s stray cat. Not that Spike is a pet, but if he were a domesticated animal, a cat is fine too. I don’t want to get too much into this at this point of the show, so you’ll just have to trust me. Meanwhile, a little about how Bebop makes its villains badass:
It’s not enough for Bebop to show Hakim beating three armed assailants with kung-fu. We’re shown how he’d smash a cockroach with his bare hands, put it in some herbal drink, and force a guy to drink the whole thing. It’s badass in its very low-rent way, as befits a kind of criminal with such a lame specialization. It’s touches like this that really endear this show to me. For all I write about the shoutouts, references, and Easter Eggs, these are all things I discover much later.
My initial appreciation for Bebop is immediate and intense, and mostly on the level of the core content. It’s during the latter rewatches than I began to notice the shoutouts and Easter Eggs. And what’s to be immediately appreciated? Mistaken identities, appraisals of worth, and a 4-way chase in the Martian streets that is so very much the Hong Kong of 1980s films… all of which humorously concludes prior to the first eyecatch!
But if possible, the second 4-way chase scene is even more ridiculous, as it involved nets, pets, a limo with a ‘Just Married’ sign, guns, a grappling hook missile, a mid-air catch via the Swordfish II(!), and an all-badguy crash into the police station!
It’s the last bit that begins to describe the sitcom kind of humor in Bebop, wherein after all the hard work and adventures in pursuit of the big prize, by the end of the episode the protagonists are just as poor and hungry as they ever were. Only here in Bebop, their prize is that their ‘team’ grew by 1 dog. The show invites viewers to consider the consistency in the pointlessness of human effort in this age, albeit not every venture needs a tragic tone.
The blues can be upbeat too, just don’t forget how laughter can be just as bitter as tears.
Stray Dog Strut Remembering Love
Cowboy Bebop has song titles for episode titles, and the Stray Cat Strut (see first video on above) provides the inspiration for this episode. It’s suggested that the chase scenes in this episode evoke those from the Scooby Doo cartoon. If you consider the madcap hijinks, crashing into things, and especially the musical soundtrack, then yes. Here are samples:
In Stray Dog Strut, there’s even a van involved!
The Scooby Doo reference had ‘dog’ in it, so it’s only consistent that Hakim use another canine reference for his alias. In this case, the rapper Snoop Dogg. Abdul Hakim himself, is styled as Kareem Abdul Jabbar to Spike Spiegel’s Bruce Lee in Game of Death (1978). The mid-air plane catch is straight up remembering love for SDF Macross. This makes Cowboy Bebop one of the first shows to directly reference this (albeit in a very, non-dramatic manner). Here are other examples of the mid-air catch in anime, but in far more dramatic moments.
Most of the references I got after consulting The Jazz Messengers, one of the best damn sites for Cowboy Bebop.