Spike really said that? Cowboy Bebop put a spin on the stereotypical hacker by making the most unlikely character as the most notorious hacker on Earth: a middle-school age girl, albeit contrary to contemporary fetishized depictions of such a female in anime.
From the 90s to the present, Radical Edward is well, radical.
Edward, and the episode does everything to prove Spike wrong, as she (yes, she) runs rings around the cowboys unlike any of the bounties that escaped their pursuit. But more than this, Edward is also introduced as the final member of the cast and the Bebop crew, which now becomes the most unlikely team of leads, unless such a team is conceptualized to be such a “cool” diverse group (like say, NCIS and other crime dramas), which results often in the opposite of cool (very lame).
Edward will be cool until the very end. She’ll have no lame romantic subplots, just the endless chemistry of barely tolerant coexistence with the rest of the cowboys in the Bebop. Let’s Jam.
The session title is from a real jam session made up of members of the Rolling Stones band. Nicky Hopkins, the pianist also went by the alias “Edward the Mad Shirt Grinder,” and during that time was the most sought-after session musicians. I know too little about how “mad” Edward was, but I’ve read enough apocryphal material that says how Radical Edward is based on another well known pianist and composer.
The episode has this really cool montage of Jet asking about the identity of the legendary hacker. The motif is that of Jet’s feet pounding the pavement, interlaced with comments by the assets he’s trying to make. The comments are delivered documentary interview style, which is another example of the versatility and playfulness of the storytelling in the show.
Yuri Kellerman asserts that the Hacker hypothesis is a government cover-up. During the 1990s, this was an idea that captured the public’s imagination due to the popularity of the TV Series The X Files, which routinely attributes supernatural phenomena being “hidden” from the public by government conspiracies. The name Yuri Kellerman is an allusion to the “psychic” Yuri Geller, (in)famous for bending cutlery on national television using “psychic powers.”
The alien hypothesis for the Nazca Lines was popularized by the book Erinnerungen an die Zukunft: Ungelöste Rätsel der Vergangenheit (Chariots of the Gods? Unsolved Mysteries of the Past) by Erich von Däniken. He maintains that the existence of structures and artifacts have been found which represent higher technological knowledge than is presumed to have existed at the times they were manufactured. Däniken maintains that these artifacts were produced either by extraterrestrial visitors or by humans who learned the necessary knowledge from them. Such artifacts include the Nazca lines in Peru, which he explains as landing strips for an airfield.
The images (Condor, Hummingbird) on the top of the two columns don’t find a correspondence with those featured in the episode, as does the Giant. Cowboy Bebop in turn featured what seems to be a crawling creature that doesn’t appear in the examples of the Nazca Lines.
Row 1: Condor, Hummingbird; Row 2: Heron; Row 3: Giant; Row 4: Spider; Row 5: Pelican, WTF; Row 6: Dog; Row 7: Hands; Row 8: Monkey.
Is the episode making a statement about the claims made by Däniken? It would seem so. Yuri Geller (ergo Kellerman) was famously debunked; Kellerman is the allegory to Däniken it would seem, and his theory about aliens communicating with the Earthlings is made rubbish by the fact that it was a bored spy satellite doodling on the Earth surface to pass the time.
There’s talk of the spy satellite program being a reference to HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey but I find the connection superficial at best. Both are artificial intelligences that caused mischief for humans, but HAL 9000‘s story is far more sinister. Then again Cowboy Bebop is running a lighthearted episode and it’s not quite easy to dismiss. It is an unimportant allusion in any case.
And the resolution is as spectacular as it is feel-good. Edward was able to download a copy of MPU, allowing it to make friends on the net. But for this to happen, the entire Bebop crew had to take on attack satellites, resulting in an exciting space battle! This is incredible stuff. I’m truly astounded at how this episode gives such a wide spread of entertainment. First, some spacecraft pr0n:
Here we are treated with a showcase of all the spacecraft of our perpetually down-on-their-luck bounty hunters. I truly love the fact that the Bebop itself is a retrofitted fishing boat, allowing it landings at sea. The Hammerhead and Redtail are seen to fly together, and then we see some pin-up shots of the Swordfish II. What I want to pay attention here is the condition of the craft. All of them exhibit remarkable wear and tear. It’s really cool how the show manifests this level of verisimilitude.
After all this showcase, we are brought back to the formula of Faye trying to renege or cheat her way out of an agreement, and the cowboys failing to cash in on a bounty. Ed makes his way into the Bebop true in spectacular fashion, hacking the controls of the Bebop itself:
If it’s not obvious enough, I am in love with this episode. It perfectly exemplifies how Cowboy Bebop works as comedy: from situational humor, clever references and darkly subtle commentary, to exciting battles fought with the physical danger of a Jackie Chan film where things keep going wrong but work out so right (for us viewers).