Jet Black’s First Moment, They’re Few and Far Between–But the Black Dog’s Bite Never Let’s You Go; Cowboy Bebop 10 “Ganymede Elegy”

cowboy_bebop_remastered_10[h264.ac3][niizk].mkv_snapshot_15.20_[2011.09.06_05.26.35]

[Episode 9 “Jamming with Edward”]

Many shows have melancholy characters, some perhaps have the same kind of bitter memories made a little sweeter with reunions, albeit we all know that things could never come back to how they were before. It would be enough if Jet Black had that moment with Alise, in that dive called “La Fin.” It could’ve really ended there and we would’ve had an interesting show.

But this is Cowboy Bebop, the knife must twist in an awesome way. Here we won’t see how Jet is hurt by what he had to do. It was a joyful thing in fact, to see Jet be something more like awesome, than just be the straight man to everyone else in the Bebop ship. And in signature style, the show does it with action: a chase scene, gunfire, and the most amazingly dissonant music set to it all.

The music plays exactly after this moment, Spike was already chasing Rhint with a bounty of 1.8 million Wulongs. Rhint is the gigolo of Alisa, Jet’s old flame run afoul with loan sharks. Rhint killed one defending her. Spike had to do a hard vertical climb against the face of a skyscraper, just narrowly avoiding crashing into Jet’s Hammerhead.

Spike tells Jet the score. Jet just has this empty face, like all life has drained from it, then the music plays.

cowboy bebop 10 jet black melancholy zombie face

You see, Jet’s life didn’t really drain away. It was already gone. It was gone when he left Ganymede when Alisa’s watch stopped. It was replaced with this undead life of the Cowboy, the bounty hunter. Jet tolerates the weirdos on his ship because they have the semblance of life. His undead life carries with it the habits of life, but impossibly so – the way Jet’s massive physique is maintained by eating mostly carbohydrates. But more importantly, how he has the shade of his minor legend as a police officer:

This is the land where I was a cop… I’m the Black Dog. Once I bite I never let go. I have no regrets about her, but I’ll settle this score on my home turf.

The medieval wistfulness of ELM contrasts immensely with the aerial spectacle that Jet performs, no less impressive as what Spike has shown so far. Rhint and Alisa weave their boat through a metropolitan labyrinth of waterways but Jet pilots the Hammerhead through all that. Sure, this dissonance is played up since Asteroid Blues’ chase scene, but Jazz is different… ELM is different. There’s a wallowing in Space Lion where in ELM it’s pretty much an elegiac.

cowboy bebop 10 alisa putting on a face to face her fate

Jet harpoons the boat after reaching open water. Rhint panics. Alisa is resigned. A confrontation on the shore. Alisa shoots at Jet. Jet doesn’t flinch. She was never going to hit him. The undead can’t be harmed by bullets. “There are other bounties to find!” She implores, “Even if I let you go, someone will come for you someday… If you run, you will be an accomplice.”

Alisa fires bullets of the past. He spoiled her. He constricted her. She wanted the freedom to fuck up her own life. She’s still free to suffer the consequences of her mistakes, though Jet leaves her with a parting gift: a self-defense plea to escape the justice that’s meted against murderers. Alisa would need someone to protect her.

A Prayer for Jet:

All I ask for when I pray,
Steady rollin woman gonna come my way.
Need a woman gonna hold my hand
And tell me no lies, make me a happy man.

Page/Plant/Jones

The black labrador retriever that prowled around the studio where Led Zeppelin recorded this track had nothing to do with the song lyrics, just as Ganymede Elegy had nothing to do with this song. And yet, this symmetry is just perfect, and is how I end this post remembering love for the cop living out his undead life as a cowboy. Stay cool Jet. You’ll live and die again soon enough.

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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18 Responses to Jet Black’s First Moment, They’re Few and Far Between–But the Black Dog’s Bite Never Let’s You Go; Cowboy Bebop 10 “Ganymede Elegy”

  1. MarigoldRan says:

    My friend likes carbohydrates too. Does that make him a zombie?

  2. Tronulax says:

    In the studio ver. of Black Dog, Page and Jones play in a different time signature than Bonzo (who is drumming in 4/4). Listen to the baseline fall out of synch and then fall back at around 0:45. JPJ, who wrote/derived the riffs, wanted a song where you couldn’t dance to.

    It’s interesting you bring it up here while 6 episodes down the road, there’s one titled BLACK DOG SERENADE.

  3. megaroad1 says:

    Was waiting eagerly for your blog on “Ganymede Elegy” if anything, because ELM happens to be one of my all time favourite songs. And in this episode it elevates what should just be a well choreographed chase scene into something else. More than anything, it shifts the attention from the thrill of the chase and the plight of the people being chased, to Jet’s inner turmoil. I wouldn’t actually call it a case of dissonance, since it I don’t think it contrasts with the events it portrays, just forces us to focus on the meaning of them. (BTW, the guy who plays and ‘sings’ this piece is a fantastic French musician called Pierre Bensunsan).

    Its ironic to hear Alisa telling yet that she grew tired of his protectiveness, since in a way Jet does feel like the father figure of everyone on the Bebop. No matter how much he may grumble about it, he looks out for the rest of the crew (maybe less so for Faye, specially at the early stages), from making meals for them, to trying to keep them out of trouble.

    Anyone else notice that the watch numbers go all the way to 15? Nice little touch there. I wonder what planet/moon has a 15 hour rotation.

    Led Zeppelin. Black Dog. No one makes music like that anymore

    Tronulax: John Paul Jones failed massively in his endeavor to make people not be able to dance to this song. Just requires a suitable amount of booze and a complete indifference to what other people may think about you on the dance-floor.

    • I’m not sure I’m with you re “not dissonant.” The dissonance is what gives the thing meaning and that is the purpose of such contrasting music. If the meaning of the chase was more like “Jet being the Black Dog that never lets go and you felons are going down!” then a more upbeat score would drive that meaning, and is consonant with the idea of the chase scene anyway.

      I didn’t notice the timepiece had 15 numbers. Good catch.

  4. hearthesea says:

    Jet is one of those quietly interesting characters, easy to overlook due to the prominence of Spike and Faye and their distinctive personalities. I appreciated him much more when I rewatched the series, and this episode is one of my favourites. The meeting in the bar between Jet and Elisa is particularly well crafted, on pretty much all levels.

    I like the way you focus on ‘ELM’, a lovely track that really does add a new dimension to what would otherwise be a typical chase scene. It’s yet another example of how the music in the series is an essential facet of the storytelling rather than simply being an afterthought or bonus. I’d also like to draw attention to ‘The Singing Sea’, which lends a lovely sense of nostalgia to Jet’s walk through his old home.

    • Thanks.

      Definitely a show with a musical reference in the title would do well to integrate music more than the usual way of using score. Disney’s Fantasia did this really well, and of course Warner Brothers’ “Looney Tunes” and “Merry Melodies.”

  5. chii says:

    I always really liked episodes that were Jet heavy. reading your post makes me think that I should re-watch this amazing anime again

  6. Shinmarizu says:

    Reading this and listening to ELM. Yet again, you offer me the most amazing ways to destroy my free time. And help dispel my personal grief in the process. Thank you for making my morning.
    Now I must remember more love. Hooray for having the episodes on my external hard drive so I can indulge at a moment’s notice.

  7. megaroad1 says:

    I am now experiencing what I’ll call ‘hard drive envy’. Suddenly my 350 GB feels woefully inadequate!

    • Shinmarizu says:

      The upgrade to my 3TB external was more necessity and urgency than anything; my 2TB drive started failing diagnostics and experienced physical failure.
      The only thing I need to do now aside from watching copious amounts of new anime is to hunt down all of SDF Macross and Macross 7. I have watched them in all their glory; I want to be able to remember love for my favourite franchise at a moment’s notice.

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