Cowboy Bebop 15 “My Funny Valentine”– Faye as Ranka, & the Pointlessness of Love & Bounties

cowboy bebop 15 faye valentine wrecking the hospital

[Cowboy Bebop Episode 14 “Bohemian Rhapsody”]

While I’m sure many things have been said about the content of this session, being the back story of the show’s second most memorable character, there’s something more interesting to be said in how the back story is delivered, because it is testament to the craft that went into the show, and the delightful chemistry that resulted from it.

What is Ein for? Ein was the MacGuffin way back in “Stray Dog Strut.” Since then we’ve seen him do pretty much nothing (he got to be the first victim of the alien back in “Toys in the Attic”), except perhaps present himself as a device akin to a confession booth – not just in terms of having Faye Valentine in particular tell her story like here in this session, but also expose the extent of her “sinful” character – as she did rob Ein of his dog food back in “Sympathy for the Devil.”

Ein shows us how lonely Faye is, how she needs someone to talk to, but really can’t open up to either Jet nor Spike. Faye wouldn’t talk to Ed who can talk back and do something weird in the process. Faye has grown comfortable talking (down) to Ein and in this case she felt kind of generous and opened up her past. This is all for our sakes by the way, Ein’s existence allows the story to be told almost directly to the viewer yet preserves the fourth wall.

As it turns out, Faye is “victim” of a small-time scam run by a medical clinic and a lawyer. It’s unclear to me how this clinic got hold of Faye in the first place. I imagine it as some combination of chance and collection agency business practice. A collection agency is a firm that well, collects debt that is in default or is headed there. The original owner of the debt settles for a fraction of what the debt is originally worth, and the agency takes the rest.

The agency itself usually has a lawyer who is mentioned in the written collection notices that forms the backbone of the harassment these firms usually do to bully and scare debtors into paying. Having married an attorney, I am informed that the lawyers who take up this “practice” are the dregs of the legal profession. Having experienced their ‘work’ a few times in my life, they tend to not sign the notices of collection, they don’t post an address of official business on the notice and instead put a P.O. Box. Why? It’s because they knowingly commit acts of harassment. They call your mother and scare her that she’ll be subpoenad if she doesn’t pay for her son’s debt.

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They are the lowest of the low. Whitney Hagas Matsumoto, is such a con artist, who poses as some kind of insurance representative who will help her out, taking nearly full advantage of her amnesia and vulnerability. At 20 years old, Faye isn’t exactly some bright college graduate, she’s just this kid who doesn’t know who she is. She woke up from 54 years of sleep after suffering injuries from a big accident.

People are more aware of Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle story, but this is predated by at least a thousand years by the Chinese legend of Ranka1. Wikipedia, provides the summary:

Wang Chih was a hardy young fellow who used to venture deep into the mountains to find suitable wood for his axe. One day he went farther than usual and became lost. He wandered about for a while and eventually came upon two strange old men who were playing Go, their board resting on a rock between them. Wang Chih was fascinated. He put down his axe and began to watch. One of the players gave him something like a date to chew on, so that he felt neither hunger nor thirst. As he continued to watch he fell into a trance for what seemed like an hour or two. When he awoke, however, the two old men were no longer there. He found that his axe handle had rotted to dust and he had grown a long beard. When he returned to his native village he discovered that his family had disappeared and that no one even remembered his name.

Unlike Wang Chih, Faye Valentine did not age. She woke up in a world where the technology has outpaced what she knew, but it’s not that different. It’s actually a dark, scummy, degenerating world much like how the ‘90s were: The post-bubble Japan, the Asian economic crisis, and major cities like New York were hotspots of crime elevated to mythological levels. Like much science fiction, Cowboy Bebop writes about its present, characterized in some distant or not-so-distant future. Such were the ‘90s, I remember it too.

We can tell Whitney is a fishy because he doesn’t reference either Rip or Ranka and instead goes straight to Sleeping Beauty. He says he’ll help her with the debt, that if she keeps on living, perhaps she’ll meet someone wonderful. In that moment when Faye seems to buy into the story, the session plays one of my favorite songs from the OST, Flying Teapot.

It’s one of the first songs I took pains to learn to sing. In those lonelier days of 2003-2004 I listened to the OST every day, and sang to myself while walking to and from many pointless destinations. Cowboy Bebop was the soundtrack to my “quarter-life crisis,” and having overcome that I only have love for the songs that kept me company back then.

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This song scored the whole sequence wherein Whitney chased after an escaping Faye, took her out on a date, told her how the prince must protect his Sleeping Beauty when the insurance company started going after her, and supposedly died for her sake. Somehow he found the time to will her all his assets, but all of that amounted to just further debt.

Sure, Ed preserved the fourth wall, but it would be a complete waste if all this information didn’t mix up the chemical elements of the cast. Deliciously enough, Spike overheard everything and admitted as much just after we hear him flush the toilet. It’s that apparent contempt this show has for its characters, the indignity they’re constantly subjected to,  that make us love them more.

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The closure and resolution is typical. Even when Jet is forced to hunt the smallest of the small fry just to get food on the table, the smallest of the small fry turns out to be Whitney, and as pathetic he’s become (and it is quite pathetic), Faye still shows feelings and gratitude for him, until his con is fully exposed, and then she puts him behind bars herself.

Side note: Chauvinism

Jet: Women as insistent as her tend to be the ones that get emotionally swayed by their exes. Women don’t work on reason.

She took the guy and not the money.

Spike: Jet captured him!

Faye: I have to repay my debt to him. So I have the right to do what I want with him, and the bounty on him! (at gunpoint)

Spike: Amazing. She clearly states a pointless argument.

Jet: That’s what I told you. Women don’t work on reason.

You know what, I’m not even going to defend this. The dogfight action we get in this session is Spike vs. Faye, Swordfish II vs. Redtail. We know Faye can’t win that one. But she finds out the extent of the con and puts Whitney away herself, so I guess she’s not too thoroughly trodden upon by the male chauvinist writing. Maybe.

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Maybe not.

What I do know is this is all pointless, as Cowboy Bebop is madly in love with pointless things. It makes them beautiful, funny, musical. The flirtation between Faye and Spike at the end is such a thing, such a beautiful, funny, musically pointless thing.

1Yes, Macross Frontier does reference this in Ranka Lee’s dissociative amnesia.

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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23 Responses to Cowboy Bebop 15 “My Funny Valentine”– Faye as Ranka, & the Pointlessness of Love & Bounties

  1. Xard says:

    LOL brilliantly misleading title (you know what I mean)

    I’ve always liked this episode a lot like all Faye eps in general. Good point about Ein because if I had to nitpick things in days of the past when I first saw the show I always felt he ended up pretty pointless character and seriously underutilized for a dog with supposedly human level intelligence (or at least close to it… or maybe above?)

    • Hehe, tbh I had never thought of researching the source of Ranka Lee’s name until I stumbled upon it while writing this post. It all comes together with the dissociative amnesia thing.

      Ein is verily the skull in Hamlet’s hand. Only better, because it is hinted that he has human or ultra-human intelligence. At the same time, given that he’s a stand-in for the fourth wall, Faye gets to talk down to us like dogs… which can be a turn-on for some, or so I’ve heard…

      • Xard says:

        What’s interesting is that it might’ve been entirely coincidental (or even better, subconscious) on Mr.! Eyebrow’s part because if I remember correctly what I read in his Ranka book interview was that he originally came up with two idols and then subsequently two boys to match them and the names for them (Sheryl Ranka Alto Brera) just came to him like that. Of course I don’t know if Ranka-as-amnesiac was already decided at that very initial stage but if it was this was probably Kawamori’s own subconscious bringing up a fitting name. Which is cool. Wouldn’t even be only time when Kawamori makes (chinese too) references that fly past most, supposedly for Sayonara the phrase that somewhat symbolizes tale of Alto, Sheryl and Ranka is derived from chinese marital vows… I remember when that came out in Newtype October 2010 issue and it drove me to walls because it was so damn vague reference for him to make.

        Seeing Ein as the “skull” is very satisfying to me. I could see him playing a role akin that when I recently rewatched first 10 episodes (as part of introducing friend to series) but I didn’t think of any proper words for it.

        Geez, it’s been at least 4 years since I last saw series from beginning to end… time sure flies by.

        • Minmay is part Chinese.

          I’m part Chinese.

          Me and Minmay…

          I’ll stop there.

          I’m rather fond of identifying characters as narrative devices. The work is a machine with functional parts. Prior to this viewing I haven’t watched Cowboy Bebop since maybe 2005.

  2. animekritik says:

    Ein is a sadist controlling everyone else’s lives behind the curtains and ensuring they get a raw deal all the time. That’s how I see it.

  3. Shinmarizu says:

    Finally! One of my favourite episodes:
    1) Flying Teapot is some of Yoko Kanno’s best work. Period. It beats out some of the glory in some of her other OSTs. Then again, I tend to hold all of the music of Cowboy Bebop in high regard (as well as in my iPod).
    2) I believe the English dubbed lined went like this after the toilet flush:
    Faye: How long have you been listening?
    Spike: Too long. Your story needs editing.
    I was in stitches after those lines, especially effective after such a sad flashback.
    3) The chauvinism dialogue also had me in stitches, as bad as it was.
    I think you hit the nail on the head about CB in general: I could have not enjoyed pointless stuff in any way better than this.

    • Haha!

      1. I love Flying Tepot, but I gotta knock a little harder, if you know what I mean?
      2. LOL
      3. It’s really terrible, the chauvinism but guess what? Men are dicks.

      Thanks, it’s been my thesis about the show the past 3 or so years. As I keep rewatching I’m more and more convinced.

  4. Reid says:

    I need to watch this episode for two reasons:
    1. Faye in THAT DRESS. mmm
    2. Aerial dogfights are some of the best things ever.

  5. Vendredi says:

    Episodes like this make me profoundly conflicted as to what to feel about Cowboy Bebop. We have tons of character exposition in each individual episode, but it feels as if by the next episode the slate is wiped clean; there is little in the way of development even if the characters get to witness revelations about each other… overall the series has the proceedings of a dream at times. Faye in particular feels far and away the strongest character; she seems the sort who could hold down an entire series herself.

    Probably my favourite scene in this episode is where Faye mis-identifies all the futuristic appliances surrounding her and is promptly corrected: it’s a fun scene with great timing.

    • Xard says:

      Such contrast is fitting for series’s drifting, aimless, almost dirgelike nature. I think Bebop’s main theme is about whether or not people can pursue happiness freed of chains of their past. This is why Keiko Nobumoto so heavily emphatized to Watanabe that finale’s most important scene (despite its seeming irrelevance) is the scene in airport when Faye accidentally witnesses meeting between the ex-Big Shot host and his mother. Faye comes to realize the truth following the dissatisfaction after learning her past and seeing that scene: Spike, not so much.

      As such the casual inability to connect most of the time (there’re exceptions) despite learning of each other’s past just fits the general theme.

      Then again life is but a dream y’know… that’s never ending

      /well I guess comments like these should be reserved for much later date

    • By character development… what do you mean exactly?

      What is this hallowed thing that so many viewers condemn shows for not having?

      What is to be developed in a fictional character?

      Based on your comment, you seem to want the cast to act on the knowledge they learn about each other. The thing is, that would be… out of character for all of them. Jet cares about everyone the most. Why? He is a selfish, lonely asshole. Sure he cares, but he’s greedy too. He annihilated his own past far sooner than anyone else. He has nothing to look forward to. His ship and its crew is all he’s got.

      Spike cares about people in his non-committal way. He cared about Katerina, he cared about the blind girl, he even cared enough for Gren. It follows that he cares for Faye… but also, Faye annoys him. From the start she always did. He’d listen to her story as he did here, and he was game enough to watch her video through later on… but that’s it. She’s not part of his life, and neither is Jet, when it comes down to it. It’s Julia, just Julia.

      Faye, doesn’t want to be here. She’s just lucked into having a rent-free place to crash, without anyone trying to get into her pants.

      • Vendredi says:

        Perhaps “development” is the wrong term. Rather I’d at least like to get some reference that past episodes did “happen” in some way. A lot of episodes in Bebop seem to take place in a vacuum. It makes it pretty easy to jump into the series at any point; but it also makes watching two or more episodes in quick succession a bit of a non-sequitur, a sort of “That’s all? No futher reaction?” kind of feeling.
        It doesn’t necessarily have to be from the main cast themselves, but
        to be honest, I’d much rather see the cast of Bebop go one way or the other. Most of what we get is just plain… apathy. Which I suppose might be in-character but I’m not sure if I agree that it makes for interesting viewing, or very relatable viewing. Although that in itself could be an objective, creating a feeling of empty dissatisfaction.

        • It’s bound to happen how these characters are unrelatable. I mean, who are like these failures of life among the viewers? Who have lived through betrayed love triangles, amnesia, professional assfucking? Who has gambling addiction?

          These aren’t grand things, but they are adult things beyond the younger viewership’s reach. I watched this at age 26? Just past my quarter life shit and I found them as relatable as fuck. The disjointed days that are insignificant but with stretches of nothing in between… That was the stuff of life man.

          What you found difficult I found the easiest thing to relate to.

  6. Reid says:

    If I was an gun-slingin’, ace pilot jeet kune do master with cool hair and my own spaceship I’d be snatching up that pretty young thang that is Ms. Valentine. That’s what I have trouble relating to ^.^

    On a serious note, why do you think Spike doesn’t try to make something happen with Faye?

    • It’s because of Julia… and when you get to witness Faye running into Julia… oh god I shat bricks.

    • Shinmarizu says:

      Spike could charm the pants off pretty much any woman he could want, but his heart has already been stolen. Him being the chivalrous spirit he tends to be around most women, he won’t waver from his first love. I think that Spike is a hopeless romanticist in that regard.
      I don’t believe that he has made a serious move on Faye as of yet. As far as I know, he doesn’t even attempt to.

  7. megaroad1 says:

    I found Jet’s chauvinism to be deliciously consistent with his character. Of course a guy as lonely as him (and dumped as he was) would not care to to attribute the opposite gender with any kind of common sense.

    And, man, I have to confess that when I first watched CB I didn’t like Faye until this chapter. But her story is just unbelievably sad. Waking up in a foreign world after 54 years in hibernation, not even being sure of how you ended up there is as cruel a fate as I can imagine. Jet and Spike run away from their past at this point, but Faye…she doesn’t even have one. At this point in the series is when I came to look at her character and actions with a bit more sympathy (not that she needs it of course None of them do).

    • The sympathy makes the show easier to watch, and easier to like. While it is possible to enjoy this show a lot while in contempt of the characters (CAN’T WAIT TO SEE THESE ASSHOLES GET CRUSHED AND DIE), this isn’t how we usually watch our shows.

  8. Pingback: Redemption is Incomplete Without Death–Cowboy Bebop 16 “Black Dog Serenade” | We Remember Love

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