Redemption is Incomplete Without Death–Cowboy Bebop 16 “Black Dog Serenade”

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[Cowboy Bebop Session 15 “My Funny Valentine”]

Several things strike me about this session.

1. This is a story of old men.

Even during the flashback, the characters were already old, or rather at the prime of their respective detective and criminal careers. The episode itself felt old, film noir old, so old that Faye asking Jet about growing his arm back at the beginning of the episode got her a very (grouchy) old man response.

2. It is musically stark.

A typical session has around 3-5 pieces between the credits. Sometimes the pieces are repeats from previous episodes, sometimes for just a few bars. Check out the track list for this episode:

  • Tank! (TV edit) – opener
  • Space Time [unreleased] – intro of Udai.
  • Space Time [unreleased] – Udai kills Dig.
  • Cosmos – Trumpet solo played during Jet’s flashback.
  • The Real Man – techno piece that plays as Jet flies Hammerhead over to the prison ship.
  • Cosmos – Udai’s revelation of the truth.
  • Farewell Blues – Jet’s final scene with Fad/end of the episode.
  • The Real Folk Blues – end credits, sung by Mai Yamane
  • Mushroom Hunting – funk piece played during the preview for Mushroom Samba; sung by Tulivu-Donna Cumberbatch

It’s really just Cosmos and Farewell Blues ain’t it? Why? Why is Jet’s story so quiet? Why deny it even the sad notes? Compare it with the song list from “Sympathy With the Devil.” You’ll find it pretty bare. “Ganymede Elegy” was pretty soulful for Jet, this one had nothing… a past that catches up with him not to free him, but just to put into order the people he’s killed off in his heart… with their respective deaths.

There are lots of clips, and from original recordings too, but I liked this rendition and find affinity with its amateur nature.

This is different from Led Zeppelin’s and probably far closer to the mark for Jet Black.

3. Con Air (1997)

I actually enjoyed this cheesy film and loved how this session referenced it. Cowboy Bebop sometimes takes one aspect of the source and distills it, framing the allusion into a limited set of meanings. In this case, it’s just Udai Taxim being a badass beyond anyone’s level among the convicts. And quite unlike Cyrus “The Virus,” his story is of a bitter kind of tragic (as opposed to a Jerry Bruckheimer produced villainous comeuppance).

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The world had moved on without Udai. His gang have sold him out, and his information he intended to use against them has grown stale. He’s still dangerous, but no longer someone who makes a difference in this world.

Such a man is the kind that meets his end among deadbeat detectives and down-on-their-luck bounty hunters.

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So now we know how Jet lost his arm, and how the truth of the story is met with the death of the big reveal. Fad let Jet kill him while pretending to attack. Does Fad’s death win him redemption? I don’t know, but it was sure as hell a manly way to die, after living a life of a weasel all these years. And Jet lets the guy who would quit smoking for all of 10 days smoke one for the road. And that’s a manly thing to do.

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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7 Responses to Redemption is Incomplete Without Death–Cowboy Bebop 16 “Black Dog Serenade”

  1. Shinmarizu says:

    And so continues the tale of why Jet is such a miserable man. And yet I enjoy it so much.
    Not sure what else this particular episode instilled in me aside from the film noir elements (the dark, the gritty, the violent), but it’s a fitting lens to see a grizzled old man’s development through.

    • This is the definitive Jet Black origin story, not that any of the characters get a very definitive back story. It’s all just snap shots, all just a song or two and never the full album.

  2. megaroad1 says:

    It is indeed a story of old men, for the most part silent and gritty and without unnecessary frills. And we get now a more rounded view of Jet. While we had gotten snippets of Jet’s past in Ganymede Elegy, we never really got a look at him as a member of the ISSP. At least in this episode one can better understand how he ended up like did as leading man of the Bebop.

    My favourite bit in this episode is the dialogue between Fad and Jet when they’re looking for the prison ship. Jet is sure that he will go to Europa adding: ” If I was Udai, I would go back to Europa…He’s old fashioned…so much that he’s not the kind of guy to live in this day and age…He’ll go back. I know it”
    Jet might as well have been talking Spike. All these characters are so heavily anchored in the past it’s scary.

    Nice music clip. Yeah the Black Dog Blues fits Jet’s personality much better than Led Zep’s high powered rock anthem.

    • As I’ve been saying, their fractured pasts are all they’ve got. They have nothing to look forward to and nothing to relish in the present.

      These are some of the most wretched characters you’ll ever come across.

  3. Jan says:

    Was eagerly awaiting the next article in this Bebop series! Another parallel between Jet Spike, a Law enforcer and a law breaker, betrayed by their partners, though I don’t know quite how obvious that is. In this session is one of three instances (that I recall) where a throwing knife is employed during a fight in the series (Vicious against Spike, Spike against Pierrot Le Fou, and Udai against Jet in this session). Not sure if there’s a significance to this, but an interesting observation I think. It seems there’s a Bebop session for every person I’d ever want to introduce to the series, if my grandfather spoke English, this would be the one I’d have for him.

    Cheers!

    • Great observations!

      Indeed there seems to be a session in this show that will appeal to a certain kind of viewer the most. I suppose you grandfather can’t read subtitles very well, as I’m sure the show has been subtitled in various languages.

  4. Pingback: Western Jive in Cowboy Bebop 17 “Mushroom Samba” or, We Remember Love, Let Us Count The Ways | We Remember Love

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