This episode is actually quite difficult to write about; it requires focus or I’ll end up flying into so many tangents. There’s just so much going on. Inevitably, I must focus on Faye, and her message to her future self left on that Betamax tape.
What I suppose I can comment on is how the powerful moment is served by showing a treasure hunt:
- A mysterious item lands on Spike and Jet’s hands (addressed to Faye).
- They explore the cultural underbelly of Mars to determine its value (and discover a 20th Century otaku of a supreme caliber).
- Mishaps happen and they end up having to find another way to see the contents of the tape.
- They end up on Earth (in Japan LOL), in a really cool spelunking adventure deep into the ruins.
As all this happens, Faye is going through her emotional and financial rollercoaster gambling with horses then dogs. Her ultimate loss sets her up to view the contents of the tape later.
In true Cowboy Bebop style however, there’s got to be some kind of monumental failure. In this case, Spike and Jet return from all that spelunking with a VHS player. They get to play the Beta tape when another package arrives with the appropriate tape deck. Jet has to foot the bill again, for maximum failure (since Faye is now broke).
The crux of the thing is that the younger Faye made that video to cheer herself on. This is an interesting gesture, a younger self attempting to give the older self confidence. It makes sense in that a younger self could live in a context of great optimism… but that younger Faye doesn’t strike me as naive at all.
I couldn’t see that far when I was 10-14, so a video like this is something alien to me, though I am truly fascinated by it. In any case, the emotional effect is a result of Faye’s current state. Her life is a mess and headed nowhere, this is the first real clue she has about her identity.
The power of the moment, interestingly is in the brief shots of Spike and Jet, absolutely transfixed by what they’re seeing. We don’t even know if they truly get what they’re seeing, but we imagine that they do… and their antagonistic camaraderie with Faye is also broken in our imagination. They’re forced to care, in our imagination.
And in my imagination, they’re all brought back to the ground floor of their wretched state: people with incomplete pasts, living in a purposeless present, with nothing to look forward to in the future. This show. Oh man.
Faye and Character Design
Adult Faye is more moé than her teenager counterpart. She is more attractive, and not only in terms of shapeliness. Her facial features are more cutely, attractively drawn. Her hair is sleeker. In all respects, the adult is more attractive than the child.
This is remarkable. Anime has for the most part served up 14 year-olds and thereabouts as female attractions in their respective stories. Cowboy Bebop dispenses with that in a big way.
This Episode Remembers Love For…
The story Jet tells, which basically runs through the entire episode, is actually a famous Japanese folktale about a guy named Taro Urashima. Taro was a young fisherman. One day he comes upon a turtle being bullied by children, and stops them. To thank him for his deed, the turtle brings Taro to the beautiful and mysterious underwater palace of Ryuuguujou, where he meets a lovely princess. He enjoys his time there so much, that he doesn’t notice the passing of years. Finally, he feels a longing for home, and decides to leave Ryuuguujou. As a remembrance, the princess gives him the tamatebako, a precious treasure chest. She warns him never to open it, however. When Taro returns to his village, he finds that he doesn’t recognize it, nor know any of its people. Soon he realizes that many years had passed since he left the village, and everyone he knew was dead. He resigns himself to living this life, but desperately searches every day for the turtle to bring him back to the paradise of Ryuuguujou. Eventually, in desperation and loneliness, he opens the tamatebako. Suddenly he becomes an old man and dies of despair.
Speaking of fables, you see the tortoise like ship delivering the package at the top of the episode, then you see the hare (bunny) in the dog race. The tortoise brings the treasure (a treasure ancient in nature and taking long in arriving, taking perseverance in getting the value of), the hare dissipates it (gambling as a means of getting rich quick). It’s an indirect reference to the moral, but the juxtaposition reinforces the value judgment between the animals.
For you youngsters, Beverly Hills 90210 was an incredibly popular nighttime soap in the early-mid 1990s. Again, hats off to the Jazz Messengers site for the reference tips, and you may want to check out its theory of Jet x Faye.