Cowboy Bebop 18 “Speak Like a Child” & Treasure Hunt Into Nothingness

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[Episode 17 “Mushroom Samba”]

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

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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.

Lastly, LOL:

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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.

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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25 Responses to Cowboy Bebop 18 “Speak Like a Child” & Treasure Hunt Into Nothingness

  1. Shinmarizu says:

    This episode was gold. The juxtaposition between the optimism of the past, and the misery of the present. Also, the fruitlessness of their efforts to find a VHS player of all things.

    As best as I can interpret based on what has happened up until now, they see someone, who could have had an entirely different life, fall even harder into despair (too strong a word?) or listlessness. Is it that Spike and Jet are forced to care after they witness the optimistic chibi-Faye on the screen and the broken and shattered Adult-moé-Faye in front of them, or do they actually feel sympathetic towards their enigmatic shipmate? The experience feels quite authentic.

    On a side note, “My ship works better when I kick it” had me chuckling. Also, if chibi-Faye had the foresight to send her future self a Betamax tape and a Betamax player, shouldn’t she have sent some additional financial security as well?

    • I do think that Faye’s desperate. I just don’t think she acts on this desperation on a highly conscious level.

      Later on, given her attempt to infiltrate a self-help cult/scam… she’s not wholly unaware and useless. Her despair shows up after her moments of weakness — that is after she’s lost money gambling.

      Teenage Faye probably wouldn’t have had sophisticated enough financial planning skills, even if she’s Singaporean LOL.

  2. MarigoldRan says:

    Well, the video was made before the earth got owned by meteor showers from an experiment that blew up the moon. Rather depressing episode there, but Faye’s still young, attractive, capable, and smart. Develop a sense of responsibility and with her looks and her fighting and piloting skills, there’s a lot of outfits in the solar system that would hire her.

    • True.

      She wouldn’t let herself be hired though, not until she’s paid off her debt. She wants to re-enter legitimate society after clearing her debt via gambling, of all things. She’s pretty much useless before that happens. But it’ll never happen.

  3. megaroad1 says:

    Such an amazing contrast isn’t it. The comedic nature of the early parts of the episode with the otaku guy and all the confusion resulting with the Betamax/VHS mixup; and then the faces of Spike/Jet when they see the video. It just hits you in the gut. The youthful energy and innocence of Faye standing in stark contrast to the cynical apathetic creature she has become. So subtle and yet so powerful. I love this episode.

    For one I have to say that I agree with Jazzmessengers theory on Jet and Faye to a degree, but I’ll leave that discussion to when you finish blogging CB.

    A small bit of trivia from this episode is that Shoji Kawamori co-wrote the screenplay. I’ve always found that a bit funny, considering that whenever he collaborates on projects by other creative teams, its mostly as a mechanical designer/technology guru. I wonder what he brought into the story?

    Technology sure advances fast when it comes to consumer electronics. Discs are already becoming obsolete and will probably be just as quaint and rare as Betamax tapes.

  4. kadian1364 says:

    Old man, you’ve never heard of a time capsule? My grade school had our class make one in 3rd grade, and they would keep it somewhere safe (traditionally buried next to a tree but kept in a safe is OK too). Then when we finally graduated from high school, we got the thing full of the letters, toys, and other sentimental trinkets we valued when we were kids ($5 certainly seemed like financial security to a 3rd grader!). This is Faye’s time capsule. After 50 years of cryogenic sleep, billions of kilometers of inter-planetary travel, innumerable changes of hands, and all the uncountable opportunities to be destroyed and lost, it still found it’s final destination.

    This episode reinforces one of the strongest themes of Cowboy Bebop: you are indelibly tied to your past. Sometimes it’s forceful and violent, other times it’s romantic and bittersweet like the Betamax’s serendipitous journey through the solar system, but it’s most often surprising how your past and your memories will always find you.

    • I know about time capsules, but only through Western media.

      That’s a romantic way to put it, these ties to the past you speak of. I see it a lot more starkly (not necessarily darkly): the past is all they have. Their present is aimless and they have nothing to look forward to in the future. Nothing.

  5. GoodbyeNavi says:

    It’s more believable that Faye would be more attractive as an adult than a child. Most people (supposedly) grow out of the teenage awkwardness and become quite attractive adults. Anime’s obsession with cute teenagers is a bit creepy to me at times rather than portraying them in their pimply, gangly glory. Cowboy Bebop approached reality in anime in a way that is rarely seen (yes, they’re flying around in a spaceship,got it).

    Kadian1364 brought up a good point! You didn’t do a time capsule? Something to tell your older self, maybe write a letter, or put in something important to you?

    • Indeed, but not always the case.

      Just looking at my high school and university yearbooks… some people look much better (basing on what I see on facebook), while others… the less said, the better.

      I have journals that go back 18 years, maybe more. They’re terrible to read LOL.

  6. Pontifus says:

    One of my favorites. The funny episodes are the ones I like most, even if, in this show, you’re almost always laughing at the same characters you’re supposed to take seriously in other contexts.

    This is right on the mark:

    Adult Faye is more moé than her teenager counterpart.

    Maybe you mean specifically visually, but it’s more generally true. Why feel that burn for young Faye? She’s immortal now; she’s beyond the effects of time. She doesn’t need us. But present Faye is vulnerable and mistake-prone (and her mistakes matter), and she’s more innocent than she lets on. Beneath the visual element, Bebop indicts us for acting all protective toward kids when they hardly even know what problems are.

    It could be just me, though — I sympathize quite a lot these days with people in debt.

    • Why feel that burn for young Faye? She’s immortal now; she’s beyond the effects of time. She doesn’t need us. But present Faye is vulnerable and mistake-prone (and her mistakes matter), and she’s more innocent than she lets on. Beneath the visual element, Bebop indicts us for acting all protective toward kids when they hardly even know what problems are.

      Excellent. This is pretty much it.

      I love it how you use the word indict. There’s an inauthenticity to the burning need to protect a teenager, compared to say, a toddler. Not to say there’s zero need. There are corrupting forces in life, only that the fare we get in our protectiveness-inducing anime is more manipulative than it is coming from a real place.

  7. JoeQ says:

    Re: Jet x Faye:
    DO. NOT. WANT. and DAMN YOU for planting that thought in my brain. Fucking shippers…

    • LOL.

      Why deny Jet has possible attraction to someone a decade younger? Faye doesn’t even look like jailbait. The chemistry spells doom, however, but I can entertain the idea that Jet is repressing SOMETHING.

      • JoeQ says:

        I was exaggerating (and have no problem with the age difference), but really, I think the character relationships and dynamics in Bebop are perfect as they are, so it would detrimental to my enjoyment of the show to start to consider their relationship from that perspective.

        Plus, shippers in general just annoy me, though at least this isn’t as bad as those guys who insist that Samurai Champloo is really a touching story about a love triangle.

  8. ces06 says:

    It is, an interesting gesture, so much that it makes this episode the only Bebop episode I remember clearly all this time. I even thought about doing it myself, lol. And I watched Bebop when I was 8 or something…

  9. Vendredi says:

    Possibly my favourite episode in the entire series. I’d like to see a spinoff/prequel/sequel series with Faye as the main character, actually.

  10. Pingback: How to Do Nostalgia in a Badass Way: Cowboy Bebop 19 “Wild Horses” | We Remember Love

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