I don’t get the impression that viewers like this episode very much. I always had difficulty getting into it. I think I know now exactly why. There are two closely related but distinct reasons:
- Pacing: A lighthearted Jet Black episode belongs right about just after episode 2 “Stray Dog Strut” – but instead the show chose to introduce Faye in “Honky Tonk Woman” which makes sense.
- Characterization: A lighthearted Jet episode belongs before episode 10 “Ganymede Elegy” or at the very least before episode 16 “Black Dog Serenade.” Why? These episodes establish Jet’s character as serious and weighed-down with his past. The non-Jet episodes do a good enough job of lightening him up, as he is the straight man to everyone else’s joker. This episode perhaps attempts to establish Jet as someone who’s okay after resolving his past in “Black Dog Serenade” but I don’t buy it. He’s a lonely wreck and this is clear all the way to the finale. It is clear, but not on center stage. This is what makes it good and powerful.
- The episode doesn’t really have a strong statement of remembering love for anything in particular.
This is why this session, despite the presence of Cowboy Bebop’s staple elements of goodness: chases, dogfights (even a ship battle), etc… does not capture the imagination. But doesn’t it really?
In this episode, Jet mostly spends time with the daughter of his friend, Mefia. She’s too old to be his daughter, but too young to pose as his sister. The obvious joke is for people to think of him as some kind of sugar daddy though he’s too broke for any gold digger to take interest in. Still,
The more righteous a man is in his youth, the more likely he’s gonna fall for a young girl later in life…
Really, guys are so clueless.
– Faye Valentine
Let’s put aside a few things:
- Faye can’t be that much older than the girl.
- Faye is actually a lot older than the girl.
- Faye generally acts older than the girl.
- Jet complains a lot about Faye.
- Jet actually has a thing for Faye.
I’m not going to discuss these things. Instead I’m going to take on Faye’s statements without her in the picture, as it is, in my opinion, at the heart of many anime fans. Being sexually attracted to the anime characters they watch, and what it says about their flesh-and-blood sexual inclination and preferences.
For every person who dismisses “they’re just ‘toons,” I come across some fan who behaves as if the anime character he likes is better than any human being, living or dead. For the purposes of this discussion I will stand on that at least some of the time, for many of the viewers, they admire or are attracted sexually, to anime characters as if they were people they can perform sexual acts with.
The older, more mature the viewer is, the more problematic/guilt-inviting the experience is, precisely because anime characters are almost always juvenile, and younger than the age of consent in Japan itself (18 years old – although the age of sexual consent in Japan is 13 years of age, prefecture law usually overrides federal law, raising the age up to 18), and often younger than the worldwide average age of consent (16 years old).
Using a most unscientific assumption and some really dubious sources, I try to validate Faye’s claim. As for my own example, I wouldn’t say I was righteous at all in my youth (in my teens to early 20s), and I married at 29 to a woman a year and a half older than I am. I apparently prove Faye right! But back to my sketchier sources (an excerpt):
8 Men Reveal Why They Date Younger Women (Match.Com Magazine)
It’s all about the law of averages as you get older
“When you reach your late thirties, it’s not so much that dating a younger woman becomes more attractive, it’s just harder not to date them. The law of averages means that proportionately fewer women your age are single. But dating a woman in her twenties when you’re approaching 40 is also less demanding; you’re not faced with the same requirements to make a decision about your future. When your new girlfriend is 36, she expects you’re thinking about the next few years, not just the next few dates.”
— Colin, 38, Chicago, IL
Their carefree attitudes make younger women more appealing
“I’d say the allure is that younger women are less judgmental and less set in their ways. They don’t have a laundry list of what they want in a partner, a career or even life just yet. Younger women are more friendly, I suppose. I think that kind of attitude appeals to thirty-something guys who want a relationship to really be on their terms.”
— Larry, 35, Edison, NJ
Impressing a younger date is easier
“One advantage of dating a younger woman is that you can play ‘cruise director’ — i.e., show her all your secret favorite places that she probably hasn’t experienced yet. They’re easier to impress and very willing to be escorted around. Women like it when you have a plan and it’s well-executed.”
— Bill, 33, New York, NY
None of the above examples (nor the other 5 reasons in the article) profess a righteous attitude whether youth or present. Mostly it’s actually wanting to avoid work or further responsibility, wanting to make it easier for themselves. Faye strikes out here, as well as an even more dubious site that attempts to explain or even justify why older men date younger women.
What I found most entertaining in my Google-aided gallivanting for this post topic, is an article written by a woman for women. Here’s the money quote:
A friend and I started and ran a speed dating company for several years. I’ll tell you what I learned from that experience: Older men love the idea of younger women. This is the same as me loving the idea of a string bikini. I can certainly buy it, and I can certainly wear it. But at some level, I sort of know that that kind of swimsuit and I should have parted ways at least 10 20 25 years ago. I can look in the mirror and tell myself it’s a good fit, but if I were Snow White and the Wicked Witch lived in my mirror, she would laugh herself into a coma.
– Renee, Life in the Boomer Lane
She goes on to say that older men, despite their listed preferences on dating sites, actually respond enthusiastically to queries from women their age.
In anime, this is pretty much a tease. Sure, there are dramatic examples as cautionary tales such as Miyabi’s compensatory dating adventures in Great Teacher Onizuka, as well as Anaru & co.’s pretty sinister misadventures in that show with a ridiculously long name and had horrendous amounts of crying that aired in NoitaminA in 2011. Otherwise, there’s the invisible bajillionaire husband of Adult Bank in Star Driver, then these two lovable pairs from relatively recent and very recent robot anime:
These are May-December affairs, but all parties are adults. The guilt and/or misgiving feelings of the viewers have to do with relating to awesome heroes/villains like Char Aznable and feeling attracted to teenagers like Lalah, Quess, pre-Zeta Haman. The guilt I think is proportionate to how righteous the viewers are or want to be. If Faye is right, when these viewers are older, they’ll eventually succumb and go out with jailbait or someone barely legal.
As for Jet Black, he’s righteous throughout. This little caper resolves with his righteousness intact, his ability to play the straight man intact, his role as the nagger and sermon giver on the Bebop is secure. Perhaps the frustrating thing about this episode, is that I never really felt it was significantly threatened anyway. Jet was never going to hit that. This kind of lameness doesn’t make him fail in his usual interesting way. It’s an ordinary kind of fail, and below my expectations from this show that serves up some of the most exquisite of failures in all anime.
A Personal Note
One thing I really noticed about this episode is how it is a love letter for the city of Hong Kong. So much of it is similar to the Hong Kong I visited back in 2006 (nearly a full decade after the making of the anime).
I am absolutely certain the park where Jet and Meifa had an ice cream is Kowloon Park in Tsim Tsa Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong. I love it how this show (and Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell before it loves my favorite city – not that I’ve traveled outside Southeast Asia).
I’m sure residents of New York City are accustomed to this, seeing places they frequent on TV shows and films. Same with the Japanese, who see Tokyo on the street level, illustrated and animated. But I am neither. I can’t really explain this giddy feeling I have to have walked amidst, lived and breathed within, a pretty much real, yet science fictional setting.
My wife and I walked in a fucking anime. This is nuts!
Now you can too! Hong Kong is a great place to visit.
- Bohemians… IN SPACE (suck) Cowboy Bebop 14 “Bohemian Rhapsody” (ghostlightning.wordpress.com)