Springtime for Jet Black: Cowboy Bebop 21 “Boogie Woogie Feng Shui”

cowboy_bebop_remastered_21[h264.ac3][niizk].mkv_snapshot_06.29_[2012.01.28_18.11.56]

[Cowboy Bebop 20 “Pierrot Le Fou”]

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?

cowboy_bebop_remastered_21[h264.ac3][niizk].mkv_snapshot_04.42_[2012.01.28_18.10.11]

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:

  1. Faye can’t be that much older than the girl.
  2. Faye is actually a lot older than the girl.
  3. Faye generally acts older than the girl.
  4. Jet complains a lot about Faye.
  5. 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:

Macross Frontier The Wings of Goodbye Monica x Jeffrey[sage]_Mobile_Suit_Gundam_AGE_-_09_[720p][10bit][8D68705F].mkv_snapshot_04.21_[2011.12.05_06.11.49]

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).

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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).

CIMG1734CIMG1737imageCIMG1746

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!

image

Now you can too! Hong Kong is a great place to visit.

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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14 Responses to Springtime for Jet Black: Cowboy Bebop 21 “Boogie Woogie Feng Shui”

  1. Cratex says:

    I think this was possibly one of my favorite episodes. Not sure why, other than maybe simply because Jet impressed me.

    The older, more mature the viewer is,…

    I definitely fit the picture of an older anime viewer (I’ll be 50 this year). Mature? I doubt that, but whatever. Now, as a guy, I find women attractive – age is largely irrelevant, though I don’t consider teens as potential partners. Anime characters? In abstract, yes, in so far as like most guys I’m visually attuned – I see an attractive woman and the usual result is the blood drains out of my brain, it matters not if it is real, a real picture, or a well drawn picture. Have I ever become attached to an anime character? yes, but to their character and personalities, not any looks or notions about them being a potential partner.

    I divorced a couple of years ago, so in theory I could start dating, and in theory I could look for some girl half my age. But, I’m not having any of that. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I’m happy where I am now.

    • I certainly don’t come across anime fans older than myself very often, and I’m a very young 35!

      My wife and I discussed this post last night, and we figured that age may indeed be a factor, at least from an abstract, before meeting a person POV. However that really may go out the window when you’ve made a strong connection. As to how long and how far that goes is another matter entirely.

  2. megaroad1 says:

    This episode is indeed a strange fit in the series, five episodes away from the end and after Pierrot le Fou. A bit of a change of pace most definitely.

    Your discussion brings me back to my second year of high school. A group of us students had a very close relationship with our psychology teacher and a couple of times we went out to town to have drinks with him. Once, the conversation turned to precisely the subject of older men dating younger women and he gave us his thoughts on the subject. He believed that a lot of different things went into it (socioeconomic factors, some psychology stuff that he didn’t want to expand upon, etc). But his main thesis, which he admitted was totally unscientific, was that those men who were at the bottom of the ladder at the dating game during their teens, if successful later on in life, would most probably date younger women at some point. He used the group of us as an example saying that he believed that those of us who were ‘lucky’ to that point (read the non-virgins) would probably settle down at one point with greater ease, and with a woman probably of a similar age (read -/+ 5 years). Those who did not have this fulfillment during their adolescence, would unconsciously try to compensate for it, if the opportunity presented itself at some point in the future unless one found oneself in a very happy relationship.

    Fast forward 15 years and his prediction has been astonishingly accurate. From that group of friends, those who were ‘wilder’ during their HS years are all married with kids. The 2 guys who didn’t fit this criteria are both in relationships, but with women a decade younger than us. Fluke? Probably. Coincidence? Most likely. But still food for thought in my mind. In the case of the Bebop crew, I don’t know how to interpret Faye’s “righteous”, but in any case Jet strikes me as a more likely candidate for dating a younger woman than Spike “I have Julia thank you very much” Spiegel.

    • I have a bunch of geek friends that pretty much disprove this. While some of them still seem hopeless and forever alone, those who are in relationships with women close to their age are arguably the “unlucky” ones back in adolescence proper. The lotharios still married women up with up to 10 years younger than they are.

      • megaroad1 says:

        His theory of course is terribly unscientific. Just find it almost eerie, that in the case of the people he was referring to in particular, he was pretty much dead on.

  3. kadian1364 says:

    This is mine and several others I know least favorite episode of Bebop. Cuchlann touched on why in the preceding post: Jet has always lived out and embodied the Noir detective lifestyle, but Mei comes from a different sort of show altogether, turning the episode into a silly, serendipitous date-adventure. The joking quips about their age difference, though lame, seem to indicate the episode was meant to be comedy, but then Jet’s constant ineffective narrations pull towards the darker Noir territory, creating a constant clash of moods. Are they actually in danger, or is this just a comic escapade where we’re meant to believe Mei’s kooky spiritualism will pull them through? Without any spectacular action sequences, involving personal drama, plot relevance, or easily identifiable motif from an iconic piece of cinema to carry the episode, it leaves little to recommend Boogie Woogie Feng-Shui. Even in the context of Cowboy Bebop, the episode feels extraneous and, most shockingly, not well put together.

    The real miracle is that Bebop didn’t have more episodes like this one, seeing how easy it is for media to fall into these traps. You expect a lazy episode to crop up occasionally even with the best of them, but this anime only let it happen once.

    • Hah!

      Well said. I don’t know if I could call it lazy, but perhaps it is ill-conceived indeed.

    • Xard says:

      I thought Jet’s noir narrations were part of a joke: the whole episode makes fun of Jet’s “noirness” and out of place narration just adds to the absurdity and humour of the whole experience. It’s humour that springs from the gap between the narration and what actually happens on screen.

  4. Pingback: The Good, The Bad, And The Funky: Cowboy Bebop 22 “Cowboy Funk” | We Remember Love

  5. Xard says:

    I should’ve responded to this ages ago but first of all I’d like to make a comment about translation of Faye’s comment in the subs. “Righteous” works well enough and it certainly fits Jet but the actual word used fits IMO both what Faye said Jet’s person even better.

    The word used is 真面目/majime, adjective that is/can be translated as the following:

    diligent; serious; honest; sober; grave; earnest; steady

    A word that describes Jet and his attitude perhaps more perfectly than any other. Japanese society generally views 真面目 as very positive quality (a guy who is “majime”/serious about studying and his job as a part of workforce later in life is a proper no-nonsense member of society!) and thus it is not completely *unfitting* to translate it as righteous. But righteous and 真面目 are not the same thing. After all you can be righteous even if you’re whimsical and carefree person.

    Thus in my opinion the subs unfortunately don’t render *exactly* correct understanding of what Faye says. I would’ve put it as “The more serious a man is in his youth, the more likely he’s gonna fall for a young girl later in life…”

    This makes much more sense and rings more true to me. After all it isn’t a rare phenomenom for a person who has been very, uhh, straightfaced and serious end up doing impulsive, reckless things due to midlife crisis and the like. Buy a motor bike… or find a young woman

    Righteous, on the other hand, is a moral term by definition and such connection isn’t as obvious at least in my eyes:

    1. Morally upright; without guilt or sin
    2. In accordance with virtue or morality
    3. Morally justifiable

    With that out of way, “actual” reply to contents of the post…

    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.

    Well, Cratex’s response already was to a point. There’s nothing particularly strange about it, not anymore so that we’re able to look at animated car chase and treat it as if it were real car chase. Fiction altogether wouldn’t work if we couldn’t approach these fictional constructs (whether characters or not) as if they were real on some level. Feeling antipathy or empathy to a character as if it were a person wouldn’t be possible if in human nature there wasn’t a capability to conceptualize and imagine text or image as something more than they are. If one can feel the whole range of all other emotions for a fictional character there shouldn’t be anything surprising about sexual attraction also being possible. With anime we’re even talking about images in human form which isn’t even a “radical” case. When a reader is aroused by character in erotic fiction is he getting a hard on for a ink blots on paper which is all the character “really” is? Of course not because normally people don’t feel sexual attraction to to such inanimate objects!

    As far as I know people getting crushes on novel characters is as old phenomenom as literature itself. I’m also reminded of recently translated Yoko Kanno interview (http://gabrielarobin.com/5045/interview-with-yuki-kodama-and-shinichiro-watanabe) where she related that her “first love” was actually Jesus Christ as a small girl because she found image of him attractive.

    Moving a few steps forward from plain words or paintings with no hint of sexuality in them we get to anime and manga where characters generally speaking are usually designed to be attractive with features either mimicking what get people going with real life humans (“perfect” body types and alike). Even features that first strike one as more alien like huge eyes usually exist as kind of idealization of things we do find nice in real humans too: like big eyes being nice (of course anime proportions on real humans look creepy because they try bring abstract idealizations into far too physical form).

    In short there’s nothing per se strange about it (and it isn’t only related to anime or modern era: it also goes without saying that history of drawn pornography goes eons back in time) and whenever I see someone wondering aloud about it I see someone who has only thought about it very superficially or is a hypocrite.

    Genshiken put it very well:

    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).

    this on the other hand is much more understandable issue to me. Well, since I’m 14 years your junior the high school era wasn’t that long ago for me but even then I’ve had times I was troubled by this in the past.

    It was a part of more general (and profoundly silly in retrospect) moral struggle I was going through when I became legal adult: turns out turning 18 didn’t turn away male gaze from sexually attractive females even if they were my junior. Particularly troubling were cases under finnish age of consent (16) – let me tell you you’d never guess ages of some of these girls correctly. Even if I had no intentions to ever do anything about it the existence of the attraction in itself caused me a lot of guilt. Another angle into problem came through my fairly constant exposure to japanese media. As you may know asians generally look much younger than their actual ages are to western eye and seeing japanese girls who in some respects looked very… childish yet were still gorgeous and not even rarely of legal age was another thing that hounded me.

    What finally gave me a release from this was admitting some and realizing some basic facts of life: the fundamentally trivial nature of all “age” laws, the difference between arbitrary law and moral code and most importantly inevitable disregard of arbitrary numerical values as far as human biology goes.

    With meaninglessness of age of consent (or when one can acquire driving license) laws I’m not saying they don’t have a purpose and that they should be abolished: I’m saying they don’t have a binding moral character and that they exist for pragmatical reasons. After all, age of consent laws tend to vary from 12 to 18 year old across the globe. How could it be *morally* – not legally – wrong to have sex with 17 year old in one country but not so in its neighbour? Why exactly is it so that when I turn 18 I have the maturity and abilities to learn to drive to car when a mere day ago when I was still 17 I didn’t? How can a change from 11.59 to 00.00 in clock fundamentally change my capabilities so much? Heck, in USA I could get the license at 16. Are the yankees so much mentally ahead of us or what? And of course since age of consents are relatively new phenomenom, differ from country to country and are conceptual in nature they have no connection to biological, eternal basis of sexual attraction which doesn’t give a damn about such conceits of human thought. There’s a reason why physical attraction to adolescents is considered normal in psychology while actual pedophilia is classified as mental illness (it doesn’t help that many people can’t separate the two with magazines screaming about some guy “molesting child” when a girl in question was 15 year old and mere 100 years ago it would’ve been completely normal and acceptable relationship)

    Realizing all of this together with moral accountability being related to *free actions* and volitions that lifted the unnecessary burden from my shoulders. Age of consent laws play a vital role in protecting vulnerable youth from use by scummy adults and even if there were some 15 year olds more than mature enough to learn drive a car it’s safer for all to wait a bit longer because not everyone shares their level. Such sacrifices can’t be helped. Biological attraction in itself isn’t a conscious action in my part which are what I’m responsible for. Thus as I have no interest in relationship with a teenager I don’t need to feel like I’ve commited a grave sin even if I happen to pass by a junior I consider attractive during a walk.

    As for anime characters there’s no issue to begin with as they’re all fantasy characters and often the links between the character ages and their personality and behaviour are more than a bit strenuous. There are 14 year olds in anime who are far more mature and lovable persons than some of the “real” adults of my age who I count as friends and associates. Numerical age in a world where college aged guys are world knowing sages and middle schoolers brave heroes more than capable of carrying the world on their shoulder is quite irrelevant feature to judging them. For example character like Utena is what, 13? If there truly was a girl of that calibre in real world and I had a shot at her I don’t think I’d give a damn about age (not that I’m actually particularly attracted to Utena in that way but she’s perfect example for making the point). Thankfully real teenagers aren’t like that so I have no fears about finding myself in illicit relationship with minor, ever 😀

    and, well, even if I’m no longer attracted to Asuka and see her as too much of a broken, poor teenager as I’ve matured from that comparable adolescent phase of mine she still *looks* as hot as back then. Being 21 or 14 doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to that so I’d feel very hypocritical if I started to rant and rave against my peers who may consider her waifu material or anything like that 😀

    • Thanks again for the epic effort to take the post on.

      You covered my concerns in this well-considered response quite articulately. Any further discussion from me will drag this out to abstraction — on the nature of morality itself, which is another can of worms (but for forthrightness’ sake: I have a morality, I think of it as right, but I don’t hold it as an absolute truth in the absolutest of senses; it is a contingent truth for me, and is as close as I can get to a statement of faith; because after all, everything is empty and meaningless. Morality I suppose, for me is a possibility — like a Gundam which is also like a Unicorn, LOL).

    • Reid says:

      This was brilliantly written. Thank you for articulating so precisely what my feelings on the matter have been for some time. It’s always a tough thing to do, being the first person to step out on a limb and tackle a tough subject, but you’ve done it here with verve and class (not to mention a command of the English language that not many native speakers could manage). I always enjoy reading your comments on the main page, and this long comment here (almost a blog post in its own right) further solidified my respect for your abilities and sensibilities. Thank you for what you contribute the discourse on this website.

    • anonymous says:

      I always thought “young” in Jet’s case was meant relatively (like a 20-something vs a middle-aged man) rather than to refer to a minor, to build on your comment about the midlife crisis. In regards to the age of consent, I always saw it as more of a way to prevent dangerously uneven power dynamics (a middle-aged teacher can pressure a 17-year old student into sex and can abuse their authority over them to do it) that can lead to abuse rather than a specific legal mandate on the morality of 17 year olds porking their older boy/girlfriends. I don’t know how they do it in Finland, but the US (in some states) has Romeo and Juliet laws that discriminate between the two. If they’re animes though IDGAF, even if I do find it creepy.

      Also, Utena is 13?!?! Seriously?

  6. Pingback: Xard on the Arbitrariness of the Age of Consent & Coming to Terms with 2-D Complexity | The Ghosts of Discussions

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