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Cowboy Bebop – Anime Series (not only) for Kids

Have you ever felt stuck in your past? Something’s holding you back from doing the right thing. What’s even worse, the actions you wish you had taken were circumscribed and looked down upon by the external world, and the people in it. Consequently, the internal self is now wishing you weren’t in the shackles you bound yourself with, desensitized as a direct result of feeling “too much’’. 

Anime is widely regarded as content suitable for kids only. After receiving such a comment, I’ve done the only logical thing a young person yearning for the revelation of truth would do – investigate and jot down my very own barrage of counterarguments. A word to the wise, comments similar to this one oftentimes come with sardonic statements or snarky underlying messages, like: “Aren’t you a bit old for that?”. The only thing I can tell you is – oh boy, they did not expect this coming along their way! 

Source: Pinterest.com

What is “Cowboy Bebop” anyways? 

At first glance, the story of the Cowboy Bebop series seems rather slow in delivering its message, devoid of any particular meaning or symbolism. Just a couple of bounty hunters floating seamlessly in space, alternating between a myriad of planets. And, of course, missing out on just about any golden opportunity they might come across during their adventures. All of it with a little bit of jazz to set the scene, as a cherry on top of the cake. The same old classic. A bedtime story you’d usually read out loud to your kid. Or is it? 

The story follows a group of bounty hunters, each of them tussling with their own “black dog”, “some out loud and some in silence” (a reference to Sam Fender’s jaw-dropping song “Dead Boys”, thank me later). Throughout the series, the overarching segment we see are their worries and the past they try to sweep under the carpet, all in vain. Just as Lewis Michael Bond and Luiza Liz Bond (fellows behind “The Cinema Cartography” channel on YouTube) have put it: “Characters are unable to live with purpose in the present, because of the sorrows chaining them to their past”. 

Well, what is it that’s bothering them? I don’t know about you, but I’ve made a full-fledged list consisting of the quotes, interesting bits, and main takeaways from the series. Down below is what I can proudly define as a treasure trove. 

“The Cat Who Lived A Million Times” 

 Allow me to tell you a story. I know, now it sounds like a fable suitable for kids only, but bear with me. It’s worth it, I promise. 

“There once was a tiger-striped cat. This cat died a million deaths and was reborn a million times and was owned by various people who he didn't care for. The cat wasn't afraid to die. One day, the cat was free, a stray. He met a white female cat, and the two cats spent their days happily together. Years passed, and the white cat died of old age. The tiger-striped cat cried a million times and then died. It never came back to life.” 

Source: Unsplash.com

During the last episode of Cowboy Bebop, Spike tells a short story about a cat. A full all-encompassing version of this fable was written in 1977 by Sano Yoko. It touches upon the feelings of the cat – when it belonged to a seaman, it hated the sea. When it was a magician’s cat, it loathed even the thought of a circus. Every time the death occurred, without exception, the cat would die right at the place to which it felt the greatest aversion. Death never phased the cat – it didn’t even matter, no tears were shed. Once, it was reborn as a free cat, and that’s when our hero from the fable started having feelings. When his companion died, the tiger-striped cat shed a million tears, and it never came back to life. 

How does this story relate to the main character in Cowboy Bebop, Spike Spiegel? I’ll leave you with what he had to say (excerpt from a movie): 

“Years ago, back when I was much younger, I was afraid of nothing. I had not the slightest fear of death. I was ready to die anytime. But then I met a special woman. She made me want to go on living. For the first time, I was afraid of death. A feeling I’d never had before.” 

Symbolism and philosophies behind Spike Spiegel 

Have you ever imagined what a mix of Bruce Lee, Seneca, Nietzsche, and a samurai warrior would be like? Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to Spike Spiegel? 

The initial design of Spike’s character was inspired by a real Japanese actor, Yusaku Matsuda. Yusaku was devoted to his career. Even though he was diagnosed with a malignancy, he opted out of the chemotherapy alternative, as he thought it would affect his ability to act in the film. He kept up with the movie “Black Rain” – this piece was the last one in which Yusaku had starred before he passed away. 

In one of the episodes, one young lad tried to rob Spike – before he could even wrap his head around what was happening, he found himself laying spread out on the ground. He pleaded with Spike to teach him how to combat just as he had demonstrated it. The answer Spike provided is in analogy with Bruce Lee’s “water” combat theory. 

“The flow is more important, not power. You have to be like the water. {…} I'm not tensing up anywhere. I'm just using your excessive force. I control the flow of power.” 

According to Wiki Fandom, “Spike's philosophy seems to be based on the ancient samurai ideals of immediacy, such as considering oneself as dead and the idea of death as being an awakening from a dream”. He did and didn’t care simultaneously, caught up in the web the past weaves. Spike balanced between indifference (Nietzsche’s nihilism) and gritting his teeth through all of the hardships (stoicism). 

Behind his slothfulness, seemingly incurable indifference, there’s an unfulfilled part of Spike, which he must find yet again. 

Even if you come back, there won't be a place for you here. 

–   Can't do anything about it. 

I never did understand you, even to the very end. 

– I don't understand, either. 

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 Que sera, sera 

Just as Doris Day told us in her song “Que sera, sera”, life is uncertain. We can’t expect anything from anybody, and this harsh reality can wear us down after some time. This song serves as a great prelude to the next sequence you’re currently reading. Arguably one of the most popular scenes in movie history is Spike lighting a cigarette. His spaceship was about to collapse and fall to its demise dragging him along, but he didn’t mind it. Spike brought the cigarette to his lips, and said the famous words:

“Whatever happens, happens”. 

“You’re gonna carry that weight” 

“Our main characters were constantly surrounded by others who were able to confront their pasts, while they were still searching for their catharsis”.  

They chose to do nothing over the fact that they should take matters into their own hands. To get back to who they truly are. 

“Know thyself” is the first of three Delphic maxims inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. It provides us with a unique solution – how can we step up to the things which scare us if we don’t know what we hold dear to our hearts? 

When Spike finally worked up the courage to make the right decision, he didn’t turn back to look behind him, even when another Bebop crew member, Faye, pleaded with him not to take the measures he did. 

“I’m not going there to die – I’m going to find out if I’m alive. I have to do it”. As an answer, in hopes of stopping him, Faye fired a shot at the ceiling. Spike stopped for a brief moment but didn’t look back at her. His purpose and the sole reason why he’s alive are tied to this decision. He had to take measures. And he continued walking. 

All this time, every crew member on Bebop felt as though they are frozen in time. To some extent, that’ll always be true. 

“Nothing changes what we saw. Nothing changes what happened. The past is going to stay with us. We’re gonna carry that weight” (The Cinema Cartography). 

Source: Unsplash.com

The only remaining question is – are you brave enough to take the stand for yourself, and untangle the web of your past? Bang! That’s a good one.

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#Move on!

*An Article was prepared and written by Milica JovanovićMedia and Communication Consultant Edit


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