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A Ballad of Ballads Nov. 16th, 2018 @ 12:38 pm


A brand new Coen brothers movie, even an inferior one, would be a nice gift for NetFlix to deliver automatically to-day for its customers, but 2018's The Ballad of Buster Scrubbs happens to be the best Coen brothers movie in years. Beautifully shot and featuring a cast that is simultaneously idiosyncratic and extraordinarily credible it's a bittersweet meditation on art and survival.



An anthology film, it consists of two kinds of stories; stories that comment on stories--the Western genre or art in general--and stories that are straight forward Western tales in themselves. The first story, also called "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs", belongs to the first category.



Tim Blake Nelson plays Scruggs, the impossible figure of the singing cowboy, right out of a 50s kids show, seemingly manifested right in the middle of a harder edged, meaner, more modern conception of the old West. But he functions in this world exactly as he was meant to--he's an uncannily fast shot and always keeps his cool, comfortingly addressing the camera to set the viewer at ease with his worldly wisdoms. It's not so much a subversion of old Western serials as the spirit of the Western serials subverting your average subversion. The conclusion of this story proves just how much power remains in this old type.



The second story, "Near Algodones", seems almost like a satire of Sergio Leone's Westerns, particularly Once Upon a Time in the West. It stars James Franco as a would-be bank robber; the vignette opens with a few extended shots of him outside a bank oddly in the middle of nowhere.



If he stands perfectly still, James Franco could be a Charles Bronson or Clint Eastwood but once he starts to move and talk he comes off as the average schlub he usually comes off as, which is pretty much the point. Instead of the powerful one man, the lone Byronic hero, this guy is forced into a quick succession of adventures totally out of his control.



The third story, "Meal Ticket", is easily the least funny of the group and the one most directly a rumination on art. It's the story of a quadriplegic orator (Harry Melling) and his impresario/caregiver (Liam Neeson) as they travel from town to town. Crowds drawn by the "Artist"'s physical abnormality listen to him perform recitations from Percy Shelley, the bible, and Shakespeare. We never see him talk outside his performances, he's a perfect representation of a being suited only for the purposes of his art, while the impresario has business to consider. Some might consider this story misanthropic but anyone with a little real knowledge of the entertainment industry would see a lot of truth in it.



In "All Gold Canyon", Tom Waits plays one of the roles he was born to play; a gold prospector. We watch him wander into the most beautiful valley you ever saw in a movie, singing, alone except for his mule. Waits has more than just the look; he's heartbreakingly good in this, a story that philosophically seems like an ode to American Transcendentalists. I think Emerson and Thoreau would've liked it a lot.



The penultimate tale, "The Gal Who Got Rattled", feels the most like a complete movie unto itself. It's the story of a young woman, Alice Longabaugh (Zoe Kazan), in a wagon train on the way to Oregon. A good, young, pious girl, she's out of her depth when her brother Gilbert dies, and the handsome leader of the train, Billy Knapp (Bill Heck), gradually starts to feel closer to her as he helps her out. You could say it's like a more conservative version of Red River--which feels pretty bold in this day and age. It works terrifically from beginning to end, though, because there are undercurrents much more complicated than the premise while not at all subverting the premise. Zoe Kazan is perfectly cast--pretty but in an ordinary 19th century settler way and Bill Heck, who doesn't even have a Wikipedia entry, is like an old fashion movie star. You notice I didn't say "Near Algodones" was a parody of Spaghetti Westerns, only of Leone films; "The Gal Who Got Rattled" is like an ode to some other Spaghetti Westerns, like Django or The Great Silence.



The final story, "The Mortal Remains", seems to confirm this impression. It's also like a philosophical dialogue parable, mainly consisting of five strangers having a conversation in a stage coach. A trapper (Chelcie Ross) seems to represent a Transcendentalist perspective; a religious woman (Tyne Daly) the puritanical; a Frenchman (Saul Rubinek) the libertine or Royalist, and then the two men sitting opposite them like an audience or like performers, an Englishman and an Irishman (Jonjo O'Neill and Brendan Gleeson) seem to represent what I suspect is the Coen brothers' perspective. Though they seem more like they came out of a Quentin Tarantino film.



It's a peculiarly satisfying movie on emotional and intellectual layers. It has a fantastic look to it and wonderful atmosphere. It would be very pleasant movie for multiple viewings.
Current Location: The West
Current Mood: hungryhungry
Current Music: "Butterfly" - Wolfe Tones

The Shiny Place Nov. 15th, 2018 @ 04:25 pm


"There's something really sexy about Scrooge McDuck." Now that David Tennant plays Scrooge McDuck this is arguably a reasonable statement but when these immortal words were first spoken by Chloe Sevigny in 1998's The Last Days of Disco they constituted a prime example of the film's understated tragic humour. You couldn't sell a movie like this to-day which is a shame because there's something really sweet and illuminating in this gently acidic satire.



Chloe Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale star as Alice Kinnon and Charlotte Pingress, respectively. Two friends who work for a publisher and who frequent an exclusive disco club in their off hours. Alice is quieter but capable of a little more independent thought but both have the same kind of received intelligence most of the characters have in the film, constantly putting forth shallow arguments about mundane things with an odd counterfeit of passion. And every now and then you can catch the furtive glance as someone wonders if their bullshit is really sticking. In these moments are conveyed a simultaneous sense of belief and not belief, as though everyone keeps two consciousnesses running; one that believes the lie and one that has to not believe the lie in order to maintain it. It's like Doublethink from 1984.



"Okay," says Charlotte after a fight with Alice, in another of the film's memorable lines; "Anything that I did that was wrong I apologise for. But anything that I did that was not wrong I do not apologise for." This is a moment of desperation where her mental operations are bare, she's usually a little craftier. Among the loose group of friends who hang out at the club, everyone bullshits but Charlotte and Matt (Josh Neff), are the two who most compulsively define everything; Charlotte to prop up her self esteem, Matt out of some eerie, earnest shallowness. He insists to Alice with a weird passion that he's "easily discouraged" as though it's part of his creed.



It's Charlotte who informs Alice that she ought to casually mention random things are sexy to entice men. In this case, Alice comments on Scrooge McDuck after Tom (Robert Sean Leonard) shows her some of his collection of original Carl Barks art. And he falls for it, along with the rest of her rap. There'd be little harm in it--they're both just looking to get laid--if he didn't have two venereal diseases he wasn't telling her about.



Even then, it's hard to see him as anything more than another cog in this machine of shallow nightlife. Charlotte even tells Alice how great it is reconnecting with ex-boyfriends in the process of informing them she had gonorrhoea. Does she really believe this? Does she really believe anything she says?

A big part of this film's effectiveness is how much the actors commit to it. Sevigny and Beckinsale are so sincere; even when you laugh you also feel bad for these hapless travellers.

Twitter Sonnet #1175

Impressions made of dots became the page.
In mutant science pens became a chance.
An X and Hulks conclude a vivid age.
In autumn wind the broken web would dance.
Banana cubes are feeding future men.
The bony wrist became a bony watch.
A thousand rings curtail the perfect zen.
A million knives could cut the jagged blotch.
The solemn flaps could cure and wash the car.
Exchanges led to ice replacing glass.
A trebuchet can only sling so far.
There's something round we call the giant mass.
Tamale dreams were hidden 'neath the husk.
Across the sea the walrus stretched his tusk.
Current Location: The club
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: "The Plumbing Song" - "Weird Al" Yankovic

The Last Real Folk Nov. 14th, 2018 @ 10:05 am


In the final episode of Cowboy Bebop we suddenly find ourselves in a very long story established in a very brief space of time. There were hints to and reflections of it throughout the series but all those elements come together finally in a single piece presenting a completion in the final episode simultaneously terribly sad and strangely, deeply satisfying.



Session Twenty Six: The Real Folk Blues Part 2

"Everyone has lost sense of where they want to be . . . Just like kites with no strings." Annie (Miyuki Ichijo), a character reintroduced in this episode, someone from Spike's (Koichi Yamadera) past, says this in reference to Spike's old society of friends and colleagues in the syndicate, but she could as well be talking about Faye (Megumi Hayashibara). Despite Spike's positioning as the central figure, Faye has surprisingly become the closest to being the show's main character by the end.



Jet (Unsho Ishizuka), as usual, is having trouble acknowledging the love he has for his shipmates, telling Faye angrily it's Spike's business if he goes off on his own. But he finally asks her what kind of woman Julia (Gara Takashima) was. And what Faye tells him has enormous meaning now for Faye; "A normal woman . . ." she says; "普通の女よ." . . . "A beautiful, dangerous but normal woman that you can't leave alone . . ." The last thing Faye is is a normal woman. At one time, she didn't mind so much. Her "Lesson" she gave us in "Toy is in the Attic", that nothing good ever happened when she trusted someone, is not something she could say now so glibly. She tells Spike in this episode that she's recovered her lost memories from the time when she was a different person but they've done her no good. She's learned the value of attachment but all of her adult life has made her a person adapted only to avoiding and occasionally exploiting attachment.



Seeking attachment is arguably anti-Buddhist as much as anti-post-modern. We return to religious imagery as Faye describes Julia as a devilish angel or an angelic demon. The worst thing about her is how compellingly normal and, oddly, innocent she is.



Spike adapts the idea to a fable when he meets when Jet for the last time, telling him about a couple cats who meet, fall in love, grow old and die together. But now that Julia's been killed by a stray shot that's not a story Spike can buy into. Or could he?



Spike and Faye's last meeting is brief but potent. She tells him the Bebop is the only place she can go back to after her desperate attempt to find the place where she used to belong. Can't this be Spike's new dream too? He tells her why it can't be and she responds, afraid; "Don't tell me things like that. You never told me anything about yourself. Don't tell me stuff like that now." Spike's old story is a new one to Faye and it's another thing that disrupts her attempt to see the Bebop as familiar, as home. More than that, it creates an arc with a foreseeable end. Like a noir, there's ambiguity about whether Spike has any choice. He talks again about how he has one artificial eye which was implanted after an "accident" years ago; "Since then, I have been seeing the past in one eye and the present in the other. I had believed that what I saw was not all of reality."



He feels himself forced into a permanently unstable state, ironically making his experience similar to Faye's, but while here's has led her to seek a new home his has compelled him to return to his past. He could never truly cast off old attachment or embrace new attachment because he was always aware of not seeing a concrete picture. Now he's going off to die for Julia and it's natural he tells Faye he's doing the opposite; "I'm not going there to die. I'm going there to see if I really am alive." Making this his story might mean his death, but at least it will mean something. That way it's heroic. But it could be tragic if you consider he might have been able to build something else with Faye. He's advised people before to forget the past; maybe therefore on some level he wishes he could.

Naturally, fans have wanted new episodes of Cowboy Bebop for years but this is one of the few classics in Japan or the U.S. that hasn't gotten a reboot or revival. I suspect largely because of how perfect the ending is--it's hard to imagine anything that wouldn't do it a disservice. But there's so much life in every episode of the series it stands as a continually rewarding closed loop, an elegant statement on change and stasis, of destruction and creation, and the complicated and tortuously ambiguous ways in which these manifest in people's lives.

...



This entry is the final in a series of entries I’ve written on Cowboy Bebop for its 20th anniversary. I reviewed each episode individually. My previous episode reviews can be found here:



Session One

Session Two

Session Three

Session Four

Session Five

Session Six

Session Seven

Session Eight

Session Nine

Session Ten

Session Eleven

Sessions Twelve and Thirteen

Session Fourteen

Session Fifteen

Session Sixteen

Session Seventeen

Session Eighteen

Session Nineteen

Session Twenty

Session Twenty One

Session Twenty Two

Knockin' on Heaven's Door

Session Twenty Three

Session Twenty Four

Session Twenty Five

Current Location: 家にいません
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: "The Point of No Return" - Diana Dors

A Bit About Stan Lee Nov. 13th, 2018 @ 04:36 pm


Stan Lee passed away yesterday. Many celebrities and artists and critics are saying things about his work, many of them fairly accurate, like how he is largely responsible for creating the more "down to Earth" superhero of Marvel in contrast to DC's more godlike beings. It's all been said before, really. But it's true.

I've been a fan of Spider-Man since I was a little kid. As a kid, the cool factor impressed me--the web shooters, the wall crawling. It's as we get older that we start to appreciate our superheroes being more human, I think. Spider-Man had that covered too.

None of the movies or TV shows have quite captured the tone of the original comic. Maybe the Tom Holland version comes closest but the films are all a bit too operatic. I still dearly love this moment from 1963:



Even after Uncle Ben has died and he's learned what a responsibility he has--he still has to make money. And he's clumsy and a little unethical about it sometimes but always really innocent, really like a kid. I suppose, in addition to providing kids with an entertaining escape he also made them feel better about making mistakes; big mistakes and also dumb little mistakes, making it a little easier for readers to look at themselves honestly, forgive themselves, and move on. He was a superhero whose life was messy in ways that weren't necessarily glamorous.

I guess there's no danger of Stan Lee being forgotten any time soon. I'm glad.
Current Location: Ink
Current Mood: exhaustedexhausted
Current Music: "Aguas de Marco" - Tom Jobim

Another Animated Rose Nov. 12th, 2018 @ 09:39 am


I've been keen on anime lately and 18th century Europe. If only there were a way I could combine the two. But there is! I've watched three episodes now of one of the most influential shojo anime series of a all time, 1979's The Rose of Versailles (ベルサイユのばら), a show I've wanted to see for a long time because of its influence on one of my favourite series, Revolutionary Girl Utena. The similarities so far seem mainly to be in aesthetic choices and in a cross dressing female protagonist. What a joy Rose of Versailles has been so far, featuring some of the best backgrounds I've seen in a 70s anime and demonstrating greater knowledge of history than I'm used to in European fantasy from Japan.



The series follows Oscar (Reiko Tajima), the daughter of a French nobleman. Like many other fantasy stories about tomboys, the nobleman wanted a son so he raised his daughter like a boy. She grows into a young woman who excels in disciplines traditionally reserved for men like fencing. She's so good, in fact, the King ends up wanting her for the Royal Guard and, after some reluctance to accept this post in the first episode, she becomes head of the retinue guarding the young Marie Antoinette in her journey from Austria to France.



Introduced as an innocent and shallow girl chasing a butterfly around a fountain, she generally seems to fit the typical, popular impression of the historical Marie Antoinette. It's hard to say so far where the series is philosophically--obviously it indulges in the fantasy of aristocracy but Oscar is also portrayed as someone with little patience for the excesses of the court. Most of the plot has involved melodramatic contrivances, including a young man who temporarily takes Antoinette's place as part of scam Oscar manages to foil in the second episode.



The animation in the sword fights is about as good as you can expect from a 70s television anime--not great--but director Tadao Nagahama finds engaging ways to compose and juxtapose shots of flashing swords. I was frequently impressed by how animated elements are layered over the backgrounds, too.



And, oh, those backgrounds.



The opening titles are also very cool, engaging in some of the rose heavy surrealistic imagery familiar to viewers of Revolutionary Girl Utena. I'm looking forward to having this series to watch every morning.



Twitter Sonnet #1174

The handle fell for twine to pull the cart.
A scattered grain collects between the boards.
An errant wheel returns for journey's start.
A thought balloon was straining 'gainst the cords.
A ship was waiting far from any dream.
The tub was plugged with letters lost at sea.
The woods were thin as leaves were never seen.
The space was held by one impostor tree.
There's something bouncing round the hollow egg.
As flakes of gold mislead the waiting coach.
The journey takes a strange and diff'rent leg.
The mass of hares was more than traps could poach.
The bones against the cotton call the air.
The stones along the hill have made a stair.
Current Location: 庭園
Current Mood: groggygroggy
Current Music: "Hey Johnny McGorry" - The Dubliners
Other entries
» Demons in the Flowers


Ah, Spain, standing in ably for so many countries for so many movies and shows. It stood in for Pakistan on to-day's new Doctor Who, "Demons of the Punjab". Spain had previously appeared as America in the 11th Doctor episode "A Town Called Mercy" and as itself in the Sixth and Second Doctor serial The Two Doctors. But it never looked as beautiful on Doctor Who as it does in "Demons of the Punjab".



Look at all those flowers. I love it. Now we're really getting value for the new camera equipment. It's only a shame Jamie Childs doesn't seem to be much of a director, giving us a confusing moment at the beginning where I think we're meant to think the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions are almost run over by a cart.



The music continues to be bad. I guess I didn't really appreciate Murray Gold until he was gone. But damn. I think this one may have just been a string of vocal moans and drums from a stock "India or Pakistan" stinger box.



The writing was uneven. The guest aliens were really impressive looking and I'm glad there ended up being a reason these supposed ultimate assassins seemed to be having trouble with four unarmed opponents. But them being watchers made them feel pretty superfluous, especially given one of the biggest problems with the episodes script, one that kept manifesting in different ways--no-one seemed adequately freaked out by these very legit looking demons.



Yaz's grandmother wants the Doctor to get rid of the unsightly demon repellent because she thinks it won't look good at the wedding! Personally, if I have reason to believe there are demon assassins around, I just might want to put up with some unsightly demon repellent. These people should be terrified out of their minds but they treat the teleporting Scarran-looking creatures like a mildly interesting detail.



I did like the idea of family tension regarding the partitioning of India being used to develop the story. Maybe it feels as ignorant to Pakistanis and Indians as "Rosa" felt to me as an American but at least "Demons of the Punjab" had actual characters with motivations, even if they didn't make sense sometimes. Anyway, the episode had some great location shots, that counts for a lot with me.


» Highwaymen in Shiny Coats


Why aren't there more movies based on picaresques? In 1999, Ridley Scott's son Jake Scott attempted to bring the original "loveable rogue" genre to film with Plunkett & Macleane, an original story but set in the same year my favourite picaresque, Roderick Random, was published, 1748. It bears many similarities to Roderick Random--it centres a man who can pass as a gentleman who borrows money from his servant so he can furnish himself with the clothing and lifestyle of a gentleman in order to woo a wealthy woman, a plot that occupies about 15% of Roderick Random. But Plunkett & Macleane is too moral to be a genuine picaresque and inserts a distinctively Hollywood love story arc. Still, it's an entertaining film despite some unfortunate cinematography. Stars Robert Carlyle, Jonny Lee Miller, and Liv Tyler seem to be having a good time and they're fun to watch.



There are a couple of shots that seem to be borrowed directly from Barry Lyndon, Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of a picaresque by Thackeray. I only wish Jake Scott and his cinematographer, John Mathieson, had borrowed more from Kubrick. I don't expect the movie to have Kubrick's painstaking representation of candle lighting but Plunkett & Macleane is so unnaturally dark at times it's frustrating; often I found myself struggling to make out facial expressions on characters I really didn't think were meant to be obscured.



Macleane (Jonny Lee Miller) begins the film in a very dark prison with a flood lit exterior. A confusing escape by a couple thieves nearby ends with one thief dead and the other, Plunkett, more or less befriending Macleane. They're sent to Newgate prison together, a location familiar to fans of Moll Flanders, another great picaresque.



Macleane improbably secures their release with the help of a ruby Plunkett had ingested and the two launch their scheme, utilising Plunkett's stolen capital.



Party scenes feature too many closeups and, with the lighting, frustrated me in my desire to have a good look at full rooms and crowds, but maybe this was a reflection of the low budget. Macleane's one successful attempt to seduce a wealthy woman ends up in failure and no profit so the two soon take to highway robbery. Then Lady Rebecca Gibson (Liv Tyler) steals Macleane's heart, ruining everything, as far as Plunkett's concerned, and there's tension as to whether Plunkett will leave for America without Macleane.



Tyler is good in a simple supporting role--she looks fantastic in the period attire. Her father, played by Michael Gambon, is a nicely pusillanimous politician. Alan Cumming steals scenes as Lord Rochester, Macleane's friend, an amalgam of charismatic and witty picaresque fops like Roderick Random's friends Banter and Wagtail.



The last act of the film is a bit disappointing with a somewhat standard climax and the film's villain (Ken Stott) never comes off as convincingly motivated. But in all, the film's a nice bit of rogue fantasy.
» A Long Way to See Colour


The surprisingly mild adventures of a time traveller unfold in the new anime series Iroduku: The World in Colours* (色づく世界の明日から). A pretty show about a teenage girl sent from the future to 2018 by her grandmother, it introduces a few ideas for dramatic tension and then rapidly dissolves them into almost a slice-of-life series. The sixth episode airs to-morrow, the first five are available on Amazon Prime.



Hitomi Tsukishiro (Kaori Ishihara) is colour blind and emotionally repressed. She hates magic though she lives in a world where magic is commonplace and her grandmother (Sumi Shimamoto) is a powerful witch. In an effort to perk her up, her grandmother sends her back in time so Hitomi can get to know her grandmother when she was the same age.



After a Miyazaki-ish ride in a magic time travelling bus, Hitomi arrives in the bedroom of a 2018 teenage boy, Yuito Aoi (Shoya Chiba). She's caught on camera leaving the place by a couple of photography students.



The misunderstanding is cleared up pretty quickly and no-one freaks out. Before long, Hitomi has joined the photography club where Yuito is also a member. Yuito's also an artist and for some reason Hitomi can see colour when looking at his tablet paintings. I don't suppose these two could look any more fated for each other if they literally discovered they were tied to two ends of a red thread.



But most of the show is small talk about club activities, cooking, and polite questions about the backgrounds of characters in the club. There is a sweetness to it as Hitomi is encouraged by her friends to be more outgoing though her shyness is very moe, played up for its cuteness. The concept of the grandmother feeling her own past experiences can be therapeutic for her grandmother is kind of interesting, though. And although the animation gets cheap pretty fast and some of the backgrounds are clearly treated photographs it's a really pretty show. Background painters for Japanese series seem to churn out one lush, flowery wilderness after another. The series is set in Nagasaki; I wonder if there are really so many flowers in Nagaski in spring.



*That's the English title, anyway. The Japanese title is Irozuku--there is no "du" sound in Japanese. Why someone thought "du" would suit English speaking audiences better than "zu" I have no idea.

Twitter Sonnet #1173

Horizons dip beneath a greenish sphere.
A verdant brain devolves to perfect curve.
The burning star ignites a little near.
Compelled to cook the sky will surely serve.
A stalwart hull would hardly ever rust.
At waiting stations cars were speeding up.
A fashion carved the final marble bust.
For ice was plastic pieces filled the cup.
Debuts in questioned plaid await the brush.
Disciples burn a careful bag of gum.
Included souls won't hear the heavy hush.
Behind the numbered drapes a velvet sum.
The colours changed to patterns took the coat.
A blurry picture sunk the sharper boat.

» The Enduring Car


Ah, to cruise from London to Brighton in the 50s in a car from the turn of the twentieth century. I wouldn't have been opposed to the idea before but now it seems irresistible thanks to 1953's Genevieve. Not that the central characters of the film seem to appreciate it, constantly arguing and making up and arguing again. But the writers find amusing pretexts for their disagreements and sweet solutions for their coming together again.



The film follows two couples but primarily the married Alan and Wendy McKim (John Gregson and Dinah Sheridan, respectively). She's tired of riding along every year in his 1904 Darracq for a rally held by a veteran car club. The two have a silly argument but she finally gives in when she's discovered he's bought her a new hat for the occasion. Well, it is a nice hat.



Their friend and Alan's rival is the demurely named Ambrose Claverhouse (Kenneth More) who's driving a 1905 Spyker with his girlfriend, Rosalind (Kay Kendall in her breakout role). The two are just a bit snootier than the lovably dysfunctional McKims, except for one odd but entertaining scene where Rosalind gets drunk and plays a trumpet.



There's surprisingly little rear projection for the driving scenes, as evidenced by this shot accidentally incorporating the shadow of a boom microphone:



So there's plenty of footage of London and the countryside from the time. Watching the crowds is fun, too; they don't seem to be hired extras and clearly have their eyes on the film's stars and the camera crew.



It's a pleasant film, the climax surprisingly getting explicit about the otherwise implicit love for the past in a very sweet way. The main plot involves a car chase but I don't recommend watching this movie for the action.

There is a cameo by the TARDIS:


» Real Folks


Carrying over from the previous episode, questions about the real nature of home and family underlie the action in the penultimate episode of Cowboy Bebop.



Session Twenty Five: The Real Folk Blues Part 1

The title comes from the title of the show's end theme which, in turn, comes from the title of Muddy Waters' 1966 compilation album, The Real Folk Blues. The first track of which is "Mannish Boy", an intriguingly unstable concept.



Moving from eggs to alcohol, Spike (Koichi Yamadera) and Jet (Unsho Ishizuka) are still trying to get over the departure of their crewmates. Jet tries to put up a front, saying the others only got in the way, while Spike remains quiet. The uncertainty of how much the crew of the Bebop means to each other makes the character drama especially effective in the last few episodes.



After Jet gets shot in the leg, Spike calls Faye (Megumi Hayashibara), demanding she come back to help out. Faye is indignant, pointing out there's no reason for her not to go off on her own if she decides to. When she does come back, Spike spots her hesitating at his door, and presumes she wants money for information. There's a back and forth with both characters, one moment instinctively reaching for the crew as a family, the next moment treating their relationship as casual and opportunistic as the terms on which it had been introduced. They've grown fond of each other but, lacking the confirmation of traditional expressions and labels of affection and family, their relationship is unstable. Anyone could just walk out any time like Edward did.



This is underlined by two chance encounters Faye has when she's wandering alone. When she's at a space port, she happens to overhear a conversation between a man and his mother--he's trying to convince his mother that he really wants to live with her and help her out in her old age, though she feels guilty for imposing on him. The man turns out to be none other than Punch (Tsutomu Tareki), one of the hosts of the hyper, post-modern TV show Big Shot. A show that provided information on bounties for bounty hunters, it featured Punch and Judy (Miki Nagasawa), named for the traditional European puppet show, dressed in ridiculous, stagey cowboy attire. We'd seen the show cancelled two episodes earlier, in "Brain Scratch", and now Faye is understandably taken aback to see this zany fellow has a normal family. Much more normal than hers, as we know from her vain attempt in the previous episode to reconnect with the home on Earth she grew up in.



The other chance encounter Faye has is with Julia (Gara Takashima), the love of Spike's life, who finally has a speaking role in this episode. Faye doesn't even know who she is when she instinctively decides to help her fend off some black suited syndicate gunmen. It's a nice car chase, with Faye carefully firing off single shots to pop their pursuers' tyres instead of randomly blasting away.



This is another sudden physical manifestation of a reality behind a story, though Faye at least had some idea of who Julia is from Spike's few words on the subject. Everything's coming to the surface now. Meanwhile, Vicious (Norio Wakamoto) is taking over the syndicate, Spike's old family, and Spike finds he has one ally there in Shin (Nobuyuki Hiyama), the brother of Lin, who'd died in "Jupiter Jazz". Another sudden reappearance representing a family. All of these things forcing the characters to evaluate their places and their relationships move events into the final episode.

...



This entry is part of a series of entries I’m writing on Cowboy Bebop for its 20th anniversary. I’m reviewing each episode individually. My previous episode reviews can be found here:



Session One

Session Two

Session Three

Session Four

Session Five

Session Six

Session Seven

Session Eight

Session Nine

Session Ten

Session Eleven

Sessions Twelve and Thirteen

Session Fourteen

Session Fifteen

Session Sixteen

Session Seventeen

Session Eighteen

Session Nineteen

Session Twenty

Session Twenty One

Session Twenty Two

Knockin' on Heaven's Door

Session Twenty Three

Session Twenty Four

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