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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Cowboy Bebop Top 5 - No. 3 - Pierrot Le Fou


Pierrot Le Fou is best categorized as an episode that is remembered for its style, mood, and action sequences rather than its plot.  I feel that's a constant theme in the top episodes of Cowboy Bebop, but it's also expected.  There's only one true continuous plot while most storylines are episodic.  However, the great thing about Bebop is that it takes advantage of the space setting while mixing it in with genres you wouldn't think mesh with sci fi.  Jazz, mystery, and humor all blend well within the world of the Bebop Crew.

As I said before, Pierrot Le Fou is very minimal on plot.  Mad Pierrot is an unstoppable hitman, Spike walks in on one of his hits, they have a fight and Spike survives, now Pierrot is on a vendetta to kill him.  There's also some backstory for Pierrot about how he came to be so unstoppable (the standard sci-fi staple of "experiments") and how it caused his mind to regress to that of a child.  But all that jazz isn't really that important.

What is important is how unstoppable Pierrot is.  He's probably the best fighter in Bebop, giving Spike a run for his money.  I could even see Pierrot wiping the floor with Vicious.  No one comes close to his unstoppable-ness.  He can float in the air, is an expert with firearms, and even with his obese appearance, he's as agile as a cat.  In fact, throughout all their fights, Spike doesn't even land one hit on him (except for the end).

He's also the scariest of the Bebop bad guys.  Bebop isn't really that heavy on horror, but if I had to categorize this episode, it's certainly the scariest.  A look into Mad Pierrot's face, and you get chills.  The hollow eyes paired up with that eerie smile rocks you to the core.  He's the perfect enemy for this kind of episode.  And they have their fight in a Disneyland type rip off, which just adds to his devious child-like killer persona.

I praise the episode's well animated fight sequences, but this one is all about mood.  There's a minimal soundtrack.  No catchy jazz riffs here.  Instead, you're treated to the background noise of a "it's a small world" like carnival song as Spike literally fights for his life at an amusement park.  It's the perfect juxtaposition for his battle.  On one hand, he's essentially fighting someone with the mentality of a child, on the other he's taking on one of his blood thirstiest opponents.

And spoiler alert, Pierrot dies.  But it's the way that he dies that is so unsettling.  He cries for his mommy, the truest display of lost innocence, only to be crushed by a giant furry robot that he probably loves.  However, you feel exhausted after the fight is over.  Spike has gotten his ass kicked, twice.  Usually, Spike offers a moment of recollection in the end, but this time, he's disgusted at the messed up situation and what humans are possible of doing.  As he best puts it, "just forget about it".

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Cowboy Bebop Top 5 - No. 4 - Waltz For Venus


When I first started watching Waltz For Venus, I had a feeling I was going to hate this episode.  It starts off with a simple bounty where Spike shows off why he's a bad ass by beating the crap out of some targets.  That's all fine and dandy until we meet Roco Bonnaro.  He's a plucky guy with a plant that can cure his sister's blindness.  He also comes off like an annoying Jar Jar Binks type side kick.  I mean just look at this guy.

When Spike first meets him, Spike is understandably dismissive.  And then he slowly takes him in as a student, with Roco calling him master.  The reason I didn't like the start of this episode was that I thought it was going to be predictably.  Lovable (if not annoying) goof gets brushed up by tough mentor, only to win his respect, blah blah blah.

But then we're introduced to Stella, Roco's sister who has been blinded thanks to the effects of living on Venus.  Stella has a genuine kindness about her that shows with her interactions with Spike.  However, it's not her kindness that shines in the episode, it's actually Spikes.  Up until this point, five episodes in, you never really get a sense if Spike is a "good guy."  You get the sense that he's charismatic and a bad ass, likable, sure, but you don't get the sense if he has any morals.  All of that is taken up by Jet up until this point.

It's in this episode that you see a sympathetic Spike, a Spike that does the right thing.  He's given seedlings that could be sold for ten times the bounties that he normally takes in, but in the end he throws it away in order to help Stella cure her blindness.  It's these rare moments that you see Spike's humanity when you think it's been taken away by Vicious.

Roco is also another key point in the episode.  Although he starts off on a bad foot, eventually you start to sympathize with him.  I'm normally not a fan of feeling bad for people who cause their own rotten situations, but with Roco, you get the sense that he is a good guy who just has some bad luck.  He wants to help his sister.  He's a grey character who wants to do the right thing, and he could have easily fit in with Bebop's band of misfits.

Alas, it's not meant to be.  I'm not going to say what happens, but this episode ties up nicely with some really lasting shots accompanied by a great score behind it.

I think in the end this episode sums up Spike as a character well.  His conversation with Stella and ambivalence afterwards is a good characterization of what he's about, a flawed hero who understands his lot in life but is willing to do what he can to stay away from the dark past that follows him.

Until then...