Mark Watches ‘Cowboy Bebop’: Session 12 – Jupiter Jazz Part 1

In the twelfth session of Cowboy Bebop, Spike follows a name from his past and unknowingly gets involved in a crime plot with Faye. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Cowboy Bebop.

Trigger Warning: I have to talk about cissexism at the end of this review!

The creators and writers of this show make a lot of stylistic choices that help make Cowboy Bebop this fascinating blend between a western and a noir thriller. I’ve commented before that the show is purposefully sparse, and you can see that again in “Jupiter Jazz, Part 1.” There are long sequences without dialogue. That gorgeous scene where Gren plays saxophone at the Blue Crow is a prime example of this, and it’s something this show does very well. Even the scenes with Spike are quiet, contemplative, with only brief bursts of violent energy.

It works because this episode is about Spike revisiting his past. When Edward intercepts a signal for something called “Codename Julia,” all Spike can think about was that mysterious woman we saw in “Ballad of Fallen Angels.” I’m glad that Jet immediately pointed out that Julia was a common name, because this certainly seemed like a bad idea. Granted, I knew that Vicious was involved in whatever was going down on Callisto, but still. Whoever Julia was to Spike, he’s still clearly obsessed with her. How much does Jet know about Spike’s past? I get the sense that Spike has done something like this before. Jet’s anger at Spike leaving was kind of humorous, but I also thing it comes from a real place of irritation. He doesn’t like that Spike thinks he can just go after any part of his past at the drop of a hat, especially when it splinters the Bebop crew even further. Actually, all this makes me want is more backstory on Jet and Spike. How did they start working together?

Anyway, this episode also focuses on Faye, who stole all the money and half the antifreeze from the Bebop. I knew that Faye was not one to work well with others, but I didn’t really understand why she’d do something like this. There are practically no references to “Toys in the Attic” in this episode, and even the one moment I think might be one is still a stretch on my part. Why steal from these people who have been helping you and giving you a place to stay? (Admittedly, Jet and Spike do so reluctantly, but still. They hadn’t kicked her out yet!)

It’s through Gren that Faye is forced to think about what she’s done and who she is. She meets him at the Blue Crow, and I was kind of excited to see what might be the first openly queer character in the show. (More on that in a second. Like a lot more? I’ll get there, I promise.) Faye’s drawn to Gren, but he says he’s not interested in women. Still, there is so much sexual tension between these two that I’m pretty sure some of the dudes in that bar started writing fic about them. Gren is able to read Faye nearly instantly, spelling out the reason for her escape in plain speak. She is developing feelings for the Bebop crew, and she’d rather get out now before she truly loses them. In a way, this thematically fits after “Toys in the Attic,” but there’s no way Gren could have known that this happened to Faye. Instead, it was more of a cosmic coincidence, a clever nod to the traumatizing horrors the crew went through recently. (How did they get better? Who rescued them? I suppose we’ll never find out, which supports my theory that “Toys in the Attic” was meant to be self-contained.)

When Faye is accosted by the same men who had earlier mistaken Spike for Vicious, she is taken to Gren’s house. It’s here that the two stories – Faye’s and Spike’s – begin to come together. Spike seeks out his old partner, and Faye is unknowingly hanging out with Vicious’s contact on Callisto. Jet is the only one who is able to put two and two together, but he has no idea what his crewmates are currently up to.

My god, the dual confrontation scenes are edited brilliantly with one another. Both Faye and Spike are seeking truth about the people they are with, and both have no idea the surprises that are in store. In Spike’s case, it’s Lin’s dedication to protecting Vicious that shocks Spike. Of course, this is all made worse when HOLY SHIT DID LIN JUST SHOOT SPIKE WHAT THE FUCK CAN YOU EVEN DO THAT.

It’s at this point, though, that I’m weary. I thought it was an exaggeration that this specific town was full of men. When it’s revealed that this is a literal thing, I was a bit skeptical. The thing is, I don’t know that I necessarily trust that the writers are going to do anything good with the few trans/genderqueer characters they’ve introduced. There are the trans sex workers that Spike meets, and I just wanted to roll my eyes at one of the most common stereotypes/tropes applied to trans women in fiction. Really? That’s the only representation that they get in this universe?

Gren’s surprise, however, is just too much The Crying Game for me, supporting this idea that trans folks (specifically trans women) are big ~secrets~. Bleh. Look, I’m not trans, so I’ll defer to folks who actually are trans from here on out, but none of this rubbed me the right way. These characters existed for shock purposes only, and it was uncomfortable to watch. That being said, there’s a second part to this arc, so I’ll have to see how this is dealt with. I admit I don’t have high hopes for it, though. I think what it comes down to is the fact that I think it’s tacky as hell to have a non-cis body be a plot twist/cliffhanger.

Anyway, just a heads up about today’s video! The lovely Danny, who commissioned this, asked me to watch the subtitled version to hear the original voice cast, so this is not the English dub. 🙂

Mark Links Stuff

 I am going on tour in 2013! There are 27 tour dates spread across the eastern half of North America. Please help suggest venues, offer up a place to crash, and RSVP for dates near you!
– ALL VIDEO COMMISSIONS WILL CLOSE ON FEBRUARY 9TH SO THAT I CAN WRITE POSTS IN ADVANCE FOR TOUR. The only exception to this are any upcoming projects I am doing, so I have listed all upcoming Mark Watches posts that are missing commissions.
– You can, however, commission me to read bad fic/fiction on ANY Mark Does Stuff Tour date. You can claim a specific date to have a live reading right here.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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