In the thirteenth session of Cowboy Bebop, both Gren and Spike confront their past with upsetting results. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Cowboy Bebop.
I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoy the second half of “Jupiter Jazz” as much as I did. The second part fills in a lot of thematic gaps, and it’s obvious I couldn’t have understood the character parallels between Gren and Spike without it. I’m beginning to see both the existential and bleak nature of this show, especially since we’re repeatedly shown that closure does not exist for these people. The team can’t close a bounty, and these characters can’t find closure in their own lives. Will they ever? I don’t know that I see a happy ending to this show, and even if there is one, I imagine it would be bittersweet.
First things first, though! “Jupiter Jazz Part 2” opens with Gren, who explains his past with Vicious to Faye, including how Vicious betrayed Gren. Accused of being a spy, he was sent to prison, where nonconsensual drug testing caused his hormones to mess up. While it’s clear that Gren still identifies as a man and he’s not ashamed of who he is with Faye (perhaps because he doesn’t see her as a threat because he is gay???), I’m still uncomfortable with Gren’s body being a cliffhanger in and of itself. It implies that men can’t have breasts, so that’s why it’s “shocking,” and that’s a fairly obvious case of cissexism right there. It’s not my favorite thing about this two-parter, and I wish it hadn’t been presented as some big ol’ secret, you know?
What is done well is Gren’s story. Given that he said he wasn’t interested in women in the previous episode, it was easy for me to read a very obvious queer subtext to Gren’s flashbacks. Gren more than just respected Vicious. I’m guessing he had some sort of crush on him. Of course, this is my own personal reading of the episode. I acknowledge that, and I realize that “Jupiter Jazz” is largely sparse on the details of what actually happened. But Gren spent all this time wanting to know if Vicious did betray him many years ago. I think revenge was a part of that, but I find it reductive to assume that was his only motivation. Like I said, he wanted closure. He wanted to know if Vicious truly rejected him. That’s why the confrontation in the end is so upsetting. Vicious never even bothers to give Gren the closure he wants. He sticks to his nihilism, insisting that nothing matters. But does it? Why did Vicious give the music box to Gren, then? Was it all meaningless?
This is directly contrasted with Spike’s own story about his messy past. For the first time since “Ballad of Fallen Angels,” we are FINALLY given more context about those weird flashes we saw when Spike was flung out the cathedral window. Still, I’m only able to guess large parts of this story, but I think:
- Julia was with Vicious first.
- Spike had a crush on her/dated her? Maybe behind Vicious’s back?
- Spike left the crime group in a blaze of guns.
- Spike wanted Julia to come with him.
- Vicious was suspicious (LOL THAT RHYMES) of this, and warned Julia?
- Julia was maybe killed? Or she conveniently disappeared? Did Vicious make her disappear in anger?
- Vicious was involved in some “war” with Gren.
This would explain why Spike is so obsessed with closure. At some point, Julia was taken out of Spike’s life, and he never found out what happened to her. It’s why her very name was enough to get him to anger Jet and leave the Bebop. It’s why he would confront Vicious in such a careless way. (And let’s be real here: His confrontation of Vicious was extremely poorly planned, y’all.) And, just like Vicious, he gets no closure at all. Lin is dead, Vicious escapes the exploding music box, and Spike is left to crawl back to the Bebop with absolutely nothing.
“Jupiter Jazz” is a somber episode of this show, perhaps even more so than usual, and the color schemes and music help to convey the tone as well. This show isn’t perfect by any means, but it’s so unlike anything I’ve watched before that it keeps me engaged. As you all know, I’m quite new to anime anyway, so it’s nice to know that the genre can produce things that defy categorization like this.
Okay, could we get more Edward, though? THANKS.
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