Here’s the beginning of the end, for real this time. After 23 episodes and a feature film (that actually came after the show), we’re down to the final three episodes of Cowboy Bebop, and we have to start saying our goodbyes.
Session #24, “Hard Luck Woman,” is a catharsis for both Faye Valentine and Radical Edward, both of whom have very mysterious pasts. Just like their characters through the whole show, their “endings” are different based on their personalities. This is what makes the series so great; there is an actual and definite stoppage to the action. The show doesn’t go on as-is in perpetuity; there are no more adventures to be had in the exact same way. Yeah, it’s a bit sad.
First, let’s start with Faye. All the way back in Session #18 “Speak Like a Child,” Faye was given a Betamax tape she had made when she was a child on Earth, 70-some years prior, thanks to her cryogenic freezing. It showed her and her friends enjoying their childhoods and thinking about the future. This episode begins with Faye watching the video, trying to remember things about where she grew up. Ed, who’d been eavesdropping the whole time, tells Faye she knows where a specific Earth vista is, and so they land the Bebop on Earth (much to Spike and Jet’s chagrin) and head off to find it, with Faye flying her Red Tail ship and Ed “secured” to the top of it via space bungee cords.
Ed shows her the bank on the edge of a river from Faye’s tape and, quite conveniently, a friend of Faye’s from back in the day happens to be there, and recognizes her. Now, this friend, Sally Young, is in her 80s and in a wheelchair, much the way Faye ought to be. At one point Sally says seeing Faye is like seeing a ghost, and while she knows about the cryogenic freezing, it doesn’t make it any less weird. Faye doesn’t remember her friend at all, and when Sally’s granddaughter comes over and introduces her to Faye, Ms. Valentine replies that she IS in fact a ghost. Faye then follows her memories to where her house was, but finds it to be completely leveled, like the whole of the neighborhood. The episode for her ends with finding “where she belongs” and mapping out in the dirt where her bed was and lying down on it. That is the saddest thing of all time.
Edward’s storyline is much less sad, but still a goodbye. She helps Faye find her history on Earth, but in the process, she comes across the orphanage where she stayed for a period of time. Faye is particularly surprised to find ANYONE who knows Ed, much less a place where she actually lived. While having dinner with the other orphans and the nun who takes care of them, Ed and Faye learn that Ed’s father (!) has been looking for her. Ed’s father, turns out, is as weird and absentminded as she is. His name is — get this — Appledelhi Siniz Hesap Lutfen, and he’s been surveying the new landscape of the planet with his assistant McIntyre, whose name he can never remember.
Luckily, a bounty of 50 million woolongs gets placed on Mr. Appledelhi and Jet and Spike go to find him. Surprisingly, Appledelhi, who is quite enormous, is some kind of aikido master and is able to incapacitate both Jet and Spike with very minimal movements. Just then, though, Ed remotely crashes the Bebop mere inches from where her father is and there’s a happy reunion, even if the loopy “Father-Person” can’t remember if Ed’s a boy or a girl. Ed introduces her Pa to “Jet-Person” and “Spike-Person” and he thanks them for taking care of Ed. He invites her to come with him from now on. She doesn’t know what to do, but eventually, after talking to Faye who says people need to go where they belong, Ed leaves the Bebop for her dad. Ein follows after her and the two head off into the fading sunlight while Spike and Jet, who has been cooking dinner for everyone and now finds he made all this food (eggs) for only two people, see Ed has painted “Bye Bye” with a smiley face on the bow of the ship. The ep ends with “See you, cowgirl, someday, somewhere!” as the final text.
In only one episode, we’ve lost more than half of our characters, leaving Jet and Spike again alone in their bounty-hunting ways. Jet is especially upset, though wouldn’t admit it, because since Edward joined in the show’s ninth episode, he’s started to become the patriarch of the crew and enjoyed having this little family to take care of. Even though Faye will come back in the next episode (spoilers), the crew is broken up for good, and won’t come back together ever again. This is why the feature film is so cathartic. We needed to see them all together again. It’s also why I decided not to do the film after the show, because I think we need to revel in endings.
I’m gonna take just a moment to talk about the English dub voice cast. I said all the way back in the first part of this series that I’d be watching the English dub because A) that’s how I first saw the show and that’s how I’ll always love it and 2) because it’s easily the best English dub of any anime series ever made. Each of the voice actors gives so much to their respective roles and in some cases even strengthened the characterization. Steve Blum gives Spike Spiegel an effortless sexiness; Wendee Lee makes Faye Valentine tough yet sensitive; Beau Billingslea brings a mixture of hard and soft edges to Jet Black; and Melissa Fahn is delightfully loopy as Radical Edward. They’re as much the characters for me as the drawing and writing are. It’s a gorgeous combination. I know a lot of anime purists out there will say you have to watch the Japanese track or it doesn’t count, but the English dub of this show is the reason I fell in love with Bebop and the reason I kept on watching things in the medium.
Next week, we start the countdown to the end. Spike’s journey starts to wind down as his final confrontation with his arch rival Vicious looms ever nearer. Only two episodes left. “The Real Folk Blues part 1” is next time.