Welcome to the Cowboy Bebop episode guide! This time out, we’re looking at episode 21, “Boogie Woogie Feng Shui.”
Not every episode of anything can be great, and Cowboy Bebop is no exception. While I don’t think it ever had what could be considered a “bad” episode, some of the episodes are just a bit more shrug-like than others. Part of this in the case of Session #21, ‘Boogie Woogie Feng Shui,’ is that it only exists to talk about the philosophy of something or other.
Several weeks ago, in Session #8 ‘Waltz for Venus’, Spike meets a young dork who wants to be as cool as he is (impossible) and Spike teaches him Jeet Kune-Do, the martial art practiced by Spike and invented by Bruce Lee. It’s a little mechanical and heavy handed, but it ended up being a pretty fun episode. This is like that only it’s about Feng Shui. Huh. Well, at least it’s a Jet episode.
If I didn’t already know how the show ends up (only 5 episodes and a movie left), based on the last few weeks, I couldn’t possibly say Spike Spiegel was the main character of Cowboy Bebop. Since ‘Jupiter Jazz,’ there have been two Faye episodes that have really been about Faye’s backstory, two Ed episodes that have really showcased her weirdness, and two episodes (including this one) that have been about Jet’s past and his good-heartedness. The two episodes that are ostensibly Spike episodes were about Spike’s friend the engineer and a near-dialogue-free horror episode where Spike just fights a scary clown. I’d probably say Jet or Faye were the main characters.
But that’s really the beauty of Cowboy Bebop — each of the characters could be the lead of their own show and can be the focus of particular episodes without feeling like a weird cutaway. And it was director Shinichiro Watanabe and writer Keiko Nobumoto’s confidence in their premise and the character of Spike to allow him to take a backseat for a little bit.
Anyway, to the episode. This is a detective episode narrated by Jet, like it’s a Philip Marlowe novel or something, and he tells us that he got an email from an old associate of his from Mars, a Pao Pu-Zi, who wrote only “Seek the Holy Beast of Ahnzahn. I am where the four gods meet.” Whatever in the world that might mean.
However, Jet’s search only results in finding a tombstone in a hillside graveyard that says Pao died in 2071. Jet is then surprised to find a young girl, Meifa, sitting there behind the grave. She’s Pao’s daughter, turns out, and she very quickly saves Jet from a couple of hit men who begin opening fire at them. They make a getaway on a double-decker bus and then into a canal. Jet takes Meifa to the Bebop and he tells her he hasn’t heard anything from Pao in about ten years. He shows her the email and she says the date is from right before his transport to Jupiter had an accident, and he was apparently killed. Though she believes he probably wasn’t.
Spike, Faye, Ed, and Ein watch the pair talking and make little quips about whether or not they’re an item. Faye suggests they just met and hit it off, but Spike says the girl’s too young for that. Faye then suggests maybe Jet’s a pedophile, but Spike says the girl’s too old for that. Ed then goes over and asks point blank if Meifa is Jet’s girlfriend, embarrassing everybody.
Jet and Meifa then go and have ice cream on a park bench, and Meifa explains that her father was a master of Feng Shui, the belief in balance of the three chis. One is the Chi of Heaven, meaning the chi that comes from space, the second is the Chi of Earth, meaning the energy from a planet, and the third is the Chi of People, meaning the force that comes from the people living on the planets.
For some reason that I don’t understand, this is what she believes makes it likely her father isn’t dead after all, because Jet’s arrival was perfectly in Feng Shui alignment or whatever. And Feng Shui masters can control their destiny. OR WHATEVER.
They figure out that the Ahnzahn from the message was probably this big hotel and that the four gods were probably these other buildings they could see from the roof thereof. They’re attacked again by the assassins and Jet gets the drop on them and knocks them out with a full bottle of whiskey, before dumping some on one and asking what he or she knows.
Turns out they’re the Blue Snake Syndicate but they can’t say much more than that. Jet and Meifa return to the Bebop to analyze the piece of sunstone they found (oh yeah, they found a piece of sunstone) and determine it to be part of the moon from the Astral Gate accident many years before. The Astral Gate accident imbued the debris with time-space energy, which this sunstone now has. The disc she carries is a map that will point in the direction of highly magnetic things, and it begins spinning when Ein touches it, even though the sunstone has been removed. This means her father’s alive. (?)
On the way, Meifa tells Jet that she never had much of a relationship with her father because of his fixation on Feng Shui, but Jet reluctantly tells her that her father was actually a consultant for the Blue Snake and was giving information to Jet when he was on the ISSP police force in exchange for help escaping. However Pao knew too much and would never get to escape, and so he staged the accident as a means of getting away without the Syndicate finding his family. The ship enters the Astral Gate and they expect to find Pao, but instead find a bunch of Blue Snake drones, all of which fire at them. Jet makes Spike and Faye take their personal fighters to defend the ship, or he’ll kill them himself (he says that to Faye, to be fair). Ed realizes the drones are following the sunstone so she flushes it out the airlock, and Jet tells Spike to target it, which he does, destroying it and causing the drones to blow up at the energy dispersal.
Just then, Pao makes himself known, he materializes in the vortex, in a ship inside an unstable force field. Jet chides Pao for manipulating Feng Shui to make them appear and help him, but Pao says he’s almost out of oxygen and it wouldn’t matter anyway, he just wanted to speak to his daughter again. Jet says Meifa came of her own volition, and Feng Shui had nothing to do with it. The two make amends before the force field collapses. Jet takes Meifa back to Mars and he tells us very little has changed, except he now no longer cares about horoscopes.
Um, all right, cool deal, Bebop. I guess if I had any idea about Feng Shui, this might have made sense to me, but as it is, they might as well be talking about Lemurian dark arts. I follow the plot just fine, but I sort of just have to go along with what they’re actually saying…because they could be making all of it up.
That said, I like Jet in this episode and his weird relationship with Meifa. He is clearly too old for her, but he doesn’t really know how to relate to young women if he’s not romantically involved with them or caring for them like a father figure. It’s a kind of relationship we don’t really see on the show, especially not from someone as earnest and forthright as Jet. He remains forthright, of course, and he does right by Meifa. Poor Jet. Will he ever win?
Next week we get a fun one, with Spike once again at the center of things. He thought HE was the best cowboy around, but that all changes when he meets a real cowboy, with like a hat and boots and a horse and everything. “Cowboy Funk” is next time, and as Jet says in the trailer, “Do you think we’re overdoing the cowboy stuff a bit?”