Ok, here it is. Spike Lives

Everything has a beginning…
and an end.
Life is just a cycle of them.
With unwanted endings, becoming an adult is to experience the inevitable finale.
It’s been a fast trip for Bebop, with only two episodes left.
But make sure you pay close attention to how it ends.
Next episode:
The Real Folk Blues (Part 1).
Promo recited at the end of session 24

Is there anyone out there reading this as old as I am who remembers “Frodo Lives!”?

Well, I’m starting a new one, “Spike Lives!”

I have a bone in my head that makes me challenge ‘conventional wisdom’ if I see something that contradicts it. This is a prime example.

Who should read it:

1. Those who have watched Cowboy Bebop and think Spike survived but can’t explain WHY.
2. Those who have seen the show and think Spike died and are unhappy about it.
3. Those who are watching the show for the first time, read the internet and think Spike died and may or may not continue watching it because of it. I almost didn’t finish watching it because of everyone saying he was dead until someone said it was “ambiguous.” It is.

The ending of Cowboy Bebop IS ambiguous, and here I attempt to show why. Even though I’m convinced he’s alive, the creators would say – whether we say he’s alive or dead – “don’t be too sure about that.”

This isn’t intended to try to change the minds of anyone who is convinced in their hearts that Spike is dead and think that this is the only satisfying conclusion to Cowboy Bebop. Y’all have your reasons for thinking the way you do – I just want to show that WE are allowed to think the way we do too and our reasons are every bit as legitimate, based not only on what is on screen, but what is in print. But, check it out. Watch the episode (again) and see what you think.

Feel free to discuss it here. Agree? Disagree? Love or hate my theories? What’s on the screen is on the screen. If I make assumptions, I label them as such. If you disagree, please state reasons and we can talk about it.

Note that it is a living document and does change from time to time if I see something new.

See you space cowboy…

53 comments to Ok, here it is. Spike Lives

  • Z-Man

    You couldn’t be more incorrect regarding the end of this show.

    I’ll break down your arguments and do this as fairly as possible.

    As quoted from your article: ~~”As they grab their own weapons and begin to rise for the final strike, there is a cut to a view from behind Spike, his body blocking the view of Vicious.

    For the next few frames, camera position moves enough so we can see Vicious winding up for a strike. He is still partially blocked by Spike, but check out the look in his eyes.

    Next frame, we see the tip of the blade in the floor. The floor scraping takes 12 frames (having seen the floor in freeze frame – Vicious’ foot on Spike’s gun, it’s obvious that’s what we’re looking at – it looks the same). To me, it does NOT look like the blade is moving in Spike’s direction, but across the front of Vicious.”~~

    – Let’s begin with your misconception of Vicious’ sword dragging on the ground. If you know ANYTHING about Samurai swordsmanship Vicious was dragging his sword from the right side of his body, charging Spike and finishing his attack by crossing over the left side of his body (Vicious) with a full swing. This is a common Samurai technique. The sword wielder starts off by charging their opponent with their sword dragging off a given side of their body and ending with very brutal slash across the body.

    This is apparent based on the shot where we see Vicious in front of Spike. Vicious is visibly running towards Spike with his sword on the right side of his body. The scene then cuts to the sword dragging along the ground showing this. Then the following scene shows the final blows by each character. Spike clearly shoots Vicious through the heart killing him instantly. However, the momentum from Vicious’ attack was enough to finish the attack on Spike. The blood that you think is squirting from Vicious’ kneecap is actually squirting from the left side of Spike’s body. Take a better look at Vicious and where his sword is. It is now high in the air on the left side of Vicious’ body. There is no physical way he could have brought that sword that high off the ground and not have clipped Spike with that attack. That blood IS Spike’s.

    As far as the weight of the sword goes? This man wields it on a daily basis. The sword may be heavy to you or myself, but someone with the swordsmanship that Vicious has would have no problem landing this attack. In general though, Samurai swords are not very heavy to begin with.

    In regards to labeled photo (http://mrsspooky.net/bebop/images/clash.jpg)-

    ~~~”In this picture we see:

    1. Blood spray from Vicious’ back where Spike’s bullet went through him.
    2. Position of Vicious’ knee
    3. Vicious lost his grip on the sword
    4. Blood coming from where I believeVicious’ sword cut his leg. Color of the blood is the same as in 1, not darker if it was farther away (like Spike’s midsection).” ~~~

    1.) Wow you got something correct here.
    2.) His knee is there to support his attack.
    3.) He lost his grip because he was shot through the heart. He’s dead here.
    4.) Vicious cut his leg? Really? Come on that’s the most ridiculous argument I’ve heard on this subject. That makes no sense. As far as the color of blood? The animator is not going to get that detailed and darken the color of the blood on a split second scene like that.

    ~~”I have been told that samurai often sharpen or steady their blades on the floor or ground. I don’t know about that, but when you have a split second to kill your opponent before he kills you, it might not be the best time to use the floor. I should also point out that there is no frame that shows the blade hitting either Spike or Vicious. I’m going by the weight and momentum of the blade, the apparent direction the blade was traveling when it scraped the floor and the simultaneous shooting of Vicious as he swung it.”~~~

    So you have at least a very small amount of knowledge on the Samurai subject after all. Remember Vicious’ sword was slid to him on the ground. The absolute quickest attack Vicious could have gotten off in that situation is exactly what I diagrammed earlier in my comment. You obviously saw the same thing, you just came up with a the most nonsense explanation of what you wish you saw.

    ~~”Vicious falls dead. As gravity completes its work on his body, the camera angle cuts to a view from behind Spike’s feet. He takes a slight step back to avoid the final spray of blood that falls at his feet. That blood did not come from Spike, since once Vicious’ body and the blood he shed has completely hit the floor, no more blood was seen dripping or flowing at Spike’s feet. Also, if that blood was coming from Spike, he would not have had to take that little step back to avoid it.”~~

    Spike steps back to catch his balance, he’s losing blood at a very fast rate now. He’s just trying not to fall over. It had nothing to do with avoiding any blood. Look again at this scene, the blood you are talking about is coming from ABOVE Vicious. The only way that would make sense in the angle we are witnessing is that it was coming from Spike. Yet another bad observation on your part. You really think someone is going to try to avoid a little blood after what just transpired? Come on now.

    ~~~”Spike is standing erect, no blood pooling at his feet like we saw from other characters who were fatally wounded.”~~~

    The camera view has Spike too far away to tell anything like that. Where did you come up with this?

    ~~~”Camera cuts to a shot from what looks like the bottom of the stairs. Spike is standing upright, arms at his side (not holding a painful wound to his midsection). He’s not even breathing hard, like he did when he was shot in the stomach in “Ballad of Fallen Angels.” He looks up into the night sky and revisits his memory of Julia’s last words “it’s all a dream” “yeah, a bad one.” This shot lasts 2 or 3 seconds. Enough to know that he’s not seriously injured.”~~~

    This is the same scene as before. “Enough to know that he’s not seriously injured” Wow. You clearly don’t know anything here. He’s looking up to the sky (heaven) and remembered what Julia said when she DIED. The concept of that scene makes no sense if Spike wasn’t about to die. None of your observations here can be verified anyways due to the fact that the camera was so far away from Spike that anything a subtle as breathing patterns would have been undetectable. Give me a break already you’re killing me.

    ~~~”Cut to a closeup of Spike’s midsection. Everything is bathed in white. He’s holding his arm across his stomach. There is blood on his arm and shoulder from where he was shot and stabbed, but his midsection is amazingly free of blood except for a little on his sleeve. He’s not leaving a trail. He’s walking painfully because he was slashed across his leg, and no doubt exhausted (who knows how long it’s been since he’s slept, and he’d just flown a dogfight to protect the Bebop, then fought his way to Vicious).”~~~

    He holding his stomach to stop the bleeding, or just to cover it because he’s in serious pain. The blood on his sleeve is from that wound. Why would he be holding his stomach like that if not for that very reason? You can’t make a good argument with statements like this: “no doubt exhausted (who knows how long it’s been since he’s slept, and he’d just flown a dogfight to protect the Bebop, then fought his way to Vicious).” Adrenaline would have taken over anyways.

    ~~~”He’s holding his arm like one who had an injury to the arm and/or shoulder (which he did), who didn’t have a sling. A sling holds the arm immobile across one’s midsection, like spike was holding it here. Assuming this is reality (see below), Spike would have had to have been standing at the top of the stairs for quite a while (a couple of hours at least). It was very dark with a hint of the beginning of dawn when the battle ended, now there is bright sunlight coming in. He would have bled a lot more than that if he had been slashed and it would have shown on his sleeve and front.”~~~

    No. He was not holding his stomach because his arm was hurt, in order to do that he’s have to strain his arm to keep it there. It would have been much easier to let his arm dangle. As far as the dawn situation goes, the whole reason it is bright in that scene is to imply he is dying. The bright white and pink light is meant to be heavenly.

    Talking about reality in a cartoon show? You’re losing it here. I’ll humor you though. If he stood there for hours like your implying, he would have bled out. The blood would have been where he stood. The light was meant purely for symbolism to make the scene that more mesmerizing.

    ~~~”We see men at the bottom of the stairs, but nobody’s pointing a gun at him. Only one of the characters was actually animated, and he sees Spike and actually lowers his weapon. Spike holds up his hand, points a finger in their general direction and says “bang” then drops. No blood pooling under him. It wasn’t a freeze frame because as the camera pans back we see the birds flying.”~~~

    They put their weapons down because they see that Spike is struggling to make it down the stairs. In fact, they don’t think he WILL make it down. When he drops he’s dead. None of the symbolism in this scene would make any sense if it were to end with him still alive.

    ~~~”Spike did not get slashed, so he was not fatally wounded. Therefore we are allowed to believe he survived.”~~~

    Wrong. Very very wrong.

    Everything else mentioned in your blog regarding interviews with directors and whatnot, maybe coming from the creators mouth. I feel that they are only saying those things for the fans out there can try and justify their point of view that Spike may have survived. Look at Watanabe’s earlier remarks on the end of the show and he wouldn’t answer. Now all of a sudden he says he could be alive or dead and that he doesn’t know. I think he’s just trying to please both sides here.

    Your fading star theory goes against everything that was being foreshadowed in the series regarding death. The fading star is Spike’s star. He’s DEAD!

    There’s been a bunch of fans lately who come up with ridiculous arguments on this subject. Yet none of the look at how it actually is. They’re usually American fans who are used to the happy ending and the good guy living happily ever after. Cowboy Bebop does not end this way, it’s a tragedy for a reason. Your blog is just a compilation of bad observations and bad theories that have poor points of view. This blog should be looked at for what it is, a shameless misinterpretation of events where the writer is clearly grasping at straws trying to make points to fit said misinterpretation. Your arguments fall short and are not convincing in the least bit.

    • Hey, Z-man. I was looking for a reference for common samurai technique of dragging the kantana on the ground to steady it for a strike and I couldn’t find it. If it’s on the web, could you send me a link? If not, do you know the name of a book that I can check from the library?

      I was looking for a reference to support your statement (if it’s correct, I want to make sure that’s in my writing – I don’t want to be deliberately false). My search came up with http://www.samurai-sword-site.com/How-to-Cut-With-a-Samurai-Sword.php, where it says: Also, remember to follow through on your cuts, but maintain control of your sword so it doesn’t swing wildly and strike your leg or the ground.

      We know the blade scrapes the floor and may or may not have been done scraping the floor when Spike shot Vicious (which WOULD have caused him to lose control). I’m willing to be proven wrong, but I do need to see it.


  • The blade clearly scrapes the floor, and you don’t need a frame by frame to see it. Even playing it at normal speed, crank the volume, you will hear the scraping noise.

    The fact remains that there is not one frame in that final sequence that shows the blade hitting Spike (and I pointed out that the blade is not shown to hit Vicious’ knee either).

    I point out what is on the screen and give my thoughts on what I see. And you are free to disagree with my theories. 🙂 I am interested in other perspectives.

    Don’t forget that Watanebe-san himself points out that he is heavily influenced by western movies, so it would be a mistake to assume that he is working from what is considered a purely “Japanese” way of doing things (particularly if that way involves killing a main character).

    And please point out to me all this ‘foreshadowing’ of Spike’s death. I read that all over the web as I was watching the show for the first time, LOOKING for it. I didn’t see it. I’ve seen quotes from people pointing to scenes saying that it foreshadow’s Spike’s death, when watching it in context (even out of context), it had nothing whatsoever to do with Spike. Not only that, they’ll take a simple statement and twist it all out of recognition trying to justify Spike’s death. Please do explain it to me, because my mind doesn’t work that way (I know I lack imagination).

    There are a LOT of very beautifully written imaginative web sites out there that are describing a show that I didn’t see.

    Thank you for sharing your disdain of my writings. Perhaps you’ll follow up with some facts to back up your statements. I know some fans are very VERY attached to the idea that Spike died and fight tooth and nail against any suggestion otherwise. I don’t understand that either. You sound like someone who is very attached to the thought of Spike dying, even to the point of saying that the entire show foreshadows it. Looks like you are just as guilty of trying to justify your conclusion as I am.

    • Z-Man

      I never said the blade didn’t scrape the floor, in fact I was telling you it did. He was dragging it/scrapping it while charging towards Spike. In fact look again, you can seem him start this motion before the camera switches to his sword scrapping the ground.

      By your logic regarding the frames, you don’t see Vicious getting shot by a bullet either? Could it not be interpreted that Vicious’ attack may have been just as fast? Just because they don’t show it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen and deducing a point from that idea makes it hard to agree with you. What we do have at our hands is how they are standing. Vicious CLEARLY has his sword on the other side of his body as if he had completed his attack from start to finish. Blood is coming from both Spike and Vicious.

      The very first episode when Spike first talks to Bull is absolutely foreshadowing. They’re conversation can be attributed to that episode AND Spike’s storyline with Vicious. Also, Spike at the end of Sympathy for the Devil when he says Bang at the end of the episode was foreshadowing.

      In fact here’s the quotes line for line from Astroid Blues:

      BULL: The red-eyed coyote will appear at the north end of town. That is
      what I see.

      SPIKE: A red-eyed coyote, huh…

      BULL: You, “Swimming Bird.” You shall meet a woman. You shall be targeted
      by that woman… and… death.

      I do not have a link to this but I know Watanabe had said that the first episode was supposed to be a subtle way of telling you what happens in the end, that it was indeed foreshadowing. I’ll look it up.

      The way the camera panned at the end of the Real Folk Blues: part 2 and Jupiter Jazz: part 2 have the same imagery with camera panning upwards and a star fading. How come no one has said anything about Gren being alive still? That’s because he isn’t and neither is Spike.

  • Another thing I thought I’d point out from your comment. You said: There’s been a bunch of fans lately who come up with ridiculous arguments on this subject. Yet none of the look at how it actually is.

    You mean I’m not the only one? 😀 If there are more, have yet to find these people.

    If that’s true, then that means there is a whole crop of new Cowboy Bebop fans who have the series fresh in their minds and haven’t been stewing on it for the last 10 years, trying to justify what they think they saw in that final clash. My whole point with this blog is to let them know that what they see from some of these blogs isn’t the ONLY way to watch Cowboy Bebop.

    • Z-Man

      Here’s a good thread regarding foreshadowing in Cowboy Bebop. I did not come up with these but I agree with them.


      • Another thing I wanted to ask about what they were talking about in the link – at the casino, Spike walks past a screen and there is a shot there with words to the effect of “only a true samurai can kill…”

        Been meaning to ask about that. What defines a samurai? The fact that he carries a sword (yes, that was the weapon they were known for using, among others)? Or was there more to being a samurai than just carrying a samurais weapon?

        Vicious carried the samurai’s sword, but was his behaviour and attitude in line with a samurai’s? What if he was just a poseur?

      • Ok, I know it’s dangerous to rely on wikipedia, and if any of this information is incorrect, please let me know:

        It says here of the samurai:

        Samurai warriors described themselves as followers of “The Way of the Warrior” or Bushido. Bushidō is defined by the Japanese dictionary Shogakukan Kokugo Daijiten as “a unique philosophy (ronri) that spread through the warrior class from the Muromachi (chusei) period. From the earliest times, the Samurai felt that the path of the warrior was one of honor, emphasizing duty to one’s master, and loyalty unto death.[3] There is more on this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samurai

        Does this describe Vicious at ALL?

        It says that samurai warriors follow the way of bushido. What does bushido mean?

        From the bushido entry on wikipedia: Nitobe was not the first person to document Japanese chivalry in this way. In his text Feudal and Modern Japan (1896) Historian Arthur May Knapp wrote: [3]
        “The samurai of thirty years ago had behind him a thousand years of training in the law of honor, obedience, duty, and self-sacrifice….. It was not needed to create or establish them. As a child he had but to be instructed, as indeed he was from his earliest years, in the etiquette of self-immolation. The fine instinct of honor demanding it was in the very blood…”

        Does that sound like Vicious? This is a guy who killed those who he was supposed to be loyal to, if he were a true samurai.

        Look at Spike’s actions in Ballad of Fallen Angels. He knew Mao (his former… boss?) was dead, and being Spike he wanted to avenge that death. That’s why he met with Vicious, not to save Faye. Spike always repaid what he owed. He didn’t want to go, but as he said, it was “obligations of the life I live.” Spike was certainly self sacrificing – look at how he endangered his own life protecting the Bebop in “Wild Horses.” What if it was Spike that was the true samurai, and not Vicious?

        Heck, I can carry a samurai’s sword, even learn how to use it. Would that make ME a samurai?

        • Z-Man

          You’re assuming I meant that Vicious IS a samurai. I am not, being a Samurai one would have to follow Bushido and a code of honor. Vicious has a very distorted view of honor when it comes to the Red Dragon Syndicate. The only thing Vicious has in common with a samurai is that he can wield his katana like a samurai. He has the swordsman skills required to handle that blade to its most effectiveness but he is no samurai by definition. One can have training in the art of Kendo and not adhere to rules of Bushido.

          The same can be said about Spike when it comes to Jeet Kune Do. Jeet Kune Do is not a fighting style, it actually is a philosophy Bruce Lee created that had a martial arts backing. Spike practices the martial arts side of Jeet Kune Do, not to the extent that Bruce Lee intended.

          The scene in the casino is just that, a movie on the screen in the background. It does foreshadow the Spike and Vicious encounter but very subtly. The samurai aspect is probably just a nod to Vicious in only the fact that he wields a sword.

          • Hiya. No, I know. You didn’t say that. I was addressing that posting on the message board you showed me.

            I have to admit I wondered about that myself. Discarded it as a foreshadowing because we both know Vicious was by no means a samurai, much less a true samurai.

  • The very first episode when Spike first talks to Bull is absolutely foreshadowing. They’re conversation can be attributed to that episode AND Spike’s storyline with Vicious. Also, Spike at the end of Sympathy for the Devil when he says Bang at the end of the episode was foreshadowing.

    In fact here’s the quotes line for line from Astroid Blues:

    BULL: The red-eyed coyote will appear at the north end of town. That is
    what I see.

    SPIKE: A red-eyed coyote, huh…

    BULL: You, “Swimming Bird.” You shall meet a woman. You shall be targeted
    by that woman… and… death.

    That’s true. Was he really targeted by the woman (Julia)? He said “and… death” He didn’t say WHOSE death. Just “death.” If Vicious had been a woman, I would give that more weight in thinking it foreshadowed Spike’s death. Not only that, Bull said that he WILL meet a woman and that he shall be targeted by that woman. Does this really have anything to do with Julia? He had already met her. Unless he was talking about his meeting her again. She was looking for him, but was she targeting him? Not from what I saw. Obviously, Spike thought Bull was referring to his own death. Doesn’t mean he was correct in that assumption.

    I do believe that this exchange foreshadowed the end of the series (and the thought that Watanabe-san said it foreshadowed the end of the series sounds familiar to me but I can’t place the source). If you have it, I’d love to see it. Or at least remind me of where it is, I’ve been combing the net looking for anything with Watanabe-san talking about Cowboy Bebop. I found some sources, but others are just repostings of other sites.

    Someone had posted a quote that they said came from Shinichiro Watanabe that said “… did you see him die? I didn’t. It looked like he could just be seriously lacking sleep” or something to that effect. I haven’t been able to find a link to any interview where he actually said that, so I take it with a grain of salt.

    Spike saying “bang” at the end of Sympathy for the Devil. I don’t know how that can be foreshadowing other than he ended both episodes like that. In Sympathy for the Devil, Spike survived an encounter with a deadly enemy, an encounter that could have killed him. He prevailed in Sympathy for the Devil. Pointed and said “bang’ to the symbol of one who was previously unstoppable, but he had defeated. If anything, that would point to Spike’s triumph over Vicious.

    • Z-Man

      When Faye ran into Julia in RFB part 1, Julia asked Faye if she knew Spike. Julia was looking for Spike hence the “target”ing. As far as death goes, it doesn’t mean that Julia was going to kill Spike. They met in the grave yard and after their “meet”ing events transpired that lead to his death.

      Also keep in mind its very possible that Julia knew Faye was in the area and their meeting was NOT coincidence.

      Sympathy for the Devil:

      SPIKE: I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit.

      Spike takes off in Swordfish.

      FAYE: Men are such idiots…

      The city. Wen kills a taxi driver and steal his cab. Spike shoots at it in
      Swordfish. The cab crashes into a gas pump off road and explodes. Wen
      emerges from the flames and shoots at Spike. Spike aims his gun at Wen and
      shoots the gem directly into his forehead. Wen begins to age immediately
      and collapses.

      WEN: I see… I can finally die now… But… I feel so at ease now… Do
      you know…? Do you understand…? Do you…?

      Wen dies. Spike takes Wen’s harmonica and blows into it.

      SPIKE: Like I do…

      Spike tosses the harmonica into the air and points his finger at it.

      SPIKE: Bang.

      Regarding death, I think Spike’s “bang” at the end of the series was acknowledging that he finally understood what Wen meant. Also, the way these episodes came to their conclusion was very similar in nature. Spike leaves the Bebop, knowing it’s a setup. Faye tries to stop him both times.

      • Z-Man

        most specifically this line by the way:

        WEN: I see… I can finally die now… But… I feel so at ease now… Do
        you know…? Do you understand…? Do you…?

        Spike at the end of the show finally felt at ease, and could finally wake from the dream that he considered his life.

      • Ok, I understand now. That’s not how I took it, but now I understand the reasoning. Thanks!

  • They have some interesting points in http://www.culturejunkies.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1064. I had heard most of them before.

    I listened to the commentary for session 1 also, and I heard that. Bull said “death” and there WAS death. Julia’s and Vicious’ for sure. I never saw a certainty that Spike was going to die.

    I disagree with the assessment of the end of Sympathy for the Devil though. When the dying Wen says he can finally die and be at peace, he asks Spike if he understands. Spike says “like I do” – same response he gave to Jet after he fed him the gobbledygook about what happened with Wen with the gate accident. He didn’t understand that, so I would say he didn’t understand Wen – or at least, he didn’t give me the impression that he identified with those statements. And he did say “bang” to the symbol of a vanquished enemy. One could take that as a foreshadowing of the end of session 26, he had vanquished his enemy and said “bang”.

  • Z-Man

    I’d like to point out that some of the foreshadowing in this series the first time viewer would have easily overlooked having not known how the show would end. On a 2nd or 3rd viewing these subtle messages become much clearer.

    • I’ve watched the entire series almost a dozen times by now (I lost count, but it’s definitely more than 8). Knowing how it ends (and I knew how it ended before I got through it the first time), and trying to find clues to the final outcome, I totally don’t see it. I mean I see SOME of them, that have been explicitly pointed out. Most all of them can be viewed otherwise, depending on whether one believes Spike lived or died.

      Of course, we’re all free to draw our own conclusions (obviously), I look at some of this and I’m not coming to the same conclusion that others are. Doesn’t mean I’m right. Doesn’t mean THEY are right.

      That bit about Wen, “bang” and the end of session 26 actually makes sense, which is more than I can say about most of the rest of the foreshadowing arguments I’ve heard. I don’t agree with it, but I totally understand the conclusion one can draw from it.

      For what it’s worth – the first time I saw Cowboy Bebop all the way through (and yes, the ending was quite spoiled for me), I really thought Spike was slashed by that sword. I thought that the first three times I watched session 26. Still thought he was alive, even if he was slashed. The more I watch it though, the more I am convinced he lived.

      • Z-Man

        The big difference here I think is the fact that the ending was spoiled for you.

        I was fortunate enough not to have it spoiled for me and and not knowing had a great impact on me. I was not expecting it to end the way that it did.

        • After all these years, and with the internet, it’s hard to avoid being spoiled. I had watched the first disc that I rented from Blockbuster, and cancelled the rest of the discs because I ordered the remix from amazon.com. While I was waiting for it, I found http://animetip.com where I could watch it (I’m not good at waiting). I wanted to know everything about Cowboy Bebop so I started googling it. Thankfully I found one posting that said the ending is ambiguous. It really is ambiguous. Much depends on how one interprets what they see on the screen. There IS foreshadowing, but that foreshadowing can point to either life or death for Spike. Most people tend to believe it foreshadows his death. That’s not what I got out of it.

          The FIRST time I saw session 26, knowing what I knew then, when he fell, I said “HE AIN’T DEAD!” I thought he was slashed. Then rewatching it, things didn’t add up for me. It was at least four viewings of session 26 when I realized that the way they filmed it, they weren’t committing one way or the other.

          I know a lot of people say the story demands that he die. Obviously I disagree. There are things in there (as you pointed out) that could lead one to believe that he was going to die. Watching the episodes and seeing these things, I have a different interpretation. Maybe that’s for a reason.

          There is a difference between seeing things that seem to foreshadow his death (like what you pointed out) and just inventing things (which I have seen).

          I know I’m in the minority here, but I’m used to that. I really want to understand the “Spike is dead” crowd, and I would like them to at least understand where I’m coming from.

  • chucknorrissaurus

    Hi, I just read your “spike lives” argument attempt and it fails.

    How can you even disregard the “only a true samurai can kill him” movie scene? Obviously they showed that scene for no reason at all right? Oh wait, obviously we can disregard when laughing bull tells jet that spike’s star is about to fall, right? And we can disregard when the star fades (dies) at the end of the series, RIGHT after spike falls (DIES). Oh and what was that scene when laughing bull says everyone has a star and when they die so does the star? Oh and remember when that kid dies, spike says “bang”? Then he says it at the end of the series right before HE dies himself? Then there’s the beginning episode where bull says blah blah blah “red coyote… Woman… Death.” Hell, even the movie foreshadows spike’s death through vincent (I’m sure you’re smart enough to figure this out without me getting into any details). Oh, also spike and jet’s stories at the end, episode 25, the real folk blues part 1. Remember the tiger-striped cat? “hi, my name is watanabe. I like to foreshadow. hurrrr durrr” lol.

    There are so many flippin foreshadows to spike’s death, open your
    eyes kid. If you use your brain like you say you do then stop taking things so effin literal, this series is a work of art and art is not meant to be taken so literal. It only takes a four year-old to tell you “Mufasa dies” in the lion king. Oh but you probably think he was asleep too cuz he didn’t take his final breath or say goodbye to simba or there was no blood or… (we can do this all day). Anyone can tell you he dies at the end of Casablanca, or she dies at the end of Orphan. An english teacher once told me that if a story gives more than enough hints (usually 3 or more) that suggest something (such as the several foreshadows, quotes, events, etc that suggest spike’s death) then that’s what the author is showing as truth. While an author won’t come out and say “ZOMG Spike is now dead! He just died after a long hard battle”, an author wouldn’t have several hints and foreshadows suggesting something and then turn around and say “oh disregard all that build up and all those events, he actually lives!! Spike FTW!!! Rawrrawrrawr my baaalls!” 99% of the time a story isn’t going to say “hey he’s dead, he has no pulse at all and it’s been over a day so there’s no possible way he’s just sleeping.” He’s dead, get over it. The amount of proofs for his death greatly outnumber the proofs for him living. I could waste my time and give you a complete list of all the things that point to his death, but if you’ve seen this series 8+ times and still don’t see all the foreshadows, understand double meanings (like episode one, the quote above about the red-eyed coyote) then you have failed as a thinking human being and will never truly understand movies, books, works, life, etc, if you keep taking life so literal and believe that everything a person says they mean it literally word for word and nothing more. Read between the subtext or take some college English classes. HE’S DEAD. This story is highly subliminal and has a lot of subtext. Kids don’t understand subtext, most adults do. Maybe that’s why you don’t understand where we’re coming from when we say “Spike Spiegel is dead.” As much as it saddens me, it does make a good ending to a great series.

    • Hi There!

      Love your handle, BTW. 😀

      I have actually addressed your comments, some of them elsewhere. I’ve seen the series 30+ times and I do have it pretty much memorized. I saw all those things, but do they mean what you think they mean? Do they mean what *I* think they mean? Who knows? I hope I get everything, but if I miss something, I’m sure you’ll let me know. 🙂

      “only a true samurai can kill him” movie scene – Are you saying Vicious is a true samurai because he carries a katana? Is that all it takes to be a samurai? Really? Maybe I’m wrong in thinking that TRUE samurai were men honor, loyal to their shoguns (may be my mistake, please enlighten me) who by the way carried katanas. Vicious carried a katana, but you’d have to show me where Vicious displayed any honor or loyalty to his bosses like a true samurai would. Spike showed more honor and a sense of duty than Vicious did – if you watch it dubbed, you can be forgiven for not knowing about Spike’s line in Ballad of Fallen Angels where he tells Jet that he knows he’s walking into a trap. He doesn’t want to go but he has to, because he has a duty. The subtitle says “Let’s just say duties of the life I live,” NOT “Looks like my past is catching up with me” like the dub says. I don’t know what the dub’s writer was thinking of when they wrote that (btw, I sent the original audio of that conversation to a sweet lady in Japan – who by the way speaks Japanese – and she confirmed that the subtitle is correct. The dub is a fail). If there was a TRUE samurai in that series, it was Spike.

      “Pay close attention to how it ends” referring to the star fading? Oh yeah? 😀 Pay close attention, otherwise you’ll miss the brightest star on the screen that twinkles before it goes out? That confused me. I think it’s a forgone conclusion that Vicious died. If everyone gets a star, and if that star belonged to Spike, then where’s Vicious’? If GREN warranted a falling star, I’d think Vicious would be getting one too. A friend and I were on Skype and both watched the closing credits on our DVDs looking to see if another star faded that we could have missed. Neither one of us saw it.

      And speaking of Bull, what do you make of what he told Running Rock? “Do not fear death, death is always at your side. If you show fear it will spring on you faster than light. If you do not show fear, it will only gently look over you.” I took that last line as referring to everyone, not just Jet, but Spike as well. Yeah, he told Spike in Asteroid Blues “…And you Swimming Bird. You shall meet a woman. You shall be targeted by that woman… And then… death.” He was right, he met Julia, she pointed a gun at him. She died.

      Tiger Striped Cat story? Spike was telling Jet that he was leaving and not coming back, or not planning on coming back. Just like the tiger striped cat kept dying and coming back to life, Spike kept leaving the Bebop and then coming back. This time he wasn’t.

      He also told Faye that he wasn’t going there to die, he was going to see if he was really alive. In other words, did he really ‘die’ before like he told Bull and Jet, or not? And what does he mean when he says he ‘died?’ That can be taken a couple of ways – 1: Spike actually died when he left the syndicate and is Eric Draven (ever see The Crow?), 2: Spike (thought he) killed ‘the Beast’ that Vicious loved but now had to kill because he ‘lost his fangs’ (and is that attitude the mark of a TRUE samurai? Wanting to kill someone who doesn’t want to kill any more?

      “Bang” at the end of Sympathy for the Devil. Yeah, he said ‘bang’ after killing Wen. He threw the harmonica – a symbol of Wen, or at least something he was closely associated with – into the air and said ‘bang.’ Spike faced his enemy without fear and killed him. ‘Bang.’ How does the ‘bang’ at the end of SftD foreshadow Spike’s death? Wen died in that session, just like Vicious died at the end of RFB. To me, that looks more like an “I win” than a “holy crap I’m dead.” Again, he said it twice, both times after killing his enemy, someone who was trying to kill him. How does that mean “Spike’s dead?”

      I fully understand subtext and I see plenty in Cowboy Bebop. I just don’t see it as saying Spike is going to die. I understand people who think they saw him die at the end thinking that the subtext is all pointing to his death. I’ve posted about this more than once, but the series is more about being influenced by the past and how we respond to it and resolving past issues. Everyone one of the folks on the Bebop had something from their past looming over their heads, that one by one got resolved in the series.

    • I KNEW I missed something:

      Hell, even the movie foreshadows spike’s death through vincent (I’m sure you’re smart enough to figure this out without me getting into any details).

      Well you already said I’m a moron, why stop now? Explain that to me, how the movie foreshadow’s Spike’s death. This ought to be good. At least it will be something new. Details please.

  • chucknorrissaurus

    – “Everything has a beginning… and an end. Life is just a cycle of them.”
    – “With unwanted endings, becoming an adult is to experience the inevitable finale.”
    *cough* Need I say more?

    “But make sure you pay close attention to how it ends.”
    This quote is referring to the fading star at the end of the last episode. This quote is NOT referring to paying close attention every little detail the final fight scene.

    P.S. Spike is not going to simply “sleep” with those wounds. If he just went to sleep he’d die of blood loss. He was surrounded by several armed enemies… I doubt they were going to get him medical treatment, let alone in enough time to save him. Oh wait, what’s that I see at the ending credits? Oh yeah, that’s Spike’s star fading away. As if he died or something. PSHH, nonsense, why on earth would that make sense? Oh wait… IT DOES!

    If you still don’t believe that he’s dead then watch episode 11, toys in the attic. Alternative ending? Real ending? Is everything past episode 11 just a dream? Nah, let’s just ignore this episode altogether. Although, I like to view it as a humorous alternative ending. Either way, Spike dies. There’s no big sign that says so (except the obvious), but there aren’t any in most movies.

    “Read in between the LINES!!”
    – Jack Black in School of Rock

    • Yeah, inevitable finale. The end of the series. They were talking about the end of the series for the last several sessions. I guess it’s just me, but I think talking about the end of the series means they’re talking about Spike dying is reading a little too much into it.

      And what wounds? Are you under the impression that Spike was actually slashed across the abdomen by that katana? They didn’t show it. They showed him getting those other wounds (slash on the leg, scalp wound, shot in the arm, knife in the shoulder – which was still there on the stairs).

      I’m not going to go into why I think he never got slashed in these comments, ’cause then I’d be repeating what I already typed into the page that you apparently only half read. 🙂

      What about Toys in the Attic? Shinichiro Watanabe likes putting disconnected stories into his series. He did the same thing with Samurai Champloo with the zombie episode, which was funny as hell, btw. He was asked about that by the journalist and he said he thinks it’s funny and does it for a joke. He has a Facebook page with a couple of interviews he did with a French journalist where he says that. It’s in the links on my site. If you don’t understand French, you’ll have to run it through a translator. They are a good read.

      Grab yourself a cup of tea (or a beer, if you’re old enough 🙂 ), calm down a bit, then go back and read it again. I wasn’t joking when I said I was sick of repeating myself, especially when what I would be repeating is in a page that you said you read.

    • Oh yeah, one other thing…

      Shinichiro Watanabe is very fond of Western movies, particularly US Westerns. Ever see Shane? It’s a classic, and if you haven’t, you should, it’s a very decent movie. Someone pointed out on a message board I used to hang out in that Spike is Shane. I hadn’t seen the movie, so I rented it from Netflix. Yeah, that movie has an ambiguous ending too, and from what I’ve read, generated the same kinds of discussions that Cowboy Bebop has.

      I can see definite parallels between Spike and Shane and how the movie and the series ended.

      I’m still trying to find the interview, but a Bebop fan I know offline told me about an interview (which I later found was an older interview) where someone asked Shinichiro flat out if Spike was alive or dead at the end of the series. The answer was “neither.”

      When I first met this guy, he came to my house to perform a service I subscribe to. He saw all the Cowboy Bebop stuff around and said he was a huge fan too. I asked him what he thought of the end, did Spike live or die? He said “oh, he’s definitely alive.”

      A LOT of people are convinced he’s dead. Just as many people are convinced he’s alive. Then there are the people who I think are correct, because they don’t know.

      Is the glass half empty or half full? Is there a correct answer to that question? I think “is Spike alive or dead” is the same type of question. I think he’s alive and I’ve documented why I think he’s alive. I think Shnichiro Watanabe would no doubt tell us that we’re both wrong.

  • I don’t have a scientific reason for my belief that Spike dies in the final episode. I have an artistic one. The series ends PERFECTLY if Spike dies. I consider The Real Folk Blues to be the greatest anime episode of all time, and it wouldn’t be so if it didn’t end so tragically. Add that to Bull predicting the star falling and the final line of the brilliant song “Blue” – “I’m ascending” – and there is no better way for the series to end. Tragedy is a brilliant form of art. The way the series ends is so beautifully tragic – Ed and Ein go away, Faye finds herself in despair, Spike gives it all to end Vicious’ reign. I don’t think I’d enjoy that episode as much if I knew Spike just gets up and walks away. His death is so fitting for the end of the series.

    • I know, a lot of people think that. Just as many other people don’t (of course, you won’t get everyone to agree on everything 🙂 ).

      I saw enough reasons to suggest that he didn’t die. For me personally, Spike dying isn’t a requirement for the show or even that session to be awesome. In fact, I and many many others like me think that Spike dying would completely ruin it. Go figure, right? 🙂

      The thing about Bull’s prediction is that he offered a caveat when he told Jet not to fear death, that” death is always at your side. If you show fear it will spring on you faster than lightning. If you do not show fear it will only gently look over you.” Sounds like wriggle room to me.

      When I was watching the series for the first time, I made the mistake of googling the show (I was waiting for my DVDs I ordered to arrive) and saw all the people talking about Spike being dead. I watched the show online and got to the end of RFB, MY reaction was “He ain’t dead!! WTF are they talking about?” I don’t think it looks at all like he died, he just fell from exhaustion and maybe his wounds (the slash on his leg and that knife still sticking out of his shoulder).

      What I am totally convinced of now is that the ending is deliberately ambiguous, like the end of Shane. He’s neither dead nor alive… or both.

      Watanabe san, in all the interviews I’ve seen of his in the last 10 years where the interviewer poses a question presuming Spike is dead, the answer is always to the effect of “I never officially said he died…” or “he’s probably just sleeping…” or in one interview a friend’s brother told him he saw, when asked flat out whether Spike was alive or dead, he answered “neither.” It’s just like the movie – was it real or was it a dream (I think it’s a dream)? He says that to those people who say it really happened, he tells them it was a dream. If someone told him it was a dream, he’d say it really happened. Sounds a lot like he’s doing the same thing with Spike at the end of the series.

  • CracknutWhirrun

    I feel like people are ignoring Spikes speech about the cat that’s died a million deaths, only to finally die for real when it’s true love dies…This parallels Spike’s life, as we’ve seen him “die” multiple times throughout the series only to come back to life. Also, Julia, whom is set up as his true love, dies. So it would make sense that, since his true love died, Spike can finally die for real. However, he goes on to say how he hates stories like that, and he and Jet laugh in a way that makes it seem as if the story is bologna. To me, the scene seemed to be poking fun at people who believe that the horribly tragic end where Spike finally dies for real is the best ending and would make the best story. There’s no doubt in my mind that Spike was mortally wounded, but again, we’ve seen him in situations just as bad. Also, now that he killed Vicious, he would, by proxy, be the leader of the Red Dragon clan, so it would theoretically be up to his clan mates to save him.

    And the star falling at the end? I took that more metaphorically. Throughout Cowboy Bebop, each character has dealt with their past and subsequently walked away from it. Spike is really the only one who can’t ever walk away; it’s as if he’s living in a dream. When he finally kills Vicious at the end, he can finally let go of his past and be “born again”. This gives weight to his exchange with Fey, when he says “I’m not going to die, I’m going to see if I’m really alive. In my eyes, he can experience this only when he kills Vicious and is freed from his past. So he dies, but he also lives. It just seems like if Spike dies, the entire story with Jet, Fey, Ed, and Spike would be worthless.

    • Hi CracknutWhirrun! Welcome to the blog and thanks for posting. 🙂

      You bring up something that I and everyone else HAVE been neglecting, “I hate that story (I hate cats) *chuckle*.” This is GREAT!

      Personally, I took his story as being Spike saying he was leaving and he wasn’t coming back. Perhaps, but what you suggest is also extremely likely and I hadn’t thought of that. Bravo!

      Spike said he’d already died once. In Asteroid Blues he told Bull that he’d already died once, “got killed by a woman.” Wha? My guess was that Julia’s influence changed Spike. Killed the Beast, and that’s what he was referring to. When he was leaving to kill Vicious and Spike said he was going to see if he was really alive, could he have been talking about that Beast? I really REALLY think we saw that beast when he stormed the building and fought Vicious. He was hideous and not at all the Spike that we know and love. Yep, Spike the Beast was really alive. Did the Beast finally die for good at the end? I don’t know, but I tend to think that he did – the Beast, that is.

      I took that star at the end as signalling the end of Cowboy Bebop, or maybe the death of the Beast (if that’s what happened). Remember, Bull did give a caveat when he was talking to Jet when he said death is always at your side. If you show fear it will spring on you faster than lightning. If you do not show fear it will only gently look over you. Spike showed no fear, so that star may not have been his signalling his literal death.

      Interestingly, my nephew just finished watching the series a couple months ago (I don’t get to see him much and he didn’t know about my blog, lol). I asked what he thought, if Spike was alive or dead and he said he didn’t know. Didn’t think it mattered either way, it was a kickass ending. Yep, that’s what I think too. 🙂

      I really like your comment. 🙂

  • Stealthborn

    I have to say, reading this blog was a treat regarding the theory that Spike lived. I was pretty surprised at all of the detail into that final set of scenes where Spike and Vicious duke it out with one another. It certainly got me thinking about this series again after not watching it for a few years now.

    Now I’ll admit when I saw the ending to Bebop I didn’t know what to think at first but originally I came to the decision where I was uncertain about his fate. He could have lived or died was what I told myself. It wasn’t until I went to college when I brought this up with one of my roommates and he said “He’s dead man. Just let it go.” At first I had a tough time agreeing with him but then I eventually caved in and believed that he died.

    Then I read your theory about him possibly living. Although some of the parts of it are a little out there since they fit well with the tragic death theory that a good amount of people follow, you pointed out a few things I overlooked. Vicious’s knee, Vicious’s body not being there at the end and the two star speculation. Those were the things that really made me think about it again.

    Now I have read the responses from Z-Man, chucknorrissaurus, Crazy Packers Fan and Cracknutwhirrun and they all brought up great points as well. But what fascinated me was the part where you talked about how there were two stars in the sky. I know that Vicious was not a nice person and could be considered a villain throughout the series and I can’t condone his actions but in a sense I thought of him as a warrior as well. And the reason why he became bitter was because Spike and Julia were together which hurt him deep inside. In a sense he was like Spike once. Not saying it has anything to do with the star point but it is something to think about.

    In regards to whether Spike is dead or not, I will admit that him dying is probably a more memorable way to remember the series and how those who really love it want it to be since that kind of ending represents all the tragedy in the final 4 episodes. After reading your blog, I’m inclined to say that Spike is both alive and dead. Alive in the fact that there is a slim chance that he could have survived it all with those points brought up and considering the fact that the creators might have had something else in mind. He is also dead in terms of really dying from that battle or in terms of his past life.

    Ambiguity is a beautiful thing though. There is no real wrong answer here until the creators say so themselves. Just assumptions. 😉

    • Hi Stealthborn, thanks much for your comment!

      I can relate to your shifting thoughts on how it ended, I admit to some of that myself. xD When I first saw it everyone said he was dead except for one that I saw who said it was ambiguous. I didn’t see him die, but that wasn’t good enough. I had to know WHY I thought he was alive. The more I wrote about it the more I realized that there are three possible ends – “Spike lived” “Spike died” and “WTF???” I’m pretty much in the “WTF” camp these days. My nephew finally saw the series all the way through last year. I asked how HE thought the ending went and he said he didn’t know. I think that’s probably the right answer. LOL

      Yeah, the commenters all made good points, but I disagree. Which is fine. The ending is such that people CAN disagree and I think neither side is completely wrong.

      You remind me too – I need to make a post with a link to a blog posting a friend pointed out to me recently about Spike living, but from a literary point of view that I thought was brilliant. There is a link to it in the links column, but I should put it in a post so people know it’s out there. I think you’ll enjoy that one too, it’s better than anything I’ve written. 🙂

  • youdontknowwhatviciousis

    I’m personally of the opinion that Spike dies in the end, but I also think it’s extremely ambiguous. I’ll briefly criticize your arguments, then offer what I think are the best on either side.

    The blood shot on Spike in the fight is probably a little clumsily animated, but I think it’s clear enough that Vicious slashes him. Consider: can we REALLY give a satisfying account for why Vicious wouldn’t? I don’t think there are many signs of a redemptive goodness in his character after he feels he’s betrayed by Spike and Julia. And he certainly seems to think he is the one who will kill Spike…

    Also, there’s symmetry. I think the fight in Ballad of Fallen Angels proves them to be equals in combat (which is actually pretty impressive, considering that swords are pretty bad against guns!). Sure, Vicious has henchmen, but in the 1 v 1 battle they end up deadlocked, then both do things that should definitely kill the other (more on this later). Real Folk Blues imitates the symmetry with the sliding of weapons. Symmetry demands AT LEAST that they both be wounded.

    • You know, I sometimes find myself vacillating between “he lived” and “he died” and considering half the fandom thinks he lived and the other half thinks he died, I have to believe that the end is ambiguous. I’ll be honest, if it wasn’t for the “…but pay close attention to how it ends” in the session 25 promo, I might have thought he died too. A lot of the promos were silly, some of them VERY silly, but they had been getting more and more serious until this one was very heavy, like they dropped the joking around, you know?

      It’s entirely possible Vicious slashed Spike, but if he did, I don’t think the wound would have been that deep, or deep enough to cause very serious injury. It’s not really clear whether Spike was within range of a death-dealing blow, and he was half crouched. I just don’t know. Plus seeing what happened that character in Champloo when HE was visibly slashed. COMPLETELY different from when Spike was allegedly slashed. I think seeing that pretty much confirmed that for me. Plus that character survived.

      Like I’ve been saying, there are good reasons for both positions which makes it VERY interesting! 🙂

  • youdontknowwhatviciousis

    So I hold that Vicious wounds Spike gravely. Now, does Spike die? Let’s see…

    1. Laughing Bull seems to be speaking quite literally. He says every living creature has a star, and when the star falls/fades (I take these to be synonymous), the creature dies. I don’t think this is a metaphor for a “part” of a person dying. The Bull seems to mean the restoration of life force to the universe (by reincarnation or absorption in the infinite). Spike’s story seems to put him at the end of this cycle–he’s the cat who will not be reborn. This coincides with his spiritual advancement compared with Vicious and Gren. Spike alone does not fear death (Vicious’ apparent shortcoming) and leaves no unfinished business (Gren and Titan).

    2. Symmetry. Vicious says only he can kill Spike, Spike says only he can kill Vicious. Their fights are extremely even–they both wound each other, both threaten mortal blows at the same time, etc. So it’s only proper that they kill one another.

    3. Wen. Spike doesn’t understand Wen in Episode 6 because he is trapped in the long cycle of rebirth then. Spike can’t “see the end,” so to speak. He doesn’t feel the heaviness of existence OR the peace of death’s approach. He’s trapped in a seeming endless dream, as he tells Faye before flying out for the last time. But the dream isn’t endless–it ends with Julia’s death, perhaps. And then Spike feels the heaviness Wen felt upon aging. So he finally understands, after confronting Vicious, how Wen felt at ease in death. How death is a cure for life’s ailments, as Socrates indicates in his last words when he claims to owe a debt to the God of Healing. The final “Bang” is a subtle allusion that lets the “careful” viewer know that Spike finally understands.

    • Really good point about the symmetry. I hadn’t thought of that. The rest of your points are very good too. Interesting thought too about the “Bang” at the end being perhaps a signal that Spike finally understands Wen.

      It’s a fascinating ending isn’t it? People are still nattering about it after all these years, it’s brillian!

  • youdontknowwhatviciousis


    1. Granting that Vicious slashes Spike across the chest, but assuming that everything be taken as real, we have seen Spike survive apparently worse injuries (Ballad of Fallen Angels, anyone?). So maybe he just passes out/goes to sleep at the end. The Red Dragons now owe him allegiance since Vicious is dead. Perhaps others were of Shin’s mind and will be eager to help him.

    2. The ending which shows Spike collapsing is very surreal–a fade into white leads into it (I think), light everywhere, etc. Also Vicious’ body isn’t there! So maybe just that much is Spike’s dream/hallucination after killing Vicious. His dream of death may symbolize the death of his past, of the part of him that seeks to live through his love and his past comrade. So he can finally move on to his future love (Faye) and new comrade (Jet).

    3. Everything past Ballad of Fallen Angels is a dream Spike has while falling to his death. Vicious also dies from the grenade. This view, while not terribly popular, is hard to support OR refute. It’s tough to see how either could survive what happened. And after all, Julia tells Spike it’s all a dream. There are a million different ways to take this, but one is that “Julia” (Spike’s memory of her, her dream form) is the mental construction closest to Spike, and hence the only one who can break through and tell him the truth.

    There are surely a lot of literary example to support the dream theory, but I’m especially reminded of Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge,” an excellent short story about a soldier who, while being executed, dreams of his elaborate escape. Same kinda deal here, only with falling out of a church and whatnot.

    4. Laughing Bull was speaking metaphorically. So it’s kinda like Terra in FF6. Her Magic form (Spike’s attachment to the past) has to die, but love can save the life of the person and allow for new possibilities. I still don’t think Laughing Bull was speaking metaphorically, and it would be an awfully sappy ending to apply to a not-so-sappy character. So this is my least favorite view.

    I’m sure there are many more arguments on either side, but these are the ones that strike me. I’ve only watched Cowboy Bebop once (re-watched a few important episodes already), but I really loved it. Hopefully I can learn more and discuss it with some folks here!

    • Hi youdontknowwhatviciousis (love the handle!)!

      I don’t know if Bull was speaking metaphorically or not to tell you the truth. He did have that one line at the end of his little speech that made me wonder if there was a possibility he would survive. But then I could have been grasping at straws. It’s been a few years of thinking about it and I’m still not sure.

      Yeah, there are folks who hold to that thought, that the rest of the series after Ballad of Fallen Angels was a dream. It’s a VERY interesting idea, but I’m having trouble personally accepting it. In fact I don’t. Totally understandable though, and not completely out of left field.

      I’m so glad you watched it and like it! It would be an understatement to say that it’s an incredibly decent show. LOL

  • youdontknowwhatviciousis

    Another little curiosity: In Episode 1, Jet asks Spike if he “thinks he can trust that old codger” (referring to Laughing Bull). It might have just been Jet’s pragmatism/distrust of superstition, but it’s at least interesting that Jet shares some viewers’ reservations about Bull’s trustworthiness.

    I’ll mention one more argument in favor of Spike’s death, but with a comforting twist:

    “Do not fear death. Death is always at our side. When we show fear, it jumps at us faster than light, but if we do not show fear, it casts its eye upon us gently and then guides us into infinity.” –Laughing Bull

    This reminds me a lot of the Bhagavad Gita (and I’m sure plenty of other religious traditions). Death either leads to reincarnation (and more learning/suffering) or, when enlightenment is reached, death is finally “real,” but leads the blessed to a realm of infinite spirit. So the beauty of the ending is that Spike finally reaches this transcendent elevation of soul.

    I don’t quite buy the dream theory either. For one thing, it’s a little hard to maintain specifically since why would he dream so much stuff about other people, some of whom he’d never met before? It would make more sense if the content were limited to Jupiter Jazz and Real Folk Blues. Why would Spike be thinking about Ed’s father he’d never met? Etc. Plus it seems to cheapen the series somehow if it’s all a dream. I dunno.

    However, I DO think the movie is ALL a dream. Like, Spike falls asleep at the very beginning and we don’t see him wake up in movie.

    P.S. My handle wasn’t meant to call into question anyone’s knowledge of Vicious–just my favorite line from the show! I’m watching it all again with my brother right now. Maybe I’ll comment some more if I notice things.

    • Well, the only thing about that line of Bull’s is, he didn’t say that. That “… and guides us into eternity” part was added to the English dub so the English voice matched the Japanese mouth flaps. I haven’t heard from people who have seen all the dubs, but I think the English dub viewers are the only ones who heard that. It was more like “Do not fear death. Death is always at our side. When we show fear, it jumps at us faster than light, but if we do not show fear, it gently looks over us.” Nothing about guiding anyone into eternity.

      And I’m with you. The movie was ABSOLUTELY a dream, and I’m convinced it takes place after the events in Real Folk Blues. That’s the only explanation that makes sense to me when you consider that line of Jet’s in the middle of the movie where it looks like Spike is half waking up. “Can you hear me Spike? You almost didn’t make it. He’s dead, no he was dead from the beginning. Just like you.” I mean, wtf does THAT mean? xD To me it makes much more sense in relation to Spike and Vicious than Spike and Vincent, especially since Vincent wasn’t dead.

      I know your handle isn’t questioning anyone’s knowledge. 🙂 It IS really cool!

  • youdontknowwhatviciousis

    Hmmm. Very interesting. I wonder if the dubbers were interpreting the Japanese or just changing its meaning…?

    Either way, I think it’s significant that both times they really face death (Ballad and Real Folk Blues), Vicious looks afraid and Spike doesn’t. Even if you think Spike died, I think Laughing Bull would make a distinction. I’m also thinking of what he says about Gren. Something about a pitiful soul who could not find his way to the realm of spirit? I’m sure you know the part I’m thinking of better than I do. But I was taking it in the same sense. It’s too bad, too, since Gren seems very spiritually advanced. I think he just never finds someone to live for, sadly.

    P.S. Is it looks OVER us or looks UPON us in Japanese? (“Sur” in French either way!)

    • He DID look afraid at times in BoFA. I do know he did in Real Folk Blues. I’m half thinking that back in the day, Spike was worse than Vicious, if that’s even possible, and Vicious knew what he was capable of. IF that’s the case, that would give Vicious another reason to hate Spike – someone he admired for his bloodthirsty ways went soft. Well, we might add that as a possibility. I have no idea. 🙂

      The Japanese doesn’t really make that distinction. But ‘gently’ could also mean kindly. That’s a scene where I relied rather heavily on the subtitles, and it’s really close to the actual Japanese (as close as it CAN get, a LITERAL translation would leave people scratching their heads). I have the audio file somewhere, will have to find it and play it again and tease out the exact phrase.

  • youdontknowwhatviciousis

    Oh, and yeah, the movie. I really dunno when it is. I’d have to watch it again and look for clues. It seems possible that it’s between some later episodes as some suggested, or maybe after Real Folk Blues if Spike survived (and Ed and Ein came back?). I’m not exactly sure it’s meant to have a canonical time in the anime universe, though. Maybe it’s another thing Watanabe would just be enigmatic about. Did he ever say much about the movie?

    • If it IS a dream, Ed and Ein need not even actually be there. Remember, during the parts where we can be sure he was awake (while he was lying on that couch), we only saw Spike but heard Jet except for the POV shot in the middle, where Spike’s looking up at the ceiling and sees Jet.

      There is a panel discussion transcript linked on the blog where Keiko Nobumoto, Shinichiro Watanabe, Yoko Kanno and Toshihiro Kawamoto were taking questions from the audience right after the American premier of the movie’s English dub (it was at a large anime con in NYC). One of the attendees asked him flat out if it was a dream. He answered with “What do you think?” The audience guy said he thought it was a dream. Watanabe said that to those who say it’s a dream, he’ll tell them it really happened. To those who say it really happened he tells them it’s a dream. Here’s the link. The question is about a quarter to a third of the way down the page.

  • AlastaAsp

    Hi Mrsspooky! I’ve been wanting to join this conversation for a while now! 🙂 I just wanted to share some opinions about what I think happened at the end of real folk blues. I agree with everything you wrote in “Spike lives”. I finished watching the show a couple of months ago, it took me so many years to watch it because I kept putting the show off. My friend spoiled the ending for me and I didn’t want to watch the show knowing that Spike “died”. Then I heard the ending was ambiguous! 🙂 So I watched it, and loved it! I just need people to talk about the ending with. I believe that the scene with Spike walking down the stairs ( the final scene ) was a dream/metaphor, does anyone else agree?

    • Hiya! Glad to have you on board! 🙂

      You know, the same thing happened to me while watching Bebop. I almost didn’t finish it because I heard he “died” then someone said it was ambiguous, so I finished it anyway. It’s definitely ambiguous, and I think I was able to point out all the reasons why he could have been alive at the end. I’m glad I finished the show and I’m bet you’re glad YOU finished it too. It’s fabulous, isn’t it?

      The final scene as a dream/metaphor. Dream? Could be, in fact, very likely. Metaphor? I dunno, I hadn’t thought of that, what an intriguing idea. Got any ideas what it would be a metaphor of? Or for? lol My brain isn’t quite working right now, so I’d need to chew on the metaphor possibility. I like that idea, if that’s what it is.

  • AlastaAsp

    It’s just a hunch but I realised that after Spike beat Vicious he was looking through his past eye ( his present eye was bleeding and closed ), Spike sees the present through one eye and the past through the other, therefore Spike is only seeing the past. First he sees Julia ( Who is bathed in white ) and then he sees himself walking down the stairs in similar colours! 🙂 As you pointed out, the colours are very similar to Wen’s flashbacks in sympathy for the devil, meaning that Spike on the stairs is a dream/metaphor that Spike is seeing through his past eye. Spike’s “death” in the last scene is actually Spikes past self who collapses/dies. Both Julia, Vicious and everyone else Spike loved is dead, therefore he has no reason to be tied to the past anymore, his past self can die and Spike can move on and become a new man! The star at the end represents Spike leaving the past behind! 🙂 Although I could be wrong. I’m open to other people’s opinions too.

    • You know, I like it a lot. Similar to what I was saying, but you took it a step further and finished the thought.

      I love the connection you made with the washed out coloring and that being metaphor or representative of Spike’s past, just like Wen’s flashback (I missed that).

      I’m still chewing on the fading star at the end. I mean, Vicious was absolutely a warrior as was Spike – if both died, we’d see TWO stars fading at the end. I would think at least. It’s possible that could refer to Spike’s past having passed away. I do like the idea.

      But yeah, throughout the series, each of the characters had some unresolved issue from their past that each one had to resolve – Ed needed her father, Ein needed some place to belong (and someone to understand him), Faye needed her memories, Jet needed to find out why Alisa left him and resolve his issue with the loss of his arm, and of course Spike had Julia and his past with the syndicate and Vicious. Everyone resolves their issues. The End.

  • AlastaAsp

    Sorry if i didn’t explain to well. 🙂

  • AlastaAsp

    Oh! One more thing I just remembered! 🙂 you said that there was an interview with art director Junichi Higashi, ( i havent read the article myself, but i’ll take your word for it ) he said; “For the last scene where Spike finally collapses, I used the imagery of a world covered almost completely in white, and tried to create the impression that this may or may not be reality, this is what the director requested”. Hmmmm, this statement seems to completely agree with my theory that the last scene isn’t real! 🙂

  • AlastaAsp

    Hmmm, yeah. You’ve made some good points above. 🙂 I hope you like my ideas, and thank you for changing my opinion about the ending! 🙂

  • AlastaAsp

    I was just thinking a bough the star at the end and vicious is DEFINITELY dead and like you said, only one star dissapeared. I’m pretty darn sure that It was Vicious’ star at the end. I mean Gren got a star right? If Gren got a star he must be a warrior! Gren was in a war ( making him a warrior right? ) but then I realised that Vicious was in the same war as Gren, hmm star of the warrior…. This is just something that popped into my head, its just a theory so I wouldn’t bother with it too much.

    Oh we’ll! I’m glad to get all the ranting out of my system!

  • boulders420

    Ok why I think spike is alive. First off lets point out that I dont accept what the Native American says. The same guy said a falling star was a warriors tear when really the “falling star” he was seeing was Bebop. Also the star fading at the end could have been for Vicous.

    The quote about carrying your weight hardly seems like a death quote. Kind of seemed like they were saying “you’re gonna be in bed for awhile after this one Spike”. And as far as the story about the Tiger goes….. remember back when Jet was facing the guy who took his arm? He tells Spike a story symbolizing himself with a bad ending then says “I never did like that story”. Same response Spike gives after telling the Tiger story. So I think in a way that foreshadows Spikes survival.

    Spike has been beat nearly to death several times. He even “died” once before. His first encounter with vicous in the series he gets beat up and tossed out a multi story window. But they patch him up from that. They got some pretty advanced healing tech in the future apparently. And we know Jet was looking for him at the end. Also he managed to walk out of the room after his fight with Vicous. How close to death could he have been? Plus he collapses in range of guards that could pick him up. By beating Vicous wouldn’t he be head of the Dragon?

    Now alot of people say he only lived for Julia and that with her dead he could finally let himself go and die too. But I think he loved Fae and Jet like an unnofficial family deep down. They were much like Fu, Muigin and Jean from Samurai Champloo. If you assume Spike lived you could say the series ended about the same. If Jean can survive being spewered by a sword I think Spike can too.

    Mabye I’m wrong. Mabye Spike did die and I’m just an optimist. But I feel like they could’ve given us a more definite answere if this was the case. The writer obviously wasn’t ready to let his character go or there would’ve been more to explain it. I rather wish he had just made his mind up and given us a real answere so we could get some closure and stop debating it. I wanted at least a scene at the end with Jet and Fae. Mabye give us one last glance at how things turned out for Edward and Ein.

    Still in my world Spike lives on. The guy was already a walking ghost to begin with. I just don’t think he limped his way out of the duel with Vicous just to die. He just looked like he collapsed of exhaustion. All the time in the series this stuff would happen and he would be patched up like a mummy on the couch in the next scene. Also what about the whole thing with Fae having nowhere to go back to? I don’t think she was ment to end up alone with Jet I think she was in love with Spike. It just seems too sad an ending. If Spike was truly dead I think they would have given us better closure for his crew. Like a final scene with them moving on.

    Infact I think that because he finally gets his past in order by killing Vicous he can move on and live his life. He was “finding out if he was really alive” and I think he found he was. The story ends because the story was about Spike getting over his past and moving on. He could never truly be apart of his new group because he was hung up on the past. Even if he lives the story is over and that’s why there’s no more episodes.

    • All really good points. 🙂

      I hadn’t though about Bull, and whether he was always 100% with his predictions. But even if he was 100% with all of them, he DID leave wriggle room when he said “death is always at your side, if you show fear, he will spring on you faster than lightning. If you do not show fear, he will only gently look over you.” Not one iota of fear showed on Spike, but I think I did see fear on Vicious – so death sprung on him.

      I’m also convinced that the movie is a dream that takes place AFTER the events in Real Folk Blues. Mr Watanabe won’t say – “if you tell me it was real I’ll say it was a dream. If you say it was a dream, I’ll tell you it really happened.” But that one weird scene in the middle where you can see Jet in a POV shot from Spike’s position on the couch telling him he just barely made it suggests to me that he was referring to the end of Real Folk Blues.

      I used to hang out on a LOT of Bebop message boards and everyone was pretty adamant that Spike was dead. “Everyone knows it, why don’t you?” Everyone DOESN’T know it, and I’m finding that the fandom is split roughly in half. I think people are assuming that all Cowboy Bebop fans hang out on message boards (they don’t) and they all think he’s dead (they don’t). People who suggest otherwise tend to get shouted down and leave. Most of the people I talk to about it offline in my personal life think he lived too. That tells me it can’t be all that cut and dried and that the ending is ambiguous.

      I too think he lived, but I’m pretty sure it’s deliberately ambiguous. 🙂

      Thanks for writing!