We don’t know a lot about Vicious. In fact, we know next to nothing.

From the anime guides and some brief flashbacks in a couple of episodes, we know that he and Spike worked together in the Red Dragon syndicate before Spike faked his death. They were described as partners. We know that Vicious was in love with Julia – she was his woman until she and Spike fell in love.

We know from Jupiter Jazz that Vicious did a stint in the military fighting a war on Titan, serving with Gren.

In Jupiter Jazz, Vicious was described by the syndicate’s elders as having a heart colder than (a perpetually cold) Callisto. Indeed, watching him in Ballad of Fallen Angels, Jupiter Jazz 1 and 2 and Real Folk Blues 1 and 2, he is certainly cold. Very full of hate, especially hatred for Spike.

There WAS a bit of humanity seen in Vicious in Jupiter Jazz part 2. Gren is telling Faye how he knew Vicious. They were comrades in the war on Titan, being in the same unit. Flashback showed Gren spotting Vicious sitting with a little wind up music player with a look on his face that I can only desribe as ‘longing’:

Gren walks over and sits beside him saying it’s a lovely song, and he’d like to play it on his sax when he gets back from the war. He asks what it’s called, and Vicious only says “Julia.” I heard a longing in his voice, it was almost wistful. He then gives the music box to Gren so he can learn it to play on his sax.

He WAS cold. He got wind of Spike’s plan to leave the syndicate and his plan to run off with Julia and confronted her before she was able to meet with him. His plan was for her to kill him “He dies or you both die” he told her. Julia didn’t go through with it and instead went into hiding, leaving Spike to think she had abandoned him.

Vicious appeared to be motivated by hate and rage. But there was love there. One has to speculate what it would have been like to be loved by such a personality.

There is a scene in Jupiter Jazz part 2 where Gren confronts Vicious about the transmitter found in the music box he had given him. His reaction spoke volumes when Gren told him that it was Julia who suspected the transmitter when she found out that it came from Vicious.

Julia was hunted, but it was by Vicious. He wanted her back in the worst way. We find out in Real Folk Blues part 1 when she’s warned by Shin that it wasn’t safe that she was on the run.

When they finally meet for the last time in Real Folk Blues part 2, Vicious and Spike are fighting to the death, each intent on killing the other. They were very evenly matched and it was a draw until their weapons get reversed. They have possession of each other’s weapons when Spike tells Vicious that Julia was dead. They clash once again and Vicious strikes the floor instead of Spike, giving Spike the chance to shoot him dead, essentially committing suicide by ex partner. Edited 14-Apr – Vicious was charging Spike dragging the blade on the floor, not hitting the floor instead of Spike, which is how it looked to me the first several times I watched the ep.

Much is made on the internet that Spike couldn’t live without Julia. There is no evidence to support this in the series. He loved her, she was his soulmate, the other half of himself that he longed for. She is the first woman he had met who he felt was truly alive and gave him an appreciation for his own life (Real Folk Blues part 2 and Cowboy Bebop the movie).

I submit that it was Vicious who couldn’t live without Julia, not Spike. We don’t know what he was like before she left Vicious for Spike, but it looked like something inside him died, if it was ever alive to begin with. He fought savagely until Spike told him she was dead. He had one last chance to kill Spike and instead decides to strike the floor instead of Spike. Without Julia, he had no reason to live. He was so cold and hateful, and with the little on screen about him, it may be safe to say nobody loved him. Lin goes with him in Jupiter Jazz not to protect Vicious but to “protect the rules” because the elders ordered him to. Vicious, judging by what’s on screen, was very much alone.

Spike lived for at least three years without Julia, thinking she had abandoned him. He really had little to no hope of ever seeing her again, perhaps thinking she had chosen Vicious instead. He learned part of the truth from Gren in Jupiter Jazz. Spike had a new life and had made a strong connection with Jet. He had someone who loved him and took care of him. He loved Jet and in turn took care of him too. He was passionately interested in Julia, what happened to her and why she didn’t meet him to run away with him, but ultimately, he was surviving. I believe Vicious didn’t have that connection with anyone else, and when he found that the only person he loved was dead, he decided that he didn’t want to live and allowed Spike to kill him.

17 comments to Vicious

  • Z-Man

    “Vicious didn’t have that connection with anyone else, and when he found that the only person he loved was dead, he decided that he didn’t want to live and allowed Spike to kill him.”

    I don’t know how you could say that. Vicious didn’t care about Spike or Julia. When he took control of the Red Dragons he could have put an order out to leave Spike and Julia alone. He wanted them to be killed. Vicious wanted one thing and that was absolute power.

    • Like I said, I think we learned a bit about Vicious in Jupiter Jazz. In Gren’s flashback of Titan, we saw Vicious holding a music box. Check the look on his face – it’s the only time we’ve ever seen him with an expression that wasn’t full of hate and rage. I thought it was significant so I had inserted it in the posting. When Gren asked him what the song was, the way he said “Julia” made me think he was longing for her.

      Also, did you catch his reaction when Gren told him it was Julia that found the transmitter in the music box?

      You could very well be right when you say that Vicious wanted absolute power. I thought he was just bloodthirsty and didn’t want to have to give up his blood lust for a moderate syndicate. He seized power in the syndicate, that’s for sure.

  • youdontknowwhatviciousis

    hi there. I was looking for fan speculation about Bebop online, and this site really caught my eye. Very detailed analyses, and it looks like you’re really keen on serious discussion.

    I know this is an old post, but I’d like to make a couple arguments regarding its conclusion. For example: “Without Julia, he (Vicious) had no reason to live. He was so cold and hateful, and with the little on screen about him, it may be safe to say nobody loved him.” While I certainly agree that nobody loved Vicious in the end (or since Spike or Julia earlier? Did they love him?), I do not think that Vicious lost his will to live with Julia’s death. In fact, his eyes after Spike shoots him seem to say the opposite–he is much LESS ready for death than Spike.

    Moreover, I think it is really Spike who sustains Vicious, not Julia. Spike and Vicious really were comrades, as evidenced by the smiling back-to-back shot in Ballad of Fallen Angels and perhaps more clearly by Vicious’ acute sense of betrayal when Spike tries to leave. I think this is what Vicious means when he tells Spike about angels falling from heaven and becoming devils–his love for SPIKE, and its loss, made him realize that “there is nothing to believe in.”

    Now, this is a difficult argument to prove, since right around the same time, Vicious lost Julia (to Spike, no less). But as far as we can tell, he didn’t feel betrayed, though he presumably knew of their affair before they tried to leave. It was only when Spike threatened to stop fighting with him that he “snapped” and promised to kill one or both of Spike and Julia. Spike’s betrayal could also be why Vicious does not become especially close with Gren or Lin later on. He doesn’t believe in “comrades” anymore. (Is Spike’s last scene with Jet evidence that he himself does?)

    One of the most interesting facets of the Spike/Vicious relationship, to me at least, is that Vicious does not think Spike can ever really leave him. “The same blood runs through both of us…”

    • This is probably the best description of Vicious I’ve seen! I hadn’t thought of that – that losing Spike’s comradeship made him realize that “there is nothing to believe in.” Sounds like he had a lot invested in his relationship with Spike, possibly the only constant in his life. That and his desire for bloodshed.

      Spike sustaining Vicious. Yes, I can buy that. I think on some level he loved Julia too, but not as much as Spike and they both betrayed him. They left him. I say Vicious loved Julia because of that one shot I think over the closing credits, of Vicious half sitting up in bed and Julia is there, looking towards the camera and it looks like she’s thinking of someone else (at least that’s how I interpret her expression).

      Whether that “The same blood runs through both of us…” means he thought Spike couldn’t leave him – I took that more as Vicious saying that Spike was as bloodthirsty as he was. I have to think on this some more, that’s an interesting point.

      Vicious killing Mao though. I’m convinced that wasn’t to draw out Spike. The Red Dragon was moderating, ending the inter-syndicate warfare, as evidenced by the signing of that treaty/cooperation agreement with Carlos of the White Tiger. Vicious killed Carlos then went and killed Mao. Spike was next in line to succeed Mao (only know this from the anime guides), but Vicious wanted to succeed Mao so he could continue warring with the other syndicates. Maybe to run the whole thing, conquer them so that the Red Dragon with him as its head could run ALL of organized crime on Mars and maybe beyond. Don’t know. It’s only luck that he found out about Spike, luck in the form of Faye. They did say they ran a background check on her when they made her sit next to Mao’s body. I’m sure they traced ownership of the Red Tail and found it belonged to Faye Valentine (or she was the owner of record), and she PROBABLY updated her address information to the Bebop. They checked the crew of the Bebop and found Jet Black and Spike Spiegel. Looked at their bounty hunting licenses or other ids (running a check on those two as well) and found Spike’s picture. AhHAH! Then Vicious decided he’d try to get Spike since Julia didn’t take care of business when he ordered her to.

      I do think he was out for control of the Red Dragon from what the Elders told him in Jupiter Jazz part 1, when they told him that he could not succeed Mao. Vicious called them “toothless” and that he was going to have to slaughter them. He wanted control of the Red Dragon to continue the warfare and Mao and the Elders were in his way. I really think he was probably fine with Spike running things if Spike was still as bloodthirsty as he was. We don’t know enough, so it’s all speculation.

  • youdontknowwhatviciousis

    Further, I’d like to address Z-Man’s claim that Vicious “wanted one thing and that was absolute power.” I do think that Vicious is obsessed with power, but perhaps not in the traditional sense. He doesn’t really care about having subordinates or ruling (which I think is well reflected by the emptiness of his throne room in the end). The only power Vicious really covets is the power to kill. Spike has just as much of this kind of power as Vicious does. Further, Vicious’ “power hungry” acts always double as lures for Spike (killing Mao, the Red Eye deal, etc.) So it’s hard to say that his PRIMARY interest is power in the traditional sense. I think it’s really more personal with Vicious.

    We could also consider Vicious’ actions in the perspective of his nihilism. Killing the Van, for example, is a signal assertion of his ideas about the worthlessness of their core concepts of honor, duty, etc. He means to PROVE in action that there is nothing in this world to believe in.

    • I like that. “We could also consider Vicious’ actions in the perspective of his nihilism. Killing the Van, for example, is a signal assertion of his ideas about the worthlessness of their core concepts of honor, duty, etc. He means to PROVE in action that there is nothing in this world to believe in.” HE certainly didn’t believe in any of those things.

      You’ve provided some very interesting food for thought!

      I wrote this pretty early on and had only watched the show maybe a dozen times by then, if that. I decided to leave the original text in there with strikethroughs so show that my thinking had evolved since then, plus I realized I had misinterpreted something in the final scenes. I have to admit I hadn’t given THAT much thought to Vicious, Julia and Faye, when in reality, I should. Thankfully other people have (like you 🙂 ) and are willing to post about it.

  • youdontknowwhatviciousis

    Yeah, you’re probably more right about killing Mao. I still think to some extent Vicious knew Spike would come if he did it (Vicious knew he was alive, right? In fact, I thought from what Jet said that maybe they’d met after Spike’s fake death but before Ballad of Fallen Angels. Jet says something about “going after Vicious again, IIRC. Maybe I’m wrong about that though.)

    So I think killing Mao had a nice double effect for Vicious. Primarily, you’re right, it furthered his ambition to rule. But I think also he knew it would attract Spike’s attention. On this view, Vicious is perhaps recognizing some difference between him and Spike. He knows Spike will want to DEFEND Mao’s memory, while Vicious himself does not care about his former mentor in the slightest. But Vicious’ argument seems to be that his nihilistic destruction and Spike’s justice-driven (justice? Is that it?) destruction amount to the same. That Spike’s hunger and Vicious’ only seem different, but are really the same primal malice.

    Honestly, the Red Dragon stuff is all really confusing to me. Like, were Julia and Annie members? Was the Titan War AFTER Spike’s fake death? (I read somewhere it was, but I was imagining that as young Vicious for some reason…)

    • Vicious knew Spike was alive – after Spike’s fake death, Vicious somehow found out that Julia was supposed to meet him in the cemetery. Vicious told her she would meet him and she will kill him or they will both die. Julia chose to run.

      Jet didn’t say anything about Spike meeting Vicious (again). Which scene was that? Jet finds Spike checking out his weaponry and talks to him trying to convince him not to go. Jet tells him he’s walking into a trap and Spike said he knows. He owed Mao from before. Then he said that he didn’t want to go but he had to because he had a duty. I’ve seen the English dub and in there he says something like “looks like my past is catching up with me.” What was actually written was that he had a duty (I confirmed this with a friend in Japan).

      I don’t know if Vicious was counting on Spike showing up to avenge Mao’s murder. I think the argument can be made that he was. Somehow I don’t think so, but I could be wrong. That’s a question I have no opinion on and usually throw my hands up and say “dunno.” xD

      Yeah, Spike wasn’t so much motivated by justice as revenge. He had a duty to avenge his benefactor’s murder. Spike has a code of honor that Vicious is lacking (as we both noted), so he WILL take care of business. Plus I think he just plain wanted to kill Vicious as well, as much as Vicious wanted to kill Spike. Whatever happened between them that turned their friendship or even brotherhood to such hatred wasn’t stated, but the general assumption is Spike “stole” Julia from Vicious. That could very well be the cause, plus the fact that by running away, Spike showed that he “lost his fangs” probably made it worse.

      I’m curious and have to ask – which episode was it that HOOKED you on Bebop? I had seen Honky Tonk Woman on a plane to San Diego in Feb of 2001 (friend was into it and wanted to know if I would mind watching it on my laptop). I thought it was hysterical and been wanting to see it for years, but never thought to try to rent the DVDs and they were too expensive to buy, so it wasn’t until I think 2009? that I finally saw the rest of the series. Rented the first DVD, recognized Honky Tonk Woman, then got to Ballad of Fallen Angels and I completely wigged out (yeah, I’m kind of emotional, lol). Usually BoFA is the tipping point for people falling in love with Cowboy Bebop and I wonder if that was yours as well.

    • Oh yeah, forgot to mention about Annie and Julia. NO clue if they were part of the Red Dragon. I think Annie might have been, simply because Spike armed himself from her storeroom in both Ballad of Fallen Angels AND Real Folk Blues. Raging controversy in some quarters about the third person in the photograph on the counter that has Annie and some man with Mao hovering over them. I think she was old friends with Mao, and no idea who that man in the picture with her and Mao were – some people are convinced that man is Spike’s father. I’m pretty sure he’s not. I think that man is most likely Annie’s husband.

      As far as Julia goes? I have nothing to base this one, but I don’t think she was part of the Red Dragon other than Vicious’ girlfriend.

  • youdontknowwhatviciousis

    And I’d still want to distinguish between two kinds of ambition. Some people want power so they can control others. I don’t think Vicious cares about that. I think he’s more keen on wiping people out than controlling them. It’s like he and Gren took opposite lessons from Titan. Gren found that in a dark and dangerous world, there IS a beacon of hope to live for (friendship). Vicious’ time on Titan seems to have driven him to the opposite extreme of nihilism and individuality.

    This makes the Vicious/Julia relationship very hard to understand. I remember the scene you mentioned in the bed. Vicious also claims that Julia was “going to betray him.” So they must have had something. But did he really love her? Did she love him? It seems impossible to tell.

    • Good observation about Gren and Vicious on Titan. Vicious was there spying, selling information to the enemy (whoever that was) and framed Gren for it. Gren thought he had a friend, Vicious had a patsy. : Poor Gren.

      It really is impossible to tell, especially where Vicious is concerned. They told us so little about him. There IS that one shot from behind a man standing at the top of the stairs with Spike and Julia coming in the door at the bottom of the stairs, which could be Vicious catching the two of them together. Possibly they were running around behind his back, not wanting him to find out….?

  • youdontknowwhatviciousis

    Ah, duh! Sorry, I was mixing it up. ANNIE tells Spike “not to get tangled up with Vicious anymore.” Which makes a lot more sense, when you think about it…

    Yeah. If it’s Annie’s husband, it explains why he’d be able to call her Anastasia. Plus why he and Annie are on the same level in the picture. Maybe he was killed in some kind of syndicate affairs? I wonder if they meant to develop that at some point…

    I assumed Julia was in the syndicate because of her fighting skills, but then again, Faye is a pretty good fighter too, so it’s not very conclusive.

    I also figured Spike stole Julia from Vicious, although of course in Jupiter Jazz he asks if Julia and Vicious have been seeing each other behind his back. This line makes especially little sense given how long it’s been since Spike saw Julia. Is it a bad dub?

    • Julia’s no wimp, that’s for sure. Yeah, no idea what that means, her being able to handle a gun. She has probably had training at some point, but yeah, the possibility of her having a past in the syndicate is not conclusive.

      Know what’s intriguing? In one of those images over the ending credits, there is a shot of a table in front of a window that has an ampule of Bloody Eye sitting there. Whose was it? Spikes? Julia’s? Vicious’?

      I think Spike was taunting Vicious when he said that, and yes, he did say “Are you seeing Julia behind my back?” I laughed the first time I heard that, “whoa, that was cold.” LOL

  • youdontknowwhatviciousis

    Let’s see. I really liked Asteroid Blues. In fact, it’s still one of my favorites. “Asimov!” Maybe a lot of people will never “get to Mars,” you know?

    The next three were all okay. Stray Dog Strut is one of the funniest, I think. (The kids fishing Kareem out, the dog whistle, the pet shop lady…)

    BoFA is still my favorite, so I guess I’d say that’s when I was hooked. I’d heard Bebop was the best anime ever, so I had high expectations. Before BoFA, they weren’t quite met. It was enjoyable, but seemed too episodic for my taste. But the cathedral scene in BoFA is just amazing.

    I guess I’m like most people–I really like the five “main plot” episodes. Besides that, some of my favorites are Pierrot Le Fou, Brain Scratch, and Sympathy for the Devil. I tend to like the more serious ones…

  • youdontknowwhatviciousis

    I’ve been thinking about when Vicious “snaps” some more. There’s this picture, for one:

    Does the show support this depiction? If we assume that at some time they were all happy together, then I think it’s not as simple as Vicious being upset about Spike and Julia. Adding to this, there’s the famous line: “Be careful when you’re with that woman.” Why would Vicious be warning Spike to be careful if he already hated Spike? Unless, as I think…

    Vicious lost Julia to Spike, but that didn’t make him hate either one directly. (Did he care about Spike more all along? Reminds me of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof–a male friend being closer than the woman.) Instead, it was the idea that Julia and Spike might desert him that took the joy out of his life. I’ve been toying with the idea that Vicious is afraid of being alone. Not too sure about it, but it at least gives a reason for the cormorant. I like the symmetry here too–the cormorant dies before Vicious’ eyes, like Julia before Spike’s.

    I think when Spike and Julia threatened to leave, Vicious kind of freaked out. The only way he could understand to hang on to them was to threaten to kill them–to gain power. He fights his feeling of powerlessness by trying to turn the tables.

    One of the biggest problems with this view is that Vicious certainly does not seem to need most people–Lin and Gren come to mind. He could have been close with either, but seemed to feel nothing at either’s death and of course directly betrayed Gren. But I think both of these were the “twisted” Vicious trying to have power, again. With Lin, he doesn’t want the Syndicate’s power because he wants to assert rather his own. (Recall the suggestion that he bring a coat) Gren is more complicated. I have to think about it more, but provisionally, I’m not sure Vicious ever cared for Gren. I think after Spike and Julia he never cared about anyone else.

    I think part of the beauty of the last episode is that Vicious ends up NOT being really menacing in a weird way. Shin does say “You have to stop Vicious,” but it’s not clear from what Vicious must be stopped. All of his former killings had some motivation–whom does he need to hurt now? And he looks so lonely on his throne. “My power is the only power.” Ironically, his obsession with power alienates him. But maybe this is what he wants? It’s weird. I think there’s some kind of transference–like his desire for intimacy becomes desire for power. I need to think it through more.

    But there’s also something I read on this site about the old-fashioned sword Vicious uses. I think that’s spot on; does he even fire a gun in the main timeline of the anime? The world needs to move on, but Vicious is stuck in the past–stuck trying to compensate for the ghosts of Julia and Spike, stuck trying to imitate his mentor, the “fanged” Mao Yenrai, stuck with his memories of Gren and the music box.

    This inability to move forward seems to me to be the reason why Vicious has to die. Those who see symmetry in this respect between Vicious and Spike would say, “That is why he had to die. And that is why you have to die, Spike.”

  • youdontknowwhatviciousis

    Also, re: the bird. I just noticed that Chessmaster Hex has a bird too, and he says he hasn’t had a good opponent in ages. Hence, the bird is with him because he’s lonely. And the bird flies away at the end, as Hex seems to die. (Compare Vicious’ bird’s death.) So I think there’s something to the bird/companionship thing.

    • That’s an interesting thought. Not sure they intended a connection, but if we want to say there was – the birds did seem to be faithful companions, someone that both men could care for. Hex died and the bird flew away, free. Vicious’ bird was sacrificed as a distraction to free Vicious from the Elders. What did Vicious have to care for once the bird was dead? He’d lost or killed (or wanted to kill) everyone and everything he cared about.

      I actually felt bad about Vicious’ bird and actually had a dream about him. I dreamt that the bird flew down from somewhere and landed on my shoulder. I recognized him as Vicious’ bird and wondered that he was still alive. I went into this trailer/mobile home and the bird jumped down and was walking around talking about Vicious, saying that he was feeding on Vicious’ emotions. I got creeped out and thought that the bird has to die, and trying to figure out if I had the stomach to kill it.

      That dream got me wondering if there wasn’t some kind of psychic/spiritual relationship between Vicious and that bird. Maybe the bird fed Vicious’ emotions or fed from them. Now he was without the bird he was cut adrift. Stupid, I know, but that dream did get me thinking. I don’t think it was, but it did amuse me to think about that for a while 🙂