The “Tiger striped cat” story

Tiger Striped Cat book

Tiger Striped Cat book

For those who didn’t know, Tiger Striped Cat story wasn’t made up for the show. It’s an actual book by Yoko Sano and James L. Huffman (published January 1977).

I have read SO many people who think that once he killed Vicious, Spike had nothing left to do. His life was over, so he was going to die. This kind of contradicts what Spike told Faye as he was leaving “I’m not going there to die. I’m going to see if I’m really alive.” And of course, we all know he found out he was very much alive – what he thought he killed when he “died” three years earlier was very much living and breathing.

For months, I’ve been wondering where that belief came from that Spike’s life was over when he killed Vicious. The only thing I can think of was the story of the “Tiger Striped Cat” that he told Jet in Real Folk Blues part 2. He had come back to the bebop after Jet’s conversation with Bull asking for something to eat. Jet feeds him, and as he finishes the meal, he tells Jet the story of the tiger striped cat, who kept dying and coming back to life. The cat had had a number of lives and had been owned by people he didn’t care for. Then he met a white cat, they fell in love, had many years together in happiness until the white cat died. The tiger striped cat cried a million times then died. Never to be reborn. Jet likes the story, Spike hates it “I hate cats.”

Watching that and listening to what he’s saying (more like reading the subtitles ๐Ÿ™‚ ), It sounded more to me like Spike was leaving the Bebop and was telling Jet he wasn’t coming back. To say that Spike was going there to die because he had nothing left – nothing left to live for – is reading a lot into the story, perhaps more than should be read into it. I think this is true keeping mind what he told Faye. Jet seemed to understand what Spike was saying, for as Spike stood up to leave he asked him if it was “for the woman,” thinking Spike found Julia and wanted to run off with her instead of hunting bounties with him. Of course, Julia was dead and he told Jet.

It was not a happy parting of ways (assuming Spike didn’t return to the Bebop at some point after his work with Vicious was done). “Real Folk Blues,” the song that ended most of the sessions is a sad song that talks about ‘real sadness’ so one would get the idea that Cowboy Bebop wasn’t necessarily going to end happily. Heck, just the end of Cowboy Bebop alone was sad enough! It’s always sad when friends part ways, especially on shows where we get attached to the people and their friendship. For those who think they saw Spike die at the end, it was sadder still!

Spike didn’t go to die, and he didn’t. The story was over and done. Complete. I like to speculate, and so much was left unsaid, we can speculate all we want on what happens next. THAT story is over, but I have to say it pleases me to think Spike went back to the Bebop afterwards. It works for me, but your mileage may vary.

28 comments to The “Tiger striped cat” story

  • 3link

    While the director claims that the ending was open ended, he did leave a hint that Spike did die. If you watch the closing credits to the end (just before space fades), you can clearly see a star burning out. I think that was Spike’s star, as described by Bull. I agree with you regarding the fact that THAT story is over, but THAT happened to be Spike’s story. I believe he’s dead.

    • I understand why someone would think that, and youโ€™re perfectly within your rights if you do. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I just didnโ€™t see him die. Vicious never delivered the fatal blow to Spike during their battle, and while we did see him collapse on the stairs, I canโ€™t say we SAW him die.

      Does that star fading at the end mean Spike died? I donโ€™t know. Bull said his star was about to fall and this star didnโ€™t fall. Thatโ€™s fine if someone thinks Iโ€™m splitting hairs, because either way I think itโ€™s probably irrelevant. If I was going to believe he was dead, Iโ€™d have to see him actually die. I didnโ€™t.

      In Session 0, when asked what the show was about, Watanabe-san said it was about Spikeโ€™s karma. Yeah, it was a story about Spike, and we all have chapters in our lives, at the end of which things are different. We have situations that get resolved and then move on to the next stage (I moved to Florida 11 years ago โ€“ that was the end of my life in my former home, a new life started in my new home, etc). We change jobs, schools, etc. I think thatโ€™s what Cowboy Bebop did and that is how it ended. It was the end of a chapter in Spikeโ€™s life.

      I did sort of get spoiled before I got to the end. All I knew was people were saying Spike died โ€“ he was coming down some stairs with armed men at the bottom, then the star fades. When I finally got to that episode, and Vicious dies, Spike was standing there, and I was so relieved! He wasnโ€™t showing any signs of being critically wounded (I didnโ€™t do that frame by frame until the 4th time I saw it). Then my heart was in my throat when heโ€™s coming down the stairs and I saw those armed men. I thought it was going to end in a blaze of gunfire. Not only were they NOT aiming their guns at him, but one guy actually LOWERED his gun. โ€œBang.โ€ Drop. Birds fly, star fades. I said โ€œHUH??โ€

      I donโ€™t know what the fading star means, or those flying birds, because Spike was not fatally injured during that battle. Itโ€™s like signs saying โ€œheโ€™s deadโ€ are pointing to a guy who is still alive.

      This is what *I* think at any rate. Itโ€™s ok to believe heโ€™s dead. Youโ€™re not without reasons for thinking so, thatโ€™s for sure! What an awesome, messed up ending!

      • Goatmon

        I’m not sure how you define “critically wounded”, because Spike was definitely badly hurt. He took a bullet to the arm, which is easily fatal if not quickly treated, as in within 20 minutes, give or take.

        It was clear that he was already getting dizzy from blood loss as he aimed his gun at Vicious at the start of the fight, which only would become worse after being stabbed by a pretty big knife, and getting a nasty cut across his leg.

        Unless a medical team swooped in within minutes (Which seems unlikely, given that there were still plenty of thugs alive in the building) Spike would not receive the treatment needed to survive that fight. And given his attitude about the whole thing, he probably didn’t want to.

        No, there’s no proof that he died. But all the signs point to it.

        Also, the thugs lowering their guns as Spike came down the stairs? That was a sign of respect. Spike had killed their leader, and were afraid that perhaps they would have to answer to Spike from now on, which is the way of things with the syndicates; Vicious himself took over the syndicate by murdering the clan elders, so it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for someone like Spike to step in and take charge. Hell, a lot of former syndicate members were counting on that, including Shin, who joined Spike in that final gun battle.

        Long story short: Spike more than likely died.

        • Hiya Goatmon!

          Oh yeah, he was definitely seriously wounded, no question. Arm, shoulder, leg. Not that he hasn’t been similarly wounded (arm) or worse (falling from cathedral window, blown up by Tongpu for two).

          When he took his first shot at Vicious, he wasn’t dizzy, but had blood from the cut to his forehead running into his eye which was messing with focusing. I don’t know if you’ve ever fired a pistol, but for the most accurate aim, you use both eyes open even if only one is used to line up the sights (that’s how I was trained at least. Next time I’m at the range I’m going to have someone explain why). One of Spike’s eyes was interfered with by the blood running down his face and it pulled off his aim.

          “Spike more than likely died” – perhaps. Like you said, signs point to it. But there are reasons to believe that he might be alive. The glass is half full for me. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • I like to think of it the same way I think about the whole Deckard being a replicant in Blade Runner.

    – “Is Spike Dead?”
    – “…Maybe.”

    Somethings are just more exciting not knowing. But I am loving all the background ideas on the characters you’ve done as there’s some things that rang true about Spike that you put that now make me look at him different.

    I was talking to my scriptwriter and he told me that Spike comes under the unrealistic character area of film because there’s no upbringing that can make him who he is having those ideals, emotions and skills. Just like Clint Eastwood being at least three times faster than any other gunman in ‘The Good. The Bad and The Ugly’ but yet not being a killer by nature, understand justice, displaying a moral code and despite everyone else being more realistic and violent.

    But in terms of Spike and his background, reading your blog, you almost make him plausible!

    God I love Bebop.


    • HA! Yeah, I love the comparison with Decker being a replicant. I didn’t get it when I first heard it till someone explained why (the little unicorn origami and Deckard’s dreams). Yeah, I don’t know about that. They did show the replicants’ pupils kind of glowing white when the light hits them right. I got the collector set on blu ray and have been meaning to watch it again to see if they showed that with Deckard. I don’t remember ever seeing THAT indication, but who knows? He could be a newer model IF he is a replicant. Same with Spike at the end. Birds flew and star faded, but he was not mortally wounded. What a WTF ending, eh? ๐Ÿ˜€

      Glad you like my ideas about the characters’ backgrounds. I am trying to stick with what they’ve shown on screen and what I know about people (which may not be much, comparatively speaking). Knowing how the creators, Watanabe-san in particular are huge fans of movies from the West, I”m sure there is stuff I’m missing in what they may have been intending because it sounds like they’ve seen more movies than I have, especially John Woo movies.

      That’s a very good point about Spike being an ‘unrealistic character’, but they said NOTHING about his background. Just a few things, he was in the syndicate, faked his death to get out. Fell in love with Vicious’ girlfriend and basically stole her from him, now he wants to kill Spike. I have SOOOOOO MUCH I want to say about Spike, but I’m afraid anything I did write would be mostly my own imagination. I mean, there is an explanation for Spike’s skills and attitudes, even if they weren’t explained in the series.

      If he was orphaned at an early age, taken in by Mao and raised to be a soldier and maybe his successor, it could account for his training. The anime guides DO say that Mao had taken him in and wanted him to succeed him as head of the Red Dragon. My imagination tells me that Spike eagerly took all this training and applied himself – very smart boy, he did everything perfectly. Then when he reached adulthood and was put to work discover to his horror how his training was going to be put to use. I imagine he had been ordered to do terrible things to people and maybe blames himself for not being able to stop it.

      Yeah, this needs a new blog entry. Dude, I have his whole life worked out in my imagination that would account not only for his skills but his attitudes (it’s pretty nasty. I imagine he had a terrible life before he left the syndicate). Just haven’t written it down yet. Cowboy Bebop gave us so little information about him, which kills me that it couldn’t run for more than 26 sessions. But then, if we got all our questions answered it wouldn’t be nearly as fascinating, would it? ๐Ÿ˜€

      Bebop freakin’ RULEZ!!!!

  • Haha, I personally go against Deckard being a replicant just because it gives the film more depth. Deckard, like the rest of civilization fall in line and do their jobs and appear almost like cattle in the movie. Look at all the crowd shots its a good metaphor for the way things have turned out. Even Deckard who hates his job and drinks because he shoots androids that look, act and breath like humans do. But soon as he sees one its shoot first because its his job. The androids on the other hand have innocence and want to live life to the fullest, experiencing anything they can. They show that to Deckard and hes a changed man at the end of the film but if he was a Replicant also it wouldn’t mean much…

    About Spike – If he was brought up to fight, shoot and kill why did he not like doing it? Or at least accept it as a way of life? Just like Clint Eastwoods ‘Man with No Name’ why does he have morales when hes the best killer?

    if its a world Spike was brought up in and trained to do where did he get this compassion? If it was from Mao then why did he have him trained?

    Yeah I have to apologize for my sucky grammer.

    Spike has always intrigued me. Completely inspires my work.


    • One other thing I forgot to mention about Spike. I think he is a spiritual person. You can see traces of that from his visiting Bull. Here is Spike, the badass visiting a mystic. That’s a bit incongruous, don’t you think?

      Then in Jupiter Jazz II, Spike is shouting at Vicious after Lin dies that “Lin’s soul won’t be saved because he died defending you.” He visits a mystic and worries about someone’s soul being saved. Not to mention his apparent interest in traditional medicine in “Toys in the Attic” with those disgusting remedies. HA!

      Spike’s spirituality. Where did it come from? I really think that some people are born with a predisposition to spirituality, and I think Spike was one of those people. I find it hard to believe he’d learn that from Mao.

      Director Watanabe is a HUGE fan of John Woo, a Christian, and of course, Woo’s influence is all over Spike’s stories. This isn’t to say I think Spike is a Christian, but I think he DOES think about life after death, and who knows what else?

      I don’t remember if I wrote this in any of my postings, but I keep wondering at Bull calling him “Swimming Bird.” Almost sounds as if he’s saying that Spike lives in two different worlds, spirit/dream and the physical. Bull seems to really like him too, which tells me that he feels some kind of kinship with him. Think of that blessing he pronounced on him in “Asteroid Blues” and his conversation with Spike in the movie.

      Just blathering, but I was thinking about it and wanted to run it by you. See what you thought.

  • Yeah, I’m with you on the Deckard question, I never thought he was a replicant, but that bit with the unicorn did introduce some doubt (and, dare I say it, ambiguity).

    The question about where Spike gets his compassion if he was raised to kill… there are a couple of things that could account for that. First is the whole ‘nature vs nurture’ question. It’s possible his basic nature was to care about people and that part of his personality had to be suppressed once he went to work. Perhaps too, when he was being trained, he could have been told it’s a game. The martial arts he would have started when he was very young, and there is much more to it than killing people or just causing mayhem (which Spike didn’t seem to mind too much). I envision veteran special forces personnel training the kids in urban combat (guns, explosives, strategy, etc). They didn’t necessarily tell them that they were going to have to go out into the world and actually kill people. Heck, playing at combat is fun for a lot of kids especially boys. I’m a female and I enjoyed playing combat games with the boys I played with as a kid.

    My opinion on Spike, he’s a gentle, sensitive, caring soul who has had to do and see (and perhaps done to him) some terrible things before he was able to escape. It was the syndicate, you do what you’re told or you are punished severely or perhaps die. Would Spike have resisted at first and been punished for it? What if he balked and they punished someone else for it? You know? Do it or die, or perhaps someone else will die because of it. What do you do?

    I think in part, that’s where Spike got his ‘cool’ and his ‘whatever happens happens’ attitude. I think he’s repressed, just out of self preservation with the life he had. He probably learned early on that telling people what you think or feel came with ugly consequences, so he just clammed up. However Mao came into possession of Spike, I can imagine Spike growing up hearing that his life is to do what he’s told. Got ambitions? Nope, your future is all planned out for you, don’t even think about it. We know he said with one eye he sees the past. At one point, you hear Spike’s voice telling this to Julia and she asks what the other eye sees. The answer to that comes in a verse in the song Real Folk blues that wasn’t used in the closing credits (it was abbreviated). Notice nothing said about the future. That’s where I got that idea.

    At some point though, he had to realise that he couldn’t continue with that life and had to get out. He didn’t want to die but he didn’t want (that) life, the only life that was open to him, or so he was told. When did he create Spike Spiegel? Did he take some of the money he earned to deposit into the account to live on once he did get out, IF he could get out? He took a terrible chance doing that, had he been caught, no idea what they would have done. He WAS chosen to succeed Mao, so it’s unlikely they would have killed him outright.

    He could have learned how to pick pockets by older kids he knew as he was growing up. I can see Spike being eager to learn and fascinated by the thought of being able to sneak something from someone (or sneak it onto them). He must have had loads of fun with that. Same with card playing.

    The cybernetic eye though, who knows? He said he lost his natural eye in an accident, but I’m not sure I believe that. It’s come in handy, that’s for sure, because it looked to me like it had a greater range of vision than his natural eye.

    This is complete fantasy on my part, but I picture Spike as being a gifted musician. A pianist. Look at his hands when they’re not in his pockets or clenched into fists when he’s tense. They’re beautiful, an artist’s hands. Of course they’re in proportion with the rest of his build, but geeze. It’s unlikely, should this be the case, that he would have been able to play much. I say ‘gifted’ because he’s gifted in so many other ways with the skills he has. He probably doesn’t do anything that he doesn’t do perfectly.

    Yeah, they told us SO little about him that it’s up to us to fill in our own blanks. ๐Ÿ˜€ I’m trying to do that without getting away from what showed up on screen. Sometimes I have to go back and watch the show again to make sure that my head stories aren’t contradicting what’s been said or done on screen. If it doesn’t, I go with it.

    This is all me, so your mileage may vary.

    Don’t worry about sucky grammar – I have that and sucky editing. ๐Ÿ˜€ Spike IS intriguing. We saw a completely fascinating character that we know nothing about. DAMN what a great show and a wonderful character! I don’t write fiction, but I find myself coming up with my own fics about Spike growing up. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • haha whats stopping you ๐Ÿ˜›

  • Don’t know, exactly. I DID write a little fic for the blog a while back. It’s a drabble about Spike and Vicious as kids. Had it in my head and couldn’t get rid of it till I wrote it down and posted it here

  • dais

    If you watch closely vicious did cut hit in the torso but i think he did because vicious is the only person that can kill him and no one else i think

    • I guess I’m crazed. I actually did a frame by frame viewing of that final clash. I’ve done that more than a half dozen times. There isn’t one frame that shows the blade hitting Spike, other than the slash across the thigh. Maybe Vicious was the only person who could kill him, but Spike shot him before he could do it. ๐Ÿ™‚

      If you have the DVD you can do it and see for yourself. I provided my analysis in a page that’s linked to the ‘references’ section on the right. For convenience, you can also click here.

      For what it’s worth, the first three times I watched that session, I thought Spike got slashed too. It wasn’t until my fourth time through that I was bothered enough about how Spike looked immediately afterward that I wanted to actually SEE what happened. I didn’t see what I expected to see.

  • Only reason I might disagree is just down the fact that its not very Bebop to let things carry on. The whole series was kind of about mini (but precious) life experiences, session by session different things happened to them each time. I cant imagine Spike getting old and settling down lol!

    But the whole white light bit on the steps is highly suspect!

  • You’re right, it’s not very Bebop to let things continue. That’s why they didn’t. ๐Ÿ˜€

    They sure did quit while they were ahead, and I know I wasn’t ready for it. Would I love the show as much if they HAD continued until I was ready for them to quit? Hard to say. Ultimately I think they did the right thing.

    And for what it’s worth, I’m not sure I can picture Spike getting old and settling down either. OR Jet for that matter. Frankly, when I think about what might have happened next, I don’t go that far ahead.

  • As much as I loved the scene where Spike didn’t even flinch when Julia finally embraced him, I felt like I needed to see more afterwards between them two as he just didn’t seem to care.

    Just a few more sessions nothing more eh haha?

  • I KNOW!!! I hadn’t gotten the DVD set I ordered yet, so was watching it from I’m literally SHOUTING at the computer “HUG HER YOU BIG GOOF!!!” *facepalm*

    It just hit me – I said that when he told Jet the Tiger Striped Cat story that he was telling Jet that he was leaving and not coming back, right? The whole second part of Real Folk Blues, all I can think of is Michael Corleone at the end of The Godfather. Kind of disconnected from everyone and everything. I wonder if he was planning on returning to the Red Dragon. I think he still had some loyalty to the organization, and if it moderated, it MIGHT be something he’d be motivated to continue on with.

    That’s hard to say, I think Spike liked his freedom and even being in charge, he wouldn’t have that if he headed up the RD. Plus, in a number of sessions, Spike goes the extra mile to right a wrong. Here’s a question – is that Spike’s nature or did he pick that up from Jet? They had to have influenced each other in SOME way. You don’t live with someone for three years and not come away with some of their attitudes.

    Gotta think about that some more.

    A few more sessions would have been great, wouldn’t it? Oh well, at least they had the story planned out and ended it. Not just stopped making them after, say, Hard Luck Woman. THAT would have been nasty. ๐Ÿ˜€

  • pureblood-3

    It does seem pretty implausible that a guy brought up to head the Red Dragon syndicate could have strong morals like Spike, surely he’d have not really given a damn about human life if that world was all he knew. So this is just a guess (isn’t it always?), but do you think he might’ve got some of his ideals from Julia? She seemed kind, taking care of him when he was injured. I got the feeling she was a good person, who hadn’t been brought up in the same way as Spike, and did have a heart. I think Julia had a bigger impact on him than just being beautiful and singing in the right key, she taught him a few things about compassion and love that he hadn’t learned anywhere else, she made him care about life – his own as well as hers. I agree with what you said, Spooky, on spiritual predisposition. That’s a really good point. I think certain people are just born with the ability or need to think about souls and spirits.

    • Julia being the one to teach Spike about compassion and caring for others? That IS a distinct possibility. Another possibility that is not contradictory to that is that it was Spike’s nature to care. He cared, but maybe wasn’t taught how, and Julia showed him.

      Assuming that’s the case, ‘nature’ would explain why Julia would have been able to influence Spike in this way but not Vicious. Her last words “It’s all a dream” raises another question – did she get that dream talk from Spike or did Spike get it from her?

  • pureblood-3

    Oooh… Interesting! ๐Ÿ˜€ Although he was the first one to mention the dream thing when he suggested running away, but it’s still easily plausible. I love that idea. While Vicious saw only Julia’s beauty (IMO if he ever really cared about her he’d never have put a gun to her head), Spike saw her kindness. I think the idea that Spike learned how to love because of Julia makes her seem much more important and shows it wasn’t just a summer romance, although tbh the way he didn’t hug her at the end kinda points to the idea that it WAS. But then maybe by then he’d learned even more from Jet and Faye.

  • pureblood-3

    So it’s 2am and I realised I hadn’t actually said this before. Well, not exactly this anyway. Also it’s 2am.

    You know, I was surprised by how many people thought Spike was alive when I first started looking into the whole thing. I was so sure he was dead, but now I’m stuck between the two (lol I keep getting pushed more and more to the idea he’s alive. Thanks, MrsSpooky ^_^.). I can no longer believe in my first impression that Julia was the white cat. At first glance, the tiger-striped cat story is all about Julia. Spike did indeed “die a million deaths”, and she was the first person he valued more than his own life, the one who made him feel truly alive. So everything Spike said himself points towards the idea that he couldn’t bear the pain of her death, he wanted to end it all and get it over and done with, to end the dream.

    But to quote Spike: I hate that story.

    I believe there were two white cats in Spike’s life: Julia and the Bebop. I’d say Julia was prevalent until the end of Jupiter Jazz and a few episodes beyond, but once Spike warmed to Faye and they grew closer as a team his feelings began to change. This is my main argument against Spike’s death, and one I can’t believe the writers would’ve overlooked: that to have Spike die because Julia died is completely disregarding everything he went through during the series with Jet, Faye, Ed and Ein. Everything about Cowboy Bebop is under the surface, half the story is in the things they never say, and while Spike said Julia was the first thing that made him afraid of death, I think the crew of the Bebop mattered to him even more than her by the end. If Spike died because he still loved Julia, it ignores the idea that his time on the Bebop changed him, diluted his feelings for Julia and gave him something new to live for. It in fact ignores the very idea that anything happened to Spike emotionally whatsoever, but I defy anyone who says Spike, by the end of RFB, would’ve preferred to be with Julia than to spend another day on the Bebop, chasing bounty heads across the stars. She was no longer what he wanted, he just wanted the whole damn thing to be over so he could get back to the Bebop and help Jet.

    I also refuse to believe the ending of Bebop was “bleak” or “depressing” as some have suggested (inc you Spooks!). I didn’t feel that way when I first watched it and I sure don’t now either. While his leaving Jet and Faye was sad, to think that he wanted to return to the Bebop as I just explained, AND that he died doesn’t at all fit with the theme of the show or the feeling of the episode: his actions at the very end refute this idea because he was calm and at peace with the idea of dying, or at least with the fact Julia was dead and that he had defeated Vicious. So for Spike it was a happy ending.

    But all in all, if he died it was because he loved Julia and he got to be with her, if he survived it was because he loved the Bebop and he got to go home. Either way the tiger-striped cat story fits: both Julia and the Bebop were white cats, and the physical inability to survive has nothing to do with it. IMO, what was the end of BoFA FOR if not to throw even more Ambiguity Fuel on the wonderfully long-burning Ambiguity Bonfire that is Cowboy Bebop?

    Anyway. It’s 2.40am now! G’night @_@!

    • Your comment is SO exciting!!!

      I so totally agree, the thought that the white cat was Julia and that he wanted to die because she was dead completely rules out any sort of character growth. ALL of these characters grew during the run of the show. Never mind the three years Spike was with Jet on the Bebop before Faye moved in on them.

      He wanted it ALL to be over. The only way for that to happen was for him to finish off Vicious. The fact that Julia died too just freed him completely from all ties to his past.

      And you raise the best point of all, that ” Everything about Cowboy Bebop is under the surface, half the story is in the things they never say…” It’s a truth of psychology “believe the behavior.” Spike had something to live (and die) for, which was the Bebop and her crew. That business with Vicious HAD to end if he was going to be free of his past, and there was only one way to end it, and only one who could do it. That was Spike. Everyone on that show had a past to deal with – unresolved issues to take care of. Spike was no different – except that his past was the last one to be resolved in the show. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Yes, I thought the ending was bleak, because the implication was he was leaving the Bebop and wasn’t coming back whether he lived or died (gawd, I hate that thought). That’s one of the things I love about Aftermath Twostep and the biggest reason why I wrote it. I ended it the way I wanted it to end. ๐Ÿ˜€

      Yeah, there was a LOT going on in Cowboy Bebop, and if you just look at the surface, you’d get one impression, but if you looked at the thing as a whole, you’d get quite another impression.

      Believe me, I talk about Cowboy Bebop to EVERYBODY (my poor family ๐Ÿ™‚ ). Almost ALL of the people I talk to who I find out love Cowboy Bebop, all I have to say is “So… alive or dead?” 99.9% of them say “Oh, definitely alive.”

      I was thinking I was so alone, but I’m finding more and more that I’m not. It’s an open ended ending, and it’s freaking’ brilliant. I’m convinced he’s alive, even though I know it’s ambiguous.

      And I LOVE your thought that the Bebop was another white cat in Spike’s life. Indeed!!!

      I think you’re brilliant! ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks so much for posting. I hope you’re sound asleep when i write this. We’ll talk again soon. ๐Ÿ˜€

  • pureblood-3

    Aww man my family wouldn’t be able to stand me if I kept going on about Bebop! Most of them hate anime except my twin sister and even she gets annoyed with me constantly thinking and pestering her about it. She likes the soundtrack though. The thing is I know she’d love it if she just sat and watched it, she loves intelligent TV! My friends really aren’t ones for all that beneath the surface stuff though; they prefer their TV loud, in your face and dumb. So I’m infinitely grateful I found this blog and IMDb otherwise I dare say I’d be ripping my hair out trying keeping all my pent up musings to myself XD.

    I love Aftermath Twostep because it almost felt as if he was waking up from the dream, I imagined half of it all fuzzy like the “dream” part of the movie. It was a really nice way to continue the story and I don’t think I’d have been able to come up with a more fitting SpikeLives! ending :).

    I think there’s also two tiger-striped cats, and I think that whether you think Spike lived or died is dependent on which cat you believe in more. Spike sees the past in one eye and the present in the other, so technically there are two Spikes: Past Spike and Present Spike. Past Spike’s white cat is Julia, while Present Spike’s white cat is the Bebop.

    Both Spikes live in the shadow of the syndicate life, one Spike hating it for it breaking up his relationship and killing Julia, the other hating it for chasing him all this time and disrupting life on the Bebop. Because both eyes see the past and present at the same time, both Spikes exist at the same time, sometimes one being more apparent than the other. In other words, they’re both Spike, but they have different motivations.

    So what happened in RFB, I think, is that Spike didn’t know himself which tiger-striped cat he was or which white cat he was living for. Or to put it another way, whether he was seeing the past or the present. This could be one of the reasons he didn’t hug Julia in the graveyard, because he was asking himself what it’s all for and trying to figure out who he was at that moment. He seemed so unsure during that whole episode about who he was, what he should do and what would happen if he did it.

    The thing is both white-cat explanations are equally plausible. You can believe the story was referring to Julia, and he wanted to die and be free, or you can believe it was referring to the Bebop and that he wanted to escape his past once and for all and be free. It all depends on who his white cat was at the very end. His last thought was of Julia, but the act of going back to the Bebop after she died instead of going straight to Vicious’ HQ speaks volumes in itself.

    I’m so tied between the two right now. I keep flipping back and forth. The fact that his final thought was for Julia points towards her being the white cat, and the “bang” at the end always makes me think back to Sympathy of the Devil: “I can finally die at last… do you understand? Do you?”
    However, there’s so much he said that you can take both ways. “She’s dead. There’s nothing I can do for her now.” “And then the dream was all over.” “I hate that story.” “I’m not going there to die.” “Yeah I understand. As if.” Argh, Spike! XD

    I can’t express how insane I find it that on the surface it seems OBVIOUS Spike died. I mean, how could he NOT, right? And then you look closer and all of a sudden I find myself struggling to find arguments FOR him dying. The star, the story, the wounds… It still doesn’t add up. “Are you just going to throw your life away like it meant nothing?” No. Spike meant a hell of a lot to the Bebop, and they meant a hell of a lot to him. He didn’t have a deathwish and he wasn’t going there to die. He was going to find out if he was truly alive and for dear God’s sake, he bloody well is! XD.

    • Oh man. Your comments are better than my blog posts! ๐Ÿ˜€

      You’re reminding me of this quote that I LOVE from Beau Billingslea about Jet: “I love Jet Black. I love the character and, as I’ve said in the past, in some respects Spike and Faye are like my real-life niece and nephew, trying to guide them along. He tries to keep his guard up, you know, like how those rugged rough guys are. [As Jet:] ‘Yeah, I don’t need you around.’ But the subtext is, ‘God, I love you being here.’ It’s obvious he loves the situation with the group on the Bebop, Jet’s reactions to the kids’ shenanigans. He’s in my bones.”

      Like you said, there is a LOT going on under the surface and TONS of subtext. I LOVE the idea that there are two “white cats” with the Bebop being one of them. I hadn’t thought of that. In fact, I think I like that idea better than Spike telling Jet that he was leaving and not coming back.

      I’m still trying to think of what the “bang” could have meant. Yeah, he did it twice, once at the end of Sympathy for the Devil and once at the end of Real Folk Blues. In both instances, he had just defeated his enemy, saying “bang” at the symbol of that enemy. The harmonica and the armed men at the bottom of the stairs. It looked to me like an act of triumph. He defeated Wen and he defeated Vicious, and by extension, his past.

      Something someone posted there is staying with me too. Did you see that one? At the end of yet another “spike lives, no he’s dead” thread, someone said something to the effect of “His biological status at the end doesn’t matter. The point is that he’s finally free.”

      I know when I was watching RFB on the computer while waiting for my DVDs to arrive, I know people said he died, but a few were saying it was ambiguous. The way he was standing there after he killed Vicious, I was so relieved. He was OK! Then coming down the stairs and he drops, and those armed men didn’t shoot him. I think I was laughing at that point and I remember saying out loud “HE AIN’T DEAD!!” Then “WTF????”

      What Spike did in going after Vicious not only freed him finally from his past (and Julia’s death ABSOLUTELY freed him too), but it also served to save Jet, Faye and the Bebop, ’cause they would have continued going after them. Jet was already shot and the Bebop damaged (maybe beyond repair, who knows?). He also saved the lives of maybe countless others that the Red Dragon under Vicious’ leadership would have killed. He didn’t want to go. He didn’t want to go in Ballad of Fallen Angels when he had to avenge Mao. He had to. I think that was how he was raised, and he KNEW that was the right thing to do, not just an obligation.

      “Before I knew it, the dream was over.” – Yeah. One could ask “WHICH dream?” Remember in the movie he told Bull “I was dreaming. Well… which is the dream?” Who the F knows? ๐Ÿ˜€ The way I take that is the dream that was over was the dream he said he was watching that he hadn’t woken up from from Ballad of Fallen Angels. Remember? Vicious then tells him “I’ll wake you up right now.” Then when Spike finds him in RFB, Vicious says “I see you’re finally awake.” I’m still working on what I think of that. xD

      My favorite scene in RFB (in fact, looking back on it, the one scene I love) was when Spike goes back to the Bebop and Jet makes him “Special beef with bell peppers” (without the beef of course). The two of them sitting there, smiling, chatting. Spike picking on Jet’s cooking. Kind of made me wonder if that was what their life together was like before Faye. Did they get much of a chance to just sit and talk to each other like that since she came on board? I loved Jet’s smiles as Spike ate. The two guys showing how much they care about each other. I’m a chick and that stuff makes me melt. Can’t help it, LOL.

      I know when I started the blog, my whole point and intention was to “stick to what’s on the screen” – that, along with what Watanabe-san and the rest of the Sunrise crew say about it being the ‘source of truth.’ There IS more to it than that though. I love hearing what people come up with with what they got out of things. I like to try to look beneath the surface too, but for myself, I don’t want what little imagination I have to run away with me. ๐Ÿ˜€

      I don’t know what they were intending when they made this show, but the result was something magical.

  • pureblood-3

    I wasn’t spoiled before RFB. I read some of the reviews on IMDb that kind of hinted that he died (I avoided the real spoiler ones though), but except for a tiny inkling in the back of my mind. I guessed death was on the cards in RFB but what hit me more than Spike’s death was the entire freedom aspect. That was what made me cry for Spike, that he had finally escaped Vicious and was finally free. He was with Julia again, and would live on in that dream forever. The song Blue reflects this so beautifully as well. I completely agreed with that “Is Spike dead?” post, biological status doesn’t matter.

    I’m still unsure of what he thought of Julia’s death. Obviously he was extremely sad but I’m not certain of what impact it had on his outlook. Was it the end of the world, or did it mean the start of a new one? I couldn’t help feeling that a bit of Spike died inside when Julia did, she meant so much to him.

    That scene with the bell peppers and beef… It was so touching. Melting is good, I actually started to relax during that scene and I wished it could have lasted longer. I was all, “Spike you can’t leave. This is where you belong!” You could see relief written all over Jet’s face, Spike was back and complaining about the food like normal, it was brilliant! Until he came out with the story. I was just waiting for something to snap, because how could he just not react to Julia’s death? How could he be so stoic in the face of such a terrible thing? But there we go. That boy avoids revealing his emotions like oil avoids water. The cat cried a million times, but Spike didn’t shed a tear.

    Lol, I’m always really worried about going over the top with analysis, I think I’ve done it a lot anyway. I don’t know how much the writers intended or whether I’m just grasping at straws that don’t exist, but there have been a couple of times I’ve reached a point where I’ve gone, “Wait. What the hell is this I’m writing?! None of this makes any sense! Stop! Stop!!” I want to stick with what’s on the screen because I don’t like wishy-washy ideas, but obviously the problem with that is that, as we’ve discussed, what’s on the screen isn’t necessarily obvious in itself and there are so many themes and so many things that refute other things. It’s also difficult to discern what’s coincidence and what’s intentional, such as the Symbolism of Cigarettes and All the Little Fishes – two great pieces on Bebop Musings, but neither of which I’m sure is intentional. But then coincidences aren’t necessarily a waste of time either, the fact that they exist is just another tribute to the writers.

  • I know. When they finished chuckling at the “I hate cats” Spike stood up and started walking away. Judging from Jet’s reaction, I guessed that he figured Spike’s story was saying that he was leaving and not coming back. Jet knew that Spike went looking for Julia – he probably thought he found her and was leaving the Bebop to be with her. That’s how I interpreted the look on his face “Is it for the woman?” Then when Spike told him she was dead, that was quite a blow to Jet too. He had to be wondering where the hell he was going. He had to know that Spike was going to face Vicious. Yeah, Jet could tell him all he wanted to let it go. Let go of the past. What if his past wouldn’t let go of HIM? Spike didn’t have a problem with letting go of the past, it was his past – in the person of Vicious – who wouldn’t let go of him. Vicious would have continued hunting Spike and everyone with him. Spike’s remaining on the Bebop while Vicious was alive would have endangered them and Spike wasn’t going to have that.

    I think Julia’s death really hurt Spike, but remember when he’s telling Jet about her and his feelings about her in RFB, he was speaking in the past tense. The first time I watched that (well, EVERY time I watch it), I wonder if his feelings about her had changed. I remember thinking “He doesn’t feel that way about her any more?” I’m still scratching my head over that.

    I too think that a part of Spike died with her – AND with Vicious. That part of him that died was his attachment to his past. Biologically, I think he lived, finally free of the ties that bound him to a life he tried to escape three years previous. Come to think of it, EVERYONE he loved and trusted from that life are gone – Lin, Shin, Vicious, Annie, Mao, the Elders, JULIA. With Julia and Vicious gone, he really HAD nothing to tie him back, and he was finally free to live his life and maybe even look to the future.

    Again, I don’t think Spike was obsessed with his past any more than the rest of us are, even though he was tied to it still. I think he just couldn’t look to the future in any way shape or form. I’m wondering if that was part of the reason he took so many insane chances with his life. I’m wondering too if that’s why he kept looking up Bull – he could see the past and present, but not the future and wanted the advice of someone who could.

    Yeah, I get scared with analyses. I’ve seen some very imaginative analyses and have to wonder where they get it, because what some are saying I don’t see at all. SOME of them I can see (I don’t agree with it, but they’re logical to me), but there are others that leave me scratching my head wondering if we saw the same show. ๐Ÿ˜€ I don’t have much of an imagination at all, but I do sometimes fear my heart is going to run away from my head when I’m typing stuff out. If I can’t justify what I’m thinking with what’s on the screen, then I try not to post it. If I do, I try to make sure I’m saying “this is what I think” or “this is what I feel.”

    Yeah, I haven’t read it in a while, but I loved that posting about the fishes. But I think the fish motif is pretty common in Japan – it could be just a common Japanese decorative motif that in itself means nothing. Or maybe it means everything.

  • redrock

    sorry for reviving this after a year of being inactive, i actually just stumbled upon this off of google. love the show with a passion and thought id share my 2cents. also sry for being a little redundant on some of the points.

    my take on the ending is that spikes took on a life of avoidance ever since he met julia. he had been a stone cold killer and she was the light that taught him that there was more to life than the violence that he had known. he decided to leave the syndicate and live out this new fantasy of morality that he had now come to know. but in the end, he realizes that it was only a fantasy and that he could never escape the inevitable confrontation with vicious. he knew that this would be his death but he was ok with it. the quote that comes to mind when bull says that death is always by our side. fear it and it comes at you faster than light, but if you do not fear it, it gently guides you into infinity (ok i butchered the quote but you get the point) spike lost his connection to the moral side of life (julia) it wasnt so much that he wanted to die now, as it was that death no longer bothered him. the story of the tiger striped cat, that was spikes way of explaining what had happened to jet. the scene with faye where he tells her about his eyes always made me think of the story jet had in the previous episode which had the takeaway that men tend to look at the past when they are about to die. hes leaving his life up to fate, and he knows that it will mean his death. he tells faye that hes going to find out if he was ever alive. hes never “been able” to die before. in a way hes been mortally injured hundreds of times before yet never died. this may be giving an illusion of immortality. its a sense of duality, like not knowing how nice the sunshine is without rain. he doesnt know that hes been alive because he hasnt been in a situation he believed he could die before. he went to confront vicious as way to allow fate and death to finally take its course. the life that he had been living by avoiding the syndicate and vicious had been a dream, and it was time to wake up. which is also why i believe that spike died at the end. granted he had sustained many more injuries in the past that should have killed him, but this was the first time that he had gone willing to die. honestly i think that is what made it so beautiful (honestly thats the only word that comes to mind when i think about it) its not depressing in the least, except for the the viewer cuz that it ment the end of an epic series.

    • Hi there, Redrock! Welcome! ๐Ÿ™‚

      You have some really good points and it’s an interesting perspective. I like this he decided to leave the syndicate and live out this new fantasy of morality that he had now come to know. but in the end, he realizes that it was only a fantasy and that he could never escape the inevitable confrontation with vicious. Yeah, eventually he does figure out that he had to face him. Vicious was not going to let him go, just like he didn’t let Julia go. Spike couldn’t keep running – Jet was shot and the Bebop damaged maybe beyond repair because of his presence there and Vicious’ vendetta.

      …the quote that comes to mind when bull says that death is always by our side. fear it and it comes at you faster than light, but if you do not fear it, it gently guides you into infinity… The only thing is, Bull didn’t say that. At least, that’s not what Keiko Nobumoto and Shinichiro Watanabe put on the screen. What they ACTUALLY wrote was “do not fear death. 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…” That sounded a LOT like a caveat to me. Maybe not, but I can’t think of any other way to think of it. It’s almost as if Bull saw two possibilities, or more like that it wasn’t completely certain. If you watch it dubbed (and if you have the DVDs), turn on the subtitles. When the show was adapted into other languages, a lot of liberties were taken with the dialog, probably to make the actors’ voices match the mouth movements. At least some of them were, other changes that they did were kind of incomprehensible to me. I haven’t seen it dubbed in over a year, so I can’t say I remember what Bull said in that scene, but I’ve had other people say that Bull said that, so it’s possible you got the line right if you watch it dubbed.

      Jet’s story – I haven’t read that book, so I don’t have the context of the excerpt he quoted. Jet was afraid Spike was going to get himself killed, which isn’t the same as saying Spike IS going to get himself killed. And I’ve always been confused by that, and it kind of bugs me about those two sessions. Jet and Faye harping on him for being stuck in the past. He’s no more stuck in the past than Jet (look at Jet clinging to his metal arm) or even Faye, who had no past but was searching for it. Spike’s past came shooting at them, so yeah, his past is going to get his attention. ๐Ÿ™‚

      he doesnt know that hes been alive because he hasnt been in a situation he believed he could die before. I’m not sure about that. I have a page that has a bunch of pictures of Spike showing various emotions (done as a response to someone’s claim on another message board), and there are some where he’s in a dangerous situation where he looks scared to death (so to speak LOL). Running from Tongpu, virus-stricken Swordfish, a couple of spots in Speak Like a Child, when he nearly collided with Jet in Ganymede Elegy. At least during those events, he believed he could die, because it scared him.

      the life that he had been living by avoiding the syndicate and vicious had been a dream, and it was time to wake up. That’s interesting. He told Vicious in Ballad of Fallen Angels that he watching a dream that he hadn’t woken up from. Was the life he lived in the syndicate the dream? Or his life outside the syndicate? Or were they both part of one continuous dream? That is certainly up for debate. ๐Ÿ˜€

      What I’m thinking, is – Spike told Bull and Jet that he already died once, then he tells Faye as he’s leaving he’s going to see if he’s really alive. That reminds me of the scene in Ballad of Fallen Angels, when Vicious is telling Spike that ‘the same blood flows through you and I, ravening beasts prowling the world looking for blood,’ to which Spike replies ‘I’ve bled all that blood away.’ Vicious thought Spike lost his fangs just like Mao had lost HIS fangs. Maybe Spike was saying that it was the beast that died when he left the syndicate and he wanted to see if it was still alive. Well of course we found out that he was. ๐Ÿ˜€

      Going back to what Bull said, Spike was under fire and wounded as he was going after Vicious and didn’t show any fear at all. I’m sure for the most part the reason for that was that he was leaving his life up to fate like you said, but probably mostly in large part because he was too full of hate, rage and grief to feel anything else. I didn’t see anything resembling fear or nervousness on Spike’s face at any point during his charge on the Red Dragon, but I could swear I saw a moment of it on Vicious’ face as they were winding up for their final strike. Yeah, I know, hard to tell with animation, right? LOL. But Yeah, I really think I saw fear on Vicious’ face just before Spike shot him. That’s why I think that was Vicious’ star that faded in the end. Again, if Bull was going to be believed, if both men died, shouldn’t we have seen two stars going out? Gren wasn’t nearly as significant a figure as Vicious and he got a falling star. I think that was Vicious’ star, it fell/faded because he showed fear and death sprang on him faster than lightning.

      What I’m taking away from Real Folk Blues is that Jet and Faye feared for Spike’s life and they were talking to him like that in an attempt to talk him out of That Which Could Not Be Avoided. A conversation I had with someone on another board I think explained why two groups of people have such different impressions of the outcome. I don’t know if you saw Session #0 (it’s in the Extras on disc 5 of the remix boxed set. Shinichiro Watanabe said the series was about Spike’s karma. He left the syndicate with some pretty bad karma, I think we can all agree. If one thinks he was able to repair his karma, then one could think that he escaped death at the end. I really do Spike sufficiently repaired his karma by the end:

      Giving up the bounty to save the dog in Stray Dog Strut
      What he did for Stella in Waltz for Venus
      Helping Wen to die (and putting an end to his victimizing men for his ‘cover’) in Sympathy for the Devil
      Intercepting those virus-laden barbs to protect the Bebop and her occupants, effectively ruining chances for his rescue in Wild Horses
      And – and maybe not – dispatching Tongpu in Pierrot Le Fou at great risk to his own life. The guy was an assassin and enjoyed killing and would have continued until he was stopped, saving how many lives in the process?

      I think the ending is ambiguous, like the movie Shane. Shinichiro Watanabe has been quoted as saying he liked westerns, and if he likes westerns, then it’s fairly certain he’s seen Shane and probably thought the end was cool (it was, btw) and wanted to do something similar with Cowboy Bebop. It’s not that big a stretch, actually.

      I do see your points though, you have a different perspective on it (at least you made some points that make more sense than others I’ve heard) and I appreciate your sharing them! ๐Ÿ™‚