Recently, I met an old friend that I hadn't talked to in months. While catching up, we got around to discussing art styles with a little historical venturing into Ukiyo-e and eventually Japanese anime. Somehow, we landed the discussion on Cowboy Bebop and she asked who my favorite characters were. I named Shin and Julia first and she gave an exaggerated why!? Then the conversation just trailed because we both had places to be.
If I could jot it down I thought this would be the perfect place for doing that?
I don't remember Cowboy Bebop quite like I used to anymore. The last time I revisited the series was a few years ago. However, Shin and Julia have always stuck with me as great characters with hardly any background or development. Years ago, I was heavily interested in Julia's seemingly indeterminate character.
By the end of the series, she was killed off and not much more was ever revealed about her. Which was a real shame because she drove certain points of the plot forward and was central to one of the main characters.
Perhaps it was for the better that Julia stayed an enigma? I just couldn't help but feel that Spike's past, in the context of the Bebop storytelling, was a tad contradictory. I started to feel detached from his character. For someone that notably mentions the relevance of their past and present coexisting, all I truly got a feel for was the present clashing with an unknown void too vague to be important to anyone but Spike.
Cowboy Bebop was great at developing the Bebop crew. At certain times, I thought it was genius that two pronounced characters were left in Spike's notorious past. Vicious and Julia. Revisiting the narrative of Spike Spiegel in a new perspective sort of made him less likeable in my opinion.
Here is a character that was risking death for desertion from the Syndicate, just to be with the woman he loved. The concern for their well-being seemed one-sided when Spike gained the selfish assumption of Julia's betrayal. I thought, what a contradiction. Way to love someone so much, you just assume the most terrible organization linked to Vicious (who is quite dangerous and whom she was in a complex relationship with at the time) couldn't possibly find out. You know, possibly have her held up somewhere against her will? Possibly dead with one between the eyes for even thinking of eloping far from the Syndicate. Spike knew Julia so well, he couldn't even tell how out-of-character it would have been for her not to show up unless she was compromised in some way. Ironically, the act of Spike choosing to rush the Syndicate in a deed of unnecessary hurt, let him slip from the Syndicate; as he took advantage of being presumed dead. On the other hand, Julia and other former members had been evading Syndicate members, Vicious included.
While Spike was self-absorbed in a blither of random philosophies and melancholy fallacies from the misunderstandings of his past.
After finally discovering what Julia was up to, I almost couldn't grasp how nonchalant and indolent Spike had become in his own self-pity. Instead of following Spike's adventures in rediscovering his meaning and place in life. I was more interested in Shin. At the center of Syndicate diplomacy, navigating around Vicious' uprising; all while maintaining his duties.
His ability to help Julia and balance his loyalties. I really wanted to see both of them in the long struggle of their survival and not just appear in the last few episodes with vague concepts about the people they were. It made Julia's death feel utterly insignificant in my opinion. Who was she really? What did she actually go through? Her: "It's all...a dream." quote felt incredibly sad. She literally sacrificed her life by running and Spike could do nothing but fill his idea of her as a hurtful woman that deserved his doubts. When she was exhausted and dying, she truly felt like an unsung character. Sadly, at the forefront of the superficial, she died as someone Spike held in regard to his damaged past. A silhouette of his grief, sympathy and often referred to as the source of Spike's troubles. All of this and she still loved him unconditionally in the end. What were her in-betweens?
This also makes Spike x Faye so unsatisfying for me. Mainly because Spike and Julia never had any resolve and Julia clearly had immense love for him that she was never allowed to fully convey.
Cowboy Bebop is one anime I greatly love, ponder over and still manage to feel an immensely empty resolution of.