Spike, the Messenger of Death and Jazz
Spike Spiegel

I'm living in a dream I can't wake from.

From: Cowboy Bebop (Sunrise TV)

Making the not-so-difficult leap from a John Woo movie to anime, Spike Spiegel is a one-time mobster who is desperately trying to find a new place for himself among the ranks of space-faring bounty hunters. Armed with a hacked-together knowledge of kung fu karate, judo, and handguns, Spike is a formidable opponent and a useful ally, if his attention span holds. The ghosts of his past are a dangerous distraction that threaten to pull Spike back into the violent maelstrom of the criminal life. Struggling to keep him grounded in the present reality are Spike's "comrades", the other bounty-hunting inmates of the Bebop, a run-down old planet-hopper. Tenuously balanced between these two forces, Spike looks back to the past and looks ahead to the future and has trouble deciding what's real with his mismatched eyes.

Surrounding Spike in the present are his shipmates Jet Black, Faye Valentine, Ed Wong, and the ship's mascot, Ein. Each is wrapped up in his or her own mysterious circumstances, but still they manage to work together long enough to pay for maintenance and food by hauling in wanted criminals. Ironically enough, all of the members of the Bebop crew feel that they are unwanted rootless nomads, having been set adrift by whatever friends and family they grew up with. When you put them together though, they form a strange sort of Family, in which each person backs the other, in between attempts to screw the others out of a bounty or a bit of treasure. Of course, every family has its rivalries, right?

Just another day of domestic bliss on the Bebop.

Working to lure Spike back to the past are the members of his old "Family", the Red Dragon Syndicate. Annie and Mao, the matriarch and patriarch of the Mars-based criminal organization, adopted the bright young man into the ranks and tried to raise him to be the next boss. Things seemed to be going well for years, since Spike was a quick study and was respected and well-liked. Spike lacked the ambition and ruthlessness necessary to move high up the ranks, but this was more than made up for by his equally-skilled partner-in-crime, a former mercenary called Vicious. Standing tall and proud, Spike and Vicious in the bad old days. Together, Spike and Vicious made the perfect deadly pair, and eventually no one stood higher in the Syndicate except for Mao himself and the three wizened old masters of the Red Dragon.

There's an expression in French that seems to sum up the cause of Spike's misfortune, "Cherchez la femme." The woman in this case was Julia, Vicious' girlfriend and the love of Spike's life. Through a series of unhappy events, Julia was forced to choose between the two men and instead chose to flee alone for her life. Phantoms from the past on on side, dreams of the future on the other, and Spike's caught right in the middle. She is now pursued relentlessly by both Spike and Vicious, proving that love and vengeance are not so far apart after all. In fact, the line separating the former dynamic duo is not so very thick, as both men are consumed with a thirst for vengeance against each other. Even as Vicious carves a bloody path through the leadership of the Red Dragon, he reminds Spike, "Only I can kill you. Only you can kill me." For his part, Spike will readily drop everything to charge after either Vicious or Julia, even when the ultimate outcome is literally foreordained. One of Spike's most interesting and alluring traits is the ability to keep going through all manner of pain and heartache, even while courting death.

Previous: Sakurazuka Seishirou
[Tokyo Babylon & X/1999]

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[Ayashi no Ceres]

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