After all the adventures, all the encounters, all the lives our crew has drifted in and out of, we’ve finally reached it to the end of this series. And, to be honest with you, I was left somewhat disappointed by the finale. While it’s filled with spectacular action set pieces and designs, with style and grace and a cinematic eye, it also sort of hits on some of the weakest elements of the series as a whole.
Warning: spoilers here, not just for this session, but potentially the whole series
1. What It Gets Right
Those action scenes, definitely. They’re beautifully executed orchestrations of chaos and destruction. Watanabe pushes his crew to go to the fullest. Just look at Spike and Vicious’s final confrontation in the tower. Or Spike plowing through the infinite number of gangsters in his effort to exact revenge. The people at Sunrise show some astounding control over the scene, drawing out tension and delivering violence in a visceral, heart-pounding manner. The second part of “The Real Folk Blues” definitely is an intense and gripping 20 minutes or whatever. Also, there’s something horrifying about watching all these sets we’ve been hanging around for 20-some sessions get blown up or characters get mowed down.
I also really like the scene where the guy from Big Shots is picking his mother up at the airport.
2. Taking Up Space
Unlike Ed and Ein last week, Jet and Faye are still hanging around, trying to deal with Spike’s problems on Mars. And honestly, after they’re shot out of the sky, they spend the rest of the session trying to convince Spike not to confront Vicious, and talking. They stare at each other with concern and worry, but they don’t actively do anything. I know Spike is all about handling Vicious and the Syndicate on his own, yet Watanabe takes care to show how concerned they are for his well-being, how worried they are he’s going to do something to hurt himself. Yet they just hang around on the Bebop, especially after Julia’s death. I’m not sure what could have been done with these two, but certainly the choice to have them do nothing is the oddest and weakest.
3. The Structure
This session is so fast — except when it’s not — we’re given only a brief moment to reacquaint ourselves with the characters and their circumstance before the rest of the plot kicks in. The balance of tension and action throughout “The Real Folk Blues” is all over the place. There’s some breathless chases and some intense moments where you’re waiting with hushed anticipation, but then a lot more moments where we’re hanging around the hanger of the Bebop or wallowing in memory. The first half of this session gets tedious at times, as we watch the crew at Sunrise desperately attempting to realign the tension.
I think Watanabe relies on us having built up this relationship with the characters, and there’s a certain inevitability to Spike’s fate when he lands on Mars. But . . . Cowboy Bebop was never really an serialized series. There were arcs that carried throughout the show, but they were based more on character growth and dynamics than some epic quest. This, “Jupiter Jazz,” and “The Ballad of Fallen Angles” are really the only times we see Vicious and he’s built to be some great foil to Spike, but I think there’s just too little of him to really care.
I think the same can be said about Julia. Sure, we see Spike erupt into a conniption at the mere mention of her name (because there’s only one Julia in the entire solar system, obvs). Through those few brief instances previously, we get Spike is incredibly preoccupied with her and we can piece together the elements of their history, yet I don’t think there’s enough to understand her to get the full impact. We only know her through Spike and it’s disappointing when she gets gunned down on the rooftop, but I don’t think it fully hits the feels like it wants to. Ed and Ein walking off into the sunset on Earth achieves more of those emotional beats than Julia’s death.
4. Final Demise
One of the last shots of the series is Spike, wounded beyond reason, facing the rest of the syndicate who just burst in to see what’s what. He points his finger directly at the camera, says, “Bang,” and everything freezes. I could see how this could be interpreted as ambiguous, but those wounds seemed fairly mortal to me. Also, at the end of the credits, there’s a shooting star cutting across the sky, going back to “Jupiter Jazz,” where the Native American-like old dude is waxing on about souls and stars or something. I mean, it’s heavily implied Spike eats it here at the end, but there’s always the possibility for more adventures with these characters.Continued below
5. Final Thoughts
“The Real Folk Blues” has a lot going for it, even though it never achieves anything like the highest highs of Cowboy Bebop. I believe the best sessions of the show were those that did not deal full on with the crew, but allowed us to see their personalities and characterization when reflected through other people. It was a great way to build the world without, like, stopping the story to explain what’s happening and why. Also, Cowboy Bebop did so much so well, creating this fully realized, believable universe, it was almost guaranteed not to fully deliver on its finale.
This show tries so much and has such high ambitions, bears a strong of style and class, it’s easy to see why it’s become a staple of anime. And I’ve had a great time watching it along with you. What have been your favorite moments from the entire series? How well do you think the finale does in wrapping up everything set out by the show? Let me know in the comments and see you later, space cowboys.