Overthinking Cowboy Bebop:  Session 20

Overthinking Cowboy Bebop: Session 20

This week on Cowboy Bebop: Tales of Batman, Horror, and Narrative Closure.

Way #2:  As a Batman tribute.

I mean, it's not exactly subtle.

I’m sure that you’d all noticed how, in his rotundity and general tuxedoedness, Pierrot is a dead ringer for Oswald Cobblepot, right?  Well, I’m sure that the penguin surfing at left is no accident.  The whole episode just screams Batman.  The “heroes try to solve bizarre crime perpetrated by an insane criminal” structure of this episode seems like what you’d expect from a show about bounty hunters in space, but we’ve seen that it pretty much never actually goes down like that for the Bebop’s crew, and for Batman it’s par for the course.  As it turns out, of members of the Cowboy Bebop creative team actually got some important early experience doing animation for Batman, The Animated Series, and I think they’ve even acknowledged that this episode was supposed to be a tribute.  I’m not sure what to say about this other than to point out that the similarities exists… but we might ask whether Spike as we know him is Batman or Bruce Wayne, and whether we should ever expect to see the other persona.  And who his Robin would be (Ed, his orphaned ward?  Jet, his ambiguously heterosexual life-mate?).  And who his Alfred would be (probably Jet).  And what role Faye would play in all of that.  Ein, obviously, is Ace the Bat-Hound.

We should also note that Batman, as the greatest detective in comics, is an old hand at the kind of horror narrative I described above.  Typically he goes for the old-school Dracula style version of it, where the knowledge acquired through Batman’s detective work makes the actions of his rogue’s gallery less threatening.  And in any case, Batman is always, always able to use the information he’s required to defeat the bad guy.  But neither of these are what happens in Pierrot le Fou, which gets into the third way of experiencing the episode:

13 Comments on “Overthinking Cowboy Bebop: Session 20”

  1. RiderIon #

    Interesting read as always Stokes. The Batman homage makes a lot of sense especially considering Japan’s love of Batman: The Animated Series. Assuming you haven’t already, you should check out Big O which is one huge homage to Batman: TAS…if Batman had a giant mech. Interestingly enough, Spike and Roger Smith (the main character and Batman stand-in of Big O) both share the same English voice actor (Steven Blum).

    The name change is unfortunate for disrupting the musical thematic but I feel the reference to Pierrot le fou works much better as a title. It draws my interest (even though I haven’t seen the French film) and gives me a certain imagery of insanity especially considering the episode preview at the end of Session 19. The translated title, Requiem for a Mad Clown, gives me an entirely different mental image. It evokes a much more depressive imagery, which the episode does not really have. Pierrot does have a tragic backstory but the focal of the episode is the physics defying action and Spike’s ultimate vulnerability.

    I also can’t wait for your take on Session 23: Cowboy Funk. It’s a personal favorite of mine.


  2. MrsSpooky #

    This is one of my FAVORITE episodes – this and Wild Horses I tend to watch over and over and over again.

    I’m very interested in your take on the end of Real Folk Blues. I did some insanely in depth analysis of that myself and I’m dying to find out if you saw what I saw.

    Yeah, I noticed the Batman references in this one myself (of course, the Penguin came to mind, especially with the general build of Tongpu and some of his weapons, not to mention the penguins sliding towards Spike in the battle at Space Land.

    Awesome. Just awesomely creepy!


  3. Count Spatula #

    Don’t worry man, Spike hated that animatronic dog too.


  4. Jamas Enright #

    …now that’s some Overthinking! For a, what, 22 minute episode? Imagery knocked out of the park there Stokes!


  5. fenzel #

    Awesome! Love these pieces, Stokes.

    Keeping with the musical reference theme, the episode should have been called something like “Laugh, Pagliacci” or “Vesti la Guibba.”

    Although that probably would have pushed the character closer to the Joker than the Penguin — although, given the amusement part, the joker also seems conspicuous in his absence.


  6. Adrian #

    Tongpu is more of a combined reference to Penguin AND the Joker. He’s rotund and formally dressed certainly, but the characters do reference his constant smiling, and his laugh during the episode preview…speaks for itself.


  7. Adrian #



  8. DN #

    Yes, this was great. I might be off my rocker, but I think there’s one Batman: The Animated Series episode that mirrors this to a very precise degree. Not the inversions, but if you imagined this told straight, then that. Which could potentially mean they, having worked on that episode, had a story they were well acquainted with, and could ask, “But how could that even fit into our world?” Again, might be off.


  9. MrsSpooky #

    @Adrian, that’s kind of what I was thinking – Tongpu was a combination of Joker and Penguin. It fits so totally. Hell YEAH on the Batman reference. :)


  10. MrsSpooky #

    Forgive the last posting, it was pasted into the wrong window *dies of embarassment* If there is an administrator, please delete it.


  11. penny #

    it’s been over 10 years since this was published and I have no idea if my message will ever be read by someone but I just wanted to let you know that I love all those insights on the show and particularly on session 20. It’s just so interesting to read all those thoughts of yours on just one singular episode ,especially since I just started cowboy bebop a few weeks ago.
    Anyways, thanks again for this interesting post :D


  12. penny #

    I absolutely hated that animatronic dog as well. Anyways, that episode was different and dark and I loved watching it.


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